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Archeological teams to excavate, map wrecks of Franklin expedition
Canadian Press
Published:
August 16, 2019
Updated:
August 16, 2019 4:16 PM EDT
An underwater archaeologist inspects the hull of HMS Erebus. (CNW Group/Parks Canada)
OTTAWA — Canadian archeologists are on their way to a remote area in the Arctic Circle for another chance to dig up the secrets held by the Franklin expedition wrecks, Parks Canada announced Friday.
The task of exploring and excavating the two shipwrecks is the “largest, most complex underwater archeological undertaking in Canadian history,” Parks Canada said in a release.
Archeological teams will travel to the wreck of HMS Terror and use an underwater drone and other tools to create 3D structural maps of the ship.
Work on the expedition’s other ship, HMS Erebus, will involve searching the officer cabins and lower deck for artifacts.
Parks Canada said there may be thousands of artifacts aboard the wrecks that will help enrich the country’s knowledge of the expedition.
Based on an existing agreement, those artifacts would become shared property of Canada and the Inuit.
The two ships are the remains of an expedition launched by British explorer John Franklin in 1845, leaving England with a crew of 134 sailors.
Canadian archeologists are on their way to a remote area in the Arctic Circle for another chance to dig up the secrets held by the Franklin expedition wrecks, Parks Canada announced Friday. Jason Franson / THE CANADIAN PRESS
Seeking the Northwest Passage, the two ships eventually became trapped in the ice near King William Island, in what is now Nunavut.
Some of the crew members attempted to walk to safety starting in 1848, but all eventually perished.
Many searches were launched since the ships were lost, seeking to find the wrecks and unravel the mystery of the ill-fated expedition.
It wasn’t until 2014, though, that an expedition supported by a broad partnership of Canadian government agencies, Inuit, the Government of Nunavut and other groups discovered HMS Erebus.
Two years later, an expedition launched by the Arctic Research Foundation discovered HMS Terror.
Since then, the focus of Parks Canada, Inuit and other partners has been on protecting and conserving the wrecks, while exploring them in stages.
The wrecks are designated as a national historic site but for now access is restricted. Parks Canada is working with a committee responsible for advising on the wrecks to figure out how visitors might be able to experience the ships in ways that maintain their integrity.

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