The Franklin Shipwreck: 275 Artifacts Retrieved in Canada

The Franklin Shipwreck Brought the Finding of 275 Artifacts, Retrieved From the Icy Waters of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago.

Dec 29, 2022By Angela Davic, News, Discoveries, In-depth Reporting, and Analysis
The Frankin Shipwreck
The map of the Franklin expedition.


The Franklin Shipwreck is a consequence of Captain John Franklin’s search for the Northwest Passage in 1845. The Franklin expedition included two ships: the HMS Erebus and HMS Terror. Archaeologists retrieved 275 artifacts from the HMS Erebus, previously trapped in ice near King William Island.


The Franklin Shipwreck Occurred In One Of the Most Sensitive Marine Environments

The Franklin Shipwreck
Photo: Marc-André Bernier, courtesy of Parks Canada.


The Erebus lay undiscovered until 2014. At that time, investigators discovered the wooden shipwreck in remarkably good condition. But, divers can only reach the wreck in the summer months during short dives. They also need to wear special suits heated with warm water pumped from the surface. This year, Parks Canada has been working with the Nattilik Heritage Society’s Inuit Guardians.


The goal is to carry out further work on the site, with the hope of gathering fresh insights into the story of the 1845 Franklin Expedition. “Located in one of the planet’s most unique and sensitive marine environments, the wrecks of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror are some of the best-preserved wooden wrecks in the world”, Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada, said in a statement.


The Franklin Shipwreck
Image credit: Marc-André Bernie/Parks Canada


The Minister also said, the important archaeological research onsite continues to advance our understanding of how changing climate conditions impact the region. Also, it helps preserve and protect irreplaceable natural and cultural heritage. Their work started in April and May 2022.

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The team inspected the wreck for the first time in over 2.5 years using a remotely operated vehicle (ROV). It managed to gather new imagery and survey data on the site. In September 2022, the team completed 56 individual dives in 11 days. They also recovered 275 artifacts from the shipwreck.


There’s Still Much We Don’t Know About the Expedition

A Parks Canada archaeologists investigation.


During their work, the team started excavation of what could be the Second Lieutenant’s cabin. Then continued the excavation of what is believed to be the Third Lieutenant’s cabin, and completed the excavation of part of the Captain’s Steward’s pantry. As legendary as the story of the 1845 Franklin Expedition has become, there is still much we don’t know about the final months of the ill-fated mission.


However, some of this recent work may be able to shed some light on it. One of the most exciting findings was an embossed leather book. The book still had a feather quill pen tucked inside of its pages. This confirms Ryan Harris, one of the archaeologist divers from Parks Canada. It is not clear what’s been scrawled inside the book, but the researchers are keen to get it back to the lab to find out.


Parks Canada
The ice camp at the HMS Erebus wreck.


“We’re excited at the tantalizing possibility that this artifact might have written materials inside”, Harris said. “It is analyzed in the lab now.” According to a statement, the artifacts will be held jointly by the Inuit Heritage Trust and the Government of Canada. It is not yet confirmed when the team will return to continue excavations of HMS Erebus or return to HMS Terror.

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By Angela DavicNews, Discoveries, In-depth Reporting, and AnalysisAngela is a journalism student at the Faculty of Political Science in Belgrade and received a scholarship for continued education in Prague. She completed her internship at the daily newspaper DANAS and worked as an executive editor at Talas.