‘Extremely complex’: How the hunt for clues in the Franklin shipwreck mystery is changing gears – North

The hunt for HMS Erebus and HMS Terror was tough enough.

Now Parks Canada underwater archeologists are sorting out just how they will try to unlock the clues to the Franklin Expedition mystery that may be hidden in the wrecks of the reinforced British warships that lie in the icy waters of Nunavut.

“We are ready to get into what we consider is going to be one of the most complex and challenging underwater archeological excavations in Canada,” Marc-André Bernier, manager of underwater archeology for Parks Canada, said of what comes next for exploring the Erebus site in Wilmot and Crampton Bay.

For one week at the end of August, a six-person team of underwater archeologists is planning to be at the site, diving from inflatable boats and working from a base camp on a nearby island.

Parks Canada said Friday the work will include preparations for the next phase of exploration of the Erebus, which is expected to continue for several years.

A Parks Canada archeologist gets a close look at damage to the hull and structure of HMS Erebus. (Parks Canada)

But with Erebus and Terror, it seems, little comes simply. There are ongoing questions over future ownership and security of the site.

And even this year’s exploration has had its hiccups. The planned program isn’t what Parks Canada initially had in mind, when it first proposed an archeological investigation of up to four weeks, with 14 people on site.

Things changed when the agency realized its hopes to have a newly refitted research vessel on base this summer weren’t going to work out.

The RV David Thompson, a 228-tonne former coast guard vessel transferred to the agency, is still in a shipyard in Nanaimo, B.C.

‘Preparation is key’

Bernier said there were a number of factors at play, including unforeseen work required on a vessel at midlife, and more stringent requirements than were anticipated for its recommissioning.

“Preparation is key for this vessel so we want to make sure that before we bring it up to the Arctic, everything is in top condition.”


A barge that is intended to play a major support role for work exploring the wreck sites also won’t be in place in time for this year’s season, but Bernier anticipates it will be for next summer.

“We’re not going to start until we have all the right pieces together and [the RV David Thompson] unfortunately was delayed but we still have a lot of work to do,” said Bernier.

“It has changed our plans but basically … we’re…

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