Parks Canada’s Underwater Archaeology Team Visit HMS Terror with Government of Nunavut and Gjoa Haven support team

News Release

Science will unlock the history of HMS Terror


April 28, 2017                                Ottawa, Ontario                           Parks Canada Agency

To celebrate the 150th anniversary of Confederation in 2017, the Government of Canada invites Canadians to learn more about our diverse heritage, including the history, cultures and contributions of Indigenous Peoples.  The evolving story of the Franklin Expedition will continue to explore this rich heritage in 2017.

Parks Canada’s Underwater Archaeology Team and a Government of Nunavut Archaeologist have begun the archeological investigation of HMS Terror - the second ship of Sir John Franklin’s tragic 1845 expedition - in the waters of Nunavut. Archeologists will use remotely operated underwater vehicles (ROVs) to collect photos, videos and scans of the wreck.

The information gathered from this important visit to the wreck of HMS Terror will be used to develop research plans for its future investigation. In late summer 2017, Parks Canada’s Underwater Archaeology Team will return to Nunavut to conduct some preliminary dives on HMS Terror and continue the archeological work on HMS Erebus.

Inuit and Inuit knowledge have played an important role in the history of the Franklin Expedition. The discoveries of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror would not have been possible without the many contributions of Inuit and their generous sharing of Inuit knowledge over the 10 year search for the lost Franklin wrecks. The Government of Canada values the contributions of all partners to the search and looks forward to ongoing partnership with Inuit of Nunavut and the Government of Nunavut as we work together to develop a deeper and richer understanding of this important part of our shared history.

The sites of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror are not open to the public at this time; however, Parks Canada and the Franklin Interim Advisory Committee are working to develop visitor experience options that will ensure the long-term protection of both wreck sites. 


“I’m very excited that we will soon learn more about the second of the Franklin shipwrecks. Inuit traditional knowledge was key to the discovery of both HMS Erebus and HMS Terror. The Government of Canada is deeply committed to engaging Nunavut communities in the Franklin project and related initiative as a part of our commitment to reconciliation and to celebrate a critical part of our history. As we come together around the 150th anniversary of Confederation in 2017 and the fascinating stories that make up the rich and varied history of our country, Canadians will learn more about the Franklin history and enjoy free access to all national parks and national historic sites.”

The Honourable Catherine McKenna
Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada

“The Government of Nunavut is pleased to continue its close collaboration with Parks Canada in the investigation of the 1845 Franklin Expedition. The support of the Gjoa Haven Hunters and Trappers Association and CAP Enterprises Ltd. will play a critical role in the success of the operation, and I look forward to seeing the results of the first comprehensive archaeological documentation of HMS Terror.”

The Honourable George Kuksuk
Minister, Culture and Heritage, Government of Nunavut

“The Franklin Interim Advisory Committee supports the ongoing research that is being carried out by both Parks Canada and the Government of Nunavut. This research will assist with the development of tourism plans that can be offered in the future. Working with the Gjoa Haven Hunters and Trappers Association, and a local company from Gjoa Haven will ensure that Inuit Quajimajatuqangit principles are incorporated into the project.”


Mr. Fred Pedersen
Franklin Interim Advisory Committee

Technical Briefing – Community and Science

·  The Gjoa Haven Hunters and Trappers Association (HTA) and a local company, CAP Enterprises Ltd., are providing on-site support for this initiative. During this time of year, the Northwest Passage is frozen and HMS Terror is currently under approximately two metres of sea ice. Parks Canada is pleased to be working with four members of the HTA and two employees of CAP who will establish the ice hole that the Underwater Archeology Team is using to deploy the ROVs, in addition to providing valuable expertise in logistics and camp support in a northern setting.

· As a leader in scientific exploration, Parks Canada’s Underwater Archaeology Team will use two modern ROVs to document the exterior of the well-preserved wreck of HMS Terror. A Seaeye Falcon (a type of ROV) equipped with high-definition video and cameras will be deployed through the ice above HMS Terror. A smaller Deep Trekker unit equipped with high-definition video will also be deployed. The operations will be entirely remote-operated with no diving.

Quick Facts

  • In 1992, the wrecks of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror were designated as a national historic site under the Historic Sites and Monuments Act, despite neither shipwreck having been found at that time. Lost as part of Sir John Franklin’s expedition to find the Northwest Passage, the location of HMS Terror was discovered in 2016. The expedition’s flagship, HMS Erebus, was located in 2014.

  • Parks Canada and the Kitikmeot Inuit Association will cooperatively-manage the Wrecks of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror National Historic Site. It will be the first national historic site cooperatively-managed in Nunavut. 

  • Parks Canada continues to work closely with the Kitikmeot Inuit Association to negotiate an Inuit Impact and Benefit Agreement as required under the Nunavut Agreement.

  • The Franklin Interim Advisory Committee advises Parks Canada on the management of The Wrecks of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror National Historic Site until an Inuit Impact and Benefit Agreement is established.  The Franklin Interim Advisory Committee has members from the Kitikmeot Inuit Association, the communities of Cambridge Bay and Gjoa Haven, Inuit Heritage Trust, the Government of Nunavut, Nunavut Tourism, Nattilik Heritage Centre and Parks Canada.

  • HMS Terror was built over a period of two years at the Davy shipyard in Topsham, England and was a 325-ton Vesuvius-class Royal Navy bomb vessel. HMS Terror was launched in June of 1813 and saw its first notable service at the bombardment of Fort McHenry during the Battle of Baltimore, Maryland in 1814.  Twenty-two years after the War of 1812, HMS Terror was refitted as a polar discovery ship, with expeditions to the Arctic and Antarctica.

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Marie-Pascale Des Rosiers
Office of the Minister of Environment and Climate Change


Media Relations
Parks Canada Agency

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