Parks Canada and Franklin Interim Advisory Committee Announce Next Steps for the Franklin Wrecks

News Release

New Inuit Guardians Program will help protect Franklin wreck sites, support archaeology and visitor experience opportunities

August 11, 2017                              Ottawa, Ontario                              Parks Canada Agency

The Government of Canada is announcing a new phase of what will be one of the largest and most important underwater archaeological undertakings in Canadian history, to investigate the wrecks of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror. The Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada, Catherine McKenna, and Chair of the Franklin Interim Advisory Committee, Fred Pedersen, announced the first step of this work today.

The location of the vessels had been a mystery for over 150 years, after Sir John Franklin and his crew went missing in 1846. But with the powerful combination of traditional Inuit knowledge and modern technology, the ships were discovered in 2014 and 2016, resting on the bottom of the Arctic Ocean near King Williams Island, also known as Qikiqtaq. With the discovery, Parks Canada is focusing on the protection, conservation, and presentation of the wrecks with both the Government of Nunavut and designated Inuit organizations.

Future research will build upon the successful work already completed. In 2014, divers identified a stunning array of artifacts on HMS Erebus – like brass cannons, a cast-bronze bell, and even the handle of a sword. Moving forward, Parks Canada underwater archaeologists will be conducting an updated site assessment, exploring deeper inside the wreck’s hull, and, if possible, capturing images of the vessel’s steam engine. Parks Canada is currently finalizing its mission plan with the Nunavut Impact Review Board.

This mission will also include preparations for the next exploration phase of HMS Erebus, which, over the course of several years, will include an excavation of the ship. Because of the Arctic environment where the vessel rests, the operation will be complex, and will represent one of the most challenging underwater archaeological excavations ever conducted in Canada. For HMS Terror, next steps will consist of continuing to analyze data from previous dives, and plans for future research.

The discovery of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror would not have been possible without Inuit knowledge. Today, Parks Canada is working with the Franklin Interim Advisory Committee to develop an Inuit Guardians Program for the two vessels. And starting this summer, Inuit Guardians will be posted at both wreck sites during periods with little ice to monitor the sites, report any unauthorized vessel traffic, and help Parks Canada ensure their protection.

In the Arctic, climate change is a major threat. Its impacts include rapidly melting sea ice and increased storm-surge flooding. Eventually, the Guardians Program will play a key role in hosting visitors to the wreck sites to not only share the Franklin story, but to tell the story of climate change and the threat it poses to Inuit communities and their traditional way of life.


“This year’s operations will enable future archaeological research that will be ground-breaking in many ways, both in Canada and globally. The Government of Canada recognizes the invaluable contributions of Inuit of Nunavut, the Government of Nunavut, and all partners in the discoveries of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror. Moving forward, our collaborative relationships will enable us to advance this important and exciting archaeological research. I am also thrilled to announce the Inuit Guardians Program because it demonstrates the key role that Inuit of Nunavut will play in protecting the Franklin wrecks and sharing the stories of the north with Canadians and the world.”

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

“As Chair of the Franklin Interim Advisory Committee, I am very pleased to be working with Parks Canada to support the management of the wrecks of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror as we continue to negotiate the Inuit Impact and Benefit Agreement. We are excited about this year's mission and look forward to piloting the new Guardian program with Inuit from the Hamlet of Gjoa Haven.”

Fred Pedersen
Chair of the Franklin Interim Advisory Committee

“The Hamlet of Gjoa Haven is delighted that community members are working closely with Parks Canada to support the management of the wrecks of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror.”

Bob Cheetham
Economic Development Officer, Hamlet of Gjoa Haven

Quick Facts

  • On May 19, 1845, the Royal Navy ships HMS Erebus and HMS Terror departed Greenhithe, England on a much-heralded Arctic expedition in search of a Northwest Passage. Under the command of Sir John Franklin, with Captain Francis Rawdon Crozier second in command, the expedition’s two ships set out with a total complement of 134 officers and men. HMS Erebus and HMS Terror were converted bomb vessels and both had already seen prior service in polar exploration.

  • 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. HMS Erebus was discovered in the waters of Nunavut in 2014 and HMS Terror in 2016.

  • During a highly-successful remotely operated vehicle (ROV) dive on HMS Terror in April 2017, Parks Canada’s Underwater Archaeology Team were able to see the ship’s bell, one cannon, the ship’s draft marks and even four of the ship’s anchors.

  • Parks Canada Underwater Archaeology Team’s research activities in 2017 will include performing an updated site assessment on HMS Erebus and investigating a nearby shoal for additional artifacts. In addition, deeper exploration inside the hull of the wreck with a Deep Trekker micro-ROV may return the first imagery of the steam engine and interior of the coal bunkers.

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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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