First Artifacts Jointly Owned by Canada and Inuit Recovered from Franklin Wrecks

News release

Artifacts removed from HMS Erebus shared with Inuit at community gatherings

September 26, 2018                  Gjoa Haven, Nunavut                   Parks Canada Agency
For the first time ever, artifacts from the 1845 Franklin Expedition that are jointly owned by the Government of Canada and Inuit were recovered from the wreck site of HMS Erebus. The artifacts were shared with Inuit in Gjoa Haven and Cambridge Bay, Nunavut at community events last week. The Franklin Interim Advisory Committee, the group that advises Parks Canada on the management of the Wrecks of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror National Historic Site, also had the opportunity to view the jointly-owned Franklin artifacts.

Parks Canada’s Underwater Archaeology Team documented and recovered nine artifacts from HMS Erebus this season. The artifacts included a pitcher and a mercurial artificial horizon roof discovered in the officer’s cabin on the lower deck of Erebus, as well as different rigging artifacts from the upper deck. Additionally, the archaeologists were able to complete the installation of two moorings for the Parks Canada’s support barge Qiniqtiryuaq with the assistance of the CCGS Sir Wilfrid Laurier; diving inspections of the wreck to assess changes to its condition; an updated side-scan sonar survey of the wreck; and a multi-beam echosounder survey of a shorter navigable route between the wreck site and Gjoa Haven.

Earlier this year, the Government of the United Kingdom gifted Canada all yet-to-be discovered artifacts from the Franklin wrecks. With this gift, these nine artifacts, and all future Franklin artifacts, are jointly owned by the Government of Canada and Inuit through Parks Canada and Inuit Heritage Trust.

After the events in Nunavut, the artifacts recovered from HMS Erebus will be transferred south to Parks Canada’s lab where they will go through many months of conservation and study. Parks Canada and the Inuit Heritage Trust are collaborating on a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to confirm how the jointly-owned artifacts will be managed moving forward.

During this year’s exploration of HMS Erebus, Canadian, Inuit, and British officials visited the wreck site of HMS Erebus on board Parks Canada’s research vessel RV David Thompson. The Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada, Catherine McKenna, was accompanied by British Deputy High Commissioner to Canada, Mr. David Reed; UK Air and Naval Adviser to Canada, Commander Neil Marriott; Ms. Aluki Kotierk, President Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated; Her Worship Pamela Gross, Mayor of Cambridge Bay and Inuit Heritage Trustee; and Mr. Stanley Anablak, President, Kitikmeot Inuit Association. Representatives of the United Kingdom were the first British officials ever to visit the site of HMS Erebus, one of the two ships of the 1845 Franklin Expedition to locate a Northwest Passage. In addition, Minister McKenna and Mr. Reed had the opportunity to meet with Inuit Guardians near the wreck site of HMS Erebus, who in collaboration with Parks Canada, monitor and protect the wreck site during the open water season. During the visit, Minister McKenna also presented an Inuktitut version of the Deed of Gift from the Government of the United Kingdom to Canada to the Inuit Heritage Trust.

A broad group of partners, led by Parks Canada and involving Inuit and the Government of Nunavut, among many others, led to the discovery of the wreck of HMS Erebus in 2014. The location of the second ship of the Franklin Expedition was discovered in 2016 as part of this multilateral partnership.



“I’m thrilled that for the first time artifacts excavated from one of the ships of the Franklin Expedition are jointly owned by Inuit and the Government of Canada. This is a significant achievement and I look forward to a continued collaboration with Inuit as we continue to unravel the mystery of the story of Franklin together. I would also like to acknowledge Parks Canada’s Underwater Archaeology Team whose incredible skills, professionalism and knowledge, will provide us with insight into the fascinating story of the Franklin Expedition.”

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

“The Inuit Heritage Trust is very pleased to see the first Franklin related artifacts jointly owned by Inuit and the Government of Canada shared with Northern communities.  We are looking forward to our on-going collaboration with Parks Canada to conserve and present artifacts from HMS Erebus and HMS Terror and to share Inuit perspectives on the Franklin story."

Mr. William Beveridge,
Inuit Heritage Trust

It was a great privilege to visit Nunavut and meet the Inuit communities who played such a significant role in locating the wrecks of the Franklin expedition.  HMS Erebus and HMS Terror are an important part of our shared history and it's a story that continues to captivate us more than 170 years later. I'm delighted that, through its gift to Canada of these wrecks, the UK can be a part of the next chapter.

Mr. David Reed,
British Deputy High Commissioner to Canada

“The Franklin Interim Advisory Committee had the pleasure of viewing the very first Franklin Expedition artifacts jointly owned by Inuit and the Government of Canada in Gjoa Haven last week. The Committee looks forward to a legacy of new and exciting opportunities for employment and tourism for communities in Nunavut as our understanding of the Franklin Expedition and Inuit involvement in the story continues to evolve.”

Fred Pedersen,
Franklin Interim Advisory Committee

Quick facts

  • The Franklin Interim Advisory Committee, comprised of community members and representatives from the Kitikmeot Inuit Association, Inuit Heritage Trust, Government of Nunavut and the heritage and tourism industry, advises on the management of the wrecks until an Inuit Impact and Benefit Agreement is finalized between Parks Canada and the Kitikmeot Inuit Association.

  • The United Kingdom will retain the 65 artifacts previously recovered from HMS Erebus by Parks Canada’s Underwater Archaeology Team as a representative sample of their importance and symbolism.

  • Parks Canada’s Underwater Archaeology Team’s members are experts in their field. Formed over 50 years ago, the team brings not only decades of excavation experience in challenging cold-water environments on some of Canada’s most important historic shipwrecks but also the necessary skills and equipment for recording, raising, and handling sensitive finds and artifacts.

  • Parks Canada’s ongoing investigation of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, in collaboration with Inuit, will be one of the largest and most complex underwater archaeological undertakings in Canadian history. Parks Canada experts anticipate that the thousands of artifacts remaining on the two shipwrecks - which may include written documents - will help further unravel the mystery of the Franklin Expedition.

  • The sites of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror are not open to the public at this time and a permit is required to enter the protected areas; however, Parks Canada and the Franklin Interim Advisory Committee are working to develop visitor experience activities that support the long-term protection of both wreck sites while sharing these remarkable discoveries with Canadians and the world and allowing the community of Gjoa Haven to benefit economically through its proximity to the wreck sites.

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Caroline Thériault
Office of the Minister of Environment and Climate Change

Media Relations
Parks Canada Agency

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