Searching for Lost Franklin Vessels
It was a unique deployment for three members of the Canadian Armed Forces who joined Parks Canada underwater archaeologists in Canada’s Arctic this summer to continue the search for lost vessels HMS Erebus and HMS Terror from the ill-fated Sir John Franklin voyage.
For six weeks beginning on August 10, Petty Officer 2nd Class Jamie Keeping, bridge watchman; PO2 Yves Bernard, diver; and Corporal Patrick Euler, cook; were aboard the Arctic Research Foundation’s vessel Martin Bergmann to help in the search.
Unfortunately, the two lost ships remained elusive again this year, but it was nonetheless a rewarding experience for those who continue to hope that someday they will be found.
“Being part of the Arctic research for the lost Franklin expedition was a great honor and truly remarkable opportunity,” said PO2 Bertrand of Fleet Diving Unit Atlantic.
The two ships, lost in the mid-1800s, are designated together as a national historic site of Canada -- the only such “undiscovered” national historic site. A number of attempts to locate the ships have been unsuccessful to date, but an increasing area of the seafloor has been systematically ruled out, narrowing the search.
For the fifth field season, Parks Canada’s Underwater Archaeology Service participated with the Arctic Research Foundation, Government of Nunavut, Canadian Coast Guard, Canadian Hydrographic Service, Canadian Ice Service and Canadian Space Agency. This year for the first time, Parks Canada was also supported by the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) and Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC).
Personnel from the RCN and DRDC provided technical assistance with some of Parks Canada’s newly acquired remote-sensing technologies. DRDC has also provided Parks Canada with an additional military-grade, sidescan sonar system that allowed significantly more area to be covered on any given survey day.
“Primarily as a diver, and later as a remotely operated vehicle and side-scan sonar operator, I was proud to represent and promote the Royal Canadian Navy,” said PO2 Bernard. “Our joint participation with Parks Canada and the Arctic Research Foundation is, in my opinion, a very constructive approach to Arctic operations, and I am certain it will be a benefit to us all.”
The search areas included both the southern area near O’Reilly Island, west of the Adelaide peninsula and where Inuit oral tradition places one of the shipwrecks, and further north to Victoria Strait and Alexandra Strait, where the other vessel is believed to be located.
CANCORTRONTWO alongside A Jetty Esquimalt circa 1960. Nearest the camera is HMCS Skeena with two features of note: barrel of 40mm Bofors visible behind stern of the whaler and half strip of a division leader, a practice discarded not long after this.
HMS Erebus and HMS Terror were lost during the storied Franklin expedition of 1845. (PAINTING BY J. FRANKLIN WRIGHT)
From left: Corporal Patrick Euler, PO2 Jamie Keeping, and PO2 Yves Bernard.