Search­ing for Lost Franklin Ves­sels

RCN News - - Contents - by Dar­lene Blake­ley

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.

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