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Search resumes for ships lost in ice during doomed 1845 Franklin expedition

CBC NewsEye on the Arctic

Scientists are headed back to the Canadian Arctic this weekend to continue the search for HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, ships lost after becoming trapped in the ice during the 1845 Franklin Expedition, Parks Canada says.

Canada’s Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq said in a statement Friday that underwater archaeologists and other partners will head north for a fifth season of searching. This year’s search effort is expected to last roughly six weeks, and will include a number of partner organizations, ranging from the Royal Canadian Navy to the Canadian Space Agency.

Earlier this year, Parks Canada marine archeologist Ryan Harris told CBC News that researchers are facing an “incredible expanse of ocean to systematically sift through” in the search for the ships, but he remained hopeful. Researchers led by a Parks Canada survey team will spend their time aboard the Martin Bergmann, a research vessel that has plied the Arctic waters in search of the lost ships before. The Canadian Coast Guard ship Sir Wilfrid Laurier will also be involved.

According to Parks Canada, the team will enhance its sonar technology this year and will use new underwater vehicles to help as they scour the ocean in search of the lost ships, which set sail from England in 1845 on a search for the Northwest Passage.

Aglukkaq said in her statement that the team has already covered more than 800 square kilometres and is planning to narrow its search.

“Weather permitting, this year’s search will significantly build upon the important scientific and archeological understanding in this fascinating part of Canada’s history and geography,” she said. Alongside the search for the ships, researchers will survey Canada’s largely uncharted high Arctic waters, the minister said in her statement.

Last year, CBC News staff traveled north and joined researchers and the crew aboard the Martin Bergmann as they searched for the lost ships. Although the lost ships remain elusive, researchers working on the project last year found small artifacts and pieces of human remains. The data collected will be shared with partner organizations, Parks Canada said, and will help improve information around safe navigation and the Arctic environment.

This story is posted on Alaska Dispatch as part of Eye on the Arctic, a collaborative partnership between public and private circumpolar media organizations.