Franklin diver describes discovering 'towering' shipwreck
Published Friday, October 3, 2014 1:13PM EDT
Last Updated Friday, October 3, 2014 4:34PM EDT
When Ryan Harris slipped into frigid Arctic waters last month, he was finally able to cap off a six-year search for one of Sir John Franklin's doomed ships.
"My first impression when you come up alongside the side of the wreck is the magnitude of it. It towers overhead – five or six metres off the seafloor," the Parks Canada senior underwater archaeologist told CTV's Canada AM on Friday.
A Canadian research team had searched more than 1,200 square kilometres of the Arctic before finally finding locating the doomed HMS Erebus with sonar. An underwater remote operated vehicle was then dispatched to get the first visuals of the wreck, before Harris and his co-worker Jonathan Moore got the go-ahead to plan a dive.
"Then it was a long agonizing wait, waiting for the weather to improve until we were able to make the first dive," Harris said.
Once the weather cleared, Harris described the dive as "a once in a lifetime experience… I've never seen a shipwreck like that in my entire career."
Harris said the ship is in remarkable condition and "even large portions of the upper deck are still well preserved."
It is even in better condition than the team’s 2010 discovery of the wreck of a ship that sank shortly after Erebus, during a search for Franklin and his men.
So what's next for Erebus?
When asked, Harris didn't rule out the possibility of attempting to raise the ship one day. He said they hope to return to the wreck as soon as possible to conduct further investigations and excavations. The team is also hoping to find HMS Terror, the other ship that was travelling with Erebus when it sank.
Franklin was a Royal Navy officer and explorer who departed England in 1845, looking to traverse the last uncharted sections of the Northwest Passage. The two ships became icebound and all 128 aboard were lost. A number of missions had tried to locate the wrecks, with the first setting out in 1848. Since 2008, Parks Canada has lead six major searches. No mission had any luck until this year.
The interactive map below shows known and likely location of the ships, 2008-2013 search areas, and the locations where artifacts, such as cutlery, were found. Zoom in and click on the icons to learn more: