First glimpse of 19th-century ship trapped in Arctic
CTV.ca News Staff
Published Tuesday, August 3, 2010 10:43PM EDT
The government has released ghostly images of a British navy vessel trapped under the Arctic ice for more than 150 years.
HMS Investigator was abandoned in 1853 -- but not before sailing the last leg of the elusive Northwest Passage.
Archeologists working with Parks Canada first discovered the ship on July 25, after ice had cleared from Mercy Bay, a remote site in Aulavik National Park on Banks Island.
"The first tantalizing glimpses eventually gave way to a complete picture of the ship wreck for its entire length: 120 feet overall," lead archeologist Ryan Harris of Parks Canada told CTV News.
"As the ice cleared away, we were able to see HMS Investigator in its glory."
HMS Investigator, under the command of Capt. Robert John Le Mesurier McClure, had been dispatched from Britain in January 1850 on a mission to rescue an earlier expedition to the Arctic led by Sir John Franklin, which had gone missing a few years earlier.
Like Franklin's earlier mission, the 122-ton Investigator became stuck in the ice and the crew was forced to abandon it after two years.
A nine-member Parks Canada team set out to find the vessel on Mercy Bay -- named by McClure -- on July 22.
The next day, they found the ice had partially cleared in the bay, opening up a small window to find the wreck.
"Fortunately, there was a moment where the ice was moving around, shifting around," said Parks Canada's chief of underwater archaeology Marc-Andre Bernier.
"There was an opening in the area where the ship had been abandoned, which was the starting point that we wanted."
It appears that the vessel is standing upright -- highly unusual for shipwrecks from the 19th century, and a good sign that it's well preserved. However, the mast and rigging has fallen over.
Next summer, Parks Canada hopes to send robot cameras into the wreck, to examine the crew's quarters.
With a report by CTV's Craig Oliver