Royal Canadian Navy played a crucial role in HMS Terror discovery
Published Monday, September 12, 2016 10:14PM EDT
The long-lost second ship from Sir John Franklin’s Arctic expedition has been found -- and it couldn’t have happened without the Royal Canadian Navy.
Parks Canada has yet to formally verify the shipwreck is HMS Terror but Rear Admiral John Newton said he’s certain it’s the famous vessel.
“I’m pretty close to being categoric that the sailors of the Royal Canadian Navy and the crew members of the Martin Bergmann have made a significant discovery that dates back 171 years,” Newton told CTV’s Power Play from Halifax on Monday.
Franklin’s team attempted to sail through the Arctic aboard HMS Terror and HMS Erebus in 1845 to look for the Northwest passage, but they perished and the vessels disappeared under the ice.
Terror was finally found on Sept. 3 in Terror Bay, about 100 kilometres from where Erebus was discovered in 2014.
The navy worked alongside members of the Arctic Research Foundation (ARF) who dedicated their 19.5-meter research vessel Martin Bergmann to the Terror 2016 mission.
In 2013, the navy launched a program to develop its competency on bases in the North, Newton said. His base in Halifax also sends sailors from across the Royal Canadian Navy to the Arctic.
ARF founder Jim Balsillie thanked the navy Monday for helping the research team.
“This historic discovery could not have happened without the Royal Canadian Navy,” he said.
“Solving the mystery of the Franklin Expedition allows us all to honour the brave men who died in our harsh Northern environment attempting something very noble. It’s also an opportunity to shine a light on this strategic part of our great country including the Indigenous people who occupy the High Arctic.”
The navy provided the crew aboard the Martin Bergmann which conducts research, does outreach and for part of the season, joins Parks Canada for the Franklin Expedition search. ARF also connects the navy to the Coast Guard, the Canadian Hydrographic Service and Canadian Ice Service.
There are many groups who contributed to the discovery but Balsillie gave a special thanks to the “small but mighty crew”: Expedition Lead Adrian Schimnowski, captains David McIsaac and Gerard Chidley, bridge watches Daniel McIsaac and Darcey Nelson, Master Corporal Gjoa Haven Ranger Sammy Kogvik, seamen Randy Flynn and Matthew Briggs, fleet driver Yve Bernard, and marine scientist Lina Rotermund.
For now, the Martin Bergmann ship and its crew will stay at the wreck site to survey and preserve it until the Parks Canada team arrives.
“They’re very knowledgeable of the Franklin Expedition and they’re going to exploit what is now a national historic site,” Newton said.
HMS Terror found in secluded bay
Newton said the ship was in great condition because it sunk in a relatively secluded basin free of ice pressure. HMS Terror captain Francis Crozier had indicated the ship began sinking in the Victoria Strait. But somehow it made its way through the Victoria Strait, down the Alexander Channel and into Terror Bay.
Newton said there are two ways the HMS Terror got to the site although Parks Canada’s archeologists will have the final say.
“By the look of it and what my sailors are telling me it was purposely put there by Crozier’s men,” Newton said.
“During the summer season when the ice loosens up a bit … the crew is able to work it there by towing it, by rowing, by sailing it,” he said.
The second option is subterranean drifting which could have caused the ship to be “pushed and carried by the ice through the tough bottlenecks of the pack ice movement in the Canadian Arctic.”