Shipwrecks and Lost Treasures of the Seven Seas

Northwest Territories

Divers find artifacts from 1854 shipwreck in Northwest Passage

North-West Passage


From Alaska Dispatch


A musket and other artifacts from HMS Investigator, the ship abandoned in the Canadian Arctic in 1854 during the hunt for Sir John Franklin's lost expedition, have been recovered by divers. The ship is credited with discovering the Northwest Passage.

Shoes, a musket, a copper sheet, and parts of the ship's rigging were among the items brought up over nine days this July from the wreck discovered last summer in Mercy Bay, off Banks Island in the Northwest Territories, in Canada's North. Divers were lucky enough to find the usually ice-covered bay largely open water during the expedition.

Archeologists photographed and mapped the ship using sonar and video to determine its state of preservation.

"Although the hull is basically survived up to the main deck, the main deck is a litter of timbers," Bernier said at a news conference.

The ship continues to be damaged by ice, he said, but there was a lot of sediment within the interior of the ship.

"This is basically the best conditions to preserve artifacts," he added.

The buried artifacts were left untouched, but about 16 lying outside and on the deck were recovered because they were exposed, and researchers feared they could become damaged before an expedition could return to the site.

Bernier said the most exciting was the copper sheeting, which protected the ship's hull from marine organisms. That's because the copper can be chemically tested and compared to copper found at other sites to figure out whether those pieces originally came from HMS Investigator, or compared to the copper on other ships.


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