Investigating the HMS Investigator

Pieces of wooden barrels mark the location of the cache from the HMS Investigator on Banks Island and hints at the archeological treasures hidden below the surface.


By Heather Travis - Western News


Edward Eastaugh is taking what looks like a sophisticated metal detector to the Arctic in the hopes of uncovering buried archeological treasure left behind from the first explorers to discover the western entrance to the Northwest Passage.

Eastaugh, lab manager in the Department of Anthropology at The University of Western Ontario, is joining Parks Canada on an expedition to find remains of the 19th century British Royal Navy ship, the HMS Investigator. The team is leaving on July 19 and will be returning on Aug. 9.

As part of the group heading to Banks Island, Northwest Territories, Eastaugh will be on hand to help find remnants of the ship’s cache, items removed from the vessel and piled on the island when it became stranded by pack ice.

“The opportunity to go up there is like once in a lifetime,” says Eastaugh.

Wielding a magnetometer – which detects small differences in the Earth’s magnetic field – Eastaugh will cover hundreds of meters on foot collecting data about what lies beneath the surface of Banks Island.

The magnetometer will build a picture of where items removed from the HMS Investigator are located, which can be compared with accounts written by the captain and surgeon, as well as the ship’s log book, to find out how many original items remain at the site.

There are only a few magnetometers designed specifically for archeology in Canada – one of which is at The University of Western Ontario - and they have had limited use in Canadian archeological surveys. However, one of the advantages of using the instrument is its ability to locate buried archeological features such as hearths, rubbish pits, graves, metal objects and buried house foundations, without excavating the surface.


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Northwest Passage Edward Eastaugh The University of Western Ontario HMS Investigator