Harper Government Announces the Recovery of the HMS Erebus Bell

Recovery of the ship’s bell is the crowning achievement of successful 2014 search

Ottawa, Ontario – The Honourable Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of the Environment and Minister responsible for Parks Canada, today unveiled the ship’s bell recovered from the recently discovered Franklin Expedition shipwreck, HMS Erebus.

According to naval traditions, a ship’s bell is a symbolic embodiment of the ship itself. The ship’s bell from HMS Erebus would have been used for marking the passage of time onboard the vessel. Like the chiming of a clock, the bell would have been struck every half hour both day and night to announce the march of time and to signal the changing of the crew’s watches (shifts).

Erebus ship's bellThis stunning artifact was recovered during dives and archaeological investigation by Parks Canada’s underwater archaeology team in September. The bell was found on the deck adjacent to the ship’s displaced windlass (a form of anchor winch), above which it was originally mounted. Since then, the bell has been undergoing conservation stabilization and additional research.

The bell is intact and generally in very good condition. Two embossed markings – introduced when the bronze bell was first cast – are evident on the artifact: a Royal Navy “broad arrow” indicating property of the British Government, as well as the date “1845.”

Minister Aglukkaq also released new multi-beam sonar images that were crucial to the identification of the wreck as HMS Erebus. The data to produce these highly accurate, 3D-representations of the wreck as it stands on the seabed were collected in September by the Canadian Hydrographic Service (Department of Fisheries and Ocean) concurrently to Parks Canada’s dive operations.

Quick Facts

• The Government of Canada’s partners for the 2014 Victoria Strait Expedition included Parks Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (Canadian Coast Guard, Canadian Hydrographic Service), the Royal Canadian Navy, Defence Research and Development Canada, Environment Canada (Canadian Ice Service), and the Canadian Space Agency, as well as the Governments of Nunavut and the United Kingdom. Private and non-profit partners included the Arctic Research Foundation, the Royal Canadian Geographical Society who additionally brought in The W. Garfield Weston Foundation, Shell Canada and One Ocean Expeditions as partners.

• Since 2008, there have been six major Parks Canada-led searches for the lost Franklin Expedition ships, painstakingly covering many hundreds of square kilometres of the Arctic seabed.

• The initial discovery of a ship belonging to the Franklin Expedition, made by side-scan sonar towed from the Parks Canada research vessel Investigator, was confirmed on September 7, 2014, using Parks Canada’s remotely operated vehicle. On September 30, 2014, it was confirmed that the ship is HMS Erebus.

• Parks Canada underwater archaeologists – the first to lay eyes on the ship in nearly 170 years – conducted seven dives to the shipwreck over two intensive days of on-site investigation, taking diagnostic measurements, high-resolution photography, and high-definition video. The artifact was identified during the very first dive on the site, and recovered during the very last dive.

• The HMS Erebus bell is being stored in an environmentally-controlled and physically secure location at the Parks Canada archaeological conservation laboratory in Ottawa. The bell is currently immersed in a bath of distilled water, the chemistry of which is monitored daily to detect any changes in the condition of the artifact. It will undergo a lengthy conservation treatment perhaps taking 18 months or longer.

“The bell of HMS Erebus provides a tangible and compelling connection to the Franklin ships and is an important part of naval and Canadian history. The recovery of this important artifact is the crowning achievement for an incredibly successful 2014 search campaign that has captivated Canadians and the entire world.” ~ The Honourable Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of the Environment and Minister responsible for Parks Canada

(Office of the Minister of the Environment and Parks Canada)

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