Erebus and Terror 2015 came to a close at the end of September, Parks Canada released never-before seen photos taken during the expedition. These images showcase the archaeological work at the wreck of HMS Erebus and present, for the first time, a full view of the wreck without the help of radar imagery.
Parks Canada and its Mission partners have been working diligently over the past weeks to investigate the HMS
Erebus and continue the search for HMS Terror. Good weather conditions allowed Parks Canada’s Underwater Archaeology Team to take incredible images of their work.
A full Mission wrap-up, along with a list of artifacts and more photos, are available on Parks Canada’s
Fine earthenware, blue willow pattern, “Royal Patent Staffordshire China” (ca. 1820-1845) This fine earthenware plate is decorated with the blue willow pattern, the most common transfer print used on ceramic tableware in Europe and North America during the 19th century. Finding plates was not a complete surprise to the underwater archaeologists since ceramic tablewares were commonly used aboard Royal Navy ships. Interestingly, in 1879, an Inuk by the name of Puhtoorak reported to members of the Schwatka search expedition that he had boarded a ship trapped in ice off the Adelaide Peninsula, now identified as HMS Erebus. He recalled seeing the deserted ship in “complete order”, finding many “spoons, knives, forks, tin plates, and china plates”.
Shoulder belt plate © Parks Canada What is it made from: It is made of copper alloy and likely gilded. Where was it found? It was found on the lower deck, on the forward port side of the ship, along with a sword hilt, two uniform buttons, and other artifacts which we know are British Royal Marine and Royal Navy standard equipment. What makes it really special? This shoulder belt plate evidently had been issued to one of the 13 Royal Marines from the Woolwich Division that sailed on the expedition. Thanks to the ship’s muster lists, we even know their names.
Sword hilt © Parks Canada What is it? This is a sword hilt, or grip, and appears to be part of an 1827 pattern British naval officer’s sword. It has many notable features. The pommel, the rounded feature at the end of the hilt, has the shape of a lion’s head. The shark skin grip is bound with metal gilded wires which are partly corroded and discoloured. The curved half-basket guard is decorated with a crown and fouled anchor badge. Two strands from the sword knot are still attached to the guard and the folding rear guard section has broken off and is missing. What is it made from? The hilt is made of copper alloy while the strands from the sword knot are made of a natural fibre and the grip is covered in shark skin.
This boot, discovered by Parks Canada underwater archaeologists, reminds us that 129 men – the officers and crew of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror – lost their lives during the infamous 1845 expedition. © Parks Canada
A cannon being hoisted to the surface. The ice hole through which it will pass is visible above. This lifting operation required very careful planning and execution. © Thierry Boyer – Parks Canada
The tedious work of removing kelp and cleaning the 30-metre long ship is key to preparing the wreck for the archaeological research and will allow the Underwater Archaeology Team to see the structure and integrity of the ship as well as damage caused by ice. After 169 years under the cold frigid Arctic water, the ship’s strong internal wooden framework still showcases its robust construction. © Parks Canada
For the first time, HMS Erebus is seen in its entirety without the help of multibeam sonar technology, 30 metres from bow to stern, in her final resting place in clear Arctic waters. © Thierry Boyer/Parks Canada
Parks Canada’s Ryan Harris (left) and Jonathan Moore (middle) examine the ship’s bell with Government of Nunavut archaeologist Dr. Douglas Stenton (right). © Parks Canada / Thierry Boyer
A Parks Canada underwater archaeologist collects a marine biological sample from the hull of HMS Erebus. Her final resting place is a mere 11 meters from the surface of the water. © Thierry Boyer/Parks Canada