As part of an effort to unlock the secrets of Her Majesty’s Ship (HMS) Erebus, and to learn more about the fate of the Franklin expedition, Prime Minister Stephen Harper today announced that Parks Canada and Royal Canadian Navy divers will join together for Operation NUNALIVUT and conduct approximately 11 days of intense ice diving and underwater archaeology in April.
The Prime Minister made the announcement at a special event held at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto to celebrate last summer’s discovery of HMS Erebus, one of two ill-fated Franklin Expedition ships lost in 1846.
The Prime Minister represented the Government at the event to receive the Erebus Medal – a one-time honour awarded by The Royal Canadian Geographical Society – for contributions to, and support for, the 2014 Victoria Strait Expedition which led to the discovery of HMS Erebus.
- A team of Royal Canadian Navy ice divers and Parks Canada underwater archeologists will undertake continuous daily dives beneath the Arctic ice to HMS Erebus.
- Key archaeological objectives include thorough and precise investigation of HMS Erebus to more fully determine its state of preservation as well as continued photo and video documentation, allowing Canadians and people worldwide to be a part of this historic research.
- Operation NUNALIVUT is a sovereignty operation conducted annually since 2007 in Canada’s North. It provides an opportunity for the Canadian Armed Forces to assert Canada’s sovereignty over its northernmost regions, demonstrate the ability to operate in the harsh environment in remote areas of the High Arctic, and enhance its capability to respond to any situation in Canada’s North.
- Operation NUNALIVUT also allows the Canadian Armed Forces to provide meaningful support to scientific research in the Arctic, and to demonstrate interoperability in the High Arctic with military allies and other Canadian government institutions.
- The Erebus Medal, established by The Royal Canadian Geographical Society in 2015, is a one-time honour awarded to participants in the 2014 Victoria Strait Expedition, recognizing their contributions towards the discovery of HMS Erebus.
- 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.
- HMS Erebus was a Hecla-class bomb vessel constructed in 1826. The vessel was named after the dark region in Hades of Greek mythology called Erebus.
- Since 2008, there have been six major Parks Canada-led searches for the lost Franklin Expedition ships, pain-stakingly covering many hundreds of square kilometres of the Arctic seabed.
- The discovery of the wreck and artifacts was made possible with the use of Inuit traditional knowledge and modern technology. The southern region was identified as a target search area as a direct result of 19th century Inuit oral testimony describing a shipwreck to the south of King William Island.
- The wrecks of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror are designated together as a national historic site of Canada – the only such ‘undiscovered’ national historic site until the discovery of Erebus in September 2014.
“Operation NUNALIVUT will showcase to the world the extraordinary abilities of Canadian Armed Forces ice divers and Parks Canada’s underwater archaeologists. I wish all participants the best as they embark on winter dives beneath the Arctic ice to learn more about HMS Erebus.”
– Prime Minister Stephen Harper
“Laureen and I are deeply honoured to be among the recipients of the Erebus Medal this evening, which recognizes our commitment to discovering one of our country’s greatest maritime mysteries. This discovery would not have been possible without the incredible efforts of the 2014 Victoria Strait Expedition made up of government, private and non-profit partners, including The Royal Canadian Geographical Society. I had the privilege to take part in the search last summer during my annual northern tour and was impressed by the professionalism and dedication of the searchers plumbing Canada’s frigid northern waters. ”
– Prime Minister Stephen Harper