© The Globe and Mail
Map © The Globe and Mail

It appears that the “dangerous objects” that are the target of the recently-commenced Russian expedition also exist in Canadian waters. While Russian officials are trying to clean up the Northern Sea Route to make it safe for shipping, on the other side of the planet, Canadian archeologists have just found the long-lost HMS Investigator in a shallow part of the Northwest Passage. The ship had been lost at sea for 150 years. The HMS Investigator was sailing the final leg of the Northwest Passage in 1850, ironically trying to rescue two other ships, when it was blocked by pack ice near the entrance to the Beaufort Sea. After spending the winter locked in to the Prince of Wales Strait, the ship tried to exit again in the summer, only to be foiled again – a reminder of the perils of Arctic shipping, even in the summer. (Of course, the Arctic had considerably more summer ice in 1850 than today, but still). The ship’s crew had to be rescued.

Those two other ships for which the HMS Investigator was searching, the HMS Erebus and Terror, are still out there, and Parks Canada is on a mission to find them this summer. Bizarrely, the HMS Investigator was never that far from sight, as in fact, nearby Inuit have been using copper and other materials from the wreckage for decades.

The Canadian Hydrographic Service and Parks Canada are working together to locate the lost ships while mapping the sea floor, essentially killing two birds with one stone. Marc-André Bernier, chief of the Underwater Archaeology Service at Parks Canada, said to the Globe and Mail,

“For a long time the area wasn’t open, but now it is because of climate change. So they’re working hard to take advantage of this.”

Let us hope that the HMS Investigator’s fate does not become the fate of today’s ships in the Arctic, whether north of Russia, Canada, or anywhere in between.

News links

“HMS Investigator, Ship Lost for More than 150 Years, Recovered in Canada,” Associated Press

“Finding doomed rescue ship just one piece of the puzzle,” The Globe and Mail

Categories: Canada History


Canadians find ship, lost for 150 years, in Northwest Passage

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