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Areas of the seabed were increasingly eliminated from the search. The search therefore stayed further south. A Government of Nunavut archaeology team then made a breakthrough discovery of a large iron object: part of the boat-lifting gear from a British naval ship. Parks Canada began using their sonar equipment and quickly saw the image of a largely intact shipwreck appear on their screen. By the end of the season, the hydrographers had created a three-dimensional image of the entire wreck.

Throughout the season, archaeologists brought up artefacts from the upper deck and part of the lower, including guns, part of the wheel, fittings from the ship, dinner plates, clothing, and personal items. This would be a challenge anywhere in the world, but will be especially difficult in the Arctic. The Canadian Government is establishing a research and conservation facility in collaboration with Inuit of Kitikmeot Region at a small town on King William Island.

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Captain John Franklin. The gripping story of the worst ever catastrophe in British exploration, and You might also enjoy. Delve deeper into this fascinating topic. Topic Blackbeard Edward Teach Pirate. McClure and his first lieutenant walked along the shores of Mercy Bay, trying to figure out how to dig a proper grave in the permafrost for Boatswain John Doyle.

In the distance, they saw what McClure later described as an image of one of his own men being pursued by a bear.

As the apparition approached, it took on the shape of Lieutenant Bedford Pim of Resolute. A stone cairn that the crew erected as a signal for passing ships.

Courtesy Parks Canada, Edward Eastaugh. In July , helicopter malfunctions kept Bernier, Harris, and the final load of equipment from reaching Mercy Bay for three days. For Harris, the logistical challenges were frustrating. For Bernier, they were agony.

Parks Canada underwater archaeologists find HMS Investigator

He had sat out the trip when Investigator was first discovered, so he was dying for a look at the wreck. A second aircraft was called in and finally got everyone and everything to camp. Harris and Jonathan Moore, a British-born underwater archaeologist, slipped into the water above Investigator for the first time at p.

In , the water had been crystal clear, so the wreck was visible from the surface. This time the water was hazy and murky, perhaps because of heavy runoff from the melting snow and ice. The two divers could see only 10 or 15 feet in front of them. It's been heavily impacted by ice grinding down on top of it over the years, but it's held together impressively well. It's quite majestic. While the divers explored the wreck, Cary led the search for remains of the McClure expedition on land. In , his team had found a depot of supplies, known as McClure's cache, which the crew left on the shore of Mercy Bay as an insurance policy for waylaid sailors like themselves.

In studying the cache, Cary was examining not only what materials McClure's men brought to the north and stashed, but also what items were taken or left behind by Inuits who later mined the cache for clothing, or materials for hunting and cooking. The itemized list that McClure left at the site states there were seven pairs of boots in the cache. Of those, the soles of six pairs of those boots were left behind, unused by visiting Inuits. This suggested to Cary that the soles were of no practical use to the Inuit. By contrast, cans appear to have been coveted.

Joe Kudlak, an Inuit patrolman with Parks Canada, found a tin can believed to have originated with Investigator a few miles south. An identical specimen was found at a kill site for musk oxen 15 minutes away by helicopter. Still others have been found cut up and refashioned by Inuit into blades and other cutting tools that incorporate bones, antlers, and other more traditional Inuit materials. Cary also used the writings of Johann Miertsching, a Moravian missionary who had spent time with Inuit in Labrador and was part of Investigator 's crew, to locate the whalebone remnants of a Paleoeskimo camp site dating back 2, years.

A new translation of those writings, plus a magnetometer, which measures magnetic fields, also helped the team in find the graves of the three crew members who died at Mercy Bay. The bodies of John Eames, John Boyle, and John Kerr were all found lying in a north-to-south line facing east, in keeping with the Anglican tradition. Because of the permafrost, the earth at the graves was still raised.

The graves might have been dug and filled in yesterday, Cary says, underlining for him the power and permanence of the Investigator story. When you're standing at McClure's cache, the landscape that the men of Investigator would have looked out at from the ship and from the shore is exactly the same. There's been absolutely no change whatsoever," he says. In the field season, Cary and his crew strapped a high-resolution digital camera to the bottom of a helicopter and photographed the area with the goal of testing the accuracy of a topographic map made in by Stephen Court, the second master aboard Investigator.

They also collected several terrestrial artifacts, including the head of a barrel believed to have belonged to the British military and a quartz knife made at the Paleoeskimo site. They also recovered a large bell-shaped iron truss, first located decades ago, that is believed to have supported Investigator 's topsail.


It was found on the beach, buried under loose rock on the shore. No one knows how it got there, but the clamp section, once round, is now oval—a testament to the crushing power of Arctic sea ice. Archaeologists retrieved a double-sheave pulley from the ship's rigging Courtesy Parks Canada, Louis Barnes An X-ray of the artifact reveals the British broad arrow stamped onto the spokes of both of the pulley's brass sheaves.

A rare artifact, the hearty fabric was applied along the inside of Investigator's hull and beneath her upper deck to insulate the vessel and make her more watertight.

'Lost Beneath the Ice': Book sheds new light on HMS Investigator | CTV News

In the Ottawa laboratory where the materials recovered so far are being studied and analyzed, other rich stories of McClure's era and his adventures are emerging. The bent, broken, and corroded musket, for example, likely belonged to one of eight Royal Marines aboard the ship. The iron, copper, and wood specimen is still soaking in a bath of deionized water months after being recovered, but it's in good enough shape to see the markings on the butt plate. Each piece of copper sheathing affixed to the hull of Investigator is marked not only with its place and date of production, but also with a broad arrow, showing it to be property of the British navy.

The same arrow shows up on fasteners, bolts, and the tiniest tacks, as well as on X-rays of a wooden rope pulley that Bernier raised from the wreck. Initially, the pulley was covered in mud, but after some cleaning, the archaeologists noticed that it also contained several strands of cord. The lab showed that the cord contained not just hemp, which was the primary choice of material for rope back then, but also wool—"Rogue's Wool," to be precise.

They believe the fabric, now a muddy brown color, was originally red, identifying it as the official rope of London's Deptford Dockyard. Also in the lab, in a shallow basin, is what Harris refers to as a "potentially one-of-a-kind artifact.

Lost Beneath the Ice

Harris' black T-shirt, brought into service as a protective pad, peeks out from beneath it. The material is not unlike today's felt—a pressed textile—however, this sturdy stuff would have been used to waterproof ships. There are stories of damaged vessels limping back to England only to discover that their felt was all that had been keeping them afloat. Drawings of Investigator show that the felt was placed beneath the wood on the upper deck and all along the reinforced hull. This is a rare find, as few similar samples from the period have been discovered or preserved.

Under the microscope, the felt yields a particularly Canadian surprise. It is woven from the guard hairs of beaver pelts—known for their water resistant qualities—suggesting that at least one North American pelt had made a round trip to England and back again. Now the team at the Parks Canada lab is looking into how the textile was produced—by hand or machine—and examining the properties that made it so well suited to service in the Arctic.

The ironies of Investigator 's tale are that what began as a rescue mission required a rescue of its own, and that the expedition eventually achieved the tasks that had been set for Franklin and the now-lost HMS Erebus and HMS Terror for which Parks Canada is also searching. However, Franklin and those earlier lost ships have long overshadowed McClure, his crew, and their accomplishments. The 55 members of Investigator 's crew who returned home to England received a hero's welcome and a 10, pound reward—half for McClure and half distributed among the others.

Despite their initial acclaim, their efforts were largely forgotten. The Investigator crew returned to a country that had largely tired of Arctic exploration. It was felt that these expeditions had eaten up too much time, too much money, and too many men. Perhaps a cold death might have secured them more enduring fame.

McClure and his crew, however, understood their achievement. It is known that while stuck in the ice, they celebrated every October 26 when McClure first saw the strait now named after him as the day that they had discovered the Northwest Passage. What's more, because they had entered the Northwest Passage from the west and were rescued from the east, those men were the first—by ship, foot, sled, and ship again—to make it all the way through the legendary northern route between the oceans.