Feds, Inuit and the U.K. celebrate deal on Franklin artifacts
“Inuit are now joint owners of all remaining artifacts from the Franklin wrecks”
The doomed 1845 Franklin Expedition was once again under the spotlight for three days last week.
On Sept. 9, Catherine McKenna, Canada’s minister responsible for Parks Canada, visited the site of the wreck of the HMS Erebus near Gjoa Haven with the British deputy high commissioner to Canada, David Reed. They were accompanied by Inuit Guardians, who, with Parks Canada, are responsible for monitoring the national historic site.
They also visited Parks Canada’s underwater archeology team, whose members are now aboard Parks Canada’s new research vessel, the RV David Thompson.
The tour celebrated the move by the United Kingdom earlier this year to agree that Canada could keep all as-yet-undiscovered artifacts from the Franklin wreck sites.
This agreement still allows the U.K. to keep the 65 artifacts already discovered by Parks Canada’s diving teams.
But all artifacts retrieved in the future from the Erebus and HMS Terror will now be jointly owned by Canada and Inuit through Parks Canada and the Inuit Heritage Trust.
“The Inuit Heritage Trust is very pleased to celebrate in Nunavut the historic gift from the United Kingdom. Inuit are now joint owners of all remaining artifacts from the Franklin wrecks and we look forward to working with Parks Canada to conserve and present these important pieces of Inuit and Canada’s history,” said William Beveridge of the Inuit Heritage Trust in a news release.
During the visit to Nunavut, McKenna and Reed marked the transfer of deed of ownership in Cambridge Bay, where they toured the Canadian High Arctic Research Station, and then in Gjoa Haven—the community nearest to the site of the wrecks.
The best part of my trip to the Kitikmeot region of Nunavut was meeting with elders, children, hunters, leaders & community members from Cambridge Bay & Gjoa Haven. They generously shared their culture, history, knowledge, stories, crafts & games and I am very grateful.
— Catherine McKenna ߇Ȱ߇¦ (@cathmckenna) September 11, 2018
Sir John Franklin and his crew went missing in 1847-48 while searching for a northwest passage. Their vessels, Erebus and Terror, were discovered resting on the ocean floor near King William Island, or Qikiqtaq, in western Nunavut, in 2014 and 2016, respectively.
Since the discovery of the Erebus in 2014, different organizations and governments have jockeyed for stewardship of the wreck and its artifacts.
In 2015, the GN refused to grant Parks Canada diving permits to the Erebus, and again in 2016, unless the federal government agreed to joint ownership of any recovered relics.
The same year, the federal government designated the area around the Erebus a national historic site, thereby superseding Nunavut’s claim to the wreck.
But now a Franklin Interim Advisory Committee, composed of community members and representatives from the Kitikmeot Inuit Association, the Inuit Heritage Trust, the Government of Nunavut, and the heritage and tourism industry, advises on the management of the wrecks until an Inuit Impact and Benefit Agreement is finalized between Parks Canada and the KIA.
The Terror was declared a historic site in 2017, ensuring legal protection for the wreck site under the Canada National Parks Act. The wreck of Erebus was made a historic site in 2015.
You can’t visit the sites of Erebus and Terror yet: these are not currently open to the public, and a permit is required to enter the protected areas.
But Parks Canada and the Franklin Interim Advisory Committee are working to develop “visitor experience activities that support the long-term protection of both wreck sites while sharing these remarkable discoveries with Canadians and the world,” the news release said.
This month Parks Canada’s underwater archeology team will be at the site of the Erebus for up to two weeks and will continue to map the field of debris around the ship.
The excavation and artifact recovery will begin in areas of the lower deck where the crew lived. The work will focus on zones that relate to officers, lower ranking crew members and Royal Marines, a news release on the plan said.
Underwater infrastructure will also be installed to facilitate the archeological work with the assistance of the Canadian Coast Guard and CCGS Sir Wilfrid Laurier, the news release said.
The David Thompson will serve as the main operational platform, towing an archeological support barge, the Qiniqtiryuaq, which houses three containers for a lab, storage and equipment space, and a hyperbaric-treatment chamber to treat any pressure-related problems experienced by divers.
The crew of CCGS Sir Wilfrid
Laurier lowered one of the
anchors on Qiniqtiryuac while the @ParksCanada crew set up the mooring lines. The anchors will serve to secure the barge while #ParksCanada’s Underwater Archaeology Team studies #HMSErebus. @CoastGuardCAN pic.twitter.com/bZw0BVCHjv
— PC Archaeology (@PCArchaeology) September 10, 2018
If weather and ice conditions permit, Parks Canada’s underwater archeology team may also visit Terror Bay to collect images, videos, and scans of the Terror and develop an archeological plan for the future study of the shipwreck.
Visible artifacts and the structures of the upper deck will continue to be inventoried and examined, Parks Canada said, and a small remotely operated underwater vehicle will be used to explore the ship’s interior.