Marc-André Bernier, guest speaker at the sold-out Canadian Club of Halton dinner on January 26, 2017 considers himself a lucky man. As a member of the Parks Canada Underwater Archaeology Team since 1990 (26 years) and the Manager of the team for the past 8 years, he and his team played an integral role in the recent discoveries of the Franklin Expedition’s Royal Navy ships, HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, in Canada’s Arctic.
Sir John Franklin and his two ships, with a total compliment of 134 officers and men, set out in 1845 from England hoping to find the Northwest Passage across Canada’s Arctic. During the three years that the expedition was expected to last, both the ships and their crews vanished and since then many search expeditions have attempted to locate the missing ships. It is believed that the crew, stranded amid the arctic ice flows around Victoria Island in Nunavut, eventually abandoned the ships and set out on foot to find civilization, perishing in the attempt.
The HMS Erebus was discovered in September 2014 and the HMS Terror in 2016. These search expeditions brought together the Government of Canada as well as public, private and non-profit organizations. The use of state-of-the-art technology, Inuit knowledge and oral testimony made these historic discoveries possible.
It was interesting to hear Marc-André Bernier recount his experience – one of “countless, fruitless hours staring at a computer screen” of underwater images. As onlookers it is easy for us to make this appear glamorous – to him and the team there was boredom … lots of it … “until the day of the discovery of these ships, together with the knowledge that they were very intact.”
Marc-André Bernier was one of the first people to see and dive on the HMS Erebus after its discovery in 2014. Since then he has participated in subsequent return archaeological expeditions to the Erebus, and most recently the examination of the newly discovered wreck of HMS Terror this past September.
Plans are in place for 10 museums across Canada to soon have displays featuring HMS Erebus and HMS Terror.
To discover fascinating historical information on the Franklin Expedition, visit: http://www.pc.gc.ca/eng/culture/franklin/hist.aspx.
Article and photos courtesy of Janet Bedford.
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