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Parks Canada archaeologists to return to Arctic shipwreck site

  • Author: Kamala Kelkar
  • Updated: August 26, 2016
  • Published August 21, 2015

Canadian archeologists are headed back to the site of a wreck of one of the two lost ships from the Franklin Expedition discovered in Arctic waters last year, and hoping to find the second ship.

The wreck was found last year in about 36 feet of water in Queen Maud Gulf, off the coast of Nunavut, and soon afterward identified as the HMS Erebus, one of two ships that sank in the Arctic during John Franklin's ill-fated 1845 expedition.

Now archeologists will return to the Erebus and continue their hunt for the other missing Franklin Expedition ship, HMS Terror.

The announcement of a return expedition was muted this year, coming in the form of a tweet from Parks Canada and an update to the agency's website Tuesday, according to a CBC News report.

It's official, our UA team is going back to the #Arctic! Learn about #MissionErebusTerror 2015 http://t.co/8dkiMpx0zH pic.twitter.com/5ICWpORG5t— PC Archaeology (@PCArchaeology) August 19, 2015

Up until that point, officials had been refraining from offering any details other than confirming that planning was underway, CBC News reported. It was a stark difference to the traditional high-profile declarations leading up to the annual expeditions that started in 2008.

Perhaps some of the difference can be attributed to current political campaigning ahead of federal elections scheduled for this fall.

"There are definitely politics at play," Michael Byers, who holds the Canada Research Chair in global politics and international law at the University of British Columbia, told CBC News.

In addition to the politics of this year's federal election, the discovery of the ship is connected to the question of Canadian sovereignty over some Arctic waterways.

Reports about last year's discovery were the source of controversy at the Toronto Star newspaper. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Paul Watson quit the paper, accusing it of protecting false narratives about the hunt, a claim the paper denies.

Byers told CBC News he suspects the Canadian government is not ready for a spotlight regarding Arctic sovereignty and that media has become skeptical of rhetoric, so government officials have toned down the hype.

"I know it's tempting for nationalist Canadians, because I am a nationalist Canadian, to reach for every possible toehold to support our legal position, but as an international law expert I just don't see it here," he told CBC News.

Parks Canada offered few details about this year's expeditions on its website, but encouraged visitors to check back for updates.

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