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At long last… The wreck of a long-lost ship from the Franklin Expedition has been found in the Canadian Arctic

If you know me or follow this site, you know my obsession with the Franklin Expedition.  The disappearance of the two ships HMS Erebus and HMS Terror nearly 170 years ago has been one of history’s lingering mysteries.  Two days ago, scientists  scouring the Arctic announced they had finally discovered the submerged remains of one of the ships.


What happened to his expedition has been a mystery for more than 170 years. The expedition’s disappearance became one of the great mysteries of the age of Victorian exploration.

A team of Canadian divers and archaeologists began searching for Franklin’s ships back in 2008. Now they’ve finally had a breakthrough.

Sonar images from the waters of the Victoria Strait, near Nunavut, reveal the wreckage of a ship resting on the ocean floor. Turns out, it is one of Franklin’s missing ships.

“I am delighted to announce that this year’s Victoria Strait expedition has solved one of Canada’s greatest mysteries, with the discovery of one of the two ships belonging to the Franklin Expedition,” said Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper in a statement.

John Geiger, the president of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society, was a member of the search team that finally found the boat.

“You can actually see things like deck planking, you can see the side of the hull and even debris like signal cannons on the deck,” said Geiger.

The loss of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror prompted one of the largest searches in history, running from 1848 to 1859. Experts believe the ships were lost when they became locked in the ice and that the crews abandoned them in an effort to reach safety.

“It’s a very important wreck. It’s arguably one of the most exciting underwater finds — just because so little was known about what happened to the Franklin Expedition. It’s just one of those great, enduring historical mysteries,” Geiger said.

2014 Search for Lost Franklin Expedition Vessels Targets New Location

The mystery surrounding the disappearance of the 1845 British Arctic Expedition commanded by Sir John Franklin is the most enduring in polar exploration history. This summer, the Government of Canada’s search for the lost Franklin ships, the HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, will be enhanced by the inclusion of Canadian leaders in exploration, assembled with the help of The Royal Canadian Geographical Society (RCGS).

This unique partnership, which includes The W. Garfield Weston Foundation, One Ocean Expeditions, Shell Canada and the Arctic Research Foundation, will add resources, technologies and expertise to the hunt and focus on the Victoria Strait, which up to this point has largely not been targeted by search teams. The focus on the Victoria Strait is significant, as the area includes the last reported location of the missing vessels and crews.

The W. Garfield Weston Foundation has been a catalyst for the innovative partnership. With the support of The W. Garfield Weston Foundation, the Society has partnered with One Ocean Expeditions to provide an Arctic-rated vessel (One Ocean Voyager) that will enhance the many projects underway by all partners. It will enable experts, researchers, and others to be in the search area for a 10-day period during the field season. It will also enable the RCGS to analyze and communicate the important links between the original Franklin expedition, the modern search efforts led by Parks Canada, and a host of issues currently facing the Canadian Arctic.

“The W. Garfield Weston Foundation is delighted to be a part of the hunt for the Erebus and Terror. The Franklin Expedition discovery will raise awareness and increase understanding of the North and Canada’s rich history,” says Geordie Dalglish, Director of The W. Garfield Weston Foundation. “We are proud to support scientists as they uncover such an important piece of Canada’s history.”

With the addition of the One Ocean Voyager, the search capabilities of the expedition team will be significantly enhanced. “One Ocean Expeditions will fly the Canadian and RCGS flags with great enthusiasm, whilst exploring the waterways of Canada’s high Arctic as we’ve done for almost a quarter century,” explained Andrew Prossin, Managing Director of One Oceans Expeditions. “This will be a very proud Canadian effort at exploration, discovery, and scientific survey. It would be a very special Canadian moment indeed, to rewrite one of polar history¹s most storied chapters. This would showcase Canadian know-how and innovation to the world.”

The search for Franklin’s lost ships has opened a unique window into the history and heritage that has defined the Canadian experience, and the research provides a strong learning opportunity for Canadians across the country. With the vital support of its partners, The W. Garfield Weston Foundation, One Ocean Expeditions, Shell Canada and the Arctic Research Foundation, the RCGS will be developing and disseminating an educational program to Canadian schools, so that educators and students can develop a stronger knowledge base and engagement with the Arctic, linking this great historical mystery to important contemporary themes such as Northern science and Arctic sovereignty.

“Exploration has been important to the success of our business for over 100 years,” said Lorraine Mitchelmore, President and Country Chair of Shell Canada and Executive Vice President Heavy Oil. “We are proud to lend our support to the recovery of these vessels and look forward to sharing our experience along with our country’s rich history of exploration with Canadian students.”

In its 2013 Speech from the Throne, the Government of Canada announced an expanded partnership would join the Parks Canada-led initiative to locate the Franklin vessels. Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of the Environment and Minister responsible for Parks Canada, announced the 2014 Victoria Strait Expedition on June 20. The Royal Canadian Geographical Society and its partners are key to the plans for this summer. “As Canada’s pre-eminent leader in exploration and geographical education, we are proud and honoured to join with Parks Canada, other federal and Nunavut government partners, and our private sector and non-profit colleagues and take up the call,” stated The Royal Canadian Geographical Society’s CEO, John Geiger.

The fate of the Erebus and Terror and their crews has become one of the most enduring mysteries in maritime history, and the search for Franklin’s lost ships has over time cemented Canada’s understanding and connection with the North. Moreover, much of Canada’s claim to sovereignty over its Arctic islands can be traced to the significant geographical advances made because of the Franklin search era. This year’s search will continue to strengthen Canadian awareness and understanding of its northern heritage and sovereignty over the land and its resources.

“The RCGS’ unique ability to directly reach classrooms from across Canada will ensure that information about the North will be easily accessible to thousands of Canadian students,” said Jim Balsillie, founder of the Arctic Research Foundation. “The Arctic Research Foundation is pleased to participate in a partnership that will connect young Canadians with information about their country’s Northern communities and heritage.”

For up-to-date information about the Franklin search expedition and much more, visit the Franklin 2014 search website at canadiangeographic.ca/franklin-expedition.

DOWN TO EARTH: EXPERIMENTAL AIRCRAFT CRASH SITES OF THE MOJAVE

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Since the dawn of the jet and space ages, Edwards Air Force Base, north of Los Angeles, has been the principal place for testing experimental aircraft. As a result, the landscape around it is peppered with crash sites. These crash sites represent the meeting of the apogee of American technological sophistication, with the perigee of failure – the intersection of lofted ambition and terrestrial tragedy.
 
The eleven crashes described in this exhibit were selected from among the more than six hundred that have occurred in the western Mojave Desert, and cover the range of experimentation and advancement of aircraft over the past 70 years of jet-propelled flight. With one exception, all of these flights originated at Edwards, where they were expected to return. Instead they crashed outside, in the public realm, where they remain as accidental monuments to one of the most advanced forms of technology and human endeavor.

This CLUI exhibit was based on the work of Peter W. Merlin who, with Tony Moore, founded the X-Hunters Aerospace Archeology Team, the nation’s experts on locating crash sites of experimental aircraft. Merlin and Moore have studied and documented aerospace accidents and incidents for more than 25 years, and have located and visited more than 100 crash sites of historic aircraft from Edwards Air Force Base and Area 51.

Explore the online gallery here.

Losing Ground: Preserving New York’s Historic Battlefields

This February, a new documentary focusing on the War of 1812 airs on WCNY.  Entitled Losing Ground, the documentary will focus on the ongoing struggle archaeologists and historians face in New York State to preserve sites associated with the War of 1812.

From WCNY:

Walking past any patch of land along the shore of Lake Ontario, many would not immediately recognize the rocky coast as bearing witness to some of our nation’s most notorious conflicts. The depth of the Great Lakes and their wind-swept shores hold the memories of a war; waged between a young American republic, growing Canadian territories and a bruised British empire.

Many historians distinguish the War of 1812 as America’s second battle for independence. Trade embargos, sailor impressment and Indian land expansion were among the larger grievances that pitted the newly minted United States against a British Empire still wrapped up in the Napoleonic Wars. And although it is considered a minor engagement, the War of 1812 remains an important turning point in our nation’s history. It was the first war America would wage under its freshly printed constitution. The conflict ignited a fierce spark of patriotism and pride that would help usher the country into a new age of prosperity.

200 years later, celebrations across New York and Canada commemorate the veterans and battlefields of the War of 1812. But with each passing year, there is less and less physical evidence of this significant part of New York history. As the population grows and unchecked development expands, preservationists worry that the lands that played a vital role in U.S. history are disappearing at an alarming rate. Once they are gone, so too are the opportunities of enrichment for generations of future Americans.

Book Recommendation: Skendleby

18734861Happy New Year!  Though terribly busy with work and teaching, I’ve just finished an excellent read that I’d very much like to share with diggers and non-diggers alike.  The novel is called Skendleby, it is written by Nick Brown, a UK based author, instructor and archaeologist.  While eager to share the details, I’ll do my best to avoid spoiling the plot while still enticing you to chase down a copy of the book.

In a nutshell, Skendleby is a haunting archaeological adventure set on the plains of Cheshire.  What begins as a routine CRM dig turns rather quickly into a horror laced mystery with a crew of cursed shovelbums and a vengeful mystical force at the very center.  At 237 pages, it is a quick but plot-packed read.  It avoids the pitfalls of most current horror literature, mainly predictability.

While Skendleby is written by an archaeologist, it isn’t necessarily written for archaeologists.  Brown successfully manages to splice just the right amount of technicality into his work to keep a professional interested, while dodging hang ups on the minute details of stratigraphic profiles and radiocarbon dating that may alienate someone unfamiliar with archaeological fieldwork.  Truth be told, the fact that the story centers around a group of archaeologists is just a bonus.  This is a novel that any fan of horror could enjoy.

I have only two gripes.  First, I wish the book had been longer.  Like I said, it was a quick read and the story was great; I could have stayed in that world a bit longer.  Second, some of the characters lack being memorable.  This doesn’t in any way affect the plot, just something I wanted to point out and maybe something that could have taken care of gripe number one.  Fortunately, Brown manages to form a close-knit group of central characters (some likable, some loath-able) that kept the story moving and my interest peaked up to the final page.

I’m anxious for more by Brown.  As I write this I’m about sixty pages deep into Luck Bringer, his first novel centered around the Persian Empire.  According to his website, Skendleby is part of a planned Ancient Gramarye series, so I kindly request that he get to work on the next in the series.

Skendleby is published by New Generation Publishing and is available via online retailers.  Explore Nick Brown’s website by clicking here.

Dig it: Hawks’ online course set to start in three weeks

In just three weeks, John Hawks’ Human Evolution: Past and Future is set to begin.  For those unaware of this valuable online learning tool, I’ve conveniently copied and pasted all of the information below.  Anything not covered in my CTRL-C CTRL-V can head to his site or the course information page.

Human Evolution: Past and Future

Introduction to the science of human origins, the fossil and archaeological record, and genetic ancestry of living and ancient human populations. The course emphasizes the ways our evolution touches our lives, including health and diet, and explores how deep history may shape the future of our species.

About the Course

This course covers our evolutionary history across more than seven million years, from our origins among the apes up to the biological changes that are still unfolding today. If you enroll, you’ll encounter the evidence for the earliest members of our lineage, as they begin the long pathway to humanity. You’ll see how scientists are learning about the diets of ancient people, using microscopic evidence and chemical signatures in ancient teeth. We will explore together the exciting fossil discoveries of the last ten years, which have shaken up our notions of the origin of human culture and our own genus.Genomics has fundamentally transformed the way we understand our evolution, in many ways opening the direct evidence of our history to anyone. The course will teach you how to look inside the genomes of humans, Neandertals and other ancient people. If you have used personal genomics to get your own genotypes, the course will guide you in connecting genetics to your ancestry among ancient humans.The course brings a special focus on the rapid evolutionary changes of the last 10,000 years. You’ll learn about the consequences of our shift to agriculture, and the ways that people of industrialized nations are still changing today. At the end, we trek forward to anticipate what evolutionary changes may be in store for humanity in the future, using our knowledge of history and scientific understanding to inform our speculations.

Recommended Background

All are welcome to participate and view materials, which assume no special background. To complete some exercises, a basic knowledge of high school-level biology and algebra will be necessary.

Course Format

The materials are designed to guide students on their own distinctive paths of discovery. Short documentary videos highlight the most up-to-date science and bring students virtually into some of the most famous archaeological sites. With a series of interviews, students will hear about new ideas from many of the world’s leading experts. A series of activities give students an opportunity to see their measurements next to those provided by the worldwide group of students. Students can dig deeper by investigating ways that humanity may evolve into the future.

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Dear House, Continue to support publicly funded archaeological research

On September 30, 2013, Reps. Eric Cantor (R-VA) and Lamar Smith (R-TX) published an opinion piece in USA Today arguing for a reassessment of how the National Science Foundation (NSF) awards its research grants. Cantor and Smith questioned “why the NSF chooses to fund social science research including archaeology…over projects that could help our wounded warriors to save lives.” The Representatives argued that we must reprioritize “the government’s research spending in favor of improving Americans’ quality of life.” You can read The Society for Historical Archaeology’s President, Paul Mullins’ response here.

This attack comes at a time when funding for the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), another source for publicly-funded archaeological research, is facing a proposed 49% cut in the House of Representatives.

The Society for Historical Archaeology (SHA) is reminding our lawmakers about the economic, social, and cultural values of publicly-funded archaeological research. If you believe that Archaeology Matters and want to voice support for continued federal funding that supports archaeological research, please:

1. Sign this petition
2. Share this petition with your friends, colleagues, family, and the communities you work with through email, Facebook, and Twitter. Tell them #WhyArchMatters to you, and how it benefits them.

When you sign the petition, the following message will be sent to Representatives Cantor and Smith on your behalf:

To Representatives Cantor and Smith:

NSF funding for archaeological research currently represents only 0.1% of NSF’s budget. This level of funding is very small and has little or no impact on the funding levels for other types of NSF programs; however, this 0.1% funds a wide range of archaeological studies that directly benefit American citizens, both culturally and economically. NSF-funded archaeological research:

- Brings together the economic benefits of preservation, heritage tourism, and job opportunities in a variety of fields (cultural resource management, museums, academia, and others)

- Provides unique educational and enrichment opportunities for people of all ages and backgrounds

- Encompasses a broad range of scientific research fields, making science interesting and relevant to elementary, middle school, and high school students. It is a platform for promoting science in American educational programs.

Archaeology matters. We urge you to support continued NSF funding for archaeological research.

Click here to continue to Change.org and sign the petition.

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