The wrecked Franklin expedition ship found last month in the Arctic has been identified as HMS Erebus.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper confirmed the news Wednesday in the House of Commons.
“I am delighted to confirm that we have identified which ship from the Franklin expedition has been found. It is in fact the HMS Erebus,” Harper said in response to a question from Conservative Yukon MP Ryan Leef.
Harper noted the discovery has been of “interest to Canadians across the country and people around the world.”
Two ships, HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, were part of Sir John Franklin’s doomed expedition in 1845 to find the Northwest Passage from the Atlantic Ocean to Asia.
The ships disappeared after they became locked in ice in 1846 and were missing for more than a century and a half until last month’s discovery by a group of public-private searchers led by Parks Canada. It was not known until now which of the two ships had been found.
Franklin commanded the expedition from the Erebus and is believed to have been on the ship when he died. The wreck of HMS Terror has not yet been found.
Underwater archeologists confirm identity
Parks Canada underwater archeologists have been conducting dives at the site of the wreck since the discovery was made.
In a release, the Prime Minister’s Office said the confirmation of the ship’s identity was made Sept. 30 by those Parks Canada scientists, following a “meticulous review of data and artifacts” from the seabed and using high-resolution photo and video along with sonar measurements.
Ryan Harris, a senior underwater archeologist with Parks Canada and the lead on the project, was the first to venture down to the wreck along with his colleague Jonathan Moore.
“Without a doubt it is the most extraordinary shipwreck I’ve ever had the privilege of diving on,” Harris told CBC News on Parliament Hill Wednesday.
Harris said he was able to drop down between the exposed beams of the wreck and “peer around” some of the interior, including the crew’s mess. The pair could see below decks through old skylights and other openings but did not penetrate the interior of the ship.
“Most of our investigations have been external to this point in time,” he said.
Parks Canada two-man teams conducted seven dives in all for about 12 hours of investigation so far, Harris said.
Where is Franklin?
One question on many observers’ minds is whether Franklin’s body might be found on the wreck. It is not known whether Franklin perished on board or was given some kind of burial at sea before his men abandoned ship.
“We do know that he passed away in June of 1847, but the terse note left by the crew after they deserted the ships in Victoria Strait didn’t say what happened and why he died, but I suppose anything is possible,” Harris said.
“There are all kinds of suggestions that he may have been buried on shore, perhaps buried at sea, or perhaps he is still on the ship somewhere. Hopefully archeological investigations will be able to identify the answer to that question in the years to come.”
The last members of the Franklin expedition are believed to have faced starvation, disease and possibly cannibalism before their deaths in the Arctic.
The government’s partners in the search for Franklin’s ships this summer included Parks Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the Canadian Coast Guard, the Royal Canadian Navy, Defence Research and Development Canada, Environment Canada and the Canadian Space Agency, as well as the governments of Nunavut and Great Britain.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“Archaeology is the peeping Tom of the sciences. It is the sandbox of men who care not where they are going; they merely want to know where everyone else has been.” – Jim Bishop
It’s no Mona Lisa, but a smudged red disk in northern Spain has been crowned the world’s earliest cave painting. Dated to more than 40,800 years ago, the shape was painted by some of the first modern humans to reach the Iberian Peninsula — or it may have been done by Neanderthals, residents of the Iberian peninsula for more than 200,000 years.
“There is a very good chance that this is Neanderthal,” says Alistair Pike, an archaeological scientist at the University of Bristol, UK, whose team dated dozens of paintings in 11 caves in northern Spain. But Lawrence Guy Straus, an expert on the caves who is based at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, calls that “a pretty wild speculation,” because it is based on a single date that could overlap with human occupation.
Until now, Chauvet Cave in central France, which is plastered with images of bears, lions and horses, held the title of the world’s oldest cave paintings. The oldest images there are dated to around 39,000 years old, but this is controversial as the assessment relies on radiocarbon dating of charcoal pigments, which are susceptible to contamination from other sources of carbon.
Cave art is notoriously difficult to date because, unlike bones and tools dug up from the ground that can be carbon-dated directly or by their association with nearby bones, it is “not associated with anything but itself”, says Pike.
To solve this problem, Pike’s team dated the calcite patinas that slowly form over cave art as mineral-rich water trickles over the paintings. The water contains trace levels of radioactive uranium, but not the water insoluble thorium into which the uranium steadily decays. The relative levels of uranium to thorium thus form a clock that records when the calcite layer was formed. The layers can take anywhere from several hundred to several thousand years to form, providing a minimum date for the art, Pike says.
His team collected 50 calcite scrapings from 11 caves, and came up with dates as old as 40,800 years, a minimum age for the disk in El Castillo cave1. That image, as well as other slightly younger disks from Castillo and a club-shaped image from Altamira cave, would have been painted at around the time the first modern humans, called the Aurignacian culture, reached the Iberian Peninsula. Younger paintings in the Spanish caves, including handprints and figurative drawings of animals, date to later human occupations.
Just as impressionism gave way to expressionism in nineteenth- and twentieth-century art, Pike’s team sees artistic trends that correlate with different periods. The first European painters favoured simple geometric shapes such as dots, disks and clubs, whereas their successors painted more graphically complicated handprints and figures.
“You clearly see distinct styles arriving and leaving at different periods,” Pike says, although he cautions against making any interpretations about the minds of the artists. “I don’t think one can say these are multicoloured and these are monochrome to make judgements about the art or even the cognitive abilities of Neanderthals or humans.”
Determining just who created the earliest cave paintings will factor into debates over the relative mental capacities of the two species. Cave paintings appear in Palaeolithic Europe before anywhere else in the world. But beginning around 100,000 years ago, humans in Africa began making shell beads and other ornaments that have been interpreted by archaeologists as evidence for the symbolic thinking that underlies language, art and even religion. There is a lot less evidence, such as beads and ivory pendants, for symbolic behaviour among Neanderthals in Europe, and some archaeologists have raised fresh questions over whether Neanderthals created these artefacts.
The only way to determine who created the earliest paintings is to do more dating, Pike says. If his team can find cave art that predates the arrival of modern humans in northern Spain, currently pegged at around 42,000 years ago, there can be little doubt that Neanderthals dabbled in art. “If we can really nail it, you can walk into El Castillo cave and gaze upon the hand of Neanderthals and that’s really exciting,” Pike says. His team plans to return to the caves to sample calcite on more disks and other early-looking art.
However, Tom Higham, an archaeological scientist at the University of Oxford, UK, points out that only the oldest date, 40,800 years old, butts up against that start of modern human occupation in Iberia. “I think it is far more likely that all of the art in European sites was simply being made by modern humans,” he says.