HMS Investigator found in 15 minutes

Talk about a quickie.

Just last week word hit the press that Canadian archaeologists would begin their search this week for the HMS Investigator. Well, after a mere three days searching, it was announced today that archaeologists have found the ship that forged the final link in the Northwest Passage and was lost in the search for the Franklin expedition.

The HMS Investigator, abandoned in the ice in 1853, now rests in shallow water in Mercy Bay along the northern coast of Banks Island in Canada’s Western Arctic.

“The ship is standing upright in very good condition,” Marc-Andre Bernier, Parks Canada’s head of underwater archaeology, said Wednesday. “It’s standing in about 11 metres of water.

The masts and rigging were long ago sheared off by ice and weather. But the icy waters have kept the vessel preserved in remarkably good condition.

On shore, not far from the wreck, are what scientists believe are the graves of three British sailors.

The Parks Canada team arrived at Mercy Bay on July 22. Three days later, the ice on the bay cleared enough that researchers were able to deploy side-scanning sonar from a small inflatable boat over the site where they believed the wooden ship had eventually sunk.  Within 15 minutes, the Investigator was found.

“The ship had not moved too much from where it was abandoned,” said Bernier.

“It’s incredible,” said Environment Minister Jim Prentice. “To actually look down into the water and see not just the outline of the ship but actually the ship itself and the timbers and all of the woodwork in immaculate detail was an indescribable experience.

As well as the ship, archaeologists have been uncovering a trove of artifacts on land left behind by the stranded sailors, who unloaded everything that was usable and portable before abandoning the Investigator.

The graves of three sailors thought to have died of scurvy have been marked off and will be left undisturbed, said Bernier.

The Investigator is also considered to be a significant part of aboriginal history. For years after the ship was abandoned, Inuvialuit hunters scavenged the site for valuable and rare bits of metal and wood.Even the nails were pulled out of one of the boats left behind.

The next step will be to send down a remote-controlled video camera to get pictures of the wreck. There are no plans to bring it to the surface and all legal steps will be taken to ensure the site remains protected.

Although the Investigator is alongside Alauvik National Park, the waters are not part of it.

Prentice said the British government has been notified that one of their naval shipwrecks has been discovered, as well as the bodies of three sailors.

The next goal will be to use similar technology to find the HMS Erebus and HMS Terror.