A box unearthed in a Nunavut community along the Northwest Passage earlier this month contains nothing related to Arctic explorers Sir John Franklin or Roald Amundsen, government officials have announced.
The wooden box, which was believed to have been buried for decades in Gjoa Haven, Nunavut, was opened by the Canadian Conservation Institute in Ottawa on Friday.
The box was purported to contain either documents related to Franklin’s ill-fated attempt to navigate the Northwest Passage in the 1840s or items from Amundsen’s journey through the passage in the early 1900s.
“The remains of a cardboard box lined the bottom and sides of the interior of the wood box,” the Nunavut government said in a news release issued late Tuesday. “Pieces of newspaper and what appeared to be tallow were discovered beneath the sand and rocks that filled the box
“No items related to either Amundsen or to Franklin were found.”
Officials with the Nunavut government and the Institute will give more details in the coming days about the box’s contents.
The box was believed to have been buried more than 80 years ago by George Washington Porter Jr., a resident of Gjoa Haven, below a large stone cairn.
It was said that he carefully placed some documents believed to be connected to the British Franklin Expedition — Sir John Franklin’s attempt to navigate the Northwest Passage.
The box was excavated by Nunavut government archeologists earlier this month after descendents of Porter, who claimed they had known about its purported contents for decades, came forward.
Porter’s son, Chester Porter, told CBC News during the excavation that he had kept the secret about the box for 30 years but felt now was the time to go public about what he believes are Franklin’s lost documents.
Eric Mitchell, a former Hudson’s Bay Co. manager who claimed to have helped the elder Porter excavate and rebury the box in 1957, has said it actually contained items Amundsen had buried in Gjoa Haven in 1905.
Mitchell said the Norwegian explorer left behind a photograph of Dr. Georg von Neumayer, a German geophysicist who had taught Amundsen about the North Magnetic Pole.
Two members of the Porter family, as well as a Nunavut government official, were on hand for the official opening of the box in Ottawa, according to the release.
Although the box did not contain what people were expecting to see, Nunavut government officials say the effort to excavate and examine the box was still a culturally significant undertaking for people in Gjoa Haven.
“We were pleased to respond to the community’s request for assistance concerning this matter,” Doug Stenton, Nunavut’s director of culture and heritage, said in the release.