A Fredericton, N.B., man says that he may have a piece of a Franklin expedition ship.
In 1967, veteran Bob Shaw was part of a new section of the Armed Forces: combat divers. The team was working in the area of the Arctic where the wrecked HMS Erebus was discovered last month.
The 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 in 1846 after they became locked in ice. They were missing for more than a century and a half until September's discovery by a group of public-private searchers led by Parks Canada.
Shaw had also worked on a similar, less fruitful, mission.
“Our mission was to do an underwater search from Nail Island to O'Reilly Island and look for the ships of Sir John Franklin."
They didn't have the use of special equipment — only thin neoprene wetsuits
“We used to come up and pour coffee down our gloves to keep warm, and stop shaking, because when you grabbed a hold of a cup of coffee you were shaking so bad it was spilled.”
Larry Marks was also there.
“I would say we weren't actually too far from where they found it,” Marks said. “I'd say we were within maybe one kilometre or two at the very most.”
But diving isn’t how Shaw found the piece of wood he believes is part of the historic ship.
He was combing the island on foot when he found the piece of wood up on a ridge on O'Reilly Island.
“There are no trees that far north,” he said. “It was a shaped piece of wood.”
“I'd just like to think that maybe it's a piece of Sir John Franklin's ship the Erebus, now. Nobody could say it's not, nobody could say it is.”
Shaw said he showed it around but can’t remember if the archaeologist saw it.
In the end, he ended up making it into an ashtray and kept it tucked away for 47 years.