An archeology team has discovered pieces from the long-lost 19th-century Franklin expedition ships — "the first discovery" of its kind in modern times, the government of Nunavut announced on Monday.

"An iron fitting from a Royal Navy ship, identified as part of a boat-launching davit, and bearing two broad arrows was found on an island in the southern search area," said the government of Nunavut in a news release. 

Franklin expedition ship

An iron fitting from a Royal Navy ship, identified as part of a boat-launching davit and bearing two broad arrows, was found on an island in the southern search area. (Douglas Stenton, Government of Nunavut)

"A wooden object, possibly a plug for a deck hawse, the iron pipe through which the ship’s chain cable would descend into the chain locker below, was also discovered."

Archeologist Doug Stenton headed the three-member team from the Nunavut government that found the items on an island in the Queen Maud Gulf near Nunavut's King William Island on Sept. 1.

"The iron fitting was lying on the shore, adjacent to a rock, a large rock, and the wooden artifact was a bit farther away, a bit farther from the shoreline," Stenton told CBC News.

Franklin expedition ships

A close-up reveals the Royal Navy broad arrows stamped at the base of the davit heel. The number 12 is also visible. (Douglas Stenton, Government of Nunavut)

In 1845, Sir John Franklin and 128 sailors embarked from England to find the Northwest Passage aboard the ships Erebus and Terror.

Search parties later recorded Inuit testimony that claimed one ship sank in deep water west of King William Island and one ship went perhaps as far south as Queen Maud Gulf or into Wilmot and Crampton Bay.

'Exciting and significant'

Nunavut Premier Peter Taptuna congratulated the archeological team, made up of experts from Nunavut, the federal government and private partners. 

“Congratulations to Nunavut’s archeological team for uncovering this important element of our territory’s history," Taptuna said.

Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq, who is also the MP for Nunavut, told CBC News the discovery was both "significant" and "exciting."

She applauded the government of Nunavut's efforts in finding pieces from what she deemed "the most sought-after shipwreck in Canadian history, if not the world."

"This is huge news for the history buffs out there, it's great news for Canadian arctic history, for people in the Arctic — and it's exciting, it's just very exciting. I commend the Nunavut government team for their contribution to this effort," Aglukkaq said.

Andrew Campbell, the vice president for Parks Canada, told CBC News the pieces were found on Hat Island, located south west of King William Island.

Campbell said a team of experts is in the process of analyzing the pieces.

Parks Canada’s Underwater Archaeology Service first started searching for the ill-fated Franklin expedition ships in 2008.