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Realizing a childhood dream

By Peter Mansbridge

Ever since I was a kid I've wanted to be an archaeologist.

The idea of poking around in the past has always appealed to my sense of being an amateur historian.  Now I've finally had the chance to pretend I am one, by spending a few hours with some REAL archaeologists hunting for more evidence of the final days of the Franklin expedition. 

And how amazing that in those few hours I actually found things that will help in their work.

For the past few weeks, Dr. Bob Park from the University of Waterloo and Dr. Doug Stenton, Director of Heritage for the Government of Nunavut, have been hunting the shoreline of King William Island while the ships of this latest search expedition, the Sir Wilfrid Laurier and the Marty Bergmann, have been scouring the sea floor for Franklin's long lost ships, the Erebus and Terror.

Peter with archaeologists Bob Park and Doug Stenton.

I joined Bob and Doug at Erebus Bay where at least a dozen of Franklin's men died from sickness and starvation after abandoning the ships locked in the ice in nearby Victoria Straight. 

When I landed by helicopter the two researcher scientists were quite excited because they'd found some metal artifacts and some fragments of human bones, and their prize, a human tooth. 

I was excited too, fascinated with their finds and their work, so they gave me a quick lesson in what to look for and how to spot what to some, was ordinary, but to them was extraordinary and important. 

I was hooked by the childhood dream come true and to all our shock, especially mine, was making discoveries of my own within minutes.  I peeled back the soft tundra from a tiny, suspicious-looking, grayish object.  And as I slid it from its decades old home, it became clear to Bob and Doug it was another bone from a Franklin expedition victim. 

A few moments later and a few metres away, another bone.  Then the find they both were extremely excited about - an almost completely intact 1840's, they think, toothbrush.

I was on a roll, who knew what might come next?  But that's when senior producer Michael Gruzuk said "Come on Peter, we have to go - they're waiting for us back on the Laurier and the chopper pilot is getting anxious about fuel, light and the weather." 

Such a spoiler that Gruzuk!

It was a special moment on a special day and we've got it all on video.  It will all come together for a special National we're planning for Monday and Tuesday night from Canada's spectacular Arctic.

Hope you can join us.