First Canadian and Inuit-owned artifacts from Franklin wreck revealed to public

9 artifacts from the wreck of Sir John Franklin's HMS Erebus, jointly owned by Canada and the Inuit Heritage Trust, were revealed to the broader public Tuesday after being displayed in Nunavut communities last week.

9 artifacts jointly owned by Canada and the Inuit Heritage Trust were revealed to the world Tuesday

Archaeological crews dive to search for the remains of HMS Erebus during the summer months. The team ultimately recovered nine artifacts from the wreck. (Parks Canada )

Nine artifacts from the wreck of Sir John Franklin's HMS Erebus, jointly owned by Canada and the Inuit Heritage Trust, were revealed to the broader public Tuesday after being displayed in Nunavut communities last week.

The artifacts are the first to fall under an agreement finalized by Canada and Britain in April, which gave Canada and Inuit joint ownership of the wrecks of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, as well as any undiscovered artifacts.

This block with shackle is one of nine artifacts from HMS Erebus being unveiled to the public Tuesday by Parks Canada. The artifacts are the first ones recovered since an April agreement that gave joint ownership of any recovered artifacts from the wrecks to the Canadian government and Inuit Heritage Trust. (Parks Canada)

The U.K. was granted ownership of the 65 artifacts already discovered by Parks Canada diving teams at the time of the agreement, making these nine artifacts the first to be owned by the Canadian government and local Inuit.

Both ships sank during the doomed Franklin Expedition while seeking a path through the Northwest Passage. The ships disappeared after being locked in ice in 1846. The wreck of the Erebus was discovered in 2014, the Terror in 2016.

The artifacts include a water pitcher, a block and shackle, a nail, a belaying pin for rope and a fearnaught, used for waterproofing the upper deck of the ship.

Underwater archeologist Charles Dagneau said the discovery of these artifacts help continue to uncover the mystery of what exactly happened to the ship, and the people on board.

"That mystery has been unsolved for years, and and we're getting some opportunities through the archeological process to answer some major questions on what happened," said Dagneau. 

A water pitcher recovered from the Erebus. A memorandum of understanding is being worked on to confirm how the artifacts will be managed moving forward. (Parks Canada)


Last week, the artifacts were shown to local Inuit at community events in Gjoa Haven and Cambridge Bay, Nunavut. Inuit oral history was key to discovering the wrecks, which were discovered near Gjoa Haven.


The reception to the meetings was positive, said Dagneau, who conducted presentations with elders and the Kitikmeot Heritage Society.


"Parks Canada wanted to give the communities up north, the Inuit, the first look on the artifacts because they are the owner," said Dagneau. 


Charles Dagneau, member of the Parks Canada Underwater Archeology Team showcases artifacts to the mayor and elders in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, last week. (Parks Canada )


The artifacts will now be sent to a lab in Ottawa for a DNA examination. A memorandum of understanding between Parks Canada and the Inuit Heritage Museum is being developed to figure out a management plan for the artifacts.