'Credit is going back to our ancestors': Gjoa Haven celebrates Erebus and Terror finds

Gjoa Haven, Nunavut, is marking the finding of the two ships lost in Sir John Franklin’s ill-fated expedition through the Northwest Passage with a week-long community celebration.

Weeklong festival in Gjoa Haven commemorates 'Encounters along the Northwest Passage'

Louie Kamookak's knowledge of Inuit oral history was key in the 2014 discovery of one of Franklin's lost ships, HMS Erebus. He'll be speaking at the community celebration in Gjoa Haven, Nunavut. (Mike Salomonie/CBC)

Gjoa Haven, Nunavut, is marking the finding of the two ships lost in Sir John Franklin's ill-fated expedition through the Northwest Passage with a week-long community celebration.

The festival of the discovery of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror begins with a community feast Saturday during the Gjoa Haven Umiyaqtutt Festival. Activities commemorating the finds and celebrating Inuit oral history will continue throughout the week.  

"The ships have been searched for, for so many years and the credit is going back to our ancestors, our people's oral history and Inuit knowledge," explained Louie Kamookak, an Inuk oral historian who helped discover HMS Erebus in 2014.
Children in Gjoa Haven, Nunavut gather around a cake made out to look like one of Sir John Franklin's lost ships. (Kate Kyle/CBC)

"It's very important for the community to feel they are a part of finding it," Kamookak said.  

The festival will include a ceremony unveiling a plaque commemorating the finds, an art competition, daily games, and storytelling. Special guests from the marine archeological team as well as cruise ship passengers are expected to attend. 

Parks Canada, the Hamlet of Gjoa Haven and the Government of Nunavut are collaborating on the festival with the theme "Encounters along the Northwest Passage."
Marc-André Bernier, Parks Canada's manager of underwater archelogy, sets a marine biology sampling quadrat on the port side hull of HMS Erebus. Gjoa Haven is celebrating the find of the Franklin expedition ships this weekend. (Parks Canada)

During the event, Kamookak will be presenting on the role Inuit oral history and local knowledge played in the search for the ships.

Both disappeared after they became locked in ice in 1846 and were missing for more than a century-and-a-half before the recent finds.
The children's square dance group performs during the community celebration of the finding of HMS Terror and HMS Erebus in Gjoa Haven. (Kate Kyle/CBC)

A team of public-private searchers led by Parks Canada discovered HMS Erebus in September 2014.

Researchers found HMS Terror in Terror Bay last year, after Gjoa Haven's Sammy Kogvik led them to the site he'd first discovered six years earlier.      

Inuit oral history was proven correct in both instances, with several stories detailing the time Franklin's ships became locked in the ice, Kamookak said.
Local art is on display in Gjoa Haven, Nunavut as part of the community's celebration of the HMS Erebus and HMS Terror finds. (Kate Kyle/CBC)

"There's an Inuit oral history from the time Franklin's men were here," Kamookak said. "It was a bad time. There was a lot of ice not leaving, it was also a bad time for the Inuit."

Kamookak says he hopes the two ships will stay in the North and become a tourist opportunity for the communities where the ships sank.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversationCreate account

Already have an account?