UK Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon has announced that the UK will gift to Canada the shipwrecks from a historic expedition, in recognition of the two Commonwealth countries’ shared past and current relationship
UK Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon has announced that the UK will gift to Canada the shipwrecks from a historic expedition, in recognition of the two Commonwealth countries’ shared past and current relationship.
Rear-Admiral Sir John Franklin set sail from England in 1845 with HMS Erebus and HMS Terror on an expedition to chart the Northwest Passage through the Canadian Artic.
Both ships and crew were lost when the ships became stuck in ice and no crew survived the trek overland to the South.
Despite many recovery attempts, only artefacts from the shipwrecks were found and, with their location still unknown, the wrecks’ remains were designated as a national historic site in 1992.
An agreement by UK and Canadian governments in 1997 gave custody of the wrecks and their contents to Canada, while remaining property of the UK.
A combination of traditional Inuit knowledge and state-of-the-art technology finally located the wreck of HMS Erebus in 2014 under shallow Artic Waters south of King William Island, and HMS Terror was similarly found in 2016.
In acknowledgement of the discovery, the UK government intends to transfer ownership of the wrecks to Parks Canada in an update of the 1997 agreement.
A small selection of artefacts will remain under UK ownership and items will be displayed in Canadian and UK museums.
UK Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon said: “During her recent visit to Canada, the Prime Minister emphasised the importance of recognising our shared past with Canada as we seek to reinvigorate our already strong bilateral relationship.
“This exceptional arrangement will recognise the historical significance of the Franklin expedition to the people of Canada, and will ensure that these wrecks and artefacts are conserved for future generations.”
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