Press release: UK gifts historic shipwrecks to Canada

Ownership of the two shipwrecks, HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, two of the most archaeologically important shipwrecks in the world, was formally transferred to the Canadian government with the signing of a Deed of Gift at a ceremony today. With this historic transfer, Inuit of Nunavut, who played a key role in their discovery, will also become joint owners of the wrecks and artefacts.

The ceremony at the Canadian Museum of History saw the Canadian Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Catherine McKenna, accept ownership of the wrecks on behalf of Canada from the UK government, represented by the British High Commissioner Susan le Jeune d’Allegeershecque CMG. Mr Torsten Diesel, from the Inuit Heritage Trust spoke of the importance of this transfer to Inuit.

The gifting is an historic milestone in the long-standing cooperation between the UK and Canada on the issue.

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said:

We have deep historic links with Canada and this gift is testament to our prospering relationship.

The story behind these vessels is both fascinating and incredibly important to the history of both our nations. The UK joined forces with the Canadian government and Inuit population to search for these ships for 172 years and I’m delighted they will now be protected for future generations.

The two ships, under the command of Rear-Admiral Sir John Franklin, set sail from England in 1845 on an ill-fated voyage through the Canadian Arctic to find the Northwest Passage. During the treacherous journey, the ships became trapped in thick sea ice. The crews abandoned the ships to trek overland to safety, but tragically none survived.

Despite many attempts to locate the wrecks, they proved elusive for over 172 years. In 1997, the UK and Canadian governments signed an agreement giving custody and control of the wrecks and their contents to Canada, while still remaining property of the UK.

Thanks to Inuit knowledge of the area, along with state of the art technology, Erebus was finally located in 2014 and Terror two years later in 2016 in shallow Arctic Waters.

In recognition of this momentous discovery, the British and Canadian governments jointly settled a new agreement. As of 26 April 2018, ownership of the vessels has been formally transferred to the government of Canada, and by extension, the Inuit Heritage Trust.

Artefacts from the wrecks will be available for display at museums in both countries. Currently there are examples on display at the Canadian Museum of History as part of the “Death in the Ice” exhibit.

Canadian Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna said:

I would like to express my deepest gratitude to the United Kingdom for this exceptional gift of the wrecks of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror and all yet-to-be discovered artifacts. Moving forward, we will work with the Inuit Heritage Trust to ensure these historic treasures are protected, and that the intriguing and expanding story of the Franklin Expedition continues to be shared with Canada and the world.

Continue reading...
No mention of the humongous polar bear type monster the size of a house that ate most of the crew of both ships. I watched it on the telly and in was in colour so it must be true.


Kit Reviewer
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John Rae was never forgive by the Admiralty for reporting (truly) that the expedition had unfortunately resorted to cannibalism in their efforts to remain alive.


Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
So... Are they now HMCS Terror and Erebus? And will this count as a modernization of the RCN's surface fleet?

Subsurface fleet surely?

IIRC we have a history of selling you dodgy subs!
No mention of the humongous polar bear type monster the size of a house that ate most of the crew of both ships. I watched it on the telly and in was in colour so it must be true.
are you sure it wasn't this documentary, which was in the wrong part of the world anyway?
are you sure it wasn't this documentary, which was in the wrong part of the world anyway?
Naw it wasn't that, the show was on the telly a while back. It was about the two ships HMS Erebus and HMS Terror getting stuck in the ice and a big feck off polar bear type monster eating most of the crews of both ships.

All worked out in the end though, the Captain of the Terror choked the monster to death after it swallows a crew member that has been chained to the Captain and used as bait by some mutinous crew to lure the beast in. After it eats said crew member the Captain pulls on the chain and swallowed crew member gets stuck in the monsters throat.

All quite harrowing stuff.
G-d rest them all, poor souls.
If you read the article to the end the deal is explained in detail and is balanced when taken as a whole. The central problem is that two different arms of the Canadian government made conflicting promises to two different parties without the left hand knowing what the right hand was doing.

The UK gets the 65 artefacts currently recovered without paying for the conservation costs, while Canada gets the wrecks and all future artefacts - potentially thousands of them. That isn't the original deal, but sounds like a very fair one.

I suspect that the UK had a look at the argument which is brewing up between the federal government and the territorial government and the Inuit representatives (with some overlap between the latter two) over who owns what and decided they didn't want to be in the middle of that. Instead Britain will scarper off with what they have and leave the rest of them to fight it out amongst themselves.

Realistically, most of the UK's share will end up in storage in the basement of a museum never to be seen again while a handful of the more photogenic ones will end up being squeezed into a small display case in one of the viewing halls.

I doubt the wrecks themselves will ever be raised. The area is simply too remote with too short of an open water season, making the effort very difficult and expensive.
Who were the Canadians expecting to get compo from for conserving the Franklin objects? :? Surely not the Royal Navy because they're skint and anyway, the UK Government signed the two wrecks over to the Canadian Government last spring and all sales were final. :?
Read the article. The original deal was that the UK would get to pick out whatever artefacts they wanted but in return Canada would get the rest and the UK would pay for the conservation costs of the items they chose. The new deal is that the UK gets everything recovered so far but doesn't pay for the conservation costs and gives up the right to their pick of any future finds.

I suspect the "pay for the conservation costs" part of the original deal was to help make sure that the archaeologists didn't skimp on conservation measures on budgetary grounds. Since they're now simply saying "thanks we'll just take whatever you've got right now" that makes this issue moot.
UK and Canada will share the gold, if any be found though equally, right? And what of the Inuit? They're going to want a piece.

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