Saturday, June 27, 2020

A lost season

Coronation Gulf, 2019 (author photo)
Since Parks Canada first became involved with the search for Franklin's ship's in 2008, there's been only one summer without either a search for, or dives on, the wrecks of Franklin's ships (that was in 2009). And this year, sadly, the reason is not the lack of funding or resources from the government, but rather the COVID-19 crisis that has gripped the world; given the inevitability of individual interaction -- and the fact that, as of today, there are still no known cases of the coronavirus in Nunavut -- the risks of a dive season outweighed its possible benefits. The dead, as they should, must wait on the living.

There's a silver lining of sorts -- the time, and some of the resources, that would have been devoted to this year's dives will now be focused on the study of the enormous trove of objects -- more than 350 -- recovered last year. According to a statement released by the Ministry of the Environment, "Parks Canada will temporarily shift its focus for exploration of the wrecks of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror to advancing research, in collaboration with Inuit, on the many artifacts recovered during the 2019 research season." The statement goes on to say:
"While Parks Canada will not conduct field research at the Wrecks of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror in 2020, the Agency will advance plans in collaboration with Inuit for the 2021 research season. Parks Canada's Underwater Archaeology Team may also move forward in 2020 with other projects aboard the RV David Thompson - Parks Canada's newest research vessel. These potential activities in southern Canada may include projects that support Parks Canada's archaeological, climate change and biological research, new protected area establishment and outreach initiatives."
So it's good to know that, not only will work on the recovered artifacts get added resources, those that can't be repurposed that way -- such as the RV David Thompson -- will not be wasted. It's a little hard for us "Franklinites" to bear in mind, but the wrecks of Erebus and Terror aren't the only significant underwater archaeological sites in Canada.

For myself, I'll just express the hope that, as part of this shift of focus, that information about the many objects recovered in 2019 which have not yet been publicly disclosed will be shared more extensively. Around the world, Franklin buffs both amateur and professional are keenly interested in what's been found, and eager to do anything they can to aid in their understanding. Many, though not all of us, have a bit more time on their hands than before -- and there's nothing we're more eager to devote this time to than to expand our understanding of the significance of these extraordinary archaeological finds.