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Parks Canada shifts plans for 2020 archaeological fieldwork at the Wrecks of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror in response to COVID-19

Press Release

From: Parks Canada

Agency refocusing efforts on other archaeological research, new protected area establishment and outreach initiatives in southern Canada

June 26, 2020                                                        Gatineau, Quebec                                             Parks Canada Agency

The story of Sir John Franklin’s 1845 quest for the Northwest Passage with HMS Erebus and HMS Terror continues to captivate the imagination of many here in Canada and around the world. In 2019, Parks Canada and Inuit partners conducted important research on the wrecks, contributing to a better understanding of the Franklin Expedition.

Today, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada, Jonathan Wilkinson, and the Franklin Interim Advisory Committee (FIAC), announced that 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.

Parks Canada is following the advice of public health experts and continuing to make every effort to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), while keeping Nunavut and its residents safe. As such, fieldwork operations at the wrecks have been cancelled for 2020, as they would have required close contact between travelling research staff and residents of isolated northern communities, presenting increased risk for the transmission of COVID-19.

This decision follows advice from Joint Inuit / Government Planning and Management Committees for all Nunavut national parks, which were overwhelmingly in favour of keeping Nunavut parks and sites closed to visitors and all non-essential work until August 31, 2020, with the exception of Inuit exercising rights under the Nunavut Agreement.  Passenger vessels with the capacity to carry more than 12 persons are prohibited from entering Arctic coastal waters (including Nunatsiavut, Nunavik and the Labrador Coast) until October 31, 2020.

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.

Parks Canada will share information on these activities as details are confirmed.

Quotes

“Parks Canada is taking necessary action to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and protect Nunavut and its communities. The 2019 research season was an extraordinary year for archaeological research at the Wrecks of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror National Historic Site, and Parks Canada, in partnership with Inuit, will build on this momentum and continue its ongoing investigation of the artifacts recovered from HMS Erebus and both wrecks themselves. Together, we look forward to sharing these important results.”

The Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson,

Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada

“While it is disappointing there will not be a follow-up this year on such successful field missions in 2019 at HMS Erebus and HMS
Terror, the Franklin Interim Advisory Committee supports Parks Canada’s decision to limit its activities in Nunavut for this upcoming season, including visiting the Wrecks of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror National Historic Site. It is important, as Inuit and Parks Canada continue to share in the discoveries and insights from the Franklin ships, that we protect vulnerable communities and high-risk individuals from exposure to COVID-19 at this critical time.”

Fred Pedersen,
Chair, Franklin Interim Advisory Committee

Quick facts

  • The Wrecks of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror National Historic Site is the first collaboratively managed national historic site in Nunavut. HMS Terror was added to the Wrecks of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror National Historic Site in 2017, ensuring legal protection for the wreck site under the Canada National Parks Act. The wreck of HMS Erebus was added to the National Historic Sites of Canada Order in 2015.
  • Formed in 2016, the Franklin Interim Advisory Committee, comprised of community members and representatives from the Kitikmeot Inuit Association, Inuit Heritage Trust, Government of Nunavut and the heritage and tourism industry, advises on the management of the wrecks until an Inuit Impact and Benefit Agreement is finalized between Parks Canada and the Kitikmeot Inuit Association.
  • Since 2017, a Guardian program has been in operation at the Wrecks of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror National Historic Site, involving Inuit from Gjoa Haven in the protection and monitoring of the Franklin wrecks and helping integrate Inuit knowledge into Parks Canada’s operations and management of the national historic site.
  • Since 2018, all newly discovered artifacts from HMS Erebus and HMS Terror are jointly-owned by the Government of Canada and Inuit. In April 2019, the Government of Canada and Inuit Heritage Trust signed a Memorandum of Understanding detailing how the two organizations will work together to protect, study, conserve and share the Franklin artifacts.
  • In August 2019, Parks Canada released extraordinary, never-before-seen video footage of HMS Terror as part of one of the largest, most complex underwater archaeological undertakings in Canadian history. Building on the remarkable first-ever exploration of the interior of HMS Terror, Parks Canada’s Underwater Archaeology Team, in collaboration with Inuit, recovered over 350 artifacts from HMS Erebus.

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Associated links

Contacts

Moira Kelly
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Environment and Climate Change
819-271-6218
[email protected]

Media Relations
Parks Canada Agency
855-862-1812
[email protected]

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