Icy wreck tells story of a failed Royal Navy search and rescue mission

Archaeologists have found a Royal Navy ship which has been missing for more than 150 years.

HMS Investigator was abandoned in the Canadian arctic in June 1853 whilst making an unsuccessful attempt to find and rescue Sir John Franklin’s earlier expedition which had been missing for several years.

The 422-ton vessel is lying, largely intact, in shallow water in Mercy Bay, with her deck just 8m below the surface.  “It’s sitting upright in silt but the three masts have been removed, probably by ice”, said Ifan Thomas, Parks Canada‘s western Arctic Field Unit superintendent.

Mercy Bay is usually iced over, but a temporary clearance allowed the Park Canada expedition to locate the ship using side scan sonar.

Although credited with discovering the final leg of the Northwest Passage, a feat for which her captain, Robert McClure, later received a £10,000 reward, Investigator has another claim to fame.

“In anthropological terms, this is the most important shipwreck in history,” said senior marine archeologist, Ryan Harris.

“This was the first contact with the Copper Inuit; it’s a bit like finding a Columbus ship in the Arctic.”