Wednesday, January 4, 2017


4 January 2017: Well, in spite of our best intentions, Christmas and the New Year arrival, along with moving to winter quarters, got in the way of another post before the year changed. Sorry about that, but now 2016 is in the wake and we look forward to a bright, shiny new year filled with the prospect of exciting new adventures and topics of interest to you, our readers - which now, by the way, number more than 37,000! Not sure why but I hope there isn't a computer out there somewhere logging into the site everyday to pump the stats! Or perhaps, Russia is hacking us! (No offense Russian readers - just joking about the current wave of paranoia in the world!)

Anyway, just before the year changed, the discovery and partial salvage of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror in Canadian waters hit the maritime news again. You perhaps recall we have posted several times about the story behind these two Franklin expedition ships lost in the Canadian ice pack in 1848. 

HMS Erebus in better times
It seems a bit odd to be sure, but the first exhibit of the artifacts recovered from the wrecks will be displayed not in Canada as one might expect, but rather in England. The following article lightly edited from CBC news explains....

The first major exhibition of artifacts from the sunken Arctic wreck of HMS Erebus is planned during Canada's 150th birthday next year — but Canadians will have to travel to Britain to see it.

The Franklin expedition show, sponsored in part by the Canadian Museum of History, will debut in 2017 at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, England, CBC News has learned.

The British unveiling is the latest twist in a controversy over ownership and control of unique artifacts from Sir John Franklin's 19th-century quest for the Northwest Passage.

Inuit organizations claim co-ownership rights and have demanded the objects be displayed locally in Gjoa Haven, Nunavut.

But the Canadian Museum of History says the only Canada-based exhibition of the artifacts is set for Gatineau, Que., in March to December 2018, the year after sesquicentennial celebrations.

Ceramic plates and tunic buttons recovered from the wreck of HMS Erebus are displayed at the Canadian Museum of History in May 2015. The objects are among 54 retrieved from the ship whose ownership is in dispute. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

A few of the 54 artifacts that Parks Canada divers retrieved from HMS Erebus were shown to the public over the Victoria Day weekend in 2015, at the museum's Gatineau, Que., building. They were all submerged inside seawater tanks to help preserve them before restoration could begin.

A replica of the ship's bell was presented at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto on Dec. 18, 2014, created using a 3D printer.

The 6,000-square-foot Greenwich exhibition will include up to 22 Erebus objects, shown alongside the National Maritime Museum's existing collection of Franklin-related material.

The Erebus artifact ownership dispute was heightened with the September discovery of the sunken wreck of the second ship, HMS Terror, from Franklin's infamous Arctic expedition that left England in 1845. No artifacts have been retrieved yet from that wreck.

Exception of gold

Canada signed a memorandum of understanding with the United Kingdom in 1997, acknowledging that Britain owned the Franklin wrecks and their contents whenever they might be found. Britain agreed to assign ownership of artifacts to Canada, with the exception of any gold or any objects of "outstanding significance to the Royal Navy."

Britain also agreed to compensate Canada "all reasonable costs associated with the recovery, conservation and transportation of such artifacts."

'This bell is jointly owned by the government of Nunavut and the Inuit Heritage Trust.' - Nunavut Premier Peter Taptuna asserting his government's claim to the ship's bell of HMS Erebus  

Canada wants Britain to sign a clearer, "legally binding" memorandum of understanding, as well as an ownership-transfer protocol, and a third agreement on loans and research.

In the meantime, Inuit groups and the government of Nunavut have each demanded that Ottawa recognize their ownership rights over the artifacts. They say those rights arise from Article 33 of the 1993 Nunavut Land Claim Agreement, which includes the icy seas where the ships eventually sank after becoming entrapped in ice in 1846.

Parks Canada, the lead government agency, recently acceded to the demands of the Inuit for eventual co-ownership, even though legal counsel advised that the land-claims deal does not apply to the Erebus artifacts.

By accepting Inuit co-ownership "beyond strict legal interpretation," Parks Canada is helping to renew relationships with Aboriginal people, part of Canada's commitment to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, says an internal policy document from August.
Parks Canada, however, has not accepted Nunavut's co-ownership claims. "More policy analysis is required to determine the government position with respect to the [Nunavut's] claim to ownership," says the document.

Parks Canada spokeswoman Meaghan Bradley said no agreement has been reached yet with Britain, which is still the sole owner of the artifacts. "We continue to work in good faith of future co-ownership of the Franklin artifacts," she said.

And the plot thickens as the contest continues..... should anymore information about this controversy surface, we will try to provide it for you.  

Again we want to wish you all a happy, healthy, and prosperous new year and we will see you again next time.

                                  Fair Winds,
                                     Old Salt

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