HMS Erebus’ Bronze Bell Recovered

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Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of the Environment and Minister responsible for Parks Canada, has unveiled the ship’s bell retrieved from the recently discovered Franklin Expedition shipwreck, HMS Erebus.

The initial discovery of a ship belonging to the Franklin Expedition, made by side-scan sonar towed from the Parks Canada research vessel Investigator, was confirmed on September 7, 2014, using Parks Canada’s remotely operated vehicle. On September 30, 2014, it was confirmed that the ship is HMS Erebus.

According to naval traditions, a ship’s bell is a symbolic embodiment of the ship itself. The ship’s bell from HMS Erebus would have been used for marking the passage of time onboard the vessel. Like the chiming of a clock, the bell would have been struck every half hour both day and night to announce the march of time and to signal the changing of the crew’s watches (shifts).

This stunning artifact was recovered during dives and archaeological investigation by Parks Canada’s underwater archaeology team in September. The bell was found on the deck adjacent to the ship’s displaced windlass (a form of anchor winch), above which it was originally mounted. Since then, the bell has been undergoing conservation stabilization and additional research.

The bell is intact and generally in very good condition. Two embossed markings, introduced when the bronze bell was first cast, are evident on the artifact: a Royal Navy “broad arrow” indicating property of the British Government, as well as the date “1845.”

Minister Aglukkaq also released new multi-beam sonar images that were crucial to the identification of the wreck as HMS Erebus. The data to produce these highly accurate, 3D-representations of the wreck as it stands on the seabed were collected in September by the Canadian Hydrographic Service (Department of Fisheries and Ocean) concurrently to Parks Canada’s dive operations.

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