Ed Eastaugh was our speaker this week and spoke about his experiences on an expedition to Banks Island to locate HMS Investigator, a British sailing ship outfitted in 1848 to sail through the northern waters in search of the Franklin Expedition, lost a few years previously.  The ship sailed from the west after sailing southwest across the Atlantic and past Cape Horn before heading north in the Paciific.  The ship became trapped by ice in Mercy Bay located in the north end of Banks Island, the third largest island in the north.  The ships crew was rescued but only after three of the crew had died.  The ship was partially crushed by ice and sank in about 4 metres of water and there she lay until 2010.
 
The expedition flew onto the south side of the island by twin otter and then had to be helicoptered to the actual site.  They had to take everything with them, iincluding water, for a 2 week stay.  They were able to locate the ship very quickly because the team had very accurate bearings of its location.  Ed showed a short video taken underwater showing how the ship was almost perfectly preserved in the freezing water.  It was possible to see 160 year old pieces of cloth, individual planks and the iron plates fixed to the bow to help the ship break through the ice. 
 
 
Ed's role, by his own admission, was a lot less "sexy" than finding the ship.  He was  tasked with finding the graves of the 3 seaman.  Using special equipment and walking for 3 days in a very regular pattern taking readings of the ground he mapped the area where the graves were supposedly located.  He figured he walked about 90 kilometers.  Once the readings were taken he had to analyse the digital image for any anomolies in the pattern of the image and was able to locate 3 "smudges" in the picture that were oblong and about 2 meters in length facing east/west in a traditional Christian burial manner.  He did a site visit and was able to barely see the outline of the graves in the permafrost.
 
The team was very careful to leave everything undisturbed but to take as many pictures as possible for display and presentation at museums.  The ecosystem for this area is extremely fragile and has remained virtually untouched since the Investigator was abandoned and sunk.  Only 8 - 10 people visit each year, mostly Copper Inuit who live on the south shore.  But the signs of global warming were evident as the permafrost was melting and a huge crack in the earth occured a few hundred meters from the expedition's camp as the permafrost shifted.
 
This picture shows melting permafrost on Banks Island, similar to what Ed spoke about.  This image was taken by the Permafrost Laboratory at http://permafrost.gi.alaska.edu/site/bis
 
 
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