Canada locates British ship lost 157 years ago

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Canada on Wednesday announced a stunning archaeological find: the wreck of a British ship lost in the Arctic 157 years ago that played a major role in 19th century exploration of the region.

It is the wreck of the HMS Investigator, a ship sent by London in 1850 to try to locate the crew of explorer Sir John Franklin, which went missing in the same region years earlier and was never located.

The vessel was located on Sunday with the help of sonar, just about 15 minutes after searchers started looking, national parks official Marc-Andre Bernier told reporters.

It lay just 11 meters (36 feet) below the sea in a bay at Banks island, in the west of the Arctic archipelago, near where the crew abandoned ship in 1853 after spending three winters on the ice, said Bernier, chief of underwater archeology at Parks Canada.

The find is "definitely of the utmost importance. This is the ship that sailed the last leg of the Northwest Passage and in doing so McClure and his crew were credited with finding the Northwest Passage," Bernier said.

"It's the history of a crew of over 60 men that had to winter two times in the Arctic and being locked two years in the ice. So you can imagine the hopes and the (disappointment) of not seeing the ship being freed in the summer and not knowing if they were going to survive," he added.

© 2010 AFP

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