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Britain to transfer ownership of shipwrecks to Canada

Cheryl Santa Maria
Digital Reporter

Monday, October 23, 2017, 7:47 PM -

Britain will transfer ownership of the HMS Erebus and HMS Terror to Parks Canada in a few weeks' time, it was announced Monday.

Under international law, warships remain the property of the country they sailed for -- in this case, Britain -- but an agreement between the two countries gave Canada custody over them. 

Britain will retain some of the ships' artifacts.

“This exceptional arrangement will recognize the historical significance of the Franklin expedition to the people of Canada, and will ensure that these wrecks and artifacts are conserved for future generations,” British Defence Secretary Michael Fallon told reporters.

Environment Minister Catherine McKenna called the gesture "extraordinarily important," adding the government is "very pleased this is happening today."

The HMS Erebus was found in 2014 and the HMS Terror in 2016, about 50 kilometres apart near King William Island in Nunavut.

A number of other artifacts have since been recovered, most notably the bell from the HMS Erebus, which is on display in Ottawa.

The Franklin expedition and its two famed ships have captured the imagination of Canadians for decades.

The British-led Arctic exploration voyage began in 1845 and was led by Sir John Franklin.

The ships had set out to explore an undiscovered portion of the Northwest Passage, but both of the expedition's ships, along with 128 crew members, were lost.

VIDEO: Look under the ice at the Franklin shipwreck:

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