Sitting in just 11 metres (30 feet) of water, high above the Arctic Circle in Mercy Bay, lies the HMS Investigator. Mercy Bay, 800 km north of Inuvik in Canada’s North West Territories, is a punishing environment. 160 years ago, the Investigator, a British vessel, became trapped in the ice after being despatched to search for the explorer Sir John Franklin who had gone missing looking for the North West Passage.

They never did find Franklin, but they did find the North West Passage. Their discovery came at a huge cost – they became stuck in the ice. The ship’s destiny was sealed from that moment on. She never would escape the ice and her crew were stranded for 2 years before being rescued by another British ship, the HMS Resolute. During those 2 years, the crew of 69 endured unimaginable hardships, but, amazingly, only 3 were to die and their simple graves can still be seen on the tundra.

Once the crew had been rescued, Investigator was abandoned and left to sink to the bottom of the Beaufort Sea where she has been ever since, her secrets being frozen in time.

Until 2010, that is, when a team of Canadian archaeologists from Parks Canada, traveled to Mercy Bay to find Investigator and unlock her secrets. What did they find? They found a majestic ship wreck, untouched over time. They found artifacts which they mostly left, other than a few select items which were brought up to be analyzed and preserved, including an amazing musket.

HMS Investigator - First Image
Image of the HMS Investigator, which was abandoned in the Arctic in 1853.

“It was a truly surreal experience to come across a wreck site of this exceptional nature, in this incredibly remote location. It’s something I’ll never forget.”

Ryan Harris, Senior Archaeologist

Locate a local PADI dive shop and start your next underwater adventure!

This blog was originally written by Jackie Hutchings and published on the Diviac Magazine.

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