Cheers over Franklin find turn to accusations, Report
Cheers over Franklin find turn to accusations, Report

Cheers over Franklin find turn to accusations “Report”

The events leading up to the discovery of Sir John Franklin’s second ship in Nunavut waters are being investigated by the territorial and federal governments to determine if the search was conducted legally.

The Arctic Research Foundation (ARF) found the wreck of Terror in early September, when its ship was searching the Arctic in partnership with government crews led by Parks Canada. Terror is the second of Sir John Franklin’s doomed ships from an 1840s attempt to explore the Northwest Passage.

But ARF didn’t tell any government staffers of its find until it had spent days examining and identifying the wreck. Tension grew between the public and private partners after news came out.

And now the government of Nunavut is looking into whether ARF’s ship, the Martin Bergman, illegally searched outside the boundaries outlined in search permits from Parks Canada.

For the first time, ARF is telling its story, contained in a letter describing events written by its lawyer and sent to the Nunavut government.

ARF says its ship has been a regular member of the annual search for Franklin’s ships since 2011. In the past, it has been covered by Parks Canada permits to search Queen Maud Gulf, which is where it found Terror this year.

But this year, the letter says: “ARF did not receive copies of permits issued in respect of work to take place in 2016.” The searchers assumed the previous boundaries were still in effect, it says: “If a change was made to the Parks Canada Permits that narrowed their ambit (i.e. scope) in 2016, such a change was made without ARF’s knowledge.”

“In searching for and surveying the site of the wreck of HMS Terror in Terror Bay, ARF relied on its authority historically provided” in previous years, the letter says.

It says that if it did cross a boundary, then this happened “innocently and without harm.”

The foundation also says its crew looked, but didn’t touch: It used sonar to locate the wreck and a Royal Canadian Navy operator shot video with a remote-controlled vehicle, but no divers went in the water.

The foundation says that last spring it tried to finalize a communications strategy with Parks Canada, “but received no response to these efforts.”

Its letter says that government people have “inexplicably” been spreading criticism of ARF and may have “motivations … outside of the spirit of partnership and co-operation.

“Regrettably, ARF has been left to conclude that there may be an agenda in play focused on discrediting ARF, its people and its work.

“ARF is now understandably hesitant to disclose further information” until it figures out what is going on, the letter says.

Relations with Parks Canada, it adds, are now “strained.”

“Unfortunately, rather than this being treated as fantastic news for all partners, the discovery of the wreck of HMS Terror has been tainted by negative, and unfounded, statements made in respect of ARF.”

The Sun has asked Parks Canada and the Nunavut Department of Culture and Heritage for a response.


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