COVID-19 puts brakes on further exploration of Franklin wrecks

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OTTAWA — For only the second time in 12 years, Marc-Andre Bernier and his underwater archaeology team at Parks Canada will not be heading north to explore the wrecks of the doomed Arctic expedition of Sir John Franklin and his crew.

Bernier says last summer the team had its most successful year ever on the site, recovering 355 artifacts from HMS Erebus and getting a video camera inside HMS Terror for the first time.

They were excited and anxious to return this year for more.

But because of the COVID-19 pandemic, access to the wrecks off King William Island in Nunavut is closed this summer to all but local Inuit Guardians and harvesters.

While missing a year when the wrecked ships have lain in their watery graves for more than a century and a half may seem like no big deal, every year that passes brings more risk that some of the secrets contained within may never be revealed.

Bernier, the head of the nine-member team, says they are particularly worried about HMS Erebus, which is in shallower water and has already seen some damage from the elements.

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