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The discovery of the North-West Passage by H.M.S. "Investigator", Capt. R. M'Clure

HMS Investigator was a merchant ship purchased in 1848 to search for Sir John Franklin's ill-fated Northwest Passage expedition. She made two voyages to the Arctic and had to be abandoned in 1853, after becoming trapped in the pack ice.

Her wreckage was found in July 2010, off Banks Island in the Beaufort Sea. She was the fourth ship of the Royal Navy to bear the name.


In 1848, she accompanied HMS Enterprise on James Clark Ross's expedition to find Franklin's lost expedition. Also aboard Investigator on this expedition was naturalist Edward Adams. On their return journey she was commanded by Robert McClure,[4] but the ship became trapped in the pack ice at Mercy Bay adjoining Banks Island. The decision was eventually taken to abandon her on 3 June 1853, after she had been stuck for nearly three years.

The following year, she was inspected by crews of HMS Resolute, still frozen in, and reported to be in generally fair condition despite having taken on some water during the summer thaw.

Unlike the loss of Erebus and Terror, the events surrounding Investigator's abandonment are not a mystery. McClure provided an official account of the journey, and the ship's surgeon, Alexander Armstrong, published an unofficial account in 1857. However, the exact location of her wreckage remained unknown for over 150 years because of difficulties in reaching the area, which is extremely inhospitable and frequently iced over


Oral traditions of the Inuit tell stories of the ship. The abandoned ship was a source of copper and iron for the indigenous people in the area; metal nails were missing from smaller boats on the shore when they were discovered. One Inuit account from 1910 noted that "one year she had still been on the beach and the next year she was gone without a trace." When Canadian anthropologist Vilhjalmur Stefansson reached Mercy Bay during his 1915 voyage to the Arctic, he failed to find her remains.

After meeting the Inuit who made pilgrimages to the wreckage, he suggested a link between the Investigator's stranding and the absence of muskoxen on Banks Island. He speculated that the Inuit had killed off the animals for food during their journeys to and from the wreckage over the 40 years since abandonment. The muskoxen have since repopulated the island and now number nearly 50,000.


Posted by George Freund on August 29, 2022 at 6:18 PM 158 Views