Lost Beneath the Ice

Overview

The story of the bold voyage of HMS Investigator and the modern-day discovery of its wreck by Parks Canada’s underwater archaeologists.

When Sir John Franklin disappeared in the Arctic in the 1840s, the British Admiralty launched the largest rescue mission in its history. Among the search vessels was HMS Investigator, which left England in 1850 under the command of Captain Robert McClure. While the ambitious McClure never found Franklin, he and his crew did discover the fabled Northwest Passage.

Like Franklin’s ships, though, Investigator disappeared in the most remote, bleak and unknown place on Earth. For three winters, its 66 souls were trapped in the unforgiving ice of Mercy Bay. They suffered cold, darkness, starvation, scurvy, boredom, depression and madness. When they were rescued in 1853, Investigator was abandoned.

For more than a century and a half, the ship’s fate remained a mystery. Had it been crushed by the ice or swept out to sea? In 2010, Parks Canada sent a team of archaeologists to Mercy Bay to find out. It was a formidable challenge, demanding expertise and patience. There, off the shores of Aulavik National Park, they found Investigator.

Lost Beneath the Ice is a tale of endurance, daring, deceit, courage, and irony. It is a story about a tempestuous crew, their mercurial captain, cynical surgeon and kind-hearted missionary. In the end, McClure found fame but lost his ship, some of his crew and much of his honour. Written with elegance and authority, illustrated with archival imagery and startling underwater photographs of Investigator and its artifacts, this is a sensational story of discovery and intrigue in Canada’s Arctic.

Andrew Cohen is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. Among his books are While Canada Slept, a finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Award, The Unfinished Canadian, and Extraordinary Canadians: Lester B. Pearson. He writes a nationally syndicated column for The Ottawa Citizen and comments regularly on CTV. A professor of journalism and international affairs at Carleton University, he is founding president of the Historica-Dominion Institute. He has twice received Queen’s Jubilee Medals.

Reviews

"That sense of our own smallness also comes across in Lost Beneath the Ice in the pictures of some of the artifacts recovered from the Investigator, particularly the single leather shoe that somehow survived more than a century under Canadian ice. Imagine the foot in the shoe, the man attached to the foot, the ship that man sailed on, the endless, yet insufficient, rations that man ate while his ship was trapped in the ice for nearly two years. Our endurance and our hubris are staggering."

whatifknits.com

…there's no other book of its kind that so dramatically evokes the hazards of Arctic navigation in the nineteenth century. I certainly can't imagine a more welcome holiday gift for any exploration buffs on one's list.

arcticbookreview.com

…belongs on the shelf of anyone interested in Arctic history and exploration.

Winnipeg Free Press

Author Andrew Cohen’s account of the three agonizing years McClure and his starving crew spent with their ice-locked ship before being rescued by a sledge party from HMS Resolute is gripping…Lost Beneath the Ice is a stunning coffee book featuring magnificent contemporary paintings and diagrams, as well as modern-day photographs of the archeological expedition and its discoveries. The five pages of Investigator’s 1848 hull and deck plans alone are worth the cover price.

Maritime Engineering Journal

Through this historic chronicle, Cohen pieces together the dynamics of a disorderly crew and an implacable captain in harrowing conditions and brings forth an archive of discovery, struggle and extraordinary circumstances. 

Canadian Naval Review

Andrew Cohen presents a well written, accurate, and lively account of one of the most famous episodes of the age of Arctic exploration.

Northern Mariner

About the Author

Andrew Cohen

Posted by Kendra on December 6, 2014
Andrew Cohen photo

Andrew Cohen

Andrew Cohen is a journalist and professor of journalism and international affairs at Carleton University. His best-selling books include While Canada Slept, a finalist for the Governor General's Literary Award, and The Unfinished Canadian. He writes a syndicated column with Postmedia Newspapers and is a regular commentator on TV.