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In Photos: Arctic Shipwreck Solves 170-Year-Old Mystery

Cannon closeup

hms erebus, franklin expedition, underwater archaeology

(Image credit: Copyright Parks Canada)

Stamped on the HMS Erebus cannon are the initials "GR," surrounded by the motto "HONI SOIT QUI MAL Y PENSE" (shamed be he who thinks evil of it) and topped by a crown. This was the cipher of King George III.

Hook block

hms erebus, franklin expedition, underwater archaeology

(Image credit: Copyright Parks Canada)

Chief archaeologist Ryan Harris of Parks Canada examines a hook block recovered from the HMS Erebus wreck. This metal piece is part of the rigging of the ship, and may have been used to lower one of the ship's boats or in the Erebus' standing rigging.

HMS Erebus' rigging

hms erebus, franklin expedition, underwater archaeology

(Image credit: Copyright Parks Canada)

A closer look at the hook block from the HMS Erebus. This piece of rigging is made of a copper alloy and is marked with the inscription "6 1/4," which is the regulation size of the block in inches, according to Parks Canada.

Lost button

hms erebus, franklin expedition, underwater archaeology

(Image credit: Copyright Parks Canada)

A button from a Royal Navy tunic that must have belonged to one of the 13 Royal Marines who sailed on the Franklin voyage. Seven of these men were on the HMS Erebus, and the other six were on her sister ship, the HMS Terror, Harris told Live Science.

Second button

hms erebus, franklin expedition, underwater archaeology

(Image credit: Copyright Parks Canada)

A second Royal Navy tunic button found on the HMS Erebus. Researchers aren't sure if both buttons come from the same garment or not. The buttons sport a wreath of laurel leaves and a crowned anchor, a design used after 1812.

Recovered cannon

hms erebus, franklin expedition, underwater archaeology

(Image credit: Copyright Parks Canada)

A full-length view of the cannon recovered from the HMS Erebus. This gun shot 6-pound cannonballs and would have been brought on the voyage just in case of emergency, said Harris. It may have been sitting on the deck, or it may have been stowed in Franklin's own chambers, Harris added. Ice damage to the ship spilled many of the contents of Franklin's room out of the wreck.

Found plate

hms erebus, franklin expedition, underwater archaeology

(Image credit: Copyright Parks Canada)

Archaeologists discovered this plate in the common mess area on the HMS Erebus. That's unusual, Harris said, because generally only officers would use china. The discovery of plates aboard the ship meshes with an 1879 Inuk account by a man named Puhtoorak who said he'd boarded the deserted, icebound ship before it went down and found knifes, forks and plates in complete order.

Ceramic civilization

hms erebus, franklin expedition, underwater archaeology

(Image credit: Copyright Parks Canada)

A detailed look at one of the ceramic plates found aboard the HMS Erebus. This plate was decorated with the common blue willow pattern and is stamped "Royal Patent Staffordshire China."

Erebus china

hms erebus, franklin expedition, underwater archaeology

(Image credit: Copyright Parks Canada)

Another plate found on the HMS Erebus boasts a flow blue Whampoa pattern, another popular design. The pattern was meant to represent Whampoa Island, China. On the back of this plate is a stamp with the word "Whampoa" surrounded by a blue flourish.

Sun-powered light

hms erebus, franklin expedition, underwater archaeology

(Image credit: Copyright Parks Canada)

Some of the HMS Erebus artifacts reveal the ingenuity of sailors in the days of 19th-century technology. This glass prism was an illuminator, which sat in the upper decking and directed sunlight to the dim lower deck below.