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Wreck of the HMS Breadalbane National Historic Site of Canada

Beechey Island, Nunavut, Canada

Formally Recognized: 1983/06/13

General view of the helm from the Wreck of HMS Breadalbane.; Parks Canada Agency | Agence Parcs Canada
General view of the helm
H. M. S. Phoenix and the Breadalbane at the moment when the latter was crushed and sunk. The field of ice, easing off from the Phoenix passed astern to the Breadalbane, and entering her bow, she filled and sank in less than 15 minutes, in 30 fathoms of wa; Library and Archives Canada | Bibliothèque et Archives Canada, no d'acc 1989-399-4
lithograph by Edward Augustus Inglefield
No Image

Other Name(s)

Wreck of the HMS Breadalbane National Historic Site of Canada
Wreck of HMS Breadalbane
Épave du HMS Breadalbane
HMS Breadalbane
NSM Breadalbane

Links and documents

Construction Date(s)


Listed on the Canadian Register: 2010/01/12

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

The Wreck of HMS Breadalbane National Historic Site of Canada is located off Beechey Island, Nunavut well above the Arctic Circle and is the most northerly known shipwreck. The site is comprised of the wreckage of HMS Breadalbane, a 19th-century, 500-ton sailing ship, including the hull, fragments of the vessel and the debris field caused by the sinking of the ship. The shipwreck is also a component of Beechey Island Sites National Historic Site of Canada. The designation refers to the shipwreck itself and the debris field that surrounds it.

Heritage Value

The Wreck of HMS Breadalbane was designated a national historic site of Canada in 1983 because:
- the ship was involved in the search for Captain John Franklin’s lost expedition.

HMS Breadalbane was built in 1843 in a shipyard on the Clyde River in Scotland. It spent the first few years of its existence as a merchant vessel, travelling as far as Calcutta. After the disappearance of Sir John Franklin’s expedition, which was searching for the Northwest Passage, HMS Breadalbane was pressed into service by the British Admiralty to supply the vessels which were exploring the Arctic waters in search of Franklin and his crew. It left the Thames River in 1853, accompanying HMS Phoenix, and arrived at the rallying point for the search parties at Beechey Island later that year. However, the Arctic weather did not co-operate and HMS Breadalbane soon found itself surrounded by slow-moving yet implacable pack ice. The ship was quickly emptied of as many supplies and personal effects as possible. On the night of August 20-21, the ice finally broke through the hull, sinking HMS Breadalbane to the floor of Barrow Strait.

Source: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minutes, July 2007.

Character-Defining Elements

Key elements contributing to the heritage value of this site include:
- its location well above the Arctic Circle within Beechey Island Sites National Historic Site of Canada in Nunavut;
- the underwater archaeological remains of the ship, including the hull, fragments of the vessel and the surrounding debris field;
- the integrity of any surviving or as yet unidentified archaeological remains associated with the wreck, which may be found within the site in their original placement and extent, including all remains of a navigational or personal nature.




Recognition Authority

Government of Canada

Recognition Statute

Historic Sites and Monuments Act

Recognition Type

National Historic Site of Canada

Recognition Date


Historical Information

Significant Date(s)

1853/01/01 to 1853/01/01

Theme - Category and Type

Developing Economies
Trade and Commerce
Developing Economies
Communications and Transportation

Function - Category and Type


Undetermined (archaeological site)
Underwater Site



Architect / Designer




Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

Heritage Conservation and Commemoration Directorate, Documentation Centre, 3rd Floor, Room 366, 30 Victoria St, Gatineau, Quebec

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier




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