Creating an educational adventure while searching for the lost ships of the 1697 Battle of Hudson Bay
In September, 1697 Captain Pierre Le Moyne D'Iberville, a Canadian by birth born to French parents, and his ship The Pélican were anchored at Port Nelson in Hudson Bay. He had sailed with a fleet of warships to disrupt and destroy the British presence in the Canadian North. The Pélican was a 3rd rate man of war 44-gun 200 foot frigate with a battle tested crew of 150 sailors.
Before the battle, the Pélican became separated from the rest of the French squadron in heavy fog, but D'Iberville elected to forge ahead. This set the stage for a little-known but spectacular single-ship action against heavy odds. As the Pélican sailed south into clearer weather, she approached the trading post of York Factory, and a group of soldiers went ashore to scout out the fort. Captain D'Iberville remained on board the Pélican. While the shore party was scouting the fort, D'Iberville saw the sails and masts of approaching ships. Thinking the rest of his squadron had arrived, he set off to meet them. D'Iberville realized that the ships were not French, but were, instead, an English squadron when one fired a shot across the bow of the Pélican.
The English squadron comprised the Royal Navy warship Hampshire under Captain Fletcher, mounting only 50 guns, the Hudson Bay Company's Hudson’s Bay (200 t) commanded by Capt. Nicholas Smithsend and mounting 32 guns, and the Hudson Bay Company's Dering (260 t) commanded by Capt. Michael Grimington mounting 36 guns.
D'Iberville, his shore party out of reach, elected to give battle. The battle began as a running fight, but after two and a half hours, D'Iberville closed with the English and a brutal broadside-to-broadside engagement took place between the Pélican and the Hampshire. The English seemed to be gaining the upper hand with blood running from the scuppers of the Pélican into the water. Captain Fletcher demanded that D'Iberville surrender, but D'Iberville refused. Fletcher is reported to have raised a glass of wine to toast D'Iberville's bravery when the next broadside from the Pélican detonated the Hampshire's powder magazine. The Hampshire exploded and sank.
The Hudson's Bay and the Dering seem to have played only a limited supporting role in the final stage of the engagement. The Hudson's Bay was damaged and struck its colors to Pélican after the Hampshire blew up. Dering broke off the engagement and fled, but the Pélican was too badly damaged to pursue.
The Pélican was also fatally damaged in the battle. Holed below the waterline, the Pélican was grounded as close to the shore as possible and D’Iberville got his sailors off the ship. He also removed several cannon and marched to capture the Hudson Bay Company trading post at York Factory. The arrival of the remainder of the French squadron shortly thereafter led to the surrender of York Factory on September 13, 1697.
The Hudson Bay employees captured at York Factory include the Henry Kelsey who was the first European to set foot on the prairies of North America and see buffalo. Journals keep by York Factory employees record the locations and events of the Battle of Hudson Bay. Naval and Hudson Bay maps also record landmarks and data points that show were the battle occurred.
Captain D’Iberville went on to found the Biloxi, Mississippi and find the source of the Mississippi River. He was responsible for the creation of the French settlements in Louisiana and finally died in Cuba at the age of 44 of yellow fever.
Why should you help fund this project?
This is the story of one of the most influential persons to live in North America before the founding of Canada or the United States. It also includes sunken ships that have never been found and have never been searched for.
By supporting the creation of a documentary you will make history come alive and be part of writing new pages of history.
This documentary will be created by an award winning film production company and the search for the sunken ships will be conducted as a Flag Expedition for The Explorers Club (www.explorers.org). We have an advisory board that includes a Director of The Explorers Club that sailed with Thor Hayerdahl (Capt Norm Baker), a world class film director to help tell the story (Guy Maddin), experts in archaeology and history and an experienced exploration crew. The full knowledge and ability of The Explorers Club is helping.
What will we do?
We will spend 2 weeks living in a polar bear proof enclosure at York Factory in Manitoba, Canada. From this base we will conduct both land and sea searches for Pierre's ship and the British man of war. Pierre's ship is expected to be found on dry land due to isostatic rebound and changing topography. Isostatic rebound is an effect where the land is slowly rising from the position it sank due to the weight of the mile thick glaciers of the last ice age.
We will use ground penetrating radar on the ground and towed magnetic anomaly detection systems in the water to find the ships. With almost 100 cannons we will use the same techniques used to find submarines. Hudson Bay is less than 100 feet deep where the ships sank and there is a sandy bottom. This combined with little debris on the ocean bottom gives us a confidence that a pile of cannon will shine brightly.
Side scan sonar will also help us map the bottom of the Bay. While we would love to salvage we will turn over all of our data to the Government of Canada and Manitoba for future expeditions.
What is the output?
We will have two main outputs:
1. Educational material - We will use the documentary material to make highly engaging and interactive educational for use in teaching pre-colonial history.
2. Documentary - We will create a documentary about the Battle of Hudson Bay to supplement the educational material as well as create a standalone video.
Risks and challenges Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
1. Bad weather on Hudson Bay - we travelled to the Bay last summer to scout the locations and two weeks prior there was a storm with 40+ foot waves. We will not be on the Bay if that happens and we are only planning a 2 week on-site expedition. We are working on reducing our on-water search area by using the journals, satellite imagery and 300 year old maps. This will help us minimize the time we need to be exposed to storm risk.
2. Equipment malfunctions - we will be 200 miles north of the last road and any equipment issues could delay the search or prevent documenting the search. Redundancy is the key for us here. We are working with some gear sponsors to ensure we have fallbacks for fallbacks. We aren't quite on Mt Everest but it is days to get out by boat.
Have a question? If the info above doesn't help, you can ask the project creator directly.