Preserved in the cold and murky depths, shipwrecks are messengers from some of the most fascinating eras of Canada's past. After Sir John Franklin disappeared while searching for the Northwest Passage, the British spent numerous expeditions to locate him and his party. On one of these, a three-masted barque named the Breadalbane served as a supply vessel. It sank off Beechey Island in the Northwest Territories on 21 August 1853, after ice pierced its hull. The main design elements of the four stamps are the hull of the San Juan, the figurehead from the Hamilton, the wheel from the Breadalbane and the bell from the Ericsson. Each object is evidence of that ship's passage through Canadian waters. Together, they share a common theme - the study of historic shipwrecks. Louis-André Rivard, a Montreal designer, has linked these elements visually by symbolically incorporating the reference grid used in archeological investigations. In the background can be seen the air bubbles so familiar to enthusiasts of the spectacular activity of underwater exploration.
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