Canada announced it would search again for British Arctic explorer Sir John Franklin’s ships in 2008.
HMS Erebus and HMS Terror were last seen in the late 1840s.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper said it remains unclear which ship has been found but images show there is enough information to confirm it is one of the pair.
Sir John and 128 hand-picked officers and men vanished on an expedition begun in 1845 to find the fabled Northwest Passage.
His disappearance prompted one of history’s largest rescue searches, from 1848 to 1859, which resulted in the passage’s discovery.
The route runs from the Atlantic to the Pacific through the Arctic archipelago.
Mr Harper said in a statement: “This is truly a historic moment for Canada. Franklin’s ships are an important part of Canadian history given that his expeditions, which took place nearly 200 years ago, laid the foundations of Canada’s Arctic sovereignty.
Mr Harper later told reporters that the ship that had been discovered was in good condition. He praised the team of government and non-government organisations that participated in the search.
“This is a good historic event. For more than a century, this has been a great Canadian story and mystery. It’s been the subject of scientists and historians, writers and singers,” Mr Harper said.
“I think we have a really important day in mapping together the history of our country,” he said.
Ryan Harris, a Parks Canada official who headed the search,said a sonar image showed some of the deck structures were still intact, including the main mast, though it was sheared off by the ice when the ship sank. He said the contents of the ship are probably well preserved.