Episode available within Canada only.

In 1845 Sir John Franklin set off to find the Northwest Passage through the Canadian Arctic. Franklin, his 2 ships and 129 men were never heard from again.  And the fate of the expedition has become one of the greatest mysteries in the history of exploration.

But does the discovery last summer of Franklin’s flagship Erebus mean the mystery has been solved?

Sir John Franklin's long-lost HMS Terror believed found

FRANKLIN’S LOST SHIPS  presents an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at one of the most important undersea discoveries since the Titanic. It’s been more than 170 years since the Franklin Expedition left England – dozens of search parties have looked for the doomed crew, only to find scattered, grisly clues of their demise: carnage, depravation and prolonged, horrible misery.

What can the discovery of the Erebus tell us? Its location validates the Inuit oral history about the British crew – how after all of them abandoned the ships a few straggling survivors came back and rode her south with the moving ice. Once the Erebus was frozen in near the Adelaide Peninsula, it looks like the men lived on board for at least one more winter before trying to escape the Arctic again on foot.

For more than a century and a half the gaps in the Franklin story have led to speculation, even myth-making. No one survived, so the human imagination stepped in. Now, as Parks Canada underwater archeologists get ready to dive on the Erebus for a second season, this time to see what’s inside, speculation is as rampant as it’s ever been. Is Franklin himself in there? Are there letters? Officer’s logs? Even photographs?

FRANKLIN’S LOST SHIPS uses CGI, re-enactments and a good old-fashioned adventure yarn to lay out how Franklin’s expedition became the worst disaster in polar exploration history. It took scientific discipline, Inuit oral history and some luck to finally find the Erebus. But the story is far from over. FRANKLIN’S LOST SHIPS reveals it’s only just begun.

Co-production with Lion Television and 90th Parallel Productions.

Directed by Ben Finney and produced by Andrew Gregg for CBC’s Nature of Things, PBS NOVA (US) and Channel 4 (UK).

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