The federal government plans to go searching for the lost ships of Franklin's doomed expedition to the Northwest Passage.

The announcement is expected to come Friday morning at a news conference called by Federal Environment Minister John Baird.

Sir John Franklin set out in 1845 with two ships, HMS Erebus and Terror, to explore and sail through the Northwest Passage.

No one returned.

Franklin's disappearance launched one of the greatest searches in history. By 1848, two ships and an overland party were searching for traces of the ships and the more than 100 men they contained.

A total of eight expeditions were launched within the 12 years after Franklin's disappearance, with a range of financial backers from the British navy to the Hudson's Bay Company to Franklin's wife.

Only traces of the expedition have ever been found.

In the mid-1980s, University of Alberta researchers discovered the graves of three of Franklin's men on Beechey Island, where they had died in 1846 as the expedition wintered there.

But the whereabouts of the ships, and of Franklin, have eluded searchers for more than 160 years.

Experts now believe the expedition came to grief in 1847 when the ships were frozen in the ice near King William Island.

Dorothy Harley Eber, a Montreal-based author who has interviewed Inuit elders about their encounters with Arctic explorers, said new information about the Franklin expedition may have surfaced from talks with the elders.

"I think they are new findings," Eber told CBC News on Thursday.

"Now, when Charles Francis Hall was collecting his stories, he was looking for Franklin," she added, referring to the American explorer's journeys to the eastern Arctic in the 1860s.

"There was some suggestion in his book that a ship conceivably was somewhere, and it could have been [at] the Royal Geographical Society Islands, but I don't think that was stated."

Parks Canada has been planning this latest search, which it hopes will be the last, for years.

With files from the Canadian Press