The Canadian government will continue its hunt for the ill-fated Franklin expedition ships this summer, expanding the search party to include four ships and an autonomous underwater vehicle — similar to that used to scour the ocean floor for the missing Malaysian jetliner.

In 1845, Sir John Franklin and 128 sailors embarked from England to find the Northwest Passage. Search parties later recorded Inuit testimony that claimed one ship sank in deep water west of King William Island and one ship went perhaps as far south as Queen Maud Gulf or into Wilmot and Crampton Bay.

This will be Parks Canada's sixth search for the ships in seven years. The search has already covered 1,200 square kilometres.

Last year's budget, which typically ranges from $50,000 to $275,000, was $130,000 — down from the highest amount possible the year prior.

This summer, the search team will be expanded to include four vessels, Minister of the Environment Leona Aglukkaq announced Friday in a written statement. The previously used coast guard ship Sir Wilfrid Laurier and research vessel Martin Bergmann will be joined by HMCS Kingston and One Ocean Voyager.

To make the search possible, the government is partnering with public, private and non-profit groups, including:

  • Parks Canada.
  • The Canadian Space Agency.
  • The Arctic Research Foundation.
  • Shell Canada.
  • One Ocean Expeditions, which offers small-cruise expeditions to the high Arctic and Antarctic.

"Our government has made the North a priority," said Aglukkaq in a written statement. "Through exploration and research in Canada's Arctic, we can understand our past and secure our future."