Franklin expedtion

(Photo credit: Parks Canada)
For nearly 170 years, the fascinating mystery of Sir John Franklin’s doomed expedition remained unsolved. But the quest to find Franklin's lost ships ramped up in the summer of 2014, leading to a remarkable discovery. Here’s how a new era of the search for Franklin’s ships unfolded in the news:

In 1845, Sir John Franklin set out from Britain to find the Northwest Passage from the Atlantic Ocean to Asia. His two ships and crew of 129 men were never heard from again.

Dozens of searches in the following years hoped to find Franklin and his crew alive and waiting for rescue. Once his death was confirmed in an abandoned document found in 1859, the focus shifted to finding out exactly what had happened to him and his two ships, HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, as outlined in this timeline of searches from 1848-2011.

Discovery: September 2014

Sea floor scan of Franklin ship

A sea floor scan reveals one of the missing ships from the Franklin Expedition in an image released in Ottawa on Tuesday. (Parks Canada/Canadian Press)

The ships disappeared after they became locked in ice in 1846 and were missing for more than a century and a half until last month. On Sept. 7, 2014 one of Franklin’s ships had been discovered by a group of public-private searchers led by Parks Canada. They had found the converted British bombing vessel remarkably intact at the bottom of Queen Maud Gulf off Nunavut.

The 169-year-old mystery was finally solved and Max Paris broke down four reasons why finding a 19th century shipwreck is relevant and so significant in 21st century Canada.

One of those reasons is that the discovery is a huge win for Canada’s scientific community. It was a discovery six years in the making, which covered 1,200 square kilometres. When Parks Canada archaeologists Ryan Harris and Jonathan Moore realized they had found one of Franklin’s lost ships, they compared it to “winning the Stanley Cup.”

Inuit stories led the way

Inuit oral stories

Inuit oral history was instrumental in finding artifacts from the Franklin expedition and the ship. (Fred Bruemmer)

Another reason why the discovery of one of Franklin’s ships is so significant is because it proves that the “Inuit oral history is very strong,” said Louie Kamookak. The Inuit in the area of the Franklin wreck have been telling searchers where to look for decades.

It’s a story that CBC’s chief correspondent Peter Mansbridge has always been fascinated by. Mansbridge wrote why exactly Canadians should care: “This isn't just a story of looking for old bones and old bits of ship — it's a story about us, about our country, about our history.”

Identifying the ship
Franklin ship Erebus
Underwater archaeologist Filippo Ronca measures part of the Franklin expedition's Erebus on Sept 18, 2014. (Thierry Boyer/Parks Canada)


Then in October, the plot thickened: the wrecked ship was identified as HMS Erebus, the vessel on which it is believed Franklin died.

Since then, Parks Canada underwater archeologists have conducted dives at the site of the wreck since the discovery was made. Now they’re ready to discover more secrets of Franklin’s found ship.

Watch Franklin's Lost Ships online now.

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