Tom Gross, Hay River resident, continues search for Franklin's grave

A man from Hay River, N.W.T., says he's dedicated about $100,000 to independently search for the grave of Sir John Franklin, whose ship was found earlier this month.

Gross has paid $5,000 every summer for past 20 years for searches off King William Island

Sir John Franklin led an ultimately doomed expedition in the mid-1840s to find the Northwest Passage. (Hutton Archive/Getty Images)

A man from Hay River, N.W.T., says he's dedicated about $100,000 to independently search for the grave of Sir John Franklin, whose ship was found earlier this month. 

Tom Gross has been looking for Franklin's grave every summer for the past two decades, taking a two-day quad trek from Gjoa Haven, Nunavut, to a spot that he's mapped out on the land.

Gross said he spends about two weeks looking for the grave every August, looking to uncover the records of Franklin's expedition. 

"I'm hoping that along with the graves … probably all the scientific equipment, and that's sort of what leads me on to do the search," Gross said.

"It's not really anything about finding Franklin himself or anything like that."

Valuable testimony

Gross became interested in Franklin's expedition when he was living in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, more than 20 years ago after seeing a documentary on the expedition.

He started doing research and listening to testimony from explorers in the area where Franklin's ships were believed to be, including a recording from Charles Francis Hull in 1860s that suggests the Inuit stumbled on a cemented vault.

Location of discovery of missing Franklin expedition ship. (Canadian Press)

"They were for certain that it contained valuable items from white men."

Gross soon decided to start looking for remains from the expedition.

"I became convinced there was something out there that needed to be found," he said.

Gross said one of his most interesting finds over the past 20 years is a campsite from the expedition on Cape Felix, which had been discovered twice before hundreds of years ago. 

There wasn't much left, Gross said — just a few clay pipes, musket balls and pieces of rope — but it was still a huge discovery for him. 

"It was enough evidence to show that this was a campsite that was discovered [before]."

Gross has also found two skulls, mostly intact, which he believes are the remains of some of Franklin's crew members.

No financial support

Gross said each trip costs about $5,000. 

A sea floor scan reveals one of the missing ships from the Franklin Expedition in an image released in Ottawa on Tuesday September 9, 2014. (Parks Canada/Canadian Press)

Even though one of Franklin's ships was found earlier this month, Gross plans to keep his own searches going too.

"Every time I come back I seem to have found something that leads me on to the next year," Gross said.

He's anxious to find out which ship was found — the HMS Terror or HMS Erebus — but he's mostly focused on his own work, and hoping to find the lost records and scientific equipment from the expedition. 

"I'm in this mystery book and looking to see how it ends."