A new search begins for the lost Franklin ships

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has launched a massive search for Sir John Franklin’s ships – Terror and Erebus – which seemed to vanish into thin air in 1845 on their quest to find the Northwest Passage.

While in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, Harper launched the search for the missing ships that have captivated our collective imagination for almost two centuries.

“It is truly exciting to be launching this new initiative to continue searching for the lost vessels of the Franklin Expedition,” Harper said in a statement.

He dedicated $275,000 to the four to six week expedition, which is racing against the clock to avoid the same winter freeze that likely took the ships down in the first place.

It is the most significant contribution ever, making for the largest search since 1967.

Despite implementing an austerity agenda that has forced cuts on government services including Parks Canada, the Conservative government has made establishing Canada’s claim to Arctic power a main priority, and have been investing nationally in historic projects. Some critics consider the quest for Canadian Arctic sovereignty weak, as the ships were British, and at the time so were the waters they were searching.

Franklin’s search for the Northwest Passage ended three years after it began, in 1848, when the ships were ice locked near King William Island. His body was never found, and the survivors that attempted to walk south to a fur trading post all died from starvation and the severe cold weather.

It is believed that the ships drifted hundreds of kilometers from the island.

The search will begin in the southern region near O’Reilly Island, where Inuit legend supposes the wreck happened, and the Victoria and Alexandra Straight region, where the other ship is thought to have sunk.

The search team will also help the Canadian Hydrographic Service map the Arctic sea floor.

Immersion technology has made 98 per cent of the ocean floor within reach to divers as well as treasure hunters. Many historians feel that the sea has become a free for all because of this, as there are few international protocols on underwater heritage preservation.

If the ships are found, raising the Erebus and Terror will not be the priority. While some argue the ships have significant cultural value that all Canadians should have access to in a museum, others feel keeping it in its found location is vital to keeping history alive.

Watch CBC announce the new development in the search:


Sources: AFP, Globe and Mail, CBC

Photo ©Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press

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