August 25, 2012

Search For Franklin Expedition Ships To Resume This Week

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports — Your Universe Online

The search for a pair of ships from the ill-fated 1845 Franklin Expedition, which began four years ago, will continue, as officials from the Canadian government announced Thursday that a new expedition would depart this week in an attempt to find the location of those vessels.

According to Reuters, archeologists and divers began their hunt for the lost British vessels HMS Erebus and HMS Terror in 2008. Those ships were attempting to locate the Northwest Passage between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans when they became trapped in ice. Expedition leader Sir John Franklin and all 128 crew members died, possibly due to cannibalism, and the ships themselves disappeared, the wire service explained.

Royal Canadian Geographical Society John Geiger, co-author of a book on the subject, told Ottawa Bureau Chief Bruce Campion-Smith and Staff Reporter Emily Jackson that at least two or three private expeditions attempt to find the two ships each year. He called the Franklin Expedition "one of the world´s great unsolved mysteries," and said that if the forthcoming expedition succeeded, it would "be a global story with Titanic levels of interest."

Campion-Smith and Jackson said that the new expedition will focus on two areas: "the region of the Victoria Strait and Alexandra Strait, and near O´Reilly Island, west of the Adelaide peninsula, where Inuit stories refer to one of the wrecks“¦ As in past years, the search will be high-tech, using side-scan sonar as well as airborne technology and a torpedo-shaped underwater vehicle from University of Victoria´s ocean technology lab."

That vehicle, which was airlifted to the Arctic earlier this week, will use sonar to search for the sunken boats on the sea floor, while also mapping the area and attempting to detect man-made structures in the aquatic environments, lab director Dr. Colin Bradley told He added that the project could potentially be dangerous due to unpredictable weather conditions and other unknown risks.

The expedition, which is being led by Parks Canada, is expected to last four to six weeks, according to the AFP.

"It is a historic and iconic moment in our country's history. That's why people still write songs about it and essays about it," Prime Minister Stephen Harper said at a news conference, according to Reuters. "It is the only undiscovered national historic site. We feel an obligation to discover it."

"I told the crew of the (search) boat yesterday, I'm sure someday they're going to come around the bend, and there's going to be the ship, and there's going to be the body of Franklin over ... the wheel, and they're going to find him right there, waiting all this time," he added.