As a kid I remember being so intrigued with the Franklin Expedition mystery. Once I heard about it I read every and anything I could get my hands on. And believe me there are mountains of books on the subject. That intrigue has never left me but I resolved myself to the fact that not only were the ships never going to be found, but the mystery would never be solved. But I’m happy to say that not longer seems to be true!

The Franklin Expedition going missing is comparable to to the International Space Station suddenly disappearing.

Franklin Expedition

In 1845, explorer Sir John Franklin set sail from England with two ships, HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, in search of a Northwest Passage across what is now Canada’s Arctic. The ships and crews vanished, prompting a massive search that continues to this day.

A Royal Navy officer and experienced explorer, Franklin had served on three previous Arctic expeditions, the latter two as commanding officer. His fourth and last, undertaken when he was 59, was meant to traverse the last non-navigated section of the Northwest Passage. After a few early fatalities, the two ships became icebound in Victoria Strait near King William Island in the Canadian Arctic. The entire expedition, 129 men including Franklin, was lost.

Pressed by Franklin’s wife, Jane, Lady Franklin, and others, the Admiralty launched a search for the missing expedition in 1848. Prompted in part by Franklin’s fame and the Admiralty’s offer of a finder’s reward, many subsequent expeditions joined the hunt, which at one point in 1850 involved eleven British and two American ships. Several of these ships converged off the east coast of Beechey Island, where the first relics of the expedition were found, including the graves of three crewmen. In 1854, explorer John Rae, while surveying near the Canadian Arctic coast southeast of King William Island, acquired relics of and stories about the Franklin party from the Inuit. A search led by Francis Leopold McClintock in 1859 discovered a note left on King William Island with details about the expedition’s fate. Searches continued through much of the 19th century.

Mission Erebus and Terror 2016

A breakthrough was made in September 2014 when an expedition led by Parks Canada discovered the wreck of HMS Erebus. The Victoria Strait Expedition brought together the Government of Canada and public, private and nonprofit organizations. The use of both state-of-the-art technology and 19th-century Inuit oral testimony made this historic discovery possible.

Franklin Expedition
HMS Erebus ship’s bell found during the 2014 expedition. Photo credit: Parks Canada

This year the search for HMS Terror with continue using some new technology in the waters off Numavut. Due to it’s high latitude the search season is really short; starting late August and ending mid-September.

Considering the artifacts they were able to pull of HMS Erebus the mystery of what happened to the expedition might finally be solved.

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Steve Weileman

I've been lucky enough to have some of my work featured on CNN, Outside TV and, National Geographic. Join me as I continue to both learn the art of film-making and document the exciting new modern world of citizen-science. His work has been featured on CNN, National Geographic, and OutsideTV, as well as numerous local outlets.

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