Search launched for historic ships believed to be lost in Arctic
Published Thursday, August 23, 2012 2:08PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, August 23, 2012 5:15PM EDT
An archeological expedition announced by the federal government aims to find two of Canada’s national historic sites that are yet to be discovered.
The HMS Erebus and the HMS Terror are the two lost ships of Arctic explorer Sir John Franklin that went missing more than 160 years ago.
Franklin departed England in 1845 with HMS Erebus and HMS Terror to find the Northwest Passage.
The ill-fated expedition ended in disaster in 1847 when the ships became trapped in ice. Franklin and his crew members died soon after.
The wrecks are believed to be resting somewhere in Canada’s vast northern terrain, though past attempts to find the remains have been unsuccessful.
During his annual visit to Canada’s North on Thursday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced that the hunt for the two ships will resume in a four to six week initiative spearheaded by Parks Canada.
Harper told reporters that the two ships are an important part of Canada’s history and therefore merit further investigation.
"Why do we search for the Franklin? The wreckage of the Franklin expedition is a national historic site designated some time ago -- it is the only undiscovered national historic site, we feel an obligation to discover it," said Harper.
The mysterious final resting place of the ships was declared a national historic site in 1992. Ths ships, however, will remain the property of the U.K.
The new expedition will be the fourth archeological search for the British ships. The last search took place in 2011.
“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. “It is also a privilege to meet with members representing the extraordinary array of Canadian partners and researchers who hope to solve the mystery of the ill-fated HMS Erebus and HMS Terror and unlock the rich history of Canada’s Northwest Passage – a history that unites us all as Canadians.”
The government will contribute $275,000 to the new expedition, with private partners picking up the remaining costs.
Parks Canada, along with a number of private and public partners will look for the two vessels in the Victoria Strait/Alexandra Strait region and near O’Reilly Island in Canada’s North.
The search will also allow researchers to collect scientific data to produce Arctic navigational charts and topographical maps.
According to Parks Canada, the discovery of the wrecks, or their contents, will offer unprecedented information on the search for the Northwest Passage, which was sought by explorers for centuries as a possible trade route.
Parks Canada and members of the Inuit community agree that the ships have historical and cultural significance as the stories of their voyages were passed down in indigenous communities.
"I think the Inuit know and there's been shared traditional knowledge that's been passed on," said Charlie Evalik, the president of the Kitikmeot Inuit Association. "I think the people know that it's happened but it's a difficult search.”
The prime minister met with the crew of the new expedition Wednesday in Cambridge Bay.
"I told the crew of the boat yesterday, I'm sure someday they are going to come around the bend and there's going to be the ship and there's going to be the body of Franklin right on the wheel," Harper joked.
"And they are going to find him right there waiting all this time."
With files from The Canadian Press