British shipwrecks Erebus and Terror
By James P. Delgado
Can modern science find an explorer and his two ships 160 years since they went missing in the Canadian Arctic ?
Many Canadians are asking that question since last week's announcement that Parks Canada, working in tandem with the Canadian Coast Guard and the Canada Hydrographic Service, was launching a new, and hopefully final, search for Captain Sir John Franklin's ships Erebus and Terror.
In 1848, the British Admiralty launched the first of 32 separate expeditions to search for Franklin. Those searches spanned the vastness of the Canadian Arctic archipelago and more than a decade.
What they found were traces of the two ships -- personal belongings, scattered equipment, a trail of skeletons, one face-down on the tundra with the scraps of his notebook in a frozen pocket revealing his last plaintive entry, "Oh death, where is thy sting?"
However, no ships. Encounters with the Inuit revealed heartbreaking stories of abandoned ships, of men struggling to head south, of starvation, madness, and cannibalism.
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