By Randy Boswell - The Province
Parks Canada is quietly organizing a third season of searching this summer for the lost ships of Sir John Franklin — the 19th-century British explorer whose ill-fated expedition to the Canadian Arctic in the 1840s ended with the sinking of the ice-trapped HMS Terror and HMS Erebus, as well as the deaths of Franklin and all 128 men under his command.
While a Parks Canada spokeswoman told Postmedia News that plans are “fluid” and that the agency isn’t yet ready to disclose details of the proposed mission, she said officials are working with several partners in the federal and Nunavut governments “towards obtaining various authorizations and securing the necessary logistical support to be able to have the most productive search possible.”
Two previous searches in 2008 and 2010 were successful “in charting a navigation corridor to an area where we believe, through historic research, there is a high probability of finding the lost ships,” Parks Canada’s Natalie Fay told Postmedia News. “The area of surveying was approximately 150 square kilometres.”
The disappearance of the Franklin vessels, a profoundly traumatic moment for Victorian-era Britain and its Canadian colonies, prompted a series of Royal Navy rescue attempts that failed to find the ships but mapped much of the Arctic archipelago, ultimately securing sovereignty over the vast region for the future Canada.
The final resting place of the Franklin wrecks, which are believed to lie somewhere in the ice-choked waters off Nunavut’s King William Island, has eluded recent generations of searchers determined to locate one of the great global prizes of underwater archeology.
The Canadian government announced in 2008 that it was launching an unprecedented, three-season hunt for the sunken ships, so central to the story of Canada that they’ve already been declared national historic sites despite their unknown location.
Extensive sweeps of the Arctic sea floor were conducted in the 2008 and 2010 searches by Parks Canada and its partner agencies, including the Government of Nunavut, the Canadian Hydrographic Service and the Canadian Coast Guard.