Search begins for British explorer's lost ships

Wally (left) and Andrew Porter outside the centre named after their grandfather in Gjoa Haven. Photo: Daniel Scott
Wally and Andrew Porter in Gjoa Haven. Photo: Daniel Scott

By Lucy Hyslop and Daniel Scott - Telegraph

Not only has the Canadian government sent a Parks Canada icebreaker into a three-week expedition into the waters near Gjoa Haven, but local Inuit in the remote Arctic hamlet are also touting the possible excavation of some alleged lost journals.

Organisers today hope to unearth these ancient journals - believed to have been buried in an ancient cairn by Inuits some time over the past century - which may offer clues to the whereabouts of the HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, which set sail from England in 1845 under Franklin’s command.

Before becoming trapped in the ice, the state-of-the-art ships were part of a mission to discover the elusive Northwest Passage between Europe and Asia via the Arctic archipelago, now part of Nunavut in Canada.

The official dig for the alleged artifacts on King William Island is near to where the Franklin ships are believed to have been abandoned; it is hoped that the journals will shed light on the vessels’ location.

Although Franklin’s 129-man crew left two messages in the Arctic at a cairn for any rescue mission, according to naval protocol, the details of their last position was either never recorded or has yet to be found.

Inuit brothers Andrew and Wally Porter from Gjoa Haven - a hamlet with a population of just a few hundred people - claim that their grandfather, George Washington Porter, buried the papers 60 years ago for prosperity.

“He had been given them by a priest, who in turn had received them from a nomadic Inuit,” said Andrew, who runs a local café. “Following the discovery of the Investigator, and the renewed interest in Franklin and his lost ships,” added Wally, “we felt the time was right to reveal our family’s historical treasure.”


Northwest Passage HMS Terror Sir John Franklin High Arctic HMS Erebus Nunavut government