Archeologists Search For Franklin Ships in the Canadian Arctic

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Back in 1845, Sir John Franklin set out in search of the then mythical Northwest Passage. Unlike today, the Passage didn’t exist, and he and his crew of 128 men died a horrible death hundreds of miles from civilization, stranded without the hope of rescue. But that death didn’t come quickly. According to historians, Franklin and his crew spent three long years in the Arctic, while scurvy, botulism, starvation, and sub-zero temperatures slowly did them in.

The remains of the crew have been found and extensive forensic studies have been done to help determine what exactly happened to the ill fated team, and while those studies have revealed a lot, such as the fact that the crew apparently resorted to cannibalism, the expedition’s ships have remained missing.

Now, according to the BBC, a team of Canadian archeologists are heading to the Arctic in search of Franklin’s long lost ships – the HMS Terror and the HMS Erebus. They’ll take with them sophisticated sonar systems to search the ocean floor and they’ll investigate locations that local Inuit tribes once reported seeing the ships locked in ice 150 years ago. They’ll also be searching for the HMS Investigator, the rescue ship that went looking for Franklin and also disappeared in the process.

The BBC articled that I’ve linked to above has more details on the Franklin expedition, but describes the explorer as a man obsessed with finding the Northwest Passage. At that time, it meant a major new trade route, and could have been worth a fortune for the man who discovered it. It also talks about some of the men who went in search of the missing crew, and the stories and legends that have arisen about what happened out there on the ice.

I have to admit, I don’t know a ton about this story, but it is a fascinating one. It reminds me a bit of Shackleton’s ill fated expedition, although that one ended up with a happy ending. I can’t imagine spending three years stranded out on the ice, wondering and hoping that someone would come. Amazing.

Thanks to the National Geographic Adventure Blog for the tip on this one.

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