Thursday, October 2, 2014


2 OCTOBER 2014: A couple of weeks ago, I reported that an archeological expedition might have found the lost ships of the Franklin Expedition which vanished about 170 years ago. I thought/hoped it might have been the HMS Terror, a bomb ship which participated in the bombardment of Baltimore during the attack on Fort McHenry on 14 September of 1814. Yesterday, experts with Parks Canada have released a side scan sonar image of the ship they found and have identified it as HMS Erebus, which, while definitely one of the Franklin ships - in fact, it may well have been the one Franklin himself was in, it was not the same Erebus which took part in the bombardment of Baltimore. There was in fact another ship of the same name in Baltimore then. The Royal Navy, as with many others including the U.S. Navy, often reuses a ship's name causing some confusion among later historians.

  Here is the image Parks Canada released:

HMS EREBUS from Franklin Expedition

The Canadian government took on the task of searching for the lost ships as the discovery would assert Canada's ownership of the Northwest Passage. Recent melting of the Arctic icecap has opened the very waters in which Sir John Franklin was unsuccessfully searching. While Canada claims ownership of the passage, the rest of the world, including the U.S., says it is international territory.

The wreck is located in 50 feet of really cold water some 2,000 kilometers northwest of Toronto and is in amazingly good condition, preserved is it is by the very cold water which typically allows little growth of marine critters which can do serious damage to a wreck, especially during  a period of 170 years.

So, what was Franklin doing out there? He was searching for the Northwest Passage, a short route to the Orient. He left England with 128 men and two ships (HMS Terror - yes, the one from Baltimore - and HMS Erebus) in 1845 and, when his ships got locked in the ice near King William Island, historians believe they abandoned them to walk to safety. Didn't work, and Inuit lore describes "starving white men" on the Royal Geographical Society Island. Dozens of rescue/search missions were launched, many of which also ended in disaster. Some of them actually found a Northwest Passage, but because of ice and generally horrible weather, the ones they found were unusable. The first successful "sea crossing" did not occur until Amundsen of Norway did it 1903-1906.

Needless to say, the Royal Canadian Geographical Society are very excited about the discovery and it is likely that further examination will be undertaken. Due to a fear of looters (though why in those waters someone would go pleasure diving is beyond me!) they did not disclose the exact location of the wreck.

Should more information surface (!) I will pass it on here.

"The two most important days of your life are the day you were born, and the day you find out why!"
                                                                                                                 Mark Twain

                                                        Fair winds!
                                                                Old Salt

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