Canada's History : 2020-08-01

TRADING POST : 34 : 34


SOLVING FRANKLIN THE MYSTERY After 175 years, searchers close in on answers to what actually doomed the tragic 1845 Northwest Passage voyage. by Ken McGoogan O NE SUMMER DAY IN THE NOT-TOO-DISTANT future, off King William Island in the High Arctic, scuba divers from Parks Canada will swim into the cabin on HMS that Captain Francis Crozier once occupied. Working carefully in freezing-cold water roughly twenty-three metres below the surface, these underwater archaeolog­ists will search drawers and shelves, systematic­ally gathering artifacts until — eureka! — they come upon an array of rusty metal cylinders or canisters. Controllin­g their excitement, they will place these items in a specially designed lifting bag and bring them topside. Judging from past experience, only when they have delivered this cache to their colleagues will they give themselves over to the extraordin­ary rush of having entered history. Almost certainly, the canisters will contain written records from the 1845 Franklin expedition, whose leadership Crozier inherited. Almost certainly, they will reveal answers to the greatest mystery of Arctic exploratio­n: What happened to that expedition? This year marks the 175th anniversar­y of the departure from England in May 1845 of the vessels HMS and HMS Former warships newly fitted out with heating systems, reinforced hulls, and steam engines for use when the winds failed, the vessels sailed from Greenhithe (thirtyfive kilometres south of London) with enough food to last three years. Under Sir John Franklin, the expedition was expected to locate and to travel through the long-sought Northwest Passage across the top of North America and to emerge into the Pacific Ocean trailing clouds of glory. Those ships, as many readers will know, ended up halfway through the passage at the bottom of the sea. Canadian searchers located the wreck of the in 2014 and that of the two years later. Since those discoverie­s, Parks Canada divers have been investigat­ing the two ships Terror Erebus Terror. Erebus Terror 34 CANADASHIS­TORY.CA AUGUST–SEPTEMBER 2020