OTTAWA—One of the lost ships from the ill-fated Franklin Arctic expedition has been found, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced Tuesday.
A remotely operated underwater vehicle searching the Victoria Strait made the discovery on Sunday. It’s one of two ships that belonged to Sir John Franklin’s doomed Arctic expedition, though researchers aren’t sure yet whether it’s HMS Terror or HMS Erebus.
“I am delighted to announce that this year’s Victoria Strait Expedition has solved one of Canada’s greatest mysteries, with the discovery of one of the two ships belonging to the Franklin Expedition,” Harper said in a statement. “This is truly a historic moment for Canada. Franklin’s ships are an important part of Canadian history given that his expeditions, which took place nearly 200 years ago, laid the foundations of Canada’s Arctic sovereignty.
Harper later told reporters that the ship is in good condition. He praised the team of government and non-government organizations that participated in the search, which the Star has been accompanying. “This is a good historic event. For more than a century, this has been a great Canadian story and mystery. It’s been the subject of scientists and historians, writers and singers,” Harper said. “I think we have a really important day in mapping together the history of our country,” he said. “Of course, I would have liked it to have been picked up and brought down but that’s not possible but we do have an image,” Harper said during a visit to a Parks Canada lab in Ottawa where the find was revealed.
The prime minister watched as a sonar image of the lost ship was displayed on a screen. “What we see here is the acoustic shadow,” said Ryan Harris, a Parks Canada official who headed the search. Harris says the ship is five metres off the sea floor in the bow and four metres in the stern. He said the sonar image shows some of the deck structures are still intact including the mainmast, though it was sheared off by the ice when the ship sank. He said the contents of the ship are likely well preserved.
Franklin was leading a Royal Navy expedition that left Britain in 1845 to find a possible trade route between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Franklin and 128 crewmen were lost in the original expedition.
Since 2008, Parks Canada has led six major searches for the ships, scouring hundreds of square kilometres of seabed. This year’s search was one of the largest and went equipped with new technology that Harper said was likely key to making the discovery.