HMS Terror, trapped in the ice. This ship and HMS Erebus are the objects of new searches for the lost Franklin Expedition.
Credits: FILE PHOTO
In 1845, Sir John Franklin set sail from Britain on the HMS Erebus and HMS Terror with a crew of 128 men. They were hunting for the Northwest Passage, a shipping route that would open up a new trading options for Europe.
The ships and the crew never returned.
Over the years, traces have been found of the explorers - a few graves and bodies, empty meat tins, personal papers and instruments from the vessels.
But no ships and no sign of Franklin, except for an official record saying he'd died in June 1847. The tragedy and mystery of the men lost forever in the frozen Arctic has captured the imaginations of historians, artists and researchers for over a century.
But now a group of researchers, with funding from the government, private interests and universities, are trying once again to find the long vanished ships.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper visited the crew of the Martin Bergmann research vessel while in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut - a stop on his annual tour of the north.
He told them he believed Franklin and his ships would day be found one day.
"Someday (searchers are) going to come around the bend and there's going to be the ship," he said Thursday. "There's going to be the body of Franklin right on the wheel. They're going to find him right there waiting all this time."
Besides, he quipped, "It's (Canada's) only undiscovered national historic site - we feel an obligation to discover it."
The 2012 Franklin Expedition will last up to six weeks through the region of the Victoria Strait and Alexandra Strait - where one of the two ships is thought to have foundered - and near O'Reilly Island - where Inuit oral traditions places another of the wrecks.
The crew will also collect date from the region, included information to produce navigational charts and topographical maps.