From 21st century forensic anthropologists to 19th century sea captains and British aristocrats, many have combed the oceanic maze of ice and rock for the lost expedition of Sir John Franklin, but the Arctic is immense, so the task is daunting. Through their collective efforts, we’ve been able to piece together much of what happened to Franklin’s ships once they ventured into the Canadian Arctic, but the biggest prize – the ships themselves – have so far eluded all.
In recent years the Canada’s government has allocated unprecedented resources to the search, deploying advanced sonar technology and autonomous underwater vehicles. The ships locations remain a mystery, but the systematic approach taken to the search since 2007 brings a find ever closer. Each year, searchers are able to eliminate areas of the ocean floor where the wreckage of the two ships is not, bringing them closer to where it is.
This summer's search will be the largest and most advanced yet, with cutting edge tools from the Royal Canadian Navy and Canadian Coast Guard supplementing the work done by Parks Canada’s elite underwater archaeological team. The challenge remains daunting, but searchers hopes have been renewed by the new resources. In the summer of 2014, the very nature of the game has changed.
The Royal Canadian Navy’s cutting edge Explorer AUV will even be able to explore terrain lying under multi-year ice in search of the Erebus and Terror. Advanced sonar technologies will allow searchers to see the sea floor in ultra high resolution. Parks Canada’s elite dive team is closing in on its target, and NGOs like the Arctic Research Foundation will be contributing their time and resources to searching for Franklin’s lost expedition.
The disappearance of the Franklin Expedition is one of the enduring mysteries of Canadian history. Explore Canadian Geographic's coverage over the years.
An underwater archaeologist with an encyclopedic knowledge of all things Franklin Expedition, Ryan Harris has been the lead diver on Parks Canada’s search for the Erebus and Terror for the past seven years. With the rest of the Underwater Archaeology Unit, Harris negotiates icy waters and perilous currents in determined pursuit of the lost ships that will enrich our collective knowledge of Canada’s history.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper and RCGS CEO John Geiger aboard the Canadian Coast Guard Ship Gjoa Haven as it searches for the lost ships of the Franklin Expedition.
The lost ships of the Franklin Expedition remain hidden treasures and the hunt is set to continue this summer. Meet Ryan Harris, the person who’s leading the search, and likely to be the first who sets his eyes on the prize.
A century after the start of the thrilling expedition that strengthened claims to Canadian sovereignty in the Arctic, the first Canadian Arctic Expedition remains a largely unknown part of the country’s history.
Lost while searching for Franklin and his crew, the HMS Investigator’s wreck was discovered 157 years later.
David Gray researches an illegal trapping mission in the 1930s which claimed to have encountered living descendants of the Franklin Expedition
Paul vanPeenen retraces Franklin’s First Expedition, funded by the RCGS
Sleuthing for Franklin’s crew, researchers are led to five unknown graves by Louis Kamookak, of Gjoa Haven, Nunavut
The 1994 RCGS Expedition searching for clues on Franklin
Book reviews of The Arctic Grail and Frozen in Time
Arctic explorer's 1825-26 wintering post on Great Bear Lake discovered
The men of the Erebus and Terror
A look back at 100 years of looking for the lost Franklin ships
The tiny island's history in the searches for the lost Franklin ships
Members of Canada’s Polar Continental Shelf Project were conducting scientific research when they came upon a cairn on Helena Island. Hidden inside the cairn were clues to the outcome of Sir John Franklin and his crews during the ill-fated 1845 expedition.
From searching for the Northwest Passage to gaining wealth through the fur trade to mapping new territory, Canada’s history is filled with exploration. Writer F.J. Alcock examines many of Canada’s early explorers, including Sir John Franklin.
On the 100-year anniversary of the expedition, Canadian Geographic Journal was there to honour the expedition and look back at the mystery behind the journey that ended in death and disaster.
Canadian Geographic Journal was not yet a year old when it published its first article on the search for the Franklin Expedition's ships. L.T. Burwash penned the November 1930 piece after spending the previous spring traveling on and around King William Island, gathering testimony from local Inuit about the expedition and those who came to search for it.