One of Sir John Franklin's lost ships located in Arctic

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One of Sir John Franklin's lost ships located in Arctic

Postby Canadian Livingstone » Wed Sep 10, 2014 6:44 pm

Not Livingston related but an amazing bit of news none the less. It was announced yesterday that one of Arctic explorer Sir John Franklin's ships either the HMS Erebus or the HMS Terror has been located by a Canadian and Irish research team in the area of Queen Maud Gulf south west of King William Island in Nunavut, Canada. This verifies the accounts of the local Inuit given to members of 19th century search expeditions that one of Franklin's ship that had become trapped in the ice had sunk in the vicinity of King William Island. The other one is thought to have drifted and sunk farther south. The vessel is in 36 feet of water and is relatively intact except for the mast which must have sheared off by the ice when it went down and a front portion of the stern which appears to be damaged and partially torn off perhaps also from the ice. The cold water of Arctic helps to preserve wooden shipwrecks such as this. Since the hull and deck is reasonably intact there is hope that some artifacts may be found aboard the ship.

Before the ships sank, they had been trapped by the thick arctic ice and the crews had been forced to abandon the ships taking with them food supplies and other items for their survival. They hauled smaller boats and a large quantity of supplies on sleds. They had enough canned food to last them a few years but lead used it the cans seems to have affected the crew as well a lack of vitamin c in their diet brought on scurvy. Later local Inuit indicated they boarded the abandoned ships and collected items they considered to be of value to them, some of which they traded with members of the subsequent search parties from ENgland and AMerica. Attempts were made to locate log books and journals which were likely left behind by the officers of the HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, but according to Inuit accounts any books they found among the artifacts left behind by the Officers and crew were considered worthless and were apparently destroyed by the elements and lost by the time the search parties reached the KIng William Island area.

In 1859 one solitary note was found in a cairn on King William Island which stated that Sir John Franklin had died in 1847 and in 1848 after the death of several officers and crew, the remaining half starved and sick survivors were journeying south to the Back River in a hopeless effort to eventually reach help. All evidence pretty much suggests that most of them never made it to the Back River and that many died along shores of King William Island The last survivors apparently died of starvation and the extreme cold south of King William Island on the adjacent mainland at the Adelaide Peninsula at a place that became known as Starvation Cove . There has always been some speculation that some made their way farther south as far as the Back River and even some years after the tragedy there was faint hope that someone might have survived somewhere with the help of the local Inuit, but there was never any evidence found that any of the officers and crew survived beyond the Spring of 1850. Even if through some miracle a few of Franklin's men had made it to the mouth of the Back River it is unlikely in their weakened condition they could have survived the journey down the river with numerous trecherous rapids requiring numerous portages. At the time and to this day it is a bit of a mystery why Franklin's officer Captain Crozier decided the best course of action to find help was to journey far south rather than east where they might have had more of a chance of meeting up with a British rescue party or a whaling ship in the area.

By the time the search parties determined where precisely to look for Franklin and his crew by the mid 1850's, they had long since died several years before and the later searchers both British and later Americans found nothing more than artifacts from the HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, a few graves and skeletons and no sign of the ships. The native Inuit however provided the search parties with first and second hand accounts of seeing various groups of Franklin's sick and starving men on their desperate journey southwards,of the Ships trapped in the ice and that they stated had later sank and subsequently finding bodies, skeletons and artifacts that were left in the snow. Most shocking were the reports from Inuit that there was evidence that the last starving survivors of the Franklin Expedition resorted to cannibalism to survive.Arctic explorer John Rae a Scottish Orkneyman in 1853 was the first to make contact with Inuit who had acquired Franklin artifacts from other Inuit and had heard accounts from these other Inuit of starving white men journeying south from their ships, of bodies of dead white men in the snow and grisly evidence of cannibalism. At first this information shocking to the 19th century British public was challenged by sceptics such as Franklin's widow Lady Jane Franklin and Charles Dickens in particular who made every effort to discredit the Inuit infomation gathered by Rae and Rae himself, but subsequent search parties years later and modern forensic examination of human remains in the arctic confirmed that this desperate act by Franklin's men did in fact take place among the last survivors. It was fortunate for Sir John Franklin that he died early on in 1847 long before the remaining crew met their tragic end.

There is a great deal of excitement among British and Canadian historians that one of Franklin's lost ships had been found after almost 170 years. You can see the sonar image online and I am looking forward to seeing what they find aboard the ship. As winter will be arriving shortly in the cold Arctic I am not sure how much time they will have remaining this year to explore the ship. No doubt this will encourage the research team to make an effort next year to find the Franklin's other ship and to identify which one it is that was found in Queen Maud Gulf.


Canadian Livingstone
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Re: One of Sir John Franklin's lost ships located by Canadia

Postby Kyle MacLea » Wed Sep 10, 2014 8:26 pm

I heard about this story before the finding of the ship! That is wonderful. I hope they find some interesting artifacts or additional information from their study of the wreck. Persistence! Great news!

Kyle S. MacLea
Clan Society Life Member; DNA Project Co-Admin
New Hampshire, USA
kyle -dot- maclea -at- gmail -dot- com
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Kyle MacLea
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