Shipwrecked in the Arctic: The Franklin Expedition, 1845
A lecture to be given by
Senior Underwater Archaeologist, Parks Canada
Doors open at 5.30pm for a 6pm start. The lecture will last approximately one hour, with refreshments available afterwards.
The image above depicts “Sir John Franklin dying by his boat during the North-West Passage expedition of HMS Erebus and Terror” W. Thomas Smith, 1895.
The recent spectacular discovery in the Arctic of the two missing ships of Sir John Franklin’s epic 1845 expedition to find the fabled “Northwest Passage” has gained world-wide attention. Jonathan Moore, Senior Underwater Archaeologist with Parks Canada, will describe his team’s search for the ships and the implications of their discovery, illustrated with images from the ships themselves. He will also describe the significant discoveries of two Clyde-built ships sent to search for the Franklin expedition and which have their own place in history.
Background – the loss of the Royal Navy’s Franklin Expedition
In May 1845, Captain Sir John Franklin sailed from England with HMS Erebus and HMS Terror in search of the Northwest Passage. Both Royal Navy ships, exquisitely equipped, provisioned, and together crewed by 129 men were initially abandoned in 1848 after becoming trapped by ice. In the decades that followed, searchers found relics, human remains and a terse message from the expedition. Its grim fate, and the fact that the ships had sunk, were confirmed by later interviews with Inuit. In the end, Franklin and all of his men perished yet their expedition accomplishments and the exact circumstances of their deaths are still shrouded in mystery to this day. Search and relief ships were also lost to the ice, including the Clyde-built ships HMS Investigator and Breadalbane.
Discoveries under the Ice
To date, four shipwrecks connected to the Franklin Expedition have been found. The first came in 1980 with the discovery of the transport Breadalbane which had been crushed by ice off Beechey Island in 1853 while resupplying the search for Franklin, his men, and ships. This was followed thirty years later in 2010 with the discovery by Parks Canada of HMS Investigator in Mercy Bay, a ship that itself became trapped by ice while searching for Franklin. The Clyde-built Investigator sank only 120 miles from completing a navigable link between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans: her commander and crew were recognised by the British government for completing the Passage on foot after abandoning ship in 1853.
The breakthrough discovery of Franklin’s HMS Erebus in September 2014 was the result of a collaborative search effort led by Parks Canada since 2008, providing an unprecedented opportunity to shed new light on the lost expedition. In September 2016 came the discovery of the wreck of HMS Terror which initial examination indicates holds great archaeological potential. Both of these spectacular discoveries have gained world-wide media attention.
Jonathan Moore will outline recent archaeological work on these wrecks – its challenges, opportunities and lingering mysteries – as well as rich new evidence now coming from these four remarkable archaeological sites.