Mystery solved: Vanished ship surfaces after nearly two centuries

Canadian divers and archaeologists had been trying since 2008 to find the ships

Published: Updated:

Canadian explorers have found the wreck of one of two ships lost in the tragic 1845 Franklin expedition to Canada’s Arctic, helping clear up an enduring historical mystery, Ottawa said on Tuesday.

Sir John Franklin and his 128 crew in the British ships HMS Erebus and HMS Terror were seeking the fabled Northwest Passage between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans when they became stuck in ice. The men all died and the ships vanished.

Canadian divers and archaeologists had been trying since 2008 to find the ships, which became ice-bound off King William Island in the Victoria Strait in the Arctic territory of Nunavut.

“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,” Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in a statement.

“Finding the first vessel will no doubt provide the momentum – or wind in our sails – necessary to locate its sister ship and find out even more about what happened to the Franklin Expedition’s crew.”

The mystery has gripped Canadians for generations, in part because of the crew’s grisly fate. Local Inuit say the desperate men resorted to cannibalism before they died.

Harper said experts did not yet know whether the ship found was the Erebus or the Terror. They proved hard to find because they drifted in ice for hundreds of miles and the Inuit gave conflicting accounts of where they sank.