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Secrets of Franklin Expedition

October 2017

The recent discoveries of the wrecks of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror didn’t solve the mystery of what happened to Sir John Franklin and his crew in the Canadian Arctic. This is just the beginning of an exciting new phase of the story!

Parks Canada archeologist Charles Dagneau diving on HMS Erebus
Parks Canada archeologist Charles Dagneau diving on HMS Erebus (Parks Canada).

Parks Canada underwater archaeologists continue to explore the wreck of the HMS Erebus, and recover artifacts. In 2018 the team will return to the site, now watched by a team of four Inuit guardians, for more intensive work. A dedicated research vessel and barge will be moored in the Arctic next year to enable archaeologists to excavate the HMS Erebus and analyze and conserve their findings.

"I've never seen a case where shipwrecks have so much to contribute to a story," said Marc-André Bernier, chief of the Parks Canada archaeology unit.

The archaeologists hope that their dives will enable them to find documents and other clues that will reveal some of the secrets of the missing Franklin Expedition. It may even be possible to link some of the artifacts to specific individuals who sailed on the expedition, as Government of Nunavut archaeologist Doug Stenton has already begun creating a DNA database developed in cooperation with relatives of the crew. Inuit historian Louie Kamookak expects that the grave of Sir John Franklin will eventually be found, possibly on King William Island.

Louie Kamookak
Louie Kamookak (Jake Wright photo/Great Unsolved Mysteries in Canadian History).

As researchers uncover more of the secrets of one of the greatest mystery stories in the history of Arctic exploration, be sure to check the News section on our Franklin Mystery website. It was developed in partnership with Parks Canada, and the agency website will provide regular updates about the archaeological research. Our Franklin Mystery website and related learning materials offer teachers and students a wide variety of tools to assist in investigating the many mysteries surrounding the disappearance of the Franklin Expedition: original documents, maps, Inuit testimonies, images, MysteryQuests and more!

Bell from HMS Erebus wreck
Bell from HMS Erebus wreck (Parks Canada).