Belfast Telegraph

Arctic explorer's abandoned ship found 168 years on

By David Wilcock

A British exploration ship captained by a Banbridge-born sailor and abandoned on an ill-fated mission to travel through the fabled North West Passage has been discovered after almost 170 years.

Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper has announced that scientists have found one of the two ships lost on the Franklin Expedition in the Arctic Ocean off the far north of the country.

The ships, HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, were abandoned by Sir John Franklin's scientific expedition in 1846 after becoming trapped in the polar ice.

None of the more than 100-strong team survived the trek back to civilisation.

Franklin's second in command was Captain Francis Crozier, who, according to legend, was the last man standing.

Mr Harper said the discovery was a historic moment that "solved one of Canada's greatest mysteries".

He said: "Although we do not know yet whether the discovery is Her Majesty's Ship (HMS) Erebus or HMS Terror, we do have enough information to confirm its authenticity.

"This find was confirmed on Sunday, September 7, using a remotely-operated underwater vehicle recently acquired by Parks Canada.

"This is truly a historic moment for Canada. Franklin's ships are an important part of Canadian history given that his expeditions, which took place nearly 200 years ago, laid the foundations of Canada's Arctic sovereignty."

Franklin's vessels are among the most sought-after prizes in marine archaeology.

Mr Harper said the discovery would shed light on what happened to Franklin's crew.

Tantalising traces have been found over the years, including the bodies of three crewmen discovered in the 1980s.

Experts believe the ships were lost in 1848 after they became locked in the ice near King William Island and that the crews abandoned them in a hopeless bid to reach safety.

Belfast Telegraph

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