The Franklin Expedition
Sir John Franklin was the leader of the Franklin Expedition. He was born in 1786, and in 1800, he went aboard the HMS Polyphemus. He had an exciting naval career and saw battle under the command of Admiral Horatio Nelson. Also, he was involved in a maritime expedition to Australia, and he fought against the United States during the war of 1812. During the war, he was wounded while fighting in the Tattle of Lake Borgne in 1814.
In 1819, Franklin became an explorer for the Royal Navy when he led the Coppermine Expedition. His mission was to map Canada’s north coast from the Coppermine River. During the expedition, 11 of his 20 men died, mostly due to hunger. Things on the ship got so bad that the men were eating their boots to survive. There were also rumors of cannibalism.
Franklin continued with exploratory expeditions until 1837. At the time, he was a knight of the realm, and then he focused on politics. He was appointed Governor of Van Diemen’s Land, which is now Australian Tasmania. Due to political acrimony, Franklin left that post in 1843. Shortly after leaving his post, he embarked on a new challenge.
The Northwest Passage
The British were anxious to chart what was known as the Northwest Passage. This was the route along the northern coast of North America through the Canadian Arctic Archipelago and onto the Pacific Ocean. They were hoping to find a passage for trade all the way to Asia. Due to his success and experience in exploration, he was chosen to lead the expedition. He was 59-years-old at the time.
HMS Terror and HMS Erebus, Forgotten Shipwreck
The two ships chosen for the expedition were the HMS Terror and the HMS Erebus. Captain Francis Crozier commanded the HMS Erebus, and later, Captain James Fitzjames took over. No expense was spared, and both ships were equipped with the best technology and expertise that was available in the mid-19th century. The Terror was initially built as a Royal Navy bomb ship. During the 1830s, it was converted into a Polar exploration vessel. The ship had a reinforced frame, and it was designed to withstand mortars, as well as the ice-packed waters. Both ships were fitted with steam engines that were used to power railroad locomotives. The engines used were salvaged, but they were the most modern ships in the Royal Navy. Since there wasn’t much room for storage on the vessels for coal, they relied mostly on the sails.
After crew members of Franklin’s past expeditions died from starvation, he insisted that the ships be fully stocked. He wanted three-years’ worth of supplies, which consisted of 24-tons of meat, 8,000 cans of food, and two tons of tobacco. The Terror even had a library with 1,200 books.
The Crew For Forgotten Shipwreck
Between the two ships, there were 110 sailors on board as well as 24 officers. On May 19, 1845, the two ships embarked from the southern English port of Greenhithe. The two ships anchored for a short time and five men left the ship. The expedition continued, and it took a month to get to Greenland. The last time the ships were seen was when they sailed into the Baffin Bay, which was located west of Greenland. This was in August 1945, and communication ended. Two years had passed with no word from either of the ships, and the anxiety was intense. The British press was putting pressure on the Navy to send out a rescue team. Franklin’s wife, Lady Jane, was very vocal during this campaign. Sadly, they were never found.
In 2019, Ryan Harris led a project for Parks Canada after it was believed that the HMS Terror was located. They sent in an ROV, which captured the ship, and it was in perfect condition.
Due to the ice the covers the waters, the vessel remained so preserved that if they were to pull it from the sea, it would likely float again. Everything was visible and completely intact. The dishes were even on the shelves. Ryan and his team wanted to know why the ship sunk, but they saw no good reason for it. The ship appeared to have gone down swiftly, but everything was in perfect condition. Ryan intends to pull the ship from the water to study it to find out why it sank. Divers discovered a forgotten shipwreck, and what lays inside may solve a centuries-old mystery. When the ship is lifted from its watery grave, the experts will have the answers that they are looking for. They are also hoping to find out why the captain and the crew abaondoned ship in the first place.