The mystery surrounding the disappearance of the 1845 British Arctic Expedition commanded by Sir John Franklin is the most enduring in polar exploration history. This summer, the Government of Canada’s search for the lost Franklin ships, the HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, will be enhanced by the inclusion of Canadian leaders in exploration, assembled with the help of The Royal Canadian Geographical Society (RCGS).
This unique partnership, which includes The W. Garfield Weston Foundation, One Ocean Expeditions, Shell Canada and the Arctic Research Foundation, will add resources, technologies and expertise to the hunt and focus on the Victoria Strait, which up to this point has largely not been targeted by search teams. The focus on the Victoria Strait is significant, as the area includes the last reported location of the missing vessels and crews.
The W. Garfield Weston Foundation has been a catalyst for the innovative partnership. With the support of The W. Garfield Weston Foundation, the Society has partnered with One Ocean Expeditions to provide an Arctic-rated vessel (One Ocean Voyager) that will enhance the many projects underway by all partners. It will enable experts, researchers, and others to be in the search area for a 10-day period during the field season. It will also enable the RCGS to analyze and communicate the important links between the original Franklin expedition, the modern search efforts led by Parks Canada, and a host of issues currently facing the Canadian Arctic.
“The W. Garfield Weston Foundation is delighted to be a part of the hunt for the Erebus and Terror. The Franklin Expedition discovery will raise awareness and increase understanding of the North and Canada’s rich history,” says Geordie Dalglish, Director of The W. Garfield Weston Foundation. “We are proud to support scientists as they uncover such an important piece of Canada’s history.”
With the addition of the One Ocean Voyager, the search capabilities of the expedition team will be significantly enhanced. “One Ocean Expeditions will fly the Canadian and RCGS flags with great enthusiasm, whilst exploring the waterways of Canada’s high Arctic as we’ve done for almost a quarter century,” explained Andrew Prossin, Managing Director of One Oceans Expeditions. “This will be a very proud Canadian effort at exploration, discovery, and scientific survey. It would be a very special Canadian moment indeed, to rewrite one of polar history¹s most storied chapters. This would showcase Canadian know-how and innovation to the world.”
The search for Franklin’s lost ships has opened a unique window into the history and heritage that has defined the Canadian experience, and the research provides a strong learning opportunity for Canadians across the country. With the vital support of its partners, The W. Garfield Weston Foundation, One Ocean Expeditions, Shell Canada and the Arctic Research Foundation, the RCGS will be developing and disseminating an educational program to Canadian schools, so that educators and students can develop a stronger knowledge base and engagement with the Arctic, linking this great historical mystery to important contemporary themes such as Northern science and Arctic sovereignty.
“Exploration has been important to the success of our business for over 100 years,” said Lorraine Mitchelmore, President and Country Chair of Shell Canada and Executive Vice President Heavy Oil. “We are proud to lend our support to the recovery of these vessels and look forward to sharing our experience along with our country’s rich history of exploration with Canadian students.”
In its 2013 Speech from the Throne, the Government of Canada announced an expanded partnership would join the Parks Canada-led initiative to locate the Franklin vessels. Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of the Environment and Minister responsible for Parks Canada, announced the 2014 Victoria Strait Expedition on June 20. The Royal Canadian Geographical Society and its partners are key to the plans for this summer. “As Canada’s pre-eminent leader in exploration and geographical education, we are proud and honoured to join with Parks Canada, other federal and Nunavut government partners, and our private sector and non-profit colleagues and take up the call,” stated The Royal Canadian Geographical Society’s CEO, John Geiger.
The fate of the Erebus and Terror and their crews has become one of the most enduring mysteries in maritime history, and the search for Franklin’s lost ships has over time cemented Canada’s understanding and connection with the North. Moreover, much of Canada’s claim to sovereignty over its Arctic islands can be traced to the significant geographical advances made because of the Franklin search era. This year’s search will continue to strengthen Canadian awareness and understanding of its northern heritage and sovereignty over the land and its resources.
“The RCGS’ unique ability to directly reach classrooms from across Canada will ensure that information about the North will be easily accessible to thousands of Canadian students,” said Jim Balsillie, founder of the Arctic Research Foundation. “The Arctic Research Foundation is pleased to participate in a partnership that will connect young Canadians with information about their country’s Northern communities and heritage.”
For up-to-date information about the Franklin search expedition and much more, visit the Franklin 2014 search website at canadiangeographic.ca/franklin-expedition.