Wednesday, July 15, 2009

More media coverage of Rondeau's expedition

Rob Rondeau and the ProCom Diving Company's expedition this summer is suddenly getting a lot of attention. When expeditions like this get covered in Canada's so-called "national newspaper", the Globe and Mail, you know you are starting to hit the mainstream consciousness.

On the trail of the Arctic's most enduring mystery

An Alberta archeologist feels certain he can locate the lost ships of the Franklin expedition

Katherine O'Neill

EDMONTON — From Wednesday's Globe and Mail
Last updated on Wednesday, Jul. 15, 2009 05:08AM EDT

A marine archeologist from landlocked Alberta has set his sights on finding two of the world's most coveted shipwrecks: the long-lost Royal Navy vessels from the doomed 19th-century Franklin expedition.

Rob Rondeau and his small team plan to travel to the central Arctic archipelago later this summer to launch a privately funded underwater search.

The race to find the fabled shipwrecks has been continuing for more than 160 years, but Mr. Rondeau is confident his group's research and use of state-of-the-art sonar will solve the vexing mystery.

Parks Canada was supposed to dispatch its own marine archeologists to the Arctic later this summer as part of a high-profile, three-year search for the ships that began last year. It scrubbed this year's effort because no government vessel was available.

While most modern-day Franklin hunters, including Parks Canada, have focused their attention on areas southwest of King William Island, Mr. Rondeau is confident the shipwrecks are in fact located north of the island, in the waters of Larsen Sound.

The missing ships, HMS Terror and HMS Erebus, were part of an 1845 British expedition led by Sir John Franklin to map the Arctic and locate the fabled Northwest Passage to Asia.

The vessels and their crews never returned, and since the late 1840s, dozens of search efforts, both public and private, have been mounted to answer one of the Arctic's greatest riddles. Graves of some of the crew and wreckage from the expedition are all that have been recovered.

The search for the Franklin expedition over the decades has become a lifelong obsession for many people around the world, but Mr. Rondeau, who is head of Alberta-based ProCom Diving Services, said he picked the project primarily to test newly developed sonar equipment in the Arctic.

A sidebar to the story highlighted some of the attempts to find Franklin or any relics. It notes that on Canada's Centenial in 1967, Canadian soldiers took part in "Project Franklin" to mark the occasion in which they conducted air, land and sea searches. I did not know about that historical Canadian government involvment in the search efforts. They seem to have gone a fair bit further then than the current government is prepared to do now, when searchers can't even get a ship.

The reference to the Canadian Centennial does serve as an occasion for me to raise a topic I expect to come back to many times as this website progresses. Franklin set sail in 1845. The bicentennial 170th anniversary of that date is coming up in a few years and some of the events that could be planned, like a new book or an expedition retracing his steps or a re-enactment of the departure, would take a lot of time and planning.

So not only is it my hope to collect here all information about any planned events, I hope to be involved and would like to know of any events or plans so that I may participate and help somehow. It is still a bit premature, here in 2009, but feel free to send me an email or a comment if you become aware of any Franklin Bicentennial 170th anniversary plans.


Russell Potter said...

Thanks for posting this more detailed article.

The planned search area is a promising one for the remains of at least one of Franklin's ships -- the one crushed by the ice off the coast of KWI. If they do find anything, I suspect it will be a debris field. Nevertheless, if the steam engine has survived and they can get good visuals of it, it should be possible to know which ship it was.

As to a Franklin bicentennial -- whew! Not quite ready for that one yet; not sure I'll live to see it, as I'd be 85 years old in 2045! But if I'm above ground, you can bet I'll help mark the occasion.

Ted Betts said...


Ooops. How odd that I would put down bicentennial. My mistake. And it's fixed.

I really should never type anything before my second cup of coffee.

Russell Potter said...

Well, it's understandable -- and I am the same way before that second cup. I was pleased to learn lately that 5 cups of coffee a day prevents Alzheimer's -- I plan to increase my intake.

I have not yet heard of any plans, in any case, to mark Franklin's 170th. However, there are other plans I know of to memorialize Franklin and his men, plans about which I am presently sworn to secrecy -- but as soon as I am able, I'll post the details here and elsewhere.