Wednesday, October 1, 2014

HMS Erebus!

They have identified the found Franklin ship as HMS Erebus.
Franklin expedition ship found in Arctic ID'd as HMS Erebus By Evan Solomon, CBC News Posted: Oct 01, 2014 2:09 PM ET| Last Updated: Oct 01, 2014 2:30 PM ET The wrecked Franklin expedition ship found last month in the Arctic has been identified as HMS Erebus, CBC News has learned. Prime Minister Stephen Harper is expected to announce the news today in the House of Commons. Two ships, HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, were part of Sir John Franklin's doomed expedition in 1845 to find the Northwest Passage. The ships disappeared after they became locked in ice in 1846 and were missing for more than a century and a half until last month's discovery by a group of public-private searchers led by Parks Canada. It was not known until now which of the two ships had been found. The Erebus is believed to be the ship that Sir John Franklin was on when he died. The wreck of the Terror has not yet been found.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

My Interview on NewsTalk770

I was interviewed about the Franklin Expedition and the ship finding today on the Roger and Rob Show on NewsTalk770 out of Calgary today.

Here's the audio. Choose September 11 at 11:00am. I'm on right after the news.

Didn't think my voice sounded so nasally. Guess I'll stick with my day job.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Blog Round Up: What Franklinophiles are writing about the finding

As the world starts to pay attention to our little big passion, I thought it worthwhile highlighting the commentary of the passionate few who have been following this story for years before it became an international story.

What Franklinophiles are writing about the finding of the Franklin Expedition ship in the Arctic:

The prolific Ken McGoogan, author of several books and articles on Arctic exploration (including the must-read seminal research quadrilogy of Fatal Passage (on John Rae), Ancient Mariner (on Samuel Hearne), Lady Franklin's Revenge (on Jane Franklin), and Race to the Polar Sea (on Elisha Kent Kane)):

Russell Potter, of course, editor of the Arctic Book Review and author of Arctic Spectacles: The Frozen North in Visual Culture, 1818-1885, has already written many posts on the finding from several different angles:
Then there are the excited observations William Battersby, author of James Fitzjames: Mystery Man of the Franklin Expedition.

Over at the Kabloonas blog, Andres can barely contain himself over the news.

Of course, there really is no few things to read these days about the historic finding of one of the lost Franklin Expedition ships.

The Ship

I really can't find the words.

I just can't stop looking at it.

I just can't help but get lost in it.

The detail. How well preserved it appears to be. The possibilities of what may be hidden inside.

How the Franklin wreck was finally found

The Toronto Star accompanied the Laurier in its historic search expedition for the Erebus and the Terror. The filed this amazingly interesting report.

The Star with the Franklin search: How the Franklin wreck was finally found

The Star was on board the Sir Wilfrid Laurier when the wreck of one of the Franklin Expedition ships was finally found.

ABOARD CCGS SIR WILFRID LAURIER—Like all great discoveries, they found the Franklin Expedition shipwreck by accident, after years of gruelling, monotonous work.
For 166 years, people have wondered where the Royal Navy’s HMS Erebus and HMS Terror went after they sailed into the Northwest Passage in search of the western exit, only to disappear, losing all 129 men aboard.
Toronto Star reporter Paul Watson aboard the the Canadian icebreaker CCGS Sir Wildrid Laurier.
Toronto Star reporter Paul Watson aboard the the Canadian icebreaker CCGS Sir Wildrid Laurier.
Witness accounts from Inuit who spoke to early searchers in the 19th century offered tantalizing clues of at least one ghost ship, with a big, dead white man aboard, drifting south on the ice.
They claimed it was far from the point where an 1847 ink note, concealed in a tin can, reported the ships had been abandoned, imprisoned in heavy ice. Many so-called experts thought it was hogwash. The Inuit had to be telling tall tales.
Turns out the Inuit were right all along.
But it took more than a century of searching, and a serendipitous series of events over the past several weeks, to prove it.
First, the heaviest Arctic sea ice in years had to block a flotilla of seven vessels, including smaller survey boats that carry high-tech submersibles — the largest mission ever assembled to search for Erebus and Terror.
Unable to group together in what looked like the more promising northern search zone in Erebus Bay, government and privately funded vessels had to spend more time south of Victoria Strait.
They kept cursing the ice.
Then a federal hydrographer charting the seabed had to offer helicopter seats to two archeologists working for the Nunavut government.
That way fate, and a Transport Canada pilot assigned to the Coast Guard, could deliver them to one barren Arctic island out of thousands.
And then that pilot, who took an interest in old things as he watched archeologists pick up artifacts over the years, had to do as they’d taught him.
While walking the perimeter in a neon orange dry suit and red tasselled toque, he kept his eyes to the grassless ground.
That’s why chopper pilot Andrew Stirling found the one critical clue that had eluded generations of searchers, and finally pointed archeologists to the sunken wreck from Sir John Franklin’s doomed expedition.
“You almost think this ship wanted us to find it,” said Marc-Andre Bernier, chief of the underwater archeology team at Parks Canada, the lead federal agency in the Franklin hunt.
When Ryan Harris, a senior underwater archeologist, brought back the first sonar images of the wreck to show Bernier for official confirmation, “I cried,” he said. “We all did.
The search for Franklin
“You really have to have trust in yourself and in your colleagues,” added Bernier, who is into his 25th year on Parks Canada’s underwater archeology team.
“There’s constant pressure and scrutiny because we’re government. And it’s this quest: some people love it, some people think we shouldn’t be doing this. There are also people saying, ‘You’re not looking in the right place.’
“And the more you look, and the more you don’t find, the more criticism you can have.”
But the searchers stuck to a plan, which depended on what some might consider a crap shoot: several federal agencies working together, sharing information, compromising, and leaving egos ashore.
So they all share in the breakthrough, which happened quietly, far from any limelight, last week.
“This is truly a historic moment for Canada,” Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in a statement Tuesday. “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.”
The federal and Nunavut experts who made the discoveries won’t say precisely when, or where, the discovery was made, because they want to keep what is now one of the hottest sites in marine archeology safe from looters.
It started out as Scott Youngblut’s mission.
Youngblut, 37, of Burlington, is hydrographer-in-charge with the Canadian Hydrographic Service, the federal agency that surveys the seabed of Canada’s waterways with 3D sonar to create navigation charts.
Less than 10 per cent of the Canadian Arctic has been charted to modern standards. So the area where the Franklin wreck was discovered wasn’t remotely safe for ships until hydrographers surveyed it in 2008, the first year of the current effort.
Youngblut needed to set up a GPS unit on land to improve the accuracy of the undersea surveys.
He wasn’t choosey about where, and two seats were open at the back of the Laurier’s Messerschmitt 105 chopper, so Youngblut invited terrestrial archeologists Douglas Stenton, 61, of Chatham, and Robert Park, 57, to come along.
An over starboard view from the Franklin Expedition, in this photo provided by Parks Canada.
An over starboard view from the Franklin Expedition, in this photo provided by Parks Canada.
Stenton is Nunavut’s director of heritage, and Park is an archeology professor at the University of Waterloo.
They catalogue sites across the High Arctic, often using laser equipment to map the locations of relics they find, so experts know what needs to be studied more carefully, and to be protected from tourists, climate change and other threats.
Stenton had a spot in mind that he wanted to visit. But it was only when Youngblut asked in mid-air that they agreed a small, flat island would be a good place to land.
Stenton went straight to work examining a tent ring, a tight circle of rocks where Inuit would have built a shelter, likely with seal skins. Stirling was walking the shore.
“In a short time, I’ve learned to look at the land in a whole new light,” the chopper pilot said. “So I was just walking, and out of the corner of my eye, something looked out of place from the rocks and tundra.”
He waved to Park to come over. Stenton followed. Stirling showed them the piece of iron which, as taught, he hadn’t touched.
“As soon as I saw it, I knew it was different than anything we’d ever seen before in terms of its size and its very clear shape,” Stenton said.
Holding it in his left hand, Stenton said it was a shame there weren’t any broad arrows on the iron, the Royal Navy’s mark on its property.
“The heel of my hand was covering it,” Stenton said. “I opened my hand and there was not one broad arrow, but two broad arrows on it, stamped into the iron. And the number 12.
“So that was very exciting. We knew then that this was a Royal Navy fitting. We just went, ‘Wow. Fantastic.’”
Farther along the beach, Stirling found half-moon-shaped pieces of wood, about 30 centimetres in diameter. One was weathered grey, lying amid some rocks. Another piece, the same shape and size, was nearby. Large iron nails, forged by hand, were sticking out.
Again, he called the archeologists over.
At first, Stenton thought it might be from a cask. After talking to the marine experts, the land archeologists believe it’s more likely that the wooden pieces, which fit together, form a hawse plug.
Crew members on the Coast Guard icebreaker CCGS Sir Wilfrid Laurier brought out Parks Canada's remotely operated vehicle Sunday as underwater archeologists prepared for the first detailed look at the newly discovered Franklin Expedition shipwreck.
Crew members on the Coast Guard icebreaker CCGS Sir Wilfrid Laurier brought out Parks Canada's remotely operated vehicle Sunday as underwater archeologists prepared for the first detailed look at the newly discovered Franklin Expedition shipwreck.
It would have closed the hole in the deck where the anchor chain ran through into a lower locker to keep the sea out.
They brought the objects back to the Laurier’s archeology lab, where Ryan Harris, 42, and Jonathan Moore, 45, both senior underwater archeologists at Parks Canada in Ottawa, examined the objects that night.
The metal object, likely part of a davit used to lower one of several boats that Erebus and Terror carried, was a rusted piece of iron about 43 centimetres long, shaped like a large tuning fork with rounded tips.
It weighs about 4.5 kilograms, which makes it “the sort of artifact that wouldn’t be carried far, given its heft,” Harris said. “So it was a pretty good indication that we were in the right neighbourhood.”
Harris calls it “probably the most important, land-base archeology find in modern times” that’s conclusively linked to the lost Franklin Expedition.
It’s also something that Inuit hunters who criss-cross the Arctic, and carried away Franklin artifacts from other sites, didn’t find useful, Moore added.
They may also have stored it there, resting against the round rock on the opposite side to the sea, so it was easier to find, Park suggested.
If Inuit did see the heavy metal, and left it where Stirling found it, that choice helped prove accounts that a lot of experts were convinced Inuit were making up.
“It validates, in many ways, their testimony which, in some quarters, had been disputed,” Harris said. “And it also lends more weight to the more nuanced aspects of their testimony.”
The underwater archeologists soon put their survey and diving boat, Investigator, in the water to look for a wreck near the island, using a side-scan sonar towfish pulled on an armoured cable.
Before long, a telltale hit a few centimetres long appeared on the laptop computer screen as live images of the ice-scarred seabed scrolled by.
Technologist Chriss Ludin, 61, of Ottawa, had just handed the helm over to technician Joe Boucher, 33, also of Ottawa.
Harris and Moore, who normally work parallel searches on separate boats, were watching the same sonar feed this time.
“That’s it,” Harris said as the elusive shipwreck appeared. Like a winning sprinter, he raised two open hands.
“It wasn’t quite a primal scream,” Moore said, “but it was close.” There were high tens all around.
Once Bernier had confirmed the find, the next step was to get a remotely operated vehicle with high-resolution cameras down for a good look at the shipwreck.
As the archeology team and Laurier crew members raced to move out the sonar equipment and install the ROV control module in Investigator, icy winds blew in from the north, cutting across the icebreaker’s bow at 16 knots, gusting to 20.
When the Laurier’s crane lowered Investigator into the sea around 4:30 p.m. Sunday, the sun momentarily broke through the clouds.
They quickly closed again, turning the sky a wintry grey, as one-metre swells, topped by 30-centimetre wind waves, rocked the Parks Canada boat.
In rough seas, with night closing in, the archeologists were only able to view the wreck with their ROVs for about 40 minutes.
“We deployed the ROV to capture images, and to confirm that it was either Erebus or Terror,” Bernier added. “We’re not concerned which one it is at this point.”
The sunken ship is standing upright on the seabed, mainly intact except for her three, tall masts, which were likely sliced off by ice floes, the archeologist said.
“There are some deck planks missing and you can actually see openings on the deck and the hatchways,” Bernier said. “And there’s a lot of debris around, ‘dead-eyes,’ which are the circular items that support the masts.
“And two bronze cannons. So then we had more proof that it’s not an ordinary ship. The dimensions are confirmed. Everything is confirmed.”
The Laurier is now anchored off the Nunavut hamlet of Gjoa Haven, on the southeast corner of King William Island, far from the Franklin wreck site.
The icebreaker’s role as the main vessel in the Victoria Strait Expedition was due to end Sept. 12. But that was before the federal and Nunavut experts on board made history.
The archeologists are eager to return to the wreck and study it for as long as they can, before the fall gale season hits.
The decision about retasking the Laurier, or delaying more work on the wreck site for another year, is way above their pay scale. So they have to wait, and hope, which they are used to.
Capt. Bill Noon, the tall, even-tempered Coast Guard officer who commands the Laurier, knows how fickle Arctic seas are, how they can be calm and welcoming one minute, only to rise up and sucker punch like a big, soaking fist.
He’s watched a lot of plans come and go like the tides, knowing the Arctic will always have the last word. Talking about all the random things that had to go right for searchers to find the Franklin wreck brings a broad, boyish smile to the cautious seaman’s face.
“If it wasn’t for the ice, we never would have come down this way,” Noon said, in a rare moment of relaxation on the icebreaker’s bridge. “Nature decided for us, fortunately.”

Lost Franklin expedition ship found

It's Christmas in Franklin Land.

One of them has been found!

Lost Franklin expedition ship found in the Arctic

Queen sends congratulations on image believed to be HMS Erebus or HMS Terror

Prime Minister Stephen Harper says one of Canada's greatest mysteries now has been solved, with the discovery of one of the lost ships from Sir John Franklin's doomed Arctic expedition.
"This is a great historic event," Harper said.
"For more than a century this has been a great Canadian story.… It's been the subject of scientists and historians and writers and singers. And so I think we have a really important day in mapping together the history of our country," the prime minister said.
At this point, the searchers aren't sure if they've found HMS Erebus or HMS Terror. But sonar images from the waters of Victoria Strait, just off King William Island, clearly show wreckage of a ship on the ocean floor.
Franklin Ship found
A sea floor scan reveals one of the missing ships from the Franklin Expedition in an image released in Ottawa on Tuesday. (Parks Canada/Canadian Press)
The wreckage was found on Sept. 7 using a remotely operated underwater vehicle recently acquired by Parks Canada. When Harper revealed the team's success at Parks Canada's laboratories in Ottawa Tuesday, the room burst into applause and hollering. 
"This is a day of some very good news," Harper told the assembled group of researchers, some of whom had flown all night to be in Ottawa for the announcement. 
"It appears to be perfectly preserved," Harper said of the ship, adding that it has "a little bit of damage."

Deck appears intact

Harper said the "latest, cutting-edge technology" Parks Canada used was integral to finding the ship under layers of growth on the ocean floor. "With older technology, you could have come very close to this and not seen it at all."
Ryan Harris, an underwater archeologist who was Parks Canada's project lead for this year's search, said the wreck was "indisputably" one of Franklin's two ships.
"It's a very substantial wreck," Harris said, putting to rest earlier fears that Franklin's ships may not be found intact after so many years.
The sonar image shows some of the deck structures survived, Harris explained, pointing out the stubs of the masts which were apparently sheared away by the ice when it sank.  Because the deck is relatively intact, the contents of the ship "should be very, very well-preserved."
The next step for the search team will be to take a look at what's inside.

Discovery 6 years in making

In a statement, the prime minister said Franklin's expedition laid the foundations of Canada’s Arctic sovereignty.  He called the lost ships Canada's "only undiscovered national historical site."
The prime minister paid tribute to the search teams — a partnership between Parks Canada, the Royal Canadian Geographical Society, the Arctic Research Foundation, the Canadian Coast Guard, the Royal Canadian Navy and the government of Nunavut — whose work since 2008 has paid off.
Franklin discovery locator map
“This discovery would not have been possible without their tireless efforts over the years, as well as their commitment, dedication and the perseverance of the many partners and explorers involved," Harper said.
Queen Elizabeth sent a message for Canadians to the Governor General on Tuesday following the discovery.
"I was greatly interested to learn of the discovery of one of the long-lost ships of Captain Sir John Franklin. Prince Philip joins me in sending congratulations and good wishes to all those who played a part in this historic achievement," she said in a statement.
Franklin's crew became locked in the ice during a doomed search for the Northwest Passage to the Pacific Ocean in 1845. All 128 crew members eventually died, though there's evidence to suggest some may have survived for several years.
Many searches throughout the 19th century attempted to find the lost ships, but the mystery of what happened to John Franklin and his men has never been solved.
Search parties later recorded Inuit testimony in the late 1840s that claimed one ship sank in deep water west of King William Island, and one ship went perhaps as far south as Queen Maud Gulf or into Wilmot and Crampton Bay. The location of this wreck backs up that testimony. 

Artifacts found first

On Monday, the government of Nunavut announced that two artifacts from the Franklin expedition were found on an island in Nunavut.  
A team of archeologists had found an iron fitting from a Royal Navy ship, "identified as part of a boat-launching davit, and bearing two broad arrows," on an island in the southern search area, the territory's government said.
Franklin expedition ship
An iron fitting from a Royal Navy ship, identified as part of a boat-launching davit and bearing two broad arrows, was found on an island in the southern search area. (Douglas Stenton, Government of Nunavut)
A wooden object, "possibly a plug for a deck hawse, the iron pipe through which the ship’s chain cable would descend into the chain locker below," was also found.
"The iron fitting was lying on the shore, adjacent to a rock, a large rock, and the wooden artifact was a bit farther away, a bit farther from the shoreline," archeologist Doug Stenton told CBC News.
Stenton headed a three-member Nunavut team that found the objects on an island in the Queen Maud Gulf near Nunavut's King William Island on Sept. 1.
The searchers said these were the first artifacts found in modern times. Now they've pointed the way to the bigger find.

Inuit history accurate

"The beauty of where they found it is it's proof positive of Inuit oral history," CBC chief correspondent Peter Mansbridge, who has covered the Franklin search for many years, said Tuesday.
"The Inuit have said for generations that one of their hunters saw a ship in that part of the passage, abandoned and ended up wrecking…. It's exactly where this guy said it was."
The question now is whether these discoveries bring the project closer to finding more evidence of what happened to the Franklin expedition.
“Finding the first vessel will no doubt provide the momentum — or wind in our sails — necessary to locate its sister ship and find out even more about what happened to the Franklin expedition’s crew,” Harper said in his statement.
  • Prime Minister Stephen Harper stands with Ryan Harris, senior underwater archeologist for Parks Canada, after announcing one of the ships from Sir John Franklin's doomed 1845-46 expedition has been found.
  • Prime Minister Stephen Harper stands with Ryan Harris, senior underwater archeologist for Parks Canada, after announcing one of the ships from Sir John Franklin's doomed 1845-46 expedition has been found. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)
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BBC: Franklin expedition: Will we ever know what happened?

I am quoted in this article.

8 September 2011 Last updated at 19:44 ET

Franklin expedition: Will we ever know what happened?

BBC News Magazine

Canadian explorers have drawn a blank in the latest hunt for the remains of Captain Sir John Franklin's fatal expedition, 160 years after he took 129 men deep into the Arctic. But will the mystery of the doomed crew ever be unravelled?

In 1845, Capt Franklin, an officer in the British Royal Navy, took two ships and 129 men towards the Northwest Territories in an attempt to map the Northwest Passage, a route that would allow sailors to travel from the Atlantic to the Pacific via the icy Arctic circle.
Stocked with provisions that could last for seven years, and outfitted with the latest technology and experienced men, the two ships - HMS Erebus and HMS Terror - were some of the biggest, strongest, vessels ever to make the journey.
But the men vanished into the frozen Arctic, leaving a few clues but no explanation as to what went wrong.
The first search party set off in 1848 and searches involving teams from Canada, the UK, and the US have continued ever since. Last week, representatives from Parks Canada announced the results from their search this summer, which proved unsuccessful.
Engraving of Sir John FranklinCaptain Sir John Franklin had sailed the Arctic three times prior to his fateful trip
"What people have been looking for has changed. We've given up looking for survivors, we've given up looking for bodies. Now we're just looking for any answers," says William Battersby, who wrote the biography of James Fitzjames, the captain of the Erebus.
"The extraordinary thing is that despite all this effort, after 160 years and by thousands of people, we still don't know where the ships are, and what happened on the expedition, or what happened to most of the men."
Scattered remains
Explorers have found rock cairns with messages from sailors who abandoned ship. They've taken oral history from Inuit people whose ancestors saw the ships get stuck in giant ice floes. In several cases, they've dug up the bones and preserved bodies of the ship's crew. But they've found no ships, no logs, and no sign of Franklin himself.
Northwest Passage map
In subsequent years, a rough sketch of the troubles emerged. During the first winter, the crew disembarked, travelled south to hunt. Franklin left a reassuring message in a rock cairn, signed "All well". A month later, he was dead.
A year later, the crew returned to the cairn and updated the note. By that time, 15 sailors had died.
"If it had just been that, it would have been one of the biggest disasters of Arctic exploration," says Ted Betts, a Toronto lawyer and author of the blog Franklin's Ghost. But it wasn't just that.
From that time on, things only got worse. The men, sickened from scurvy, tuberculosis and lead poisoning, got weaker and weaker. They reportedly abandoned ship in 1848, only to meet a cold death elsewhere.
In 1859, an explorer sent by Franklin's wife travelled to the spot where the ships had been abandoned. He didn't find the Terror or the Erebus. Instead, he found a small whaleboat, full of books, chocolates, and the skeletons of two sailors.
The boat, says Russell Potter, professor of English at Rhode Island College, was pointed towards where the abandoned ship once sat.

Start Quote

They're immortals who are trapped between life and death”
William BattersbyResearcher and author
"Maybe they weren't trying to get away, but to get back to their ship and die in comfort," he says. "It's a very poignant arrangement."
Two other locations offered a concentrated amount of remains, says Battersby. "They do seem to be associated with men who just abandoned ship, gave up hope of ever being rescued, and sadly, gradually, cannibalised the bodies of their comrades."
A few fully-preserved corpses have been found in the snow as well. But the bodies of others, including Franklin, are missing.
"They simply disappeared. It's like Apollo 13 went around the moon and never came back again," says Battersby.
"They never had a date of death, a place of death. They're immortals who are trapped between life and death. Are they ghosts? How long did the last one live? We just don't know."
Desolate and desperate
For Ron Carlson, a Chicago architect and licensed bush pilot, it's easy for him to understand why, after all these years, the ships are still missing - and how desolate the last days must have been for men on that doomed ship.
"It's vast. When I flew, I could look out over Victoria Strait and see 50 miles of ice pack in all directions," he says. "It's like the surface of the moon, but without any marks."
The broad and punishing size of the search area dwarfs the high-tech equipment and meticulous research used by the Parks Canada team, and the other explorers before them.
A painting of the HMS TerrorThe fate of the ships inspired artwork, music and literature, including this sketch by Owen Stanley
"Both of the ships were caught in the ice for two years but slowly drifting south in a very large body of water," says Marc-Andre Bernier, chief of underwater archaeology services at Parks Canada.
That could mean that the ships are hundreds of miles apart. "For us, it's just as important to know where they're not," he says, so that future searches can start fresh.
For sailors on the Terror and Erebus, the barren landscape and dim prospects possibly only added to an increasing sense of foreboding.
"It seems very clear from several sources that the men on these ships suffered from terrible lead poisoning, which leads to depression," says Battersby, who read the records from an earlier trip by the Terror to the Arctic.
"The account of the Terror's voyage of that year says how bad the atmosphere was, how demoralised people were and how depressed they all were."
Battersby believes that the ships themselves, which had an internal pipe system to melt ice and provide fresh water, was the source of the poison.
Finding the ships could prove this theory. It would also bring to a close a search first launched in the time of Queen Victoria. But it wouldn't end the mystery.
"It's really just the beginning," says Betts. The papers, artifacts, and infrastructure will provide a whole new raft of information and leads - and more fodder for followers of the Franklin expedition's sad fate.