Britain to give Canada the John Franklin expedition shipwrecks, HMS Erebus and HMS Terror

23 Oct

Britain announced on Monday it will give Canada the shipwrecks of British explorer John Franklin, who perished with his crew while trying to chart the Northwest Passage through the Arctic in the 1840s.

The HMS Erebus and the HMS Terror were found in 2014 and 2016 about 30 miles apart near King William Island in the Canadian Arctic, some 1,200 miles northwest of Toronto.

Under an agreement between the two countries, the wrecks were the property of Britain although Canada had custody and control of them. The U.K. Ministry of Defense said on Monday it would transfer ownership to Parks Canada, but retain a small sample of artifacts.

British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon said the arrangement “will ensure that these wrecks and artifacts are conserved for future generations.”

Franklin and 128 hand-picked men set out in 1845 to find the passage – a shortcut to Asia that supposedly ran from the Atlantic to the Pacific by way of the Arctic. All of them died, making the voyage the worst tragedy in the history of Arctic exploration.

Historians believe the ships got trapped in thick ice in 1846, and Franklin and some other crew members died in the ensuing months. The survivors apparently abandoned the two ships in April 1848 in a hopeless bid to reach safety overland. Inuit lore tells of “white men who were starving” in the area as late as the winter of 1850.

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