Long-Lost Franklin Expedition Ship Found In Arctic, Solving 169-Year-Old Mystery

Canadian authorities have announced the discovery of one of Sir John Franklin's long-lost ships, 169 years after the HMS Terror and HMS Erebus went missing during their search for the northwest passage.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, while announcing the find, conceded that it has not yet been established exactly which vessel was found lying on the bottom of the southern Victoria Strait, near King William Island, Nunavut. The Franklin Expedition, which vanished in 1846, consisted of two ships, carrying a crew of 129. While no one knows for certain what happened to the Franklin Expedition, historians believe the crew perished in 1848, after their ships became locked in ice, the Daily Mail reports. The loss of the Franklin Expedition prompted one of the longest search and rescue missions in history, lasting from 1848 to 1859.

Harper noted that the discovery was a historic find for Canada, while acknowledging that another ship remains to be uncovered.

"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."

Canada announced in 2008 that it would begin searching for the Franklin Expedition, hoping to lay claim to a passage that, as The Inquisitr has previously noted, has been opened by melting Arctic ice. According to The Globe and Mail, Harper's government made the discovery a top priority, pouring millions of dollars into the search for the wrecks of Franklin's ships.

"Since 2008, there have been six major Parks Canada-led searches for the lost Franklin Expedition ships, covering many hundreds of square kilometers of the Arctic seabed," Harper said. "It is gratifying that the ship's remains were found during the Government-supported 2014 Victoria Strait Expedition."

A major event in the 19th century, the loss of the Franklin expedition would be comparable to a moon landing gone awry in the modern world, The Globe and Mail said. Contemporary reports from local Inuits say the men resorted to cannibalism before they expired. The bodies of three Franklin expedition members were previously discovered in 1984 and 1986.

The discovery of the ship on Sunday comes just days after archaeologists announced they had found an iron fitting near King William Island that originated from one of the Franklin Expedition's ships.

[Image via The Daily Mail]