Canadian Explorers Find Franklin's Arctic Ghost Ship, Almost Intact

Canadian Explorers Find Franklin's Arctic Ghost Ship, Almost Intact

What will happen to the remains, and is this as much politics as archaeology?

In 1845 Sir John Franklin and his expedition of 128 men set out with two ships, Erebus and Terror, to seek out and pass through the last unnavigated section of the North West Passage, and open up a safe sea route from Europe to the East. They failed. Both ships were trapped in ice somewhere near King William Island, and the crew spent the next three years dying, some probably driven mad from disease and starvation. The expedition tried to wait it out at first, hoping for rescue, but as supplies ran low the survivors tried to walk to civilization. None of them managed it. Now the 2014 Victoria Strait Expedition has found one of Franklin's two ships, largely intact, only eleven meters down in the icy waters.

The Victoria Strait expedition, a four-ship team organized by public and private groups, and working with the help of the Canadian Space Agency's RADARSAT-2 satellite, has been able to explore areas previously inaccessible due to thick ice coverage. It's been able to map the sea bed with unprecedented accuracy. In a sense the find is the icing on the cake for the expedition, which has also been able to accurately map the shoreline for future shipping, helping make the Passage a safer route for mariners.

This is the most successful Franklin search by far. Lady Franklin, after her husband went missing, financed seven expeditions, at first trying to find survivors, later hoping to find their records. She had no luck. Nineteen other Victorian expeditions also tried and failed to find Franklin, though some were fortunate enough to find relics. In 1981 and 1982 University of Alberta archaeologists discovered the remains of some of the crew, and later autopsies showed high levels of lead poisoning, thought to have been the result of contamination of the fresh water supply as well as poorly soldered lead food tins.

The missing ships, and the mystery surrounding their disappearance, have been the subject of more than a few spook stories. For many years people believed that two derelict hulls floating trapped in an iceberg, spotted in 1851 off Newfoundland, were the Erebus and Terror, but now it seems that Inuit reports recorded at the time were more accurate.

The find is a significant archaeological discovery, and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has called it a truly historic moment for Canada. However one University of Alberta academic is critical of Harper's motives.

"Our claim to the Arctic Archipelago is pretty tenuous and Harper thinks our activity up there, if not our actual discovery, will somehow firm up that tenuous claim," says professor Ian McLaren. McLaren's very hopeful that any artefacts, probably in excellent condition in the icy waters, will throw new light on how a Victorian expedition was managed, describing the ship as "a museum preserved in time."

That said, McLaren doesn't know what will happen to it. "Who's going to keep these artefacts that these guys found? Where do they end up? They end up in museums and they need operating budgets. Harper has systematically killed them off in his government's time, so there's a great irony there."

Source: Guardian

Image Sources: British Library Flickr, Wikipedia, Franklin's Lost Expedition

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Named the ships what?

Yeah...that doesn't sound like a good idea.

That said, McLaren doesn't know what will happen to it. "Who's going to keep these artefacts that these guys found? Where do they end up? They end up in museums and they need operating budgets. Harper has systematically killed them off in his government's time, so there's a great irony there."

As royal naval warships they are still property of the crown. Its part of international law which has been reaffirmed by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea that the positions of leading maritime states regarding the perpetual ownership of their sovereign ships rests. The following is a recitation of some of those positions.

Germany: "Under international law, warships and other vessels or aircraft owned or operated by a State and used only on government non-commercial service ("State vessels and aircraft'') continue to enjoy sovereign immunity after sinking, wherever they are located. The Federal Republic of Germany also retains ownership of any German State vessel or aircraft owned by it or the German Reich at the time of its sinking. Further, many sunken warships and aircraft are maritime graves, which have to be respected. No intrusive action may be taken in relation to German State vessels or aircraft without the express consent of the German Government."

Japan: "According to international law, sunken State vessels, such as warships and vessels on government service, regardless of location or of the time elapsed remain the property of the State owning them at the time of their sinking unless it explicitly and formally relinquishes its ownership. Such sunken vessels should be respected as maritime graves. They should not be salvaged without the express consent of the Japanese Government."

Russian Federation: "Under international law of the sea all the sunken warships and government aircraft remain the property of their flag State. The Government of the Russian Federation retains ownership of any Russian sunken warship, including the warships of the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union, regardless the time they sank. These craft are considered places of special governmental protection and cannot be salvaged without special permission of the Government of the Russian Federation."

Spain: "The Embassy of Spain presents its compliments to the Department of State and has the honor to address the matter of Spanish laws and policy regarding the remains of sunken vessels that were lost while in the service of the Kingdom of Spain and/or were transporting property of the Kingdom of Spain. In accordance with Spanish and international law, Spain has not abandoned or otherwise relinquished its ownership or other interests with respect to such vessels and/or its contents, except by specific action pertaining to particular vessels or property taken by Royal Decree or Act of Parliament in accordance with Spanish law. Many such vessels also are the resting place of military and/or civilian casualties.

"The Embassy of Spain accordingly wishes to give notice that salvage or other disturbance of sunken vessels or their contents in which Spain has such interests is not authorized and may not be conducted without express consent by an authorized representative of the Kingdom of Spain."

United Kingdom: "Under international law, warships, naval auxiliaries, and other vessels or aircraft owned or operated by a State and used only on government non-commercial service ("State vessels and aircraft") enjoy sovereign immunity. State vessels and aircraft continue to enjoy sovereign immunity after sinking, unless they were captured by another State prior to sinking or the flag State has expressly relinquished its rights. The flag State's rights are not lost merely by the passage of time. Further, many sunken State vessels and aircraft are maritime graves, which should be respected. No intrusive action may be taken in relation to the United Kingdom's sovereign immune State vessels or aircraft without the express consent of the United Kingdom."

In other words CANADIANS KEEP YOUR FILTHY MAPLE SYRUP STAINED HANDS OFF OUR SHIPS. Shakes fist in general direction of Canada. And stop being so polite, its annoying.

thaluikhain:
Named the ships what?

Yeah...that doesn't sound like a good idea.

That was my first thought. Really, you took a ship named for deity of Darkness/Shadow and a ship simply named "Terror" to explore an unexplored passage in the arctic? Granted H.P. Lovecraft wasn't around yet to warn you what's lurking beneath the sea, esp. in the dark corners of the earth, but come on!

albino boo:

That said, McLaren doesn't know what will happen to it. "Who's going to keep these artefacts that these guys found? Where do they end up? They end up in museums and they need operating budgets. Harper has systematically killed them off in his government's time, so there's a great irony there."

As royal naval warships they are still property of the crown.

Point of Order, Mr Chairman: the Erebus and Terror may not count as warships. True, that's how they started life, but they were refitted by the State for polar exploration. There's a pretty decent chance of making a government non-commercial service argument, though were I feeling evil I might counter-argue that finding a safe route to the East is a very commercial service. I do wonder whether the UK expressly gave up its rights at some stage; I suppose it might have done, to facilitate the exploration. Or maybe the Canadians just overlooked that point. A fun argument for the future, I suspect!

As someone who once wrote a (high-school) paper on the likely cause of the end of the expedition, this is exciting news indeed.

Time to break out the Stan Rogers tapes to mark this occasion.

Karloff:
Point of Order, Mr Chairman: the Erebus and Terror may not count as warships. True, that's how they started life, but they were refitted by the State for polar exploration. There's a pretty decent chance of making a government non-commercial service argument, though were I feeling evil I might counter-argue that finding a safe route to the East is a very commercial service. I do wonder whether the UK expressly gave up its rights at some stage; I suppose it might have done, to facilitate the exploration. Or maybe the Canadians just overlooked that point. A fun argument for the future, I suspect!

Harper probably didn't bother to even look up the law before opening his mouth.

Of course part of the issue could become murky considering that Canada is still part of the British Commonwealth, after all we still keep a poorly maintained house for the Royal Family here.

Every time our Prime Minister is even mentioned these days, I feel a little sickness creeping up my throat... Anyway, this is a cool find! I remember reading about the expedition and about the lead food tin theory.

Seems pretty insane to us now to think that people back then would take their far more fragile ships through such dangerous conditions but the potential financial windfall for manning the ship to unlock the Far East market could sway even cautious sailors I suppose. You couldn't have got me into a boat that far north, that's for sure.

Karloff:

albino boo:

That said, McLaren doesn't know what will happen to it. "Who's going to keep these artefacts that these guys found? Where do they end up? They end up in museums and they need operating budgets. Harper has systematically killed them off in his government's time, so there's a great irony there."

As royal naval warships they are still property of the crown.

Point of Order, Mr Chairman: the Erebus and Terror may not count as warships. True, that's how they started life, but they were refitted by the State for polar exploration. There's a pretty decent chance of making a government non-commercial service argument, though were I feeling evil I might counter-argue that finding a safe route to the East is a very commercial service. I do wonder whether the UK expressly gave up its rights at some stage; I suppose it might have done, to facilitate the exploration. Or maybe the Canadians just overlooked that point. A fun argument for the future, I suspect!

Without delving into the list of commissioned ships for 1855 to check but I'm pretty sure Erebus and Terror were still flying the white ensign rather than the red. Many RN ships went on voyages of exploration, HMS Endeavour under Cook is probably the most famous, and yet remained designated warships. To look at it another away, because your embassy hosts a trade delegation it doesn't mean you give up sovereignty. You can look for the wrecks of ships without prejudicing the rights of ownership. All that said I suspect some sort of deal will be done, because the Franklin expedition isn't that big deal here but much bigger in Canada. I suspect rights of ownership will be maintained but a permanent loan deal made.

I think the Canadians overlooked the ownership issue, its not something you are likely to come across in the normal run of things. The only reason I know because I worked for Lloyds of London for a while and some joker was trying to claim salvage on the prop of HMS Resolution at the time.

albino boo:
[quote]

In other words CANADIANS KEEP YOUR FILTHY MAPLE SYRUP STAINED HANDS OFF OUR SHIPS. Shakes fist in general direction of Canada. And stop being so polite, its annoying.

Oh, those syrup suckers aren't as polite as people make them out to be. Trust me, I'm just an overly patriotic American that lives 15 minutes from the Canadian border. ;)

OT: Boy, he sure was gutsy to pick names like that instead of the usual women's/royalty's name or something happy and hopeful sounding. I do hope that, while the crown might take the rights, the items of question at least end up in a museum for a little while in Canada.

Dying_Jester:

albino boo:

In other words CANADIANS KEEP YOUR FILTHY MAPLE SYRUP STAINED HANDS OFF OUR SHIPS. Shakes fist in general direction of Canada. And stop being so polite, its annoying.

Oh, those syrup suckers aren't as polite as people make them out to be. Trust me, I'm just an overly patriotic American that lives 15 minutes from the Canadian border. ;)

OT: Boy, he sure was gutsy to pick names like that instead of the usual women's/royalty's name or something happy and hopeful sounding. I do hope that, while the crown might take the rights, the items of question at least end up in a museum for a little while in Canada.

Quick to the border and drop some litter!

OT: you have remember the that the Royal Navy has had 13,000 ships in its history and the period between 1800 and 1850 was when it had the most ships in commission. During the later days of sail the RN had the best part of 1000 ships, so they had all sorts of names. Ships like HMS Bustard, the ominously named HMS Explosion and point making HMS Vindictive. The most famous HMS Vindictive was used in the Zeebrugge raid during WW1 and was an Arrogant class cruiser.

Awesome news. I've always been very interested by this expedition and it is really great to hear they finally found one of the ships.

Isn't this kinda of how the first national treasure movie started out with the discovery of one of these shipa?

There's a TV series in production about the Franklin Expedition, based on Dan Simmon's book The Terror.

I actually just read The Terror not that long ago, so it's neat to see a historical resolution to the mystery occur so soon afterwards.

Breakdown:
There's a TV series in production about the Franklin Expedition, based on Dan Simmon's book The Terror.

That's pretty neat, I had no idea prior to this post.

I remember reading up about this when I was in High School. Very awesome stuff.

Of course some Canadians in this thread seem to be incapable of seeing past their own political opinions, turning any vaguely Canadian issue into reason to whine about how terrible their lives are and how everything is a grimdark crapsack because someone is Prime Minister.

Honestly guys, just appreciate the moment of history for what it is and stop running in circles. The Escapist isn't going to jump on a wagon with you and ride off to depose the tyrant of the north, for crying out loud.

 

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