The discovery of the ships from the Franklin Expedition was a big moment for fans of Canadian history. Captain Sir John Franklin left England in 1845 to find the fabled Northwest Passage. (If you’re a Stan Rogers fan you might be familiar with music pertaining to the topic.) Launched when it was widely believed that finding way past North America to Asia would provide a strategic lane sure to bring riches year round, this trip was a major event.
It wasn’t Franklin’s first expedition, but it would be his last. After his ships became stuck in the ice, both the ships and their crew would be lost. While yielding no wealth, the expedition gave way to legend. Tales and theories discussing what happened to the lost ships captured imaginations on both sides of the Atlantic as we never knew what happened to the ships and men. While stories existed within Inuit oral history, nobody knew for sure what happened to Franklin. Until now of course.
With the recent discovery of the ships, the story is back. According to the CBC, underwater archaeologists and divers from the Royal Canadian Navy are set to explore and expand our understanding of the doomed excursion. (Check out recent CBC coverage available here.)
If you’re not sure where to start, here a few of my favourites:
Matt James turned the iconic Northwest Passage song by Stan Rogers into a children’s book. The artwork is fantastic, and the tale is an enrapturing way for younger readers to learn about this historic voyage. It also features pictures of narwhals, which is something I will always support. While we know it’s not the cheeriest of tales in reality (what with the mass death, possible cannibalism, scurvy, and other theories;) but despite that – it’s a wonderful tale and really a great book.
For adults who want more realism, Scott Cookman took a very interesting look at the topic with Ice Blink: The Tragic Fate of Sir John Franklin’s Lost Polar Expedition. Cookman examined the theories that existed before locating the ships.
Jeffrey Blair Latta looks at bigger pictured behind the story. The Franklin Conspiracy: Cover-up, Betrayal, And The Astonishing Secret Behind The Lost Arctic Expedition is a fascinating tale. I particularly like being able to contrast the theories of the time with the evidence today. It’s a fascinating way to experience history and provides interesting fodder for our own understanding of Canada’s story.