Doomed 1845 ship believed to have been lost in the Arctic was found by Canada finally, after over 170 years of explorers' searches. The doomed 1845 ship found by Canada is one of two British explorer ships which took part in one of the most tragic mysteries of British maritime history, according to multiple reports.
The unearthing of the doomed 1845 ship was announced by the prime minister of Canada on Tuesday. Apart from putting Canadian pride on the spotlight, the discovery of the of a Royal Navy vessel may just unlock one of history's biggest mysteries.
At the time of its disappearance, the doomed 1845 ship was under the command of Rear Adm. Sir John Franklin. Together with 128 hand-picked officers and men, they went on board the HMS Erebus and HMS Terror in 1845 to take part in an Admiralty expedition in search of the legendary Northwest Passage. The Northwest Passage is believed to be a shortcut to Asia, which spanned from the Atlantic to the Pacific through the deadly ice-filled Arctic.
The expedition was never successful. All the men died and both ships were never found - until now.
The Associated Press reports that the search for the doomed 1845 ship began after that. The discovery has become one of the most sought-after prizes in marine archaeology and the story of the ships has since then become the subject of songs, poems and novels.
According to the Telegraph, Franklin was on his fourth Arctic expedition during the expedition's disappearance. However, despite his experience and the vessels being equipped with the latest nautical technology, a water distillation system and three years' of food supplies, the voyage was unsuccessful.
Two years after the doomed 1845 ship took off, in 1847, Franklin's wife urged the Admiralty to send a search party. The British government delayed the mission for a year and when the search was launched, they offered a hefty reward for search crews.
Many were attracted with the reward and took part in the search. However, more ships and men were lost in search of the doomed 1845 ships.
According to the Telegraph, the rescue operations were one of the largest in history, spanning from 1848 to 1859.
The lost vessels were never found, but the Northwest Passage was.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper's office said in the Tuesday statement that when they found the doomed 1845 ship, it was well-preserved. The wreck was found Sunday through a remotely operated underwater vehicle. The prime minister said the vessel was 11 meters (yards) below the surface, near King William Island, about 1,200 miles northwest of Toronto.
According to Harper, it still remains unclear whether the HMS Erebus or the HMS Terror was found, but he said sonar images proved enough to confirm that the find was the doomed 1845 ship.
Harper said, "I am delighted to announce that this year's Victoria Strait expedition has solved one of Canada's greatest mysteries, with the discovery of one of the two ships belonging to the Franklin Expedition."
He continued, "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."
Beaming with pride, Harper added, "This is truly a historic moment for Canada. This has been a great Canadian story and mystery and the subject of scientists, historians, writers and singers, so I think we really have an important day in mapping the history of our country."
According to RTE News, the mystery of the lost ships has gripped Canadians for millennia. With the discovery of the doomed 1845 ship, Harper said it would finally shed light into the mystery of what happened to the crew.
While historians believe crews abandoned the ships after getting stuck in the ice near King William Island, Inuit lore says "white men who were starving" as late as the winter of 1850 were defeated by the cold and some even had no choice but to resort to cannibalism to survive.
Franklin became a well-celebrated hero despite the tale of the doomed 1845 ship.
After years of no results, in 2008, Canada announced they would look for the ships. According to the AP, the country launched a fresh search operation with divers and archaeologists, with Harper's government pouring millions. Apparently, they were intent on finding the vessels that the prime minister even took part in the search.
Harper's government reportedly made the project top priority since Canada was seeking to assert sovereignty over the waters of the Northwest Passage, which was eventually unlocked what with the thinning Arctic ice due to climate change.
According to Canada, they own the passage, but the U.S. and other countries say it is international territory.
Underwater archaeologist Ryan Harris, who is also one of the team leaders in the Parks Canada search showed projected sonar images in a press conference. Harris said the images are of some of the ship's deck structures, which include the main mast sheared off by ice when the doomed 1845 ship sank.
Harris said he also expects the ship's contents to be in good condition.
What's next for Canada?
According to the AP, Harper's government will now be sending divers to explore the ship and artifacts it may have.
There are also no plans of raising the doomed 1845 ship for now, but divers will have to see the exact condition of the ship. Its location has not been disclosed during the announcement of the discovery for fear of looters.
Doomed 1845 ship was found because of several factors including previous Inuit testimony, past modeling of ice patterns by the Canadian Ice Service, and measurements of the two lost vessels.