A Canadian writer claims to have uncovered some interesting new evidence about the 150 year old mystery of the lost Franklin expedition. The findings are discussed by author Dorothy Harley Eber in her new book Encounters on the Passage: Inuit Meet the Explorers, which is set for publication by the University of Toronto Press in November.
Leading perhaps the most famous expedition in the history of Arctic exploration, Captain Sir John Franklin left England in 1845 in an attempt to discover and map the final links in the Northwest Passage, the fabled waterway above northern Canada that would link Europe to East Asia. Franklin had participated in three earlier expeditions in the area, the second and third of which he had led as captain.
The two ships commanded by Franklin became trapped in the ice in September 1846. Franklin and the rest of the crew died in 1847 and 1848, as they were unable to obtain food or to find their way to settlements. A note that was found later, dated April 25, 1848 and written by some of the survivors, described what had happened and the men who had died up to that point. Over the following decades, numerous expeditions were sent out to see what had happened to the lost Franklin expedition. A number of books described those expeditions and their findings. But with all the information that has accumulated, the details are still not completely clear. The new book appears to provide a significant new insight.
The author indicates that when she interviewed some Inuit elders at Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, in the course of researching her book, they gave her some oral history accounts of European ships that had been frozen into the ice near Victoria Island over 150 years ago.
When she later reviewed their statement, she realized that the location where they said that European ships had been frozen in the ice—among the Royal Geographical Society island group between Banks Island and the much larger Victoria Island—was nearly 100 km away from the spot previously thought to have been their final resting place.
A Canadian expert on the history of the Franklin Expedition accepts this Inuit oral history about the fate of the ships as “very interesting.”