Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Lost Expedition and the War of 1812

Parks Canada has announced that their 2010 and 2011 expeditions to the arctic to find the lost shipwrecks of the ill-fated Franklin Expedition will continue in 2012. In 2010, the wreck of one of Franklin's would-be rescuers--the HMS Investigator-- was found by a Parks Canada team.

Captain Sir John Franklin led an expedition to discover the Northwest Passage in two specially-fitted Royal Navy bomb vessels in 1845. When nothing was heard from them in 1847 or 1848, England sent other expeditions to find the lost crews, without success. Partial remains of the expedition indicated that they were trapped in ice packs for two years. A note was discovered that stated Franklin died in 1847. His crew abandoned the ships in 48, and started walking to civilization with boats and sledges in tow. None of the 24 officers and 110 men ever made it back. (wikipedia link)

Interestingly, both Captain Franklin and his ship, the HMS Terror were veterans of the War of 1812. The Terror was built as a bomb ship (a vessel with a specially reinforced hull for supporting large mortars) in 1813, and participated in the bombardment of Fort McHenry in 1814.

Franklin himself served aboard the ship of the line HMS Bellerophon, and was the midshipman in charge of signals during the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. In 1815 he was serving on board the HMS Bedford and was part of the Royal Navy forces that fought at the Battle of New Orleans. (Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online)

If the shipwrecks are indeed found this year, it would be a time-warp of sorts to an earlier era of arctic exploration. The HMS Terror is not only a historic site for Franklin's lost expedition: it is a missing link to the battle that gave the United States its national anthem.