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Flag bearers

The Royal Canadian Geographical Society hoists its flag as a key partner in this year’s expanded search for the Franklin Expedition vessels

  • Jul 16, 2014
  • 450 words
  • 2 minutes
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DOZENS OF SEARCHES HAVE SOUGHT to solve the mystery of exactly what became of the Franklin Expedition, but there’s reason to believe this summer’s search in the Victoria Strait could be different, that this could be the year the HMS Erebus and HMS Terror are finally found. With more resources than ever before and a prime patch of Arctic Ocean that has yet to be searched, the odds of finding the lost ships are better than ever.

“The Government of Canada and its agencies bring a great deal of expertise to the table, and The Royal Canadian Geographical Society has assembled a formidable group of private and nonprofit partners,” says John Geiger, the Society’s CEO.

“There’s greater capability than ever before, and it underscores Canada’s ability to operate in the Arctic. The federal government has made the North a priority, and I am delighted that the Society and its partners will be joining Parks Canada, the Royal Canadian Navy, the Canadian Coast Guard and other government agencies in this important research.”

In addition to government support, Geiger lists the search’s valuable private sector support: “The W. Garfield Weston Foundation is renowned for its support of northern research. One Ocean Expeditions is a leader in polar adventure travel, among the most skilled polar voyagers on the planet. Shell understands the value of education and geographical literacy, and has been a wonderful supporter of the RCGS. And the Arctic Research Foundation has been contributing to the search for a few years now, and this summer, will again be contributing its own ship, the Martin Bergmann.”

The site of this summer’s search is as promising as the capability of the searchers: the very location the ships were last reported by its crew. A handwritten note uncovered in a stone cairn in 1857 has taught us much of what we know about the Franklin Expedition, including that the Erebus and Terror got caught up in the strait’s heavy ice pack in 1848.

“Looking for the ships where they were last reported yields the greatest probability of success,” says Geiger, author of Frozen in Time: The Fate of the Franklin Expedition.

More advanced technologies are part of what distinguishes this year’s search. For the first time, the Royal Canadian Navy will participate in the search. Defence Research Development Canada is bringing the Arctic Explorer, a cutting-edge underwater autonomous vehicle that can operate from beneath the pack ice, independent of contact with the search ships.

“This year, there will be more ships, more and better technology, more allaround capability than ever before,” Geiger says. “I think we’re getting closer to a find. We’ve gotten closer each year. As human beings, we’re uncomfortable with mysteries.”


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