History

New directions

Jim Balsillie, the co-founder of BlackBerry, has set his sights on a fresh challenge — finding the lost Franklin ships
  • Jul 16, 2014
  • 419 words
  • 2 minutes
  • By 
Jim Balsillie Expand Image
Advertisement

HE’S ONE OF CANADA’S BEST-KNOWN BUSINESSMEN, but since leaving BlackBerry, the iconic company that invented the global smartphone business, Jim Balsillie has been quietly pursuing another interest — the fate of the 1845 Franklin Expedition. Balsillie founded the Arctic Research Foundation, along with businessman Tim MacDonald, and has outfitted a research ship, the Martin Bergmann. It has since been at the centre of the Parks Canada-led search for Franklin’s lost ships, the HMS Erebus and HMS Terror.

On first learning about Franklin
I had a general but vague knowledge of it from high school and Canadian studies. But you get drawn deeper and deeper into it when you’re in the Arctic.

On his interest in the search
The Franklin story is fascinating, but I wouldn’t get stripes for being a Franklinophile. The expedition is fascinating because it embodies almost all the complex narratives that apply to Canada’s Arctic today: science, commerce, geopolitics, courage, aspiration, innovation, climate and weather. Other countries are interested in finding the wreckage. I’m a bit dumbfounded we’d let that happen. I don’t want someone to snag the prize from right under our nose.

On why the ships haven’t been found yet
It takes time to get all the pieces in place. Last year, we covered more ground than ever before, 80 per cent of it on the Bergmann. This year will be far bigger, but we still haven’t covered that much terrain yet. I’ll be disappointed if we’ve fit all the puzzle pieces together and still haven’t found the ships. Then we’ll look to plan B. But we’ve not exhausted plan A yet.

On where he thinks the ships are located
My theory is that one of them is in Victoria Strait. The problem is that it’s hard to get to because it’s far away and the ice cover there is some of the last to disappear.

On the importance of Canada’s search for Franklin’s ships
The Arctic is a strong part of Canada’s identity, and fits very importantly into where we belong in the world, where we can play a role and exert power. With BlackBerry, Mike [Lazaridis, company co-founder] and I believed you could take Canadian assets and play powerfully in the world, and aspire, grow and thrive. How do we do that as a nation? What are our narratives? The Arctic is a natural extension of that. We’re an Arctic nation, and I think we should be an Arctic power. The Franklin Expedition is part of that journey.

Advertisement

Related Content

Canadian Hydrographic Survey launch, CSL Gannett

History

2014 Victoria Strait Expedition

This year's search is about much more than underwater archaeology. The Victoria Strait Expedition will contribute to northern science and communities.

  • 1205 words
  • 5 minutes
The Royal Canadian Geographical Society’s 2014 Victoria Strait Expedition flag flies above the One Ocean Voyager

History

Victoria Strait Expedition begins

First official day of the 2014 search for Sir John Franklin’s lost ships

  • 1092 words
  • 5 minutes

People & Culture

RCGS hosts evening of fascinating Franklin discussion

On April 12, Franklin enthusiasts had a rare opportunity to come together in the same room as The Royal Canadian Geographical Society presented their 2016 Can Geo Talks

  • 833 words
  • 4 minutes
Franklin expedition ship stuck in ice

History

Franklin fact and fiction collide in new television series ‘The Terror’

AMC's new 10-part narrative of the Franklin expedition is part high adventure, part gothic horror

  • 1472 words
  • 6 minutes