Preserving and Promoting local history for the former Rideau Township
Log Fence

Mysteries of the Sir John Franklin Expedition

A Presentation by Dr. George Hobson

Knox Presbyterian Church, Manotick
January 8, 2008

Sir John Franklin, a much experienced arctic explorer, was the leader of the ill fated Franklin Expedition, which came to grief trying to find the "north-west" passage through the Canadian Arctic. Much mystery surrounded the loss of the ships and crew and many searches have been mounted beginning in the early 1850s and continuing until today. George Hobson has participated in several of them which he covered in his presentation.George Hobson

HMS Terror and HMS Erebus set sail from Greenhithe, England, on May 19, 1845. The expedition was to last 3 years, and the men were commissioned to find a safe and reliable route from Europe to the Orient.

The ships were well stocked with more than 1,000 books, and three years' worth of conventionally preserved or tinned preserved food supplies. Apparently the haste with which the thousands of cans of food were prepared led to sloppily-applied beads of solder on the cans' interior edges and allowed lead to leach into the food although this fact is still under dispute.

In any case it is now believed that the ships  became locked in the ice near King William Island in 1848, and the crews eventually abandoned them in a hopeless bid to reach safety.

Tantalizing traces have been found over the years, including the bodies of three crewmen in the 1980s, a door from the ship, and a life boat, but the ships have never been seen. There have been many rumours over the years, including that a US Navy submarine found the wrecks but will not provide the location for security reasons.

The graves and ships door

The presentation was both interesting and informative. Dr. Hobson, who has made an impressive number of visits to the Arctic, took the facts of the expedition and weaved them into a fascinating story that gripped the audience.