One of the great maritime mysteries may be solved in cold Canadian waters

Story highlights

British sailor John Franklin hoped to sail the Northwest Passage in the 1840s

Franklin and his crew perished in the Canadian Arctic

The Canadian government said one of the two missing ships has been found

CNN  — 

One of the most famous tragedies of the Northwest Passage sea route around the top of North America might have finally been solved.

British sailor John Franklin left England with two ships in 1845 in an ill-fated attempt to sail the Northwest Passage. Stuck in the ice of the Canadian Arctic, all 129 crew members perished in 1846.

Modern explorers have succeeded where Franklin failed, but Canadians never stopped hoping they would find the lost ships of the Franklin Expedition.

On Tuesday, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced that one of the two ships was found.

Northwest Passage

“I am delighted to announce that this year’s Victoria Strait Expedition has solved one of Canada’s greatest mysteries, with the discovery of one of the two ships belonging to the Franklin Expedition lost in 1846,” he said in a statement.

Whether the vessel is Her Majesty’s Ship (HMS) Erebus or HMS Terror isn’t yet clear, Harper said. “We do have enough information to confirm its authenticity.”

The finding was confirmed on Sunday, September 7, using a Parks Canada remotely-operated underwater vehicle.

“This is truly a historic moment for Canada,” he said. “Franklin’s ships are an important part of Canadian history given that his expeditions, which took place nearly 200 years ago, laid the foundations of Canada’s Arctic sovereignty.”

Since 2008, there have been six major Parks Canada-led searches for the lost Franklin Expedition ships, Harper said.

The race to sail the Northwest Passage heats up