Ken and Louie at the ruins of the cairn John Rae built in 1854 (Photo: Cameron Treleaven)
Excerpt from Searching for Franklin: New Answers to the Great Arctic Mystery
Arctic historian Ken McGoogan takes an in-depth, contemporary perspective on the legacy of Sir John Franklin, offering a new explanation of the famous Northern mystery
OCT 05, 2023 / 2,400 WORDS /10 MINUTES:
The following article by Ken McGoogan is excerpted from his forthcoming book Searching for Franklin: New Answers to the Great Arctic Mystery. In that work, as Chapter 20, it bears the title What Do We Know for Sure?
The Arctic eureka moment came one gorgeous September afternoon in 2014 after the chance discovery on a tiny island of a heavy U-shaped piece of metal and a wooden scuttle or deck-hole cover. These weather-worn objects turned up in Wilmot and Crampton Bay, roughly 95 miles southwest of Gjoa Haven on King William Island. Identifiably Royal Navy in origin, could they have come from one of Sir John Franklin’s ships?
Underwater archaeologists Jonathan Moore and Ryan Harris, leading a Parks Canada investigation from a nearby vessel, responded by laying out a new search grid in the area, near where they themselves had investigated in 2008, 2010, 2012, and 2013. Others had been hunting in this “Oot-joo-lik” area for decades, notably David Woodman, acting on the Inuit oral tradition frequently referenced by Louie Kamookak.
On September 2, 2014, Moore and Harris established their new electronic lines the usual 150 metres apart. They put a sidescan sonar unit or “towfish” to work “mowing the lawn” up and down these lines, sending images back to the sonar screens they sat watching on their vessel. They had scarcely begun the day’s work when EUREKA! the image of a ship began to emerge from the sonic waterfall on one of the screens. “That’s it!” Harris cried. “That’s it!”
What a moment! Following an international search that had lasted almost 170 years, they had located Franklin’s flagship, HMS Erebus, sitting just eleven metres beneath the surface. Well-earned kudos went to Moore and Harris and those working with them on the survey boat Investigator; to archaeologist Douglas Stenton and pilot Andrew Stirling, who had turned up those artifacts on that tiny island; and to Louie Kamookak, the very incarnation of Inuit oral history. . . .
(For the rest, click here or see Searching for Franklin.)