Canadian shipwreck ID'd as Sir Franklin's long-lost Erebus

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Canadian Shipwreck ID'd as Sir Franklin's Long-Lost Erebus


One of two doomed ships lost long ago trying to discover the mysterious Northwest Passage has been found.

In September, Canadian officials announced they'd found a shipwreck they believed belonged to Sir John Franklin's expedition to discover the passage in the 1840s, but they couldn't tell which ship they'd found.

The prime minister's office announced Wednesday that through reviewing artifacts and sonar measurements, they ID'd the vessel as the HMS Erebus and solved one of the world's great shipwreck mysteries.

"We were peering through spaces in the upper deck. ... We could see inside the internal spaces, and now we realize we were, in fact, looking into Sir John Franklin's cabin, so it's really, really exciting," Ryan Harris, Parks Canada underwater archaeologist said.

But for all the excitement, the expedition researchers finally found is pretty morbid.

A British Royal Navy officer, Sir Franklin sailed to the Canadian Arctic in 1845 when Britain decided once and for all to chart a path through the islands and find the Northwest Passage.

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Canadian shipwreck ID'd as Sir Franklin's long-lost Erebus
This image released by Parks Canada, on Tuesday, Sept. 9, 2014, shows a side-scan sonar image of ship on the sea floor in northern Canada. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced Tuesday, Sept. 9, 2014, that one of two fabled British explorer ships, the HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, that disappeared in the Arctic more 160 years ago has been found. The ships were last seen in the late 1840s. The Prime Minister said it remains unclear which ship has been found, but images show there's enough information to confirm it's one of the pair. (AP Photo/Parks Canada, via The Canadian Press)
This image released by Parks Canada, on Tuesday, Sept. 9, 2014, shows a side-scan sonar image of ship on the sea floor in northern Canada. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced Tuesday, Sept. 9, 2014, that one of two fabled British explorer ships, the HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, that disappeared in the Arctic more 160 years ago has been found. The ships were last seen in the late 1840s. The Prime Minister said it remains unclear which ship has been found, but images show there's enough information to confirm it's one of the pair. (AP Photo/Parks Canada, via The Canadian Press)
This image released by Parks Canada, on Tuesday, Sept. 9, 2014, shows a side-scan sonar image of ship on the sea floor in northern Canada. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced Tuesday, Sept. 9, 2014, that one of two fabled British explorer ships, the HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, that disappeared in the Arctic more 160 years ago has been found. The ships were last seen in the late 1840s. The Prime Minister said it remains unclear which ship has been found, but images show there's enough information to confirm it's one of the pair. (AP Photo/Parks Canada, via The Canadian Press)
In an August 24, 2014 photo, a crew member of the HMCS Kingston loads an remote underwater vehicle part of the Victoria Strait Expedition, west of Pond Inlet on the Eclipse Sound. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced Tuesday, Sept. 9, 2014 that one of the two lost ships from Sir John Franklin's doomed Arctic expedition that disappeared in the Arctic more 160 years has been found. The HMS Erebus and HMS Terror were last seen in the late 1840s. Harper, speaking in Ottawa, said it remains unclear which ship has been found, but images show there's enough information to confirm it's one of the pair. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press,Adrian Wyld)
In this Aug. 24, 2014, file photo, Parks Canada's Ryan Harris, left, briefs Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper on efforts to find the Franklin expedition aboard the HMCS Kingston west of Pond Inlet on the Eclipse Sound in Nunavut, Canada. The Prime Minister announced Tuesday, Sept. 9, 2014, that one of two fabled British explorer ships, the HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, that disappeared in the Arctic more 160 years ago has been found. The Prime Minister said it remains unclear which ship has been found, but images show there's enough information to confirm it's one of the pair. The ships were last seen in the late 1840s. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Adrian Wyld, File)
Canada Prime Minister Stephen Harper, right, talks about the find from the Victoria Strait Expedition as Parks Canada's Ryan Harris looks on during a news conference in Ottawa, Tuesday, Sept. 9, 2014. The Prime Minister announced Tuesday, Sept. 9, 2014, that one of two fabled British explorer ships, the HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, that disappeared in the Arctic more 160 years ago has been found. The Prime Minister said it remains unclear which ship has been found, but images show there's enough information to confirm it's one of the pair. The ships were last seen in the late 1840s. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Sean Kilpatrick)
Canada Prime Minister Stephen Harper, right, listens to details from Parks Canada's Ryan Harris about the find from the Victoria Strait Expedition during a news conference in Ottawa, Tuesday, Sept. 9, 2014. The Prime Minister announced Tuesday, Sept. 9, 2014, that one of two fabled British explorer ships, the HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, that disappeared in the Arctic more 160 years ago has been found. The Prime Minister said it remains unclear which ship has been found, but images show there's enough information to confirm it's one of the pair. The ships were last seen in the late 1840s. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Sean Kilpatrick)
Canada Prime Minister Stephen Harper, right, talks about the find from the Victoria Strait Expedition as Parks Canada's Ryan Harris looks on during a news conference in Ottawa, Tuesday, Sept. 9, 2014. The Prime Minister announced Tuesday, Sept. 9, 2014, that one of two fabled British explorer ships, the HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, that disappeared in the Arctic more 160 years ago has been found. The Prime Minister said it remains unclear which ship has been found, but images show there's enough information to confirm it's one of the pair. The ships were last seen in the late 1840s. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Sean Kilpatrick)
An artifact is displayed on a table as Prime Minister Stephen Harper, center, speaks in Ottawa on Tuesday, Sept. 9, 2014. The Prime Minister announced Tuesday, Sept. 9, 2014, that one of two fabled British explorer ships, the HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, that disappeared in the Arctic more 160 years ago has been found. The Prime Minister said it remains unclear which ship has been found, but images show there's enough information to confirm it's one of the pair. The ships were last seen in the late 1840s. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Sean Kilpatrick)
John Geiger, president of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society, holds an iron fitting from a Royal Navy ship, identified as a davit, Tuesday, Sept. 9, 2014, in Ottawa. The artifact is being noted as the key piece of evidence that led to the discovery of a ship believed to be one of two fabled British explorer ships the Franklin Expedition. THe HMS Erebus and HMS Terror disappeared in the Arctic more 160 years ago. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Sean Kilpatrick)
John Geiger, president of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society, holds an iron fitting from a Royal Navy ship, identified as a davit, Tuesday, Sept. 9, 2014, in Ottawa. The artifact is being noted as the key piece of evidence that led to the discovery of a ship believed to be one of two fabled British explorer ships the Franklin Expedition. THe HMS Erebus and HMS Terror disappeared in the Arctic more 160 years ago. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Sean Kilpatrick)
CAMBRIDGE BAY, Nunavut--Ryan Harris (LEFT) and Jonathan Moore (CENTRE), both senior underwater archeologists at Parks Canada, are the most experienced veterans of the current search for the Royal Navy's Franklin Expedition ships HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, which were lost with a crew of 129 men while exploring the Northwest Passage from 1845-48. (Paul Watson/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
UNSPECIFIED - CIRCA 1900: Naval ships - British Royal Navy sailing ship HMS Erebus, 19th century. Color illustration. (Photo By DEA PICTURE LIBRARY/De Agostini/Getty Images)
1845: The ships HMS Erebus and HMS Terror used in Sir John Franklin's ill-fated attempt to discover the Northwest passage. Original Publication: Illustrated London News pub 24th May 1845 (Photo by Illustrated London News/Getty Images)
Sir John Franklin's cabin on the 'HMS Erebus', circa 1845. The 'Erebus' went missing on a voyage to the Northwest Passage, along with Franklin and his entire crew. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Captain Fitzjames's cabin on the 'HMS Erebus', circa 1845. The 'Erebus' went missing on a voyage to the Northwest Passage, along with the expedition's leader John Franklin and his entire crew. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
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In 1846, the Erebus and HMS Terror became trapped in ice. Sir Franklin and his entire crew of more than 100 men died of starvation and disease, and some may have resorted to cannibalism. Some made a desperate attempt to walk to the mainland over the ice.

The ships' location remained a mystery for nearly 170 years, though an old Inuit story passed down through the generations rumored their ancestors had spotted white men and their ship near King William Island around the time the expedition disappeared. (Video via Shipwreck Central TV)

Turns out that old story was nearly spot-on as the Erebus was found just off the northwest corner of the island. An underwater archaeologist told CBC about the moment sonar gave them a near-perfect picture of a ship on the ocean floor.

RYAN HARRIS: "The wreck of one of Franklin's ships scrolled down the screen, and I don't think it was even halfway onto the monitor when I screamed out: 'That's it! That's it!'"

Researchers are still looking for the HMS Terror. As for Sir Franklin himself, the archaeologists say their cameras and equipment still haven't gone into the Erebus. So they still don't know if Franklin was buried on shore, buried at sea or if his body is still on board the Erebus.

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