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SOLVING THE FRANKLIN MYSTERY




Always great fun to get a magazine cover. Here's the August/ September issue of Canada's History, which is now rolling into stores and going out to subscribers. The subtitle reads: After 175 Years, searchers close in on answers to what actually doomed the tragic 1845 Northwest Passage voyage. I begin the story like this:

One summer day in the not-too-distant future, off King William Island in the high Arctic, scuba divers from Parks Canada will swim into the cabin on HMS Terror that Captain Francis Crozier once occupied. Working carefully in freezing cold water roughly twenty-three metres below the surface, these underwater archaeologists will search drawers and shelves, systematically gathering artifacts until, whoa! they come upon an array of rusty metal cylinders or canisters.
Controlling their excitement, they will place these items in a specially designed lifting bag and bring them topside. Judging from past experience, only when they have delivered this cache to their colleagues will they give themselves over to the extraordinary rush of having entered history. Almost certainly, those canisters will contain written records from the 1845 Franklin Expedition whose leadership Crozier inherited. Almost certainly, they will reveal answers to the greatest mystery of Arctic exploration: what happened to that expedition?
This year marks the 175th anniversary of the departure from England in May 1845 of the vessels HMS Erebus and Terror. Former warships newly fitted out with heating systems, reinforced hulls, and steam engines for use when the winds failed, the vessels sailed from Greenhithe (22 miles south of London) with enough food to last three years. Under Sir John Franklin, the expedition was expected to locate and travel through the long-sought Northwest Passage across the top of North America, and to emerge into the Pacific Ocean trailing clouds of glory.
 Those ships, as many readers will know, ended up halfway through the Passage at the bottom of the sea. Canadian searchers located the wreck of the Erebus in 2014 and that of the Terror two years later. Since those discoveries, Parks Canada divers have been investigating the two ships whenever Arctic conditions permit – usually for a week or ten days in late July or August. . . .
(To read the original, click here.)


Ken McGoogan
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Before turning mainly to books about arctic exploration and Canadian history, Ken McGoogan worked for two decades as a journalist at major dailies in Toronto, Calgary, and Montreal. He teaches creative nonfiction writing through the University of Toronto and in the MFA program at King’s College in Halifax. Ken served as chair of the Public Lending Right Commission, has written recently for Canada’s History, Canadian Geographic, and Maclean’s, and sails with Adventure Canada as a resource historian. Based in Toronto, he has given talks and presentations across Canada, from Dawson City to Dartmouth, and in places as different as Edinburgh, Melbourne, and Hobart.