The Underwater Archaeology Search for Franklin's Lost Vessels: HMS Erebus and HMS Terror National Historic Site

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Search Area for HMS Erebus and HMS Terror

The search for HMS Erebus and HMS Terror has been compared to searching for a needle in a haystack -- Or two needles, in this case. Each ship was just over 30 metres (100 feet) long, about the length of two school buses laid end to end. But, how big is the haystack?

One end of a very large area in which the vessels could be found is marked by the location at which the ships were abandoned on 22 April, 1848, after they had been frozen in ice for 19 months. This spot was off the northwestern tip of King William Island. From that point the icepack drifts slowly south, so this is likely the northernmost point at which the ships could be found. Indeed, there is nineteenth-century Inuit oral history testimony that one of the ships was wrecked off the west side of King William Island.

Inuit oral history testimony also described one of the ships having been frozen into the ice off the west side of the Adelaide Peninsula, in the vicinity of O'Reilly Island and Grant Point. This evidence suggests the southern limit of where the ships could be, and O'Reilly Island was the core search area for Parks Canada and its partners in 2008 and 2010.

All together, the area from the King William Island point of abandonment to O'Reilly Island is about the same size as Prince Edward Island, Canada's smallest province.

HMS Erebus and HMS Terror Search Area Search Area for HMS Erebus and HMS Terror
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