One of two ships from Sir John Franklin's doomed 1845 Arctic expedition was discovered last month—and Canadian authorities have now confirmed that it was the one they most wanted to find. The well-preserved ship is the HMS Erebus, which was the explorer's flagship and may contain ship's logs, charts, the explorer's personal effects, and possibly even his body, reports the Ottawa Citizen. "I am delighted to confirm that we have identified which ship from the Franklin expedition has been found," Prime Minister Stephen Harper told lawmakers Wednesday, adding that the find is of "interest to Canadians across the country and people around the world." The Erebus, its sister ship HMS Terror, and their 129 crew became stuck in ice in 1846, during an attempt to find the Northwest Passage. Some 104 who were still alive in 1848 tried to walk south to safety, but none survived.
An underwater archaeologist who has led dives to the ship, which lies in just 36 feet of icy water, tells the CBC it is the "most extraordinary shipwreck I've ever had the privilege of diving on." So far, most of the investigations have been of the exterior of the ship, he says, and it's not clear whether Franklin's remains are on his flagship. "We do know that he passed away in June of 1847, but the terse note left by the crew after they deserted the ships in Victoria Strait didn't say what happened and why he died, but I suppose anything is possible," he says. The ship is in "incredible condition," the head of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society tells the Toronto Star, but researchers will still only have half the story until the wreck of the HMS Terror is found. (A shipwreck found this year in Lake Superior has quite the tragic story as well.)