Franklin expedition morphs into education website on “life and death in the Arctic”

"This is an ongoing detective story"

By NUNATSIAQ NEWS

A 19th century artist’s imagined representation of Sir John Franklin’s lost ships, the Erebus and the Terror. A soon-to-be launched website will ask students to weigh in on what happened to the expedition and its crew members. (HARPER COLLECTION)


A 19th century artist’s imagined representation of Sir John Franklin’s lost ships, the Erebus and the Terror. A soon-to-be launched website will ask students to weigh in on what happened to the expedition and its crew members. (HARPER COLLECTION)

The failed expedition of Sir John Franklin is set to form the basis of an educational website: on June 4 in Ottawa, on the 170th anniversary of the first full day at sea of the unsuccessful British mission to find the Northwest Passage, the University of Victoria officially launched a website called “The Franklin Mystery: Life and Death in the Arctic.”

It’s the 13th website in a series called Great Unsolved Mysteries in Canadian History.

The Franklin Mystery, designed for students from junior high to university, will be available in English and French, with an additional instructional package available in Inuktitut.

Nunavut’s education department is listed among the website project’s funding partners.

“This project is experiential learning at its best,” University of Victoria history professor and project co-director Dr. John Lutz said in a May 25 news release on the new Franklin website.

“We literally put the magnifying glass into the hands of students, using these 13 websites to help make Canadian history exciting, real and totally engaging. History is too important to be boring, and these mysteries are too intriguing to be left to historians alone.”

Parks Canada discovered the wreck of the Erebus last September with the help of the Canadian Coast Guard, the Royal Canadian Navy, and resources from other government and private agencies.

The location of the wreck is more than 150 kilometres south of a location in Victoria Strait, northwest of King William Island, where the Franklin expedition’s two ships, HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, came to a halt in 1846 during their attempt to sail through the Northwest Passage.

Lutz said the discovery of HMS Erebus “solves one mystery but opens up many more. Why did the crew abandon the ship, or did they? What happened to the other ship, HMS Terror, and its crew? How could both crews with three year’s provisions not survive when the local Inuit could live off the land? Was cannibalism, a part of the Inuit oral testimony, really the unfortunate finale for these men? This is an ongoing detective story, which is what the Great Unsolved Mysteries is all about.”

The official unveiling of “The Franklin Mystery” website takes place June 4 in Ottawa from 10 a.m. to noon in the auditorium of Library and Archives Canada at 395 Wellington St.

This event will include an introduction to the Franklin Expedition by the website’s research director Lyle Dick, remarks by Gjoa Haven historian Louie Kamookak on Inuit involvement in the story and a presentation by Parks Canada archaeologist Marc-André Bernier.

Special entertainment will include a musical performance of the Northwest Passage song by Canadian tenor and UVic alumnus Ken Lavigne, as well as throat singing by the Ottawa Inuit Children’s Centre.

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