However, I do feel have a sense that we are going to learn more about the Franklin Expedition and what happened to it. That might sound surprising, that I can be hoping for new sources of information on a 160 year old event. But let's look at some of the exciting developments from the recent past:
- Ron Carlson. I'd like to meet Ron. As well as being clearly a very experienced pilot and the owner of a classic DHC Beaver, he is also doing some great work in the King William Island area right now, looking at Franklin sites from the air. As well as giving us fresh insights into what these places are like, always valuable, Ron is also blogging his thoughts and findings in a most impressive way. Check his latest out here.
- Parks Canada. This year is the third in Parks Canada's three year campaign, which I noted last year they said explicitly was "in search of three vessels associated with the historic quest for the North-West Passage – the ongoing search for Franklin's HMS Erebus and Terror and a new survey related to HMS Investigator and its associated land sites". Today, we are told here, "The Honourable Peter Kent, Minister of the Environment and Minister responsible for Parks Canada, will unveil plans for the summer 2011 archaeological expeditions in Canada's Arctic. Minister Kent will announce new details regarding the search for lost vessels of the Franklin Expedition, HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, and information on the archaeological surveys of HMS Investigator and related land sites".
Either of these has the potential to produce very significant new information - in the case of Parks Canada absolutely revolutionary if they find traces of one of the lost ships.
As well as these two initiatives, there are also several useful lines of enquiry:
- This site which Bear Grylls thought might have been occupied by Franklin Expedition refugees - is it being surveyed this year? If not, it will merit investigation at some stage.
- The 'Edinburgh skeleton'. Recent examination of the 'Greenwich skeleton' (supposed to be Le Vesconte but most likely Goodsir) has yielded some very interesting information, summarised here, relating to the health of the Franklin Expedition. Let us not forget that the bones another Franklin Expedition officer lie in Edinburgh - see here for details. I think these should be re-examined as the identification of Irving is surely tentative. Who knows what this might yield?
- The bodies of the three Investigator sailors who lie buried near the remains of their ship. While it is distressing to consider exhuming them, it would be very interesting to see whether they had experienced lead-poisoning anything like that seen on the Franklin Expedition. That would help us establish whether what happened on the Franklin Expedition really was unique or not.
So let's all keep thinking, working and searching, and wish all the best to both Ron and the Parks Canada crew. Who knows what 2011 might bring?