Death in the Ice – The Mystery of the Franklin Expedition

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Discover one of the most fascinating and mysterious stories in the history of exploration.

In 1845, Sir John Franklin led a British search for the Northwest Passage: a marine route bridging the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans via the Arctic Archipelago. Two years later, when the expedition had not returned, a desperate search began. It took more than a decade to establish the main facts: that all 129 crewmembers were dead, and their ships lost. How and why it happened, however, remain a mystery to this day.

In this new exhibition, iconic artifacts recovered in the decades following the Expedition’s disappearance are combined with more recent finds made by Parks Canada and the Government of Nunavut — including the discovery of the Expedition’s two ships, HMS Erebus and Terror.

Step into the perilous world of 19th century European exploration of the Arctic and see the conditions aboard the Expedition’s vessels — from the voyage’s confident beginnings to its tragic end.

Discover the critical role played by Inuit in revealing the Expedition’s end through artifacts and oral histories — crucial pieces in a story that continues to capture our imagination, more than a century and a half later.

The exhibition will be presented at the Canadian Museum of History from March 2 to September 30, 2018.

An exhibition developed by the Canadian Museum of History (Gatineau, Canada), in partnership with Parks Canada Agency and with the National Maritime Museum (London, United Kingdom), and in collaboration with the Government of Nunavut and the Inuit Heritage Trust.

Image: HMS Erebus in the Ice, 1846, François Étienne Musin. © National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, Caird Collection