The discovery of a lost ship from Sir John Franklin’s Arctic expedition is perhaps the biggest breakthrough yet of the ill-fated, 19th century voyage that for years has baffled the public and experts alike – and there’s a Comox Valley tie.
In recent years leading up to the Sept. 7 discovery of the wreckage, Courtenay resident Terry Mills had made several trips to Cambridge Bay in Nunavut. The retired engineer was tending to electrical duties on a converted sea trawler searching for the two Franklin ships, the Erebus and the Terror. The trawler — named after late Arctic researcher Martin Bergmann — was towing sonar devices that could scan the bottom of the ocean when the historic discovery was made.
“It was a very specific side-scanning device that could take a large swath, down and up the Arctic floor,” said Mills, whose stepson Matt Debicki was also part of the Bergmann crew.
Searchers still aren’t sure which ship they have found.
“At least they haven’t said yet,” Mills said. “They spent two days diving, but they haven’t made any reports. I think they want to make sure what they say is correct. May or may not know.”
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said the discovery solves one of Canada’s greatest mysteries.
“Somebody’s linking it to the greatest archeological find since Tutankhamun,” Mills said. “There were 129 men who died on the Sir Franklin expedition, and they don’t know what happened to most of them.”
“Most of that ocean floor is unknown. That’s the beauty of this boat, was that a fishing trawler can go in the shallower depths than the ice breakers can.”