Author: David Bussell
Editor: Warren Woytuck, Ruth Sandwell
Series Editor: Roland Case
A critical thinking challenge for students, ages 14-16
In 1845, the British Admiralty decided to attempt another Arctic expedition to find the elusive Northwest Passage. One of the goals of the expedition was to find a more efficient trade route between Europe and Asia. The expedition also had scientific research goals: Britain was keen to find out more about the new science of geo-magnetism, whose secrets might be found at the earth's magnetic north pole. The British Navy also directed the ships to continue their project of mapping the north. Captain Sir John Franklin was given two ships for the journey to the Arctic, the HMS Erebus and Terror, along with 128 men to serve as the crew. Despite their experience and preparations, and despite many search and rescue operations from Britain and the United States, Franklin and his men were never seen again.
In 2008, the Canadian Federal Government launched the most recent attempt to find the ships. It funded a partnership between Parks Canada, the Royal Canadian Geographical Society, the Arctic Research Foundation, the Canadian Coast Guard, the Royal Canadian Navy and the government of Nunavut.
After six years, their search efforts paid off. On September 7, 2014 (when this MysteryQuest was just being completed!), the Coast Guard icebreaker ship the Sir Wilfred Laurier found the shipwreck of a ship later positively identified as the Erebus. Response from Canada and around the world was swift and overwhelmingly positive. But there were some who asked: why was the Canadian government funding the search of this British Navy Expedition some 170 years later? This MysteryQuest invites you to critically investigate reasons for continuing the search for the Franklin Expedition.
In this MysteryQuest, you are invited to explore current interest in the search for the Franklin Expedition. You will examine evidence related to five possible reasons for continuing the search. Next, you will assess and rank order the reasons. To conclude, you will select the two strongest reasons for continuing the search for the lost Franklin Expedition.
Your first task is to learn more about the Franklin Expedition.
Once you have some context for the event, your next task is to explore why people remain interested in finding the Franklin Expedition so long after its disappearance. There are at least five reasons for this interest:
1. Historical curiosity: historians wish to solve the lingering mystery of an important historical event in Canadian history and Nunavut history.
2. Scientific curiosity: the search for clues from the expedition provides an opportunity to develop and test new technologies in underwater exploration.
3. National sovereignty: increased activity in the North helps to strengthen Canada's claim and control over Arctic territory.
4. Resource protection: increased activity in the North may also protect commercial interest in valuable natural resources such as oil, minerals, marine life and fresh water.
5. National pride: politicians and others wish to support stories that nurture Canadian identity and appreciation of Inuit culture and ways of life.
Next, select at least one source from each of the four groups of sources found in Evidence in the case. Note the title of each source selected in the far left-hand column of the chart Exploring reasons for the search (Activity Sheet 1).
Read each of the selected sources carefully, looking for evidence related to the reasons for continuing the search. Note any evidence on the chart under the appropriate reason. For example, you might discover that one document suggests that it is important to continue searching for the expedition because of what the discovery would reveal about sea ice. This evidence could be noted under "scientific curiosity." Remember that it is possible for a source to include more than one of the reasons for continuing to search for the remains of the Franklin Expedition. Continue this for each of the sources that you selected.
Once you have gathered evidence for the reasons, your next task is to determine which reason for continuing the search for the Franklin Expedition is the strongest. To help guide your ranking of the reasons, use the following criteria:
Thinking about the evidence and these criteria, use the "Rating the reasons" row of the chart to judge the strength of each reason. For example, if you believe that continuing the search for the expedition to satisfy scientific curiosity has relatively high direct and indirect benefits, you might circle "4" on the rating scale at the bottom of the "Scientific curiosity" column.
Your final task is to use the bottom of the chart to indicate which two reasons for continuing the search are the strongest. After selecting the two strongest reasons, write a brief justification for your choices, being sure to use the evidence and criteria to guide your recommendation.
The assessment rubric, Assessing the evidence and the rankings may be used to assess the evidence collected in Step 2, as well as the ranking of the reasons.
Who Owns the Arctic?
Sovereignty in the Arctic
Source: Kathryn Isted, "Sovereignty in the Arctic: An analysis of territorial disputes and environmental policy considerations," Journal of Transnational Law and Policy (2009), Vol. 18, No. 2.
The Law and Politics of Canadian Jurisdiction on Arctic Ocean Seabed
Source: M. Byers, "The law and politics of Canadian jurisdiction on Arctic ocean seabed," ArcticNet Annual Research compendium (2011-12), pp. 6-7.
Climate change and Canadian sovereignty in the Northwest Passage
Source: Rob Huebert, "Climate change and Canadian sovereignty in the Northwest Passage," Canadian Arctic sovereignty and security: Historical perspectives (2011).