The Royal Canadian Mint has launched a coin which marks the 175th anniversary of a fateful expedition that was instrumental in defining Canada’s sovereignty over its Arctic territory. One hundred and seventy years after Sir John Franklin and his crew set sail from England aboard HMS Terror and HMS Erebus on a journey from which they would never return, the unforgettable story of the famed Franklin Expedition of 1845 has left an indelible mark on Canadian and maritime history.
Canadians are familiar with stories of daring exploits in Canada’s Arctic, but few stand out as sharply as the Franklin Expedition’s ill-fated search for the Northwest Passage, which tragically ended with the loss of its crew and ships in 1846. The issue of this new coin pays tribute to the bravery and sacrifice they exhibited in their quest to explore Canada’s Arctic and protect and document the true north.
Finding a route from the Atlantic to the Pacific across the top of North America was long seen as a holy grail in navigation. With this goal in mind, the Franklin Expedition set sail from Greenhithe, England, on the morning of May 19, 1845, carrying a crew of twenty-four officers and 110 men led by Rear-Admiral Sir John Franklin (1786 – 1847). It was one of the best equipped and most experienced expeditions to tackle the Northwest Passage in the mid-nineteenth century.
After crossing the Atlantic, Franklin’s crew were able to anchor and sit out the 1845–46 winter on Beechey Island, where three crew members died and were buried. Terror and Erebus ultimately became trapped in ice off of King William Island in September, 1846, and never sailed again. According to a note later found on that island, Franklin died there on June 11, 1847. To date, the exact location of his grave is unknown.
Although the graves of a few of the men were discovered later on land, and local Inuit communities reported seeing one of the ships sink, the details of what happened to the ill-fated voyage have long been a source of intense debate and speculation. In September 2014, the Canadian government announced the ships had been located in the Arctic. Authorities released sonar images of what appeared to be a largely intact ship near Nunavut province’s King William Island, thanks to a remotely operated vehicle owned by Parks Canada.The coin, launched in Nova Scotia at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic in Halifax, is designed by Canadian artist John Horton. It includes a color application depicting the HMS Erebus in the foreground, the 2014 discovery of which by Canada’s Victoria Strait Expedition is one of this century’s greatest achievements in maritime archaeology. The words H.M.S. EREBUS and H.M.S. TERROR are also engraved along the coin’s edge. The obverse includes Susanna Blunt’s effigy of HM Queen Elizabeth II, which has been seen on all Canadian circulation and many commemorative coins since 2003.
|Twenty Dollars||.999 silver||31.2 grams||38 mm.||Proof & colour||7000 pieces|
This is the second coin in the $20 Fine Silver “Lost Ships in Canadian Waters” series. The first coin, issued by the RCM in 2014, featured a design highlighting the RMS Empress of Ireland. For more information on this and other coins offered by the Royal Canadian Mint, please visit their website. Information is offered in English and French, with international orders dispatched where applicable.