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One of two ships lost during an arctic expedition in 1845 has finally been found. 

British explorer Sir John Franklin, his 128 man crew, and their two ships vanished more than 160 years ago searching for a route through the Canadian Arctic to the Pacific. Due to melting Arctic ice, the Northwest Passage has recently begun to open up.

The Northwest Passage / Encyclopedia Britannica 

In 2008, a century after the search for Franklin ended, the Canadian government announced a new mission to find his two missing ships, the HMS Erebus and the HMS Terror. The move was in part as an effort to assert Canadian sovereignty over the very passage that the legendary Victorian explorer was trying to discover. 

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced the discovery on Tuesday, heralding the findings as an important moment in the history of the country. 

This has been a great Canadian story and mystery and the subject of scientists, historians, writers and singers so I think we really have an important day in mapping the history of our country."

Harper has made finding the ships a national priority by financing multiple years of expeditions for the nearly 200-year-old vessels, The Wall Street Journal reported. 

The original search for Franklin ended in 1859 when the British Navy found a note stuck into a rock indicating the men left their ships when they got stuck in ice. Since then explorers have discovered the remains of many of Franklin's crew but had found no sign of Franklin or either of his ships until the discovery this week. 

Here's the full release:

Prime Minister Stephen Harper today issued the following statement to announce the discovery of one of the ships belonging to the ill-fated Franklin Expedition which was lost in 1846:

'I am delighted to announce that this year’s Victoria Strait Expedition has solved one of Canada’s greatest mysteries, with the discovery of one of the two ships belonging to the Franklin Expedition lost in 1846.

'Although we do not know yet whether the discovery is Her Majesty’s Ship (HMS) Erebus or HMS Terror, we do have enough information to confirm its authenticity. This find was confirmed on Sunday, September 7, 2014, using a remotely operated underwater vehicle recently acquired by Parks Canada.

'This is truly a historic moment for Canada. Franklin’s ships are an important part of Canadian history given that his expeditions, which took place nearly 200 years ago, laid the foundations of Canada’s Arctic sovereignty.

'I would like to congratulate and pay tribute to all partners involved in this year’s momentous Victoria Strait Expedition, including Parks Canada, the Royal Canadian Geographical Society (RCGS), the Arctic Research Foundation (ARF), the Canadian Coast Guard (CCG), the Royal Canadian Navy and the Government of Nunavut. This discovery would not have been possible without their tireless efforts over the years, as well as their commitment, dedication and the perseverance of the many partners and explorers involved.

'Our Government has been deeply committed to finding HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, which were Canada’s only undiscovered national historical site. Since 2008, there have been six major Parks Canada-led searches for the lost Franklin Expedition ships, pain-stakingly covering many hundreds of square kilometres of the Arctic seabed. It is gratifying that the ship’s remains were found during the Government-supported 2014 Victoria Strait Expedition.

'Finding the first vessel will no doubt provide the momentum – or wind in our sails – necessary to locate its sister ship and find out even more about what happened to the Franklin Expedition’s crew."

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