British Journal of Canadian Studies

Searching for Franklin: a contemporary Canadian ghost story

British Journal of Canadian Studies (2013), 26, (1), 39–57.

Abstract

When in 2008 Parks Canada signalled its intention to sponsor a marine hunt for the sunken and lost ships of the 1845 Northwest Passage expedition led by Sir John Franklin, one of the main reasons given by federal authorities was the need to assert their claims to Arctic sovereignty in an unstable and tense circumpolar geopolitical environment. The wrecks of the Erebus and Terror in this context were seen as important due to their historic associations with the development of Canada as a nation. I argue that the phantasmic nature of these shipwrecks, as well as the rhetorics of the supernatural associated with the Franklin expedition in history, literature, documentary, popular culture and heritage policy, discloses a haunting inheritance in the modern Canadian imagination. Through an examination of recent Franklin searches this article locates the place of this ‘quintessential interdisciplinary, diachronic, semiotic subject’ in the contemporary imagination.

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McCorristine, Shane