Story by Rod Charles
Vacay.ca Deputy Editor
Jim Balsillie expects the discovery of a long lost Franklin expedition ship will resurrect interest in Canada’s north, and he’s right.
Balsillie – best known as the founder of RIM (now BlackBerry), and now curiously Chair of the Arctic Research Foundation and RCGS partner – knows a thing or two about upcoming trends.
“This is obviously a major achievement for everyone involved, one that I see as a beginning, not an end,” said Balsillie in a press release. “My hope is that with this new and important milestone, Canadians can build a stronger knowledge base and engagement with the Arctic. It’s a landscape that has shaped Canadian history, influences our safety and security and holds enormous promise for the future of our Northern communities and the country as a whole.”
Last week one of the two ships from the ill-fated Franklin Expedition — either the HMS Erebus and HMS Terror — was located in Nunavut, creating international news. The expedition, led by Captain Sir John Franklin, left England in 1845 in search of the Northwest Passage with 129 men and were never seen again. Both ships became trapped in ice and one by one, the crew succumbed to disease, hunger and cold. Over the years bodies of some of the sailors have been discovered in the region but nobody knew the final resting places of the ships.
As grim and sad as it sounds, one way that the Canadian Territories are going to benefit from this remarkable find is through the global phenomenon known as disaster tourism, which can now be leveraged as the public begins to indulge in the morbid details of the story.
Every year, thousands flock to the Titanic Museum in Belfast. Last year alone, only nine months after opening its doors, the museum had become the city’s most visited tourist attraction, the Belfast Telegram reported, and brought in more than 650,000 people — far beyond expectations.
Tours to Chernobyl, site of one of the world’s worst nuclear accidents, are available (Business Week), as are tours of the New Orleans’ areas damaged by Hurricane Katrina. According to Popular Mechanics, volunteers of the Navy Lakehurst Historical Society conduct public tours of where the Hindenburg went down. The article also mentions the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill as a site for disaster tourism and of course Pompeii, which attracts approximately 2.5 million visitors annually to modern-day Naples, Italy.
There are also feel-good historical adventure tours that revolve around positive outcomes as well. For example, G Adventures offers the Spirit of Shackleton tour in the South Pole, which retraces some of the steps of the legendary explorer.
Imagine a two-week tour that allows you to hop on a boat at Gander, Newfoundland and retrace Franklin’s steps all the way into Auyuittuq National Park of Canada, where the ship was discovered. Or a guided tour of the region from a helicopter or airplane highlighting the last, desperate steps of the Franklin crew? Up until recently it was possible for tourists to visit the Titanic in its final resting place, and perhaps it will be again someday if there is enough demand. Maybe one day it will also be possible for tourists to go beneath the waves and actually visit the Franklin ship for themselves.
It could happen. It will take researchers several months to analyze and document everything from this historic find but one thing is certain — this discovery should get a lot of tourists looking north to the Arctic and drive tourism dollars to the Canadian Territories. News of the finding should encourage more of us to get out of our urban shells and visit some of our national and provincial parks – even the freezing cold ones – as CBC personality Bob McDonald eloquently suggested in a recent interview with Vacay.ca.
Nunavut Tourism executive director Colleen Dupuis told the CBC in 2010 that Tourism contributes close to $30 million to the territory’s economy in a normal year, with one in five tourists arriving to the territory on cruises.
MORE ABOUT FRANKLIN DISCOVERY
Parks Canada: Click here
Prime Minister Stephen Harper Statement: Click here
Royal Canadian Geographical Society: The federal government’s search for the lost Franklin ships has been led by Parks Canada and augmented by Canadian leaders in exploration, assembled through the auspices of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society, including the W. Garfield Weston Foundation, One Ocean Expeditions, Shell Canada and the Arctic Research Foundation.
FACTS ABOUT NUNAVUT
Nunavut is the largest yet least populated of all the provinces and territories in Canada, with a total area of 2,093,190 square kilometres (808,190 square miles) and a population of approximately 33,330 people — 84 per cent of whom are Inuit.
Nunavut Tourism: http://www.nunavuttourism.com/
ABOUT AUYITTUQ NATIONAL PARK
Contact Pangnirtung Office: 867-473-2500
Contact Qikiqtarjuaq Office: 867-927-8834