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Erebus, lost in 1846 seeking Northwest Passage, has been found

The Canadian government says they have found one of two long-lost ships that disappeared in 1846 as it sailed the icy waters of the Arctic in search of the fabled Northwest Passage.

Archaeologists with Parks Canada confirmed this week that a shipwreck discovered at the bottom of the Victoria Strait last month is that of the Erebus, which set out as part of the ill-fated Franklin Expedition in May 1845.

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"The locating and identifying of this ship goes a long way to solving one of Canada's greatest historical mysteries," said Canada's prime minister, Stephen Harper, who has even joined teams on expeditions searching for the wreckage.

The ships were last recorded seen in August 1845, when the captains of a group of whaling ships came upon them.

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When the expedition failed to return to England, massive search expeditions were launched to find the lost vessels.

In 1859, searchers found a handwritten message that said both ships had become trapped in the ice for more than a year, and that Sir John Franklin, the captain, had died on June 11, 1847.

Various search expeditions during the 1800s turned up skeletons in a lifeboat and on nearby islands, some of which appeared to have been sawed, suggesting cannibalism.

But until recently, the fate of either of the ships had been unknown.

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The discovery comes at a time when the Canadian government has been trying to assert its sovereignty over the Arctic waters of the Northwest Passage.

The U.S. and other countries have not recognized Canada's claim, saying the area counts as international water.

In a news conference announcing the discovery of the wreckage, Harper said, "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."

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