Billing’s History Day features the stories of the Franklin Expedition and Allan Tustian

The ghostly image of the long lost HMS Erebus emerges from the murk as a diver explores the wreak. photo by Parks Canada

KAGAWONG—The Billings Heritage Museum’s popular History Day is coming fast upon us, and this year the main attraction is the ill-fated Franklin Expedition and the recent discovery by a Canadian diving team of the wreck of the Erebus, flagship of famed arctic explorer Captain Sir John Franklin, but as has been the tradition of History Day, there is an added bonus with the presentation of a locally produced documentary on the military career of Mindemoya’s Allan Tustian.

“The fate of the Franklin Expedition is the Holy Grail of the Canadian arctic and the search for the Northwest Passage and remains one of the most enduring mysteries of Canada’s far North,” said Old Mill Heritage Centre curator Rick Nelson. “We originally wanted to pair this presentation with the one on LaSalle’s Griffon that we presented at last year’s History Night, but unfortunately scheduling conflicts made that impossible.”

The Franklin expedition departed England on the morning of May 19, 1845 in two state-of-the-art reinforced hull steam driven ships with a crew complement of 24 officers and 110 men—all of whom disappeared into the arctic mists, leaving only a few cannibalized bones behind to compound the mystery. Despite numerous rescue and recovery expeditions fueled by what was at the time an unimaginably immense reward, little more was known about the fate of the expedition—but on September 9, 2014 the Canadian Victoria Strait Expedition discovered the wreck of the HMS Erebus and with it a wealth of new information about the Franklin Expedition.

Marty Magne, director with the Archaeology and History Branch of Parks Canada, is an expert on the find who will be coming to give a presentation on the Victoria Strait Expedition and the Franklin Expedition. Mr. Magne has been delivering such presentations on the discovery of the ship and the Franklin Expedition and the question and answer session following the presentation promises to be very informative.

Following a short intermission after Mr. Magne’s presentation, the History Night crowd will be treated to a documentary on the naval career of Manitoulin’s own Allan Tustian.

“We filmed the documentary a few years ago,” said Mr. Nelson. “We have ran the documentary here in the museum but it has never really had a public viewing. It’s a slick documentary presentation with accompanying photos of the WWII era. It is a well put together presentation of his naval career.”

Mr. Tustian survived a buzz bomb attack in London, England, helped keep the channel clear during the D-Day invasion and took part in the pursuit of many U-boats. “He was one of the very first radar technicians,” said Mr. Nelson. “Radar was very new at the time and he was one of the first to use it on a ship.”

History Day will take place at the Kagawong Park Centre on August 11, with a 3:30 pm matinee and a 7:30 pm evening show. The program is sponsored in part by Manitoulin Transport. Although free, a charitable donation to the museum is gratefully encouraged.