Franklin, Tasmania

A sleepy timber milling town on the eastern shores of the Huon River. It supports orchards and dairy farming. Franklin South has become well known for the Craft and Apple Houses at the southern end of the village.

Where is it?: 45 km south west of Hobart, 6 km south of Huonville in the Huon Valley.

Ye Olde Franklin Tavern is a pleasant historic pub beside the road which proudly announces that it was established in 1853 and the jetty beside the river which was once used as a major point for shipping timber and fruit from the area. In the river at Franklin is the long narrow strip of land known as Egg Island.

The Wooden Boat Centre

The Wooden Boat Centre sits alongside the jetty and is a great place to visit. You can watch craftsmen and trainees building wooden boats from complicated plans. To fulfil their lifetime ambition, trainees pay for the unique experience and dedicate countless hours of labour in achieving their goal.

The Huon River

The Huonville Trail, driving south from Huonville and following the left bank of the Huon River and Estuary, is rewarding. It passes through numerous small towns on the way to Recherche Bay and Cockle Creek (76 km south), the most southerly point in Australia that can be reached by motor vehicle. This drive is part of the Huon Trail, which travels south from Hobart to the Huon Valley and D Entrecasteaux regions.

The town is named after Sir John Franklin (1786-1847), Lieut. Governor of Tasmania, 1836-1843. Beginning his career as a midshipman on the Investigator with Matthew Flinders, who was 12 years his senior. In later life becoming a Rear-Admiral and explorer, Franklin was born at Spilsby, Lincolnshire, just 38 km from where Flinders grew up. Franklin was from a line of free-holders or "franklins" from whom they had derived their surname long before. As 5th and youngest son of nine children, he was destined for the church. However, he desired at an early age to be a sailor and overcame his father's resistance.

At the age of 15, he took part in the battle of Copenhagen on board the Polyphemus. Two months later, he joined the Investigator and became Flinders' most adept student. After the end of the war with France, he turned to science and exploration on land and at sea. Between 1836 and the end of 1843, he was Lieutenant-Governor of Tasmania. His final task was the North-West Passage to the Pacific. The expedition embarked on Erebus and Terror on 19 May 1845 with 129 officers and men. It disappeared soon afterwards in the arctic waters and the search for it became one of the most taxing tasks of arctic exploration during the Ninteenth Century.

The mystery was finally solved in 2014 with the discovery of the remains of former Tasmanian Lieut. Governor's ill-fated 1845 voyage to the Northwest Passage discovered on the ocean floor off Canada. Sonar had captured images of one of the vessels, following a government-sponsored hunt that began in 2008. The discovery of the wreck was confirmed using a remotely operated underwater vehicle recently acquired by Parks Canada.

The mystery has gripped people for generations, in part because no one knows for sure exactly what happened to the crew. Experts believe the ships were lost when they became locked in the ice near King William Island and that the crews abandoned them in a hopeless bid to reach safety. Sir John Franklin's wife spearheaded an attempt to find him, launching five ships in search of her husband and even leaving cans of food on the ice in the desperate hope he would find them.

Stories gleaned from the local indigenous people, the Inuits, suggest the expedition became locked in ice and perished. In desperation, it was claimed the stranded party resorted to cannibalism. However, Lady Jane Franklin refused to accept her husband met such a horrid fate and continued raising money to fund searches many years after he was last heard from and long after most authorities had given up hope of his survival. Despite a great number of search expeditions over the following decade, no sign had ever been found of the HMS Erebus or the HMS Terror.