Canadian researchers say they have found some key evidence in the Arctic linked to the doomed 1845 Franklin expedition.
Sir John Franklin, his 128 crew and the British ships HMS Erebus and HMS Terror were seeking the fabled Northwest Passage between the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans when they became stuck in ice.
The men all died and the ships vanished.
Robert Grenier, chief of underwater archeology at Parks Canada said: "The archeological discoveries exceeded our expectations. We found copper fragments which could well have come from one of the ships we're looking for."
He said "they revealed the prior presence of considerable number of these sheets," which were "a very significant find."
Mr Grenier said copper did not exist naturally in the region and the sheets could not have been made by the local Inuit.
The Canadian team found the fragments during a six-week trip in August and September to three islands near O'Reilly Island in the Queen Maud Gulf, close to where Franklin's ships are believed to have sunk.
Researchers are due to return to the area in the summer of both 2009 and 2010.