The Franklin Expedition

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In the spring of 1845, two ships were docked at Disko Bay on the west coast of Greenland.

Several men dressed in Royal Navy uniforms walked aboard the ships with a real hustle and bustle as they cleaned s and brought fresh supplies onboard including 10 oxen which would be used as fresh meat for the crews.

The ships were the Erebus and the Terror, and they left England on May 19, 1845, with 24 officers and 110 men.

After 30 days, they had reached Greenland where they now took on supplies.

A few days later in late July, whalers on the Prince of Wales and the Enterprise saw the two ships from Iceland in Baffin Bay, anchored to an iceberg, a common way to make good time in some areas of the North Atlantic.

They exchanged pleasantries as they waited for good conditions to continue on their journeys.

There was even talk of having a meal together but before they could do it conditions improved, and the whalers and explorers went their separate ways. 

As they did a crew member on one of the whaling ships looked back as the two ships drifted over the horizon, their masts slowly disappearing from sight.

They never would’ve imagined they would be the last Europeans to ever see the Erebus and the Terror, again.

I’m Craig Baird and this is Canadian History Ehx!


The story of the Franklin Expedition is a long one and stretches over 150 years up until 2014 and 2016, the Erebus and Terror were found beneath the waters in the High Arctic, nearly completely intact.

But that’s how the story ends… the beginning of the story is the goal the failed expedition had… and that’s the Northwest Passage.


At the time, the only route to the Pacific Ocean was an immense trip around the southern tip of South America.

In the centuries before the Panama Canal, the dream was a passage over North America that would save months of travel for explorers and merchants.

The search began in 1553 with Martin Frobisher, who reached Baffin Island on his first voyage.

He returned in 1577, spending weeks collecting ore he believed to be gold-bearing.

On his return to England, he didn’t just bring back ore. He had kidnapped an Inuit man, woman, and child, all of whom died soon after arriving in Europe.

He returned once more in 1587 when he attempted to establish a settlement, which did not last long.

As for the 1,350 tons of ore he collected on his voyages, they proved to be worthless, and were used to build roads in England.

Frobisher never ventured farther North than the east coast of Baffin Island in his attempts to find the passage.

Other men such as John Davis and Henry Hudson also attempted to find the passage, to little success.

(small pause music transition)

Then came Jens Munk of Denmark with two ships to find the passage in 1619.

His expedition ended in tragedy.

Of the 65 men who joined him on the expedition to the Arctic, only he and two others survived by the time they reached home a year later.

For the next two centuries, exploration of the Arctic all but stopped,

That is until the invention of more advanced and stronger ships in the 19th century.

By then, there was a belief by some explorers that a vast polar sea existed around the North Pole.

This theory came from the fact that whales were seen in Baffin Bay with harpoons embedded in their backs from the Bering Strait.

Since whales can’t travel that distance without coming up for air, it was theorized they crossed a vast open sea, or a Northwest Passage that went over the pole.

John Ross, William Parry, and James Ross all ventured into the Arctic to find it.

(Music transition) James Ross took three expeditions to the Arctic in 1818, 1829 and 1850 and was the first European to reach the North Magnetic Pole.

Parry was the most successful of the explorers before the 20th century.

In his search of the Northwest Passage, he reached halfway across the Arctic.

He took part in expeditions in 1818, 1819, 1821 and 1824.

Then, in 1827, he reached the farthest north of any European, setting a record that would last for 49 years.

As for Ross, he took part in four expeditions between 1819 and 1827. In 1831, he personally planted the British flag at the magnetic pole.

That brings us to Sir John Franklin, the man at the heart of today’s story and the name that is synonymous with Arctic exploration and the Northwest Passage.


John Franklin was born on April 16, 1786, into an ordinary family, but he always had a desire for greatness. His father came from a line of country gentlemen, while his mother was a farmer’s daughter.

When John looked at his older brothers, he saw men who struggled to establish themselves in their careers.

He knew he didn’t want to struggle in life, and although his father hoped he would enter the priesthood, John chose a life at sea instead.

At the age of 12, John became a sailor on a merchant ship. This experience ignited a lifelong desire for exploration.

It was supposed to be just a trial run but seeing as though he couldn’t convince him otherwise, John’s father used his modest connections to get John on the Royal Navy’s HMS Polyphemus.

For the next 15 years, Franklin served on the Polyphemus, Earl Camden, Bellerophon and Bedford, and saw action at the Battle of Trafalgar and Battle of Pulo Aura.

In 1818, he was given command of the HMS Trent and the next year, was chosen to lead the Coppermine expedition.

The British expedition surveyed and charted the area from Hudson Bay to the north coast of Canada, towards the mouth of the Coppermine River.

The mouth of the Coppermine River is almost exactly 500 kilometres due north from Yellowknife, on the shores of the Arctic Ocean.

The expedition ran from 1819 to 1822, during which John lost 11 of his 20 men to starvation and exhaustion.

 In all, the expedition only mapped 800 kilometres of land and there are reports of at least one murder, and possible cannibalism among his men who were so hungry that they ate lichen, as well as their leather boots.

This earned John the nickname, the man who ate his boots.

A distinction he detested.

Upon his return to England in 1822, John married Eleanor Porden and the couple had one daughter, Eleanor Isabella, the following year.

Sadly, John’s wife died of tuberculosis in 1825.

Likely because of the loss of his wife, he chose to go on his second Canadian expedition.

This time, the goal was to reach the mouth of the Mackenzie River which could be followed westward towards the Bering Strait.

The Mackenzie River is the longest river in Canada, running north from Great Slave Lake, 4,421 kilometres to the Arctic Ocean near Tuktoyaktuk and the border between the Yukon and Northwest Territories.

This expedition was far more successful than the Coppermine one.

John and his men travelled 22,000 kilometres through the watershed and mapped half of the northern coast of the continent.

When he returned to England in 1827, he was hailed as a hero.

He married Jane Griffin, his first wife’s friend, on Nov. 5, 1828, and on April 29, 1829, he was knighted by King George VI.

In 1837, John was made the Lt. Governor of Van Diemen’s Land, modern-day Tasmania.

He remained in the post until 1843 when he began planning his next journey into the Canadian Arctic.


Before I continue the story, I want to point out that when I say unexplored throughout this episode, I mean unexplored by Europeans.

The land had been occupied by the Inuit for centuries and they knew every coastline, rock, and river.

In 1845, only 500 kilometres of the North American Arctic shoreline was unexplored, and the British wanted to map out the rest.

Sir John Barrow, the Second Secretary of the Admiralty, first asked William Edward Parry to command the expedition. Parry was in his 50s and was ready for retirement after leading five Arctic expeditions between 1818 and 1826. Next, Barrow went to Sir James Clark Ross, who had taken part in six Arctic expeditions, leading two himself.

Ross had only returned from the Antarctic two years earlier and made a promise to his new wife he would not depart.

Barrow badly wanted Ross to lead the expedition, even offering him a pension, a baronetcy, and a postponement of a year but Ross refused, nonetheless.

Barrow’s third choice was James Fitzjames, but he was considered too young, so the Admiralty rejected him.

Next on the list for Barrow was Frank Cozier, but he was Irish and of humble birth, so passed over.

At this point, Barrow went with his fifth choice, Sir John Franklin.

The Admiralty worried about John Franklin’s condition and age.

Thomas Hamilton, the First Lord of the Admiralty said John was not fit enough.

John, who wanted to recapture his Arctic glory days, responded that he would have an examination, to which Hamilton clarified that he meant mental fitness.

John said the stress of the North West Passage would be nothing compared to the stress he dealt with in Tasmania.

Lady Jane Franklin also advocated for her husband to be named the leader of the expedition and she called in several favours to help make it happen.

Hamilton doubled down and stating that Franklin he was too old, “You are sixty,” he said.

John corrected him saying that he was only 59.

With little recourse, Hamilton and the Admiralty approved John Franklin for the expedition.

It would prove to be his last


John began planning to get the ships ready.

Two ships, the Erebus and the Terror…. I know… a little foreboding… would be involved in the expedition.

The HMS Terror was built in 1813 and saw service in the War of 1812. In the mid-1830s, the Terror, as well as the Erebus, were refitted for polar exploration and both were used in James Ross’ expedition to Antarctica in year.

They were relatively advanced and had reinforced bows with iron plates, an internal steam heating system to keep the crew warm, and a system of screw propellers and iron rudders that could be withdrawn in case of ice.

The ships also could carry three years-worth of food that including 60,000 kilograms of flour, 30,000 kilograms of salted beef and pork, 8,000 cans of preserved meat, vegetables, and soup, 500 kilograms of tinned pemmican, 4,000 kilograms of lemon juice and 4,000 kilograms of chocolate.

There were also thousands of litres of wine and spirits.

A quick note… on the insert quantity of tinned food, because I’ll be coming back to that later this episode.

(small pause)

To keep the crews occupied during the long nights in the Arctic, each ship had hand organs for music and photographic equipment to document the journey alongside research instruments for botany, zoology and geology, and library with hundreds of books to choose from

The ships were powered by engines that were like locomotive engines.

The Terror had a Stephenson engine similar to the Samson type used on the London and Birmingham Railway.

These engines used a lot of coal, so a great deal of space on both ships was devoted to storing coal, including on deck, to a total of 90 tons on both ships.

As you can imagine these are steam engines and only fresh water could be used and that from the Arctic ice and snow.

The engines would use far more water than the crew.

The ships traveled at three to four knots, or about seven kilometres per hour.

The hope was that the engines would power the ship through the ice, rather than using the sails, but some, like Crozier, felt the engines were a waste of space.

He said,

“How I wish the engine was again on the Dover line and the Engineer sitting on top of it. He is dead and alive wretch and is now quite dissatisfied because he has not the leading stoker to assist him in doing nothing.”

The ships would be crewed by # men of which only two men were born outside the British Isles.

Charles Johnson was born in Halifax, while Henry Lloyd came from Norway.

John Franklin would command the Erebus, with James Fitzjames serving as his second-in-command. Francis Crozier would command the Terror.

Among the officers, only Crozier, Franklin, Graham Gore, Alexander McDonald, James Reid and Thomas Blanky had any Arctic experience.

A Newfoundland dog named Neptune would also go aboard and he proved to be more popular with the crew than a cat that caught rats on the ship, and a monkey that was an annoying thief.

The monkey was a gift from Lady Franklin, who wrote,

“I can easily conceive that dressing him up would be a source of great fun to them. I should like also to give something of the sort to the Terror but not knowing whether Captain Crozier would approve of a monkey I think I had better get a cockatoo.”

Just prior to leaving, Lady Franklin was sewing a Union Jack flag and she tossed it onto a sleeping John. He woke in horror and told her never to do it again.

He said that in the Royal Navy, the only time a man was wrapped in the Union Jack was when he was dead.

(small pause – music pivot)

As the expedition prepared for departure John Ross, the man who turned down the expedition told John Franklin that the draught of the ship was too great.

For all you landlubbers out there a draught of a ship relates to the depth of water required for a vessel to float freely and is measured from the underneath side of the keel to the waterline

Ross thought the ships were too large, and carried too much weight, machinery and coal that would push the draught deeper in the water and increase the risk of being stuck in the ice.

Worried for his friend, Ross told Franklin to promise to leave regular notes at cairns along the way noting his progress and destination, along with food in case he needed to journey back to civilization if his ship became locked in the ice.

He also assured Franklin that if he heard no news, he would launch a search for him in 1847.

John Franklin said,

“Well Ross, you are the only person who has volunteered to search for me, and I shall depend upon you.”

With all the preparations and plans laid out on May 19, 1845, the Erebus and Terror crew and officers set sail from London.

The ships were clean and splendid as they left the harbour, with a yellow stripe painted down their sides.

The ships journeyed to Greenland, where the crew was described in high spirits.

In a last letter to his wife, John Franklin wrote,

“I think perhaps that I have the tact of keeping officers and men happily together in a greater degree than John Ross.”

As the ship sailed, John opened his library to his men, conducted religious services and helped teach the illiterate crew members how to read.

Fitzjames echoed Franklin’s high spirits he wrote home, quote.

“We are very happy. Never was more so in my life. You have no idea how happy we all feel, how determined we all are to be frozen and how anxious to be among the ice. I never left England with less regret.”

However not everyone was jubilant, Francis Crozier was unhappy that Sophia Cracroft turned down his engagement prior to his departure.

He wrote to Ross,

“All goes smoothly but James dear, I am sadly alone, not a soul have I in either ship that I can go and talk to.”

Crozier also lacked the confidence the crew had in Franklin, and he believed that he may not return.

He wasn’t wrong… when the Erebus and Terror met those whalers as they ventured into the Canadian Arctic no one aboard knew they were traveling towards a fate with history.


As we move forward in the Franklin Expedition story, there’s limited information available.

No one survived so what happened has been pieced together through artifacts, notes left by survivors and Inuit oral histories.

What I’ve gathered goes like this…

After losing sight of the whalers, the Erebus and Terror continued their westerly path into the Canadian High Arctic and reached as far as Beechey Island.

The small island is located in the Wellington Channel and is separated from the larger Devon Island by the Barrow Strait.

The whalers saw the Franklin Expedition crew about 300 kilometres to the west of the island.

John Franklin chose the protected harbour of Beechey Island for the crew’s first winter in the Arctic.

Overall, the crew and officers fared well that first winter, but it was not without tragedy.

Three crew members, John Torrington, William Braine, and John Hartnell died that winter. All three were buried on the island, and those graves were discovered in 1850.

34 years later on Aug. 17, 1984, Torrington’s grave was dug up so a forensic team could analyze it.

They soon found that his body was extremely well preserved.

 Examining his body, they found he weighed only 85 pounds and he had been extremely sick.

Tissue samples showed researchers that he had dealt with tuberculosis earlier in life, but had suffered from pneumonia, which ultimately may have been what killed him.

A toxicology analysis of his hair and fingernails discovered that he had high levels of lead in his body, upwards of 413 to 657 parts per million.

This is hundreds of times higher than an average human today.

The graves of Braine and Hartnell were also exhumed for analysis.

Both also showed higher than normal levels of lead poisoning, but both were far below the levels of Torrington.

Researchers stated that lead poisoning, malnourishment and zinc deficiency likely contributed to their deaths.

It is from these three bodies that the theory of lead poisoning killing the crews of the Erebus and Terror emerged.

Now… remember the tinned food I mentioned earlier?

Stephen Goldner was awarded the contract to supply the tinned food for the expedition on April 1, 1845, just over a month before the ships were to set sail from England.

He worked quickly to finish the order for 8,000 tins and that hurt the quality control.

The soldering was done with lead in a thick and sloppy manner, which caused lead to leak down into the food.

Initially, it was believed by researchers that this led the crew to get lead poisoning, and although it may not have killed them, it would lead to severe health issues and impaired reasoning.

More recently, the boilers and piping for the water used by the crew, which were lined with lead, have become the leading culprits for lead poisoning.

Inuit people also found some of the tinned food years later, they opened them and ate the food with no ill effects, which lends credence to the lead poisoning coming from the pipes, rather than the tins.

So now we have some evidence of what was going on with the crew and the first three men to die on the expedition… but what happened to the rest?


After that first winter of 1845-46, the Erebus and Terror were back on course to navigate through the Northwest Passage.

By this point, the crews would have settled into a pattern of keeping the ship clean and repaired after wintering in ice.

The crew probably inspected each other weekly for scurvy, which started with sore gums and led to teeth falling out and wounds reopening.

That’s why the ship had a huge amount of lemon juice onboard. They provided vital Vitamin C to prevent deficiency.

The crew busied themselves by keeping the ships going and some likely made magnetic and meteorological observations, a key focus of the scientific aspect of the expedition.

To make these observations, the men had to hold their breath to prevent condensation from forming on the glass of the instruments.

 They also had to be careful that they didn’t touch their skin with the equipment, lest the cold metal freeze on their face and damage the skin.

Now, I want you to picture the worst plane ride of your life.

You are crammed into a small metal tube, with a bunch of other people.

That’s what the Franklin Expedition was like except they were in the hold of a ship with dozens of other men who hadn’t bathed in weeks or even months.

These men were cold, sleeping in hammocks, with many other people sleeping around them. If they were crew members, rather than an officer, that’s how they lived.

During the dark winter months, they only had candles light to see and for warmth and even with the steam heating system, it was likely still freezing in the Arctic.

Throughout the summer of 1846, the ship travelled down Peel Sound, in the High Arctic between Somerset Island and Prince of Wales Island, before it became trapped further south in the ice at King William Island on Sept. 12, 1846.

You may be wondering how I know the exact date the ships became encased in ice.

Well, we thankfully have the Victory Point Note to fill in some of the gaps of what happened.

The note was left on the north-western coast of King William Island in a cairn King William Island is located just off the coast of mainland Canada, roughly 500 kilometres to the south of where the two ships had wintered the previous year.

The note was discovered in May 1859, over a decade later.

The winter of 1846-47 came and went, but the ice did not disappear.

Instead, it lingered, and it held its firm grip on the two ships throughout the spring and summer months.

Despite this, there was hope among the crew that things would improve.

On May 28, 1847, Lt. Graham Gore and Mate Charles Des Voeux left identical notes at Victory Point and Gore Point stating all is well.

But the ice held on and within weeks, the crew began to die, and surely the mood likely changed.

As the Arctic seasons changed and it became autumn once again, the crews of both ships knew they were not going anywhere until at least the next spring.

Worse still was the death of John Franklin on June 11, 1847.

The Victory Point Note simply said,

“Sir John Franklin died on June 11, 1847.”

While the exact date of his death is known, Franklin’s body has never been found.

A second winter, 1847-48, kept the crew in place but by the time spring came, with supplies running low, it was obviously clear to those who remained that they had to find help on the mainland.

By now nine officers and 15 men had died

About a year after the first Victory Point Note was written, someone wrote a chilling addendum in the margins.

It states in part,

“HM ships Terror and Erebus were deserted on 22nd April, five leagues NNW of this, having been beset since 12th September 1846.”

105 individuals left the ships under the command of Francis Crozier, to make their way to Back River, 215 kilometres southeast, to a Hudson’s Bay Company outpost That’s like walking from Toronto to Kingston, through ice and snow and the cold, as your stomach growls and your body is weak with hunger.

That is if you take a direct route.

The crew likely had to walk around icebergs, huge breaks in the ice and along the coast when they could.

All in all, the journey was going to be about 400 kilometres.

For the crew of the Franklin Expedition, reaching Back River would be as likely as reaching the moon.

The Victory Point Note was the last known communication from the expedition.

At this point, we move from firsthand accounts to oral history and the finds of subsequent expeditions.


Archeological evidence suggests that the remaining crew died on their march back towards civilization.

Although, it’s possible not everyone in the crew went towards Back River.

Later discoveries and archeological evidence show there were three groups.

One group went east, hoping to reach Inuit settlements.

A second group, which may have had the ship dog with them, remained on the ship as it drifted in the ice, eventually reaching nearby Wilmot and Crampton Bay, located just southeast of King William Island, before they too abandoned it.

The third group went towards Back River.

It is believed only 30 to 40 of the men reached the northern coast of the mainland. A monumental achievement in itself, but still hundreds of kilometres from the nearest outpost as winter closed in around them.

From 1847 to 1859, roughly 30 expeditions were launched, often financed by Lady Franklin, to find the fate of the expeditions.

Some, like American explorer Elisha Kane, believed that the ships may have reached that vast polar sea, but were now trapped there by ice.

Kane said at the Smithsonian before he left on his own expedition in 1852, that Franklin was,

“unable to leave their hunting ground and cross the frozen Sahara which intervened between them and the world from which they are shut out.”

Kane had his own tale of Arctic survival in his attempt to reach that polar sea and find Franklin, but that is a tale for a future episode.

Of course, we know now that there is no polar sea, and the Franklin Expedition was far from the North Pole when it became encased in ice.

According to oral histories and information gathered by explorers looking for the Franklin Expedition, several Inuit boarded an abandoned ship in 1850, which had been icebound off King William Island for some time.

Prior to this, there are stories of seeing men on the Erebus prior to its sinking, this could possibly the group with the dog that remained behind.

John Rae, who was surveying the Boothia Peninsula for the Hudson’s Bay Company, met with an Inuk on April 21, 1854, who told him that a party of 35-40 white men had died of starvation at the mouth of the Back River.

Rae received an officer’s gold cap band from the Inuit man, as well as a silver spoon and fork with a family crest on it and the initials FRMC, standing for Francis Rawdon Moira Crozier as evidence.

Later he found John Franklin’s Hanover medal, silverware belonging to six officers on the Erebus and a vest that belonged to Charles Frederick Des Voeux, which had his initials on it.

The Inuit people told him they saw 40 men traveling southwards along King William Island pulling sleds four years earlier.

Their ship had been crushed in the ice, and they all looked thin and sickly.

They were led by a man who was said to be tall, broad, and middle-aged.

Rae felt this fit the description of Francis Crozier.

They confirmed the story of the starving sailors and provided the first evidence of cannibalism.

They told Rae that they had found bones that were broken apart.

Rae returned to England with this information, but no one wanted to hear his tale of cannibalism.

At the time, it was unthinkable among the British that any member of the Royal Navy would resort to cannibalism.

For Rae, the stories would dog his career for the rest of his life.

Despite his discoveries and work in the Arctic, he was denied a knighthood.

Lady Franklin launched a smear campaign against him for suggesting that Englishmen could do something like that and for listening to the Inuit, who at the time they considered to be savages.

Rae would eventually be vindicated when in 2015, new bone analysis showed that the crew did indeed resort to eating flesh and then bone marrow to survive.

As more expeditions went into the area in 1855, a band of Inuit encountered Hudson’s Bay Company Chief Factor James Anderson and his employee James Stewart, who were traveling to the mouth of the Back River.

They told them that they had come across a group of white men who starved to death on the coast.

By the 1860s, theories began to spread that the survivors of the expedition had chosen to live among the Inuit.

Charles Francis Hall conducted two expeditions in 1860 and 1869 and lived among the Inuit on Baffin Island and it was his belief that none of the crew survived.

During the 1869 expedition, Hall stated that local Inuit took him to a shallow grave on King Edward Island, where the skeletal remains of a crew member was found.

These remains were taken back to England.

In 2009, they were examined, and it was determined to be Harry Goodsir, the assistant surgeon on the Erebus.

In the 1869 expedition, Hall also learned that four men were seen by Inuit hunters trying to head south in 1851, which is the last verified sighting of the survivors of the Franklin expedition.

One oral history states that there was even a joint caribou hunt, although Hall stated the following, quote.

“I believe they had visited many times Sir John Franklin’s ship while beset in the ice near King William’s Island and there met him, Crozier and all their company. It took something like three days while encamped on the ice to find out the fact that all the old man and wife had told me was of Captain and Commander Ross.”

There would be further evidence of the Inuit visiting the crew on the ships before they were abandoned. Hall would state about an old woman who,

“had seen Eg-loo-ka who was Esh-emut-ta (chief) before, one year before on board his ship. Her nephew went to this ship on the ice in the company of many other Innuits. After this visit to this ship, the Neithc-il-lee Inuits believed that the ship had gone away, gone home to the Kob-lu-na country but the first they hard were that a great many Kob-lu-nas had frozen or starved to death.”

One Inuit man named Nuk-kee-che-uk told Hall that the ship had been stuck in ice in its first year in the area, with four boats hanging along the sides and one on the stern.

A gangplank led from the deck down to the ice and the deck was housed over with canvas.

The Inuit felt that the men had wintered on the ship and later tracks were found on shore.

When they went aboard, they found the corpse of a large man.

After salvaging what they could, they left.

Upon their return, they found the ship had sunk but the masts were still above the water.

In the area, large amounts of wreckage and lumber washed ashore.

Despite these findings Francis Leopold McClintock left on an expedition to find the fate of the Franklin Expedition in July 1857.

As they explored King William’s Island and took them two years to find a trail of items scattered across the island including spectacles, broken bottles, brass curtain rods, wads of tobacco and a medicine chest.

On May 24, 1859, the expedition found a large boat weighing 750 pounds that would have taken eight men to pull it.

Underneath it, they found a treasure trove of items including 11 dessert forks, 11 dessert spoons, four teaspoons, five flasks, religious books, a pemmican tin, many blankets, gloves, stockings, leather boots and clay pipes.

The bones of at least two men were also found along with a pocket book which contained writings and drawings that were barely decipherable and even today, it is not known what was written.

It likely shows the poor mental state of the men as they tried to reach civilization. 

Now, if you want to watch a great fictionalized version of the Franklin Expedition, I encourage you to check out the first season of The Terror on Amazon Prime.

Ironically, the loss of the Franklin Expedition was a boon to the exploration of the Arctic by Europeans.

The expeditions that searched for Franklin’s survivors mapped huge areas of the Arctic, and, in a way, completed the quest that Franklin had set out on originally.

That’s the end of the story of the Franklin Expedition… but did you know that it’s linked to the desk used by the President of the United States?


Five years after the Franklin Expedition set sail from England, in 1850 the HMS Resolute was converted into an Arctic vessel to take part in the search for the lost ships.

From 1850 to 1851, it sailed into the eastern Arctic and found traces of Franklin’s camp at Beechey Island.

It returned in August 1853 and that winter it became encased in ice.

By the spring of 1854, the ice still held on and by May, the crew left the ship and walked to Beechey Island to meet other ships that could take them home.

They left for England on Aug. 29, 1854.

It was believed that the Resolute had been crushed by the ice and was now beneath the waves.

But then, on Sept. 10, 1855, the ship was found adrift by the American whaler George Henry just off the coast of Baffin Island, 1,900 kilometres from where it was abandoned.

It was returned to the Royal Navy, and the ship served until 1879 in England and then the ship was salvaged into timber.

From the timber three desks were made.

One became the Grinnell Desk, presented to the widow of Henry Grinnell, who contributed huge sums of money to find the lost Franklin Expedition

Another became a writing table for Queen Victoria.

And the third was presented to U.S. President Rutherford B. Hayes in 1880 as a gesture of thanks for returning the Resolute.

The desk sat in the Oval Office and has been used by every president from 1880 onwards.

Wood from a ship that went looking for the Franklin Expedition has seen the signatures of John F. Kennedy, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, Donald Trump and of course Joe Biden.

Now that is how you respect wood


Information from Canadian Encyclopedia, Race To the Polar Sea, Finding Franklin, Wikipedia, Royal Museums Greenwich, Barrow’s Boys, Erebus, Lady Franklin’s Revenge, The Arctic Grail,

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