John Franklin


Sir John Franklin had been involved in artic exploration for over 25 years when he took command of the latest scientific expedition to the region in 1845, at the age of 60. His mission was a celebrated one: previous expeditions, starting from both the east and west of Canada, had successfully mapped all but 400 miles of the Northern coast. Once this last section was completed, Britain could finally claim, after over 200 years of effort, to have finally found the elusive "Northwest Passage." The voyage was fitted with the very best ships available, with all the latest enhancements, and the all necessary plans were made. But instead the anticipated glory, the expedition ended in disaster. Both ships became entrapped in the ice and the crew of over 129 sailors perished to a man.

John Franklin
Franklin started his Naval career at the age of fourteen, and fought in several famous battles in the French Revolutionary Wars, the Napoleonic Wars, and the War of 1812. Beginning in 1819 he spent much of the following ten years exploring the Artic. His first expedition, in which he was second in command, ended in disaster, with most of the men starving to death. He gained a great deal of credit for his second expedition however, during which he explored and mapped the Mackenzie Rivera all the way from its source at the Great Slave Lake, to its mouth in the Artic Sea. In 1836 he was appointed governor of Tasmania before returning home in 1843. When the opportunity to lead the "Northwest Passage" expedition arose, Franklin sought the command, although he was nearing 60 years old.

The expedition was last spotted in July of 1845, but no word was expected for at least two and possibly three years. The Terror and Erebus were well provisioned for every possible contingency, so the Admiralty did not send a search party in until 1848 and even then, no trace was found. Franklin's wife offered an large reward for anyone who could bring word of the crew's fate, and the disappearance of the expedition became locked in the popular imagination. It was almost ten years before the terrible truth was known. The ships had become hopelessly trapped, and most of the crew had abandoned them and tried to return home overland, but to no avail. The entire crew perished leaving only a few pathetic notes and relics for their loved ones.

Key events during the life of Sir John Franklin:

Birth of John Franklin to a Lincoln shopkeeper.
Joined the Royal Navy at age 14.
  Fought in several naval battles during the Napoleonic Wars.
First Artic overland expedition along the Coppermine River ends in disaster.
Second Artic expedition from the Mackenzie river to the Beaufort sea is successful.
Appointed governor of Tasmania.
Returned to Britain.
Selected to lead the "Northwest Passage" expedition.
Died of exposure in the far North.

Other Resources

Story Links
Book Links
White North  in  Stories from English History, Part Third  by  Alfred J. Church
Monuments of Westminster in  Back Matter  by  books/lord/westminster/_back.html
Victoria—The Land of Snow  in  Our Island Story  by  H. E. Marshall
Arctic Hero  in  Brave Men and Brave Deeds  by  M. B. Synge
Franklin's Land Voyage to the North  in  A Book of Discovery  by  M. B. Synge
Franklin Discovers the North-West Passage  in  A Book of Discovery  by  M. B. Synge

Image Links

Vessel Towed Through the Ice
 in Stories from English History, Part Third

The ships were called the Terror and the Erebus
 in Our Island Story

The Relief Party
 in Brave Men and Brave Deeds

Sir John Franklin
 in The Reign of Queen Victoria

The Erebus and Terror nipped in the iced pack
 in The Reign of Queen Victoria

Short Biography
Alfred Tennyson Best known poet of he Victorian Age. Write Idylls of the King and many others.
Horatio Nelson Great Naval hero of his age; victor at the Battle of the Nile, Copenhagen, and Trafalgar.