John Franklin

John Franklin

Infobox Prime Minister
name =John Franklin

birth_date =birth date|1786|4|16|df=y
birth_place =Spilsby, Lincolnshire, England
death_date =death date and age|1847|6|11|1786|4|16|df=y
death_place =near King William Island, Canada
spouse =Eleanor Anne Porden & Lady Jane Franklin (nee Griffin)
order =5th Lieutenant Governor of Van Diemen's Land
term_start =January 5, 1837
term_end =August 21, 1843
successor =Sir John Eardley-Wilmot, 1st Baronet
predecessor =George Arthur|
Sir John Franklin, FRGS (April 16, 1786 – June 11, 1847) was a British Royal Navy officer and Arctic explorer who mapped almost two thirds of the northern coastline of North America. Franklin also served as governor of Tasmania for several years. In his last expedition, he disappeared while attempting to chart and navigate a section of the Northwest Passage in the Canadian Arctic. The entire crew perished from starvation, hypothermia, tuberculosis and exposure before and after Franklin died and the expedition's icebound ships were abandoned in desperation.

Early life

Franklin was born in Spilsby, Lincolnshire, in 1786 and educated at King Edward VI Grammar School, Louth. John Franklin was the ninth of 12 children. One of his sisters was the mother of Emily Tennyson. Franklin's father initially opposed his son's interest in a career at sea. However, Franklin was determined and his father reluctantly allowed him to go on a trial voyage with a merchant ship. This hardened young Franklin's resolve, so at the age of 14 his father secured him a Royal Navy appointment on HMS "Polyphemus". Franklin was later present at a number of historic voyages and naval battles. These included the Battle of Copenhagen in 1801, an expedition to explore the coast of Australia on HMS "Investigator" with his uncle, Captain Matthew Flinders, a return to the Napoleonic Wars, serving aboard HMS "Bellerophon" at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, and he was at the Battle of New Orleans.

1818: First Arctic expedition

John Franklin first travelled to the Arctic in 1818 because of a command from David Buchan and became fascinated by it. He led a disastrous overland expedition into the Northwest Territories of Canada along the Coppermine River in 1819–22, losing 11 of the 20 men in his party. Most died of starvation, but there was also at least one murder and suggestions of cannibalism. The survivors were forced to eat lichen and even attempted to eat their own leather boots. This gained Franklin the nickname of "the man who ate his boots" in America.

1823: Marriage and second Arctic expedition

In 1823, after returning to England, Franklin married the poet Eleanor Anne Porden. Their daughter, Eleanor Isabella, was born the following year. Eleanor (senior) died of tuberculosis in 1825, shortly after persuading her husband not to let her ill-health prevent him from setting off on another expedition to the Arctic. This expedition, a trip down the Mackenzie River to explore the shores of the Beaufort Sea, was better supplied and more successful than his last.

In 1828, he was knighted by George IV and in the same year married Jane Griffin, a friend of his first wife and a seasoned traveler who proved indomitable in the course of their life together.

1836: Lieutenant-Governor of Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania)

Franklin was appointed Lieutenant-Governor of Van Diemen's Land in 1836, but was removed from office in 1843. He did not endear himself with the local civil servants, who particularly disliked his humane ideals and his attempts to reform the Tasmanian penal colony. His wife, Lady Jane, was quite liberated for a woman of her day, known for "roughing it" to the extent that an expedition had to be mounted after she and Franklin became lost in the wild. Such exploits further distanced the couple from "proper" society, and may have contributed to Franklin's recall. Nevertheless, he was popular among the people of Tasmania. He is remembered by a significant landmark in the centre of Hobart—a statue of him dominates the park known as Franklin Square, which was the site of the original Government House. His wife worked to set up a college, a museum and botanical gardens. The village of Franklin, on the Huon River, is named in his honour, as is the Franklin River on the West Coast of Tasmania, one of the better known Tasmanian rivers due to the Franklin Dam controversy.cite web
title =Franklin, John (1786 – 1847)
publisher =Project Gutenberg Australia
work=Dictionary of Australian Biography
url =
accessdate = 2008-05-01
] Australian Dictionary of Biography
last= Kathleen
first= Fitzpatrick
title= Franklin, Sir John (1786 - 1847)

1845 Northwest Passage expedition

thumb|right|Map of the probable routes taken by "Erebus" and "Terror" during Franklin's lost expedition.">legend|blue|Disko Bay (5) to Beechey Island, in 1845.legend|purple|Around Cornwallis Island (1), in 1845.legend|red|Beechey Island down Peel Sound between Prince of Wales Island (2) and Somerset Island (3) and the Boothia Peninsula (4) to near King William Island in 1846.Disko Bay (5) is about 3,200 kilometres (2,000 mi) from the mouth of the Mackenzie River (6).

Exploration of the Arctic coastal mainland after Franklin's second Arctic expedition had left less than convert|500|km|mi|0 of unexplored Arctic coastline. The British decided to send a well-equipped Arctic expedition to complete the charting of the Northwest Passage. After Sir James Ross declined an offer to command the expedition, an invitation was extended to Franklin, who accepted despite his age, 59. A younger man, Captain James Fitzjames, was given command of HMS "Erebus" and Franklin was named the expedition commander. Captain Francis Rawdon Moira Crozier, who had commanded HMS "Terror" during the Ross 1841–44 Antarctic expedition, was appointed executive officer and commander of HMS "Terror". Franklin was given command on February 7, 1845, and received official instructions on May 5, 1845. [cite journal | last = Gibson, F.R.G.S.| first = William
title = Sir John Franklin's Last Voyage: A brief history of the Franklin expedition and the outline of the researches which established the facts of its tragic outcome | journal = The Beaver | pages = 48 | date = 1937-06

HMS "Erebus" at convert|370|LT|MT|lk=on and HMS "Terror" at convert|340|LT|MT were sturdily built and were outfitted with recent inventions. These included steam engines from the London and Greenwich Railway that enabled the ships to make convert|4|kn|km/h|lk=on on their own power, a unique combined steam-based heating and distillation system for the comfort of the crew and to provide large quantities of fresh water for the engine's boilers, a mechanism that enabled the iron rudder and propeller to be drawn into iron wells to protect them from damage, ships' libraries of more than 1,000 books, and three years' worth of conventionally preserved or tinned preserved food supplies. Unfortunately, the latter was supplied from a cut-rate provisioner who was awarded the contract only a few months before the ships were to sail. Though his "patent process" was sound, the haste with which he had prepared thousands of cans of food led to sloppily-applied beads of solder on the cans' interior edges and allowed lead to leach into the food. Chosen by the Admiralty, most of the crew were Englishmen, many from the North of England with a small number of Irishmen and Scotsmen.

The Franklin Expedition set sail from Greenhithe, England, on the morning of May 19, 1845, with a crew of 24 officers and 110 men. The ships traveled north to Aberdeen for supplies. From Scotland, the ships sailed to Greenland with HMS "Rattler" and a transport ship, "Barretto Junior". After misjudging the location of Whitefish Bay, Disko Island, Greenland, the expedition backtracked and finally harboured in that far north outpost to prepare for the rest of their voyage. Five crew members were discharged and sent home on the "Rattler" and "Barretto Junior", reducing the ships' final crew size to 129. The expedition was last seen by Europeans on July 26, 1845, when Captain Dannett of the whaler "Prince of Wales" encountered "Terror" and "Erebus" moored to an iceberg in Lancaster Sound.

After two years and no word from the expedition, Franklin's wife urged the Admiralty to send a search party. Because the crew carried supplies for three years, the Admiralty waited another year before launching a search and offering a £20,000 reward for finding the expedition. The money and Franklin's fame led to many searches. At one point, ten British and two American ships, USS "Advance" and USS "Rescue", headed for the Arctic. Eventually, more ships and men were lost looking for Franklin than in the expedition itself. Ballads such as "Lady Franklin's Lament", commemorating Lady Franklin's search for her lost husband, became popular. [cite book | last = M'Clintock | first = Francis L. | title = The Voyage of the 'Fox' in the Arctic Seas. A Narrative of the Discovery of the Fate of Sir John Franklin and His Companions | publisher = Boston: Ticknor and Fields | date = 1860 | pages = 336] In the summer of 1850, expeditions including three from England as well as one from the United States joined in the search. They converged off the east coast of Beechey Island, where the first relics of the Franklin expedition were found, including the gravesites of three Franklin Expedition crewmen.

In 1854, explorer John Rae, while surveying the Boothia Peninsula for the Hudson's Bay Company, discovered more evidence of the Franklin party's fate, and over the next four decades, about 25 other searches added information. A century later, Owen Beattie, a University of Alberta professor of anthropology, began a 10-year series of scientific studies known as the "1845–48 Franklin Expedition Forensic Anthropology Project", showing that the Beechey Island crew had most likely died of pneumonia [cite journal | last = Amy | first = Roger | coauthors = Bhatnagar, Rakesh, Damkjar, Eric, Beattie, Owen | title = The last Franklin Expedition: report of a postmortem examination of a crew member | journal = Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ)| volume = 135 | pages = 115–117 | date = 1986-07-15] and perhaps tuberculosis. [cite journal | last = Notman | first = Derek N.H. | coauthors = Anderson, Lawrence, Beattie, Owen B., Amy, Roger | title = Arctic Paleoradiology: Portable Radiographic Examination of Two Frozen Sailors from the Franklin Expedition (1845-48)| journal = American Journal of Roentgenology (AJR)| volume = 149 | pages = 347–350 | date = 1987 | publisher = American Roentgen Ray Society | url= |format=PDF| issn = 0361-803X] Toxicological reports indicated that lead poisoning was also a possible factor. [cite journal | last = Kowall | first = Walter | coauthors = Beattie, Owen B., Baadsgaard, Halfdan | title = Did solder kill Franklin's men? | journal = Nature | volume = 343 | issue = 6256 | pages = 319–320 | date = 1990-01-25 | doi = 10.1038/343319b0] [cite journal | last = Kowall | first = W.A. | coauthors = Krahn, P.M., Beattie, O. B. | title = Lead Levels in Human Tissues from the Franklin Forensic Project | journal = International Journal Environmental Analytical Chemistry | volume = 35 | pages = 119–126 | date = Received:1988-06-29 | publisher = Gordon and Breach Science Publishers | doi = 10.1080/03067318908028385] In addition, blade cut marks on the bones of some of the crew found on King William Island suggested that conditions had become so dire that some crew members resorted to cannibalism. [cite journal | last = Keenleyside | first = Anne | coauthors = Bertulli, Margaret, Fricke, Henry C. | title = The Final Days of the Franklin Expedition: New Skeletal Evidence | journal = Arctic | volume = 50 | issue = 1 | pages = 36–46 | date = 1997 | publisher = The Arctic Institute of North America | url =,+v.+50,+no.++1,+Mar.+1997,*?COMMANDSEARCH | format = PDF| id = ISSN: ISSN 0004-0843] It appeared from these studies that a combination of bad weather, years locked in ice, disease including scurvy, poisoned food, botulism and starvation had killed everyone in the Franklin party.

For years after the loss of the Franklin party, the Victorian era media portrayed Franklin as a hero who led his men in the quest for the Northwest Passage. A statue of Franklin in his home town bears the inscription "Sir John Franklin — Discoverer of the North West Passage". Statues of Franklin outside the Athenaeum in London and in Tasmania bear similar inscriptions. Although the expedition's fate, including the possibility of cannibalism, was widely reported and debated, Franklin's standing with the public was not diminished. The mystery surrounding Franklin's last expedition was the subject of a 2006 episode of the "Nova" television series "Arctic Passage" and a 2007 documentary on Discovery HD Theater. The expedition has inspired many artistic works including a famous ballad, Lady Franklin's Lament, a verse play by Canadian poet Gwendolyn MacEwen, a children's book, a short story and essays by Canadian author Margaret Atwood, and several novels, and is referenced in Canadian musician Stan Rogers' ballad "Northwest Passage". There is also a direct reference to John Franklin's ill-fated expedition in the Irish-American group Nightnoise's album Something of Time, specifically in a track titled "The Erebus and the Terror". Additionally in 2007, a fictional account of the expedition was authored by Dan Simmons titled "The Terror", ISBN 978-0-316-01744-2.




* "Franklin Saga Deaths: A Mystery Solved?" National Geographic Magazine, Vol 178, No 3, Sep 1990.
* Beardsley, Martyn. "Deadly Winter".
* Beattie, Owen, and Geiger, John (1989). "Frozen in Time: Unlocking the Secrets of the Franklin Expedition". Saskatoon: Western Producer Prairie Books. ISBN 0-88833-303-X.
*Beattie, Owen and Geiger, John (2004). "Frozen In Time: The Fate of the Franklin Expedition" (Revised edition)
* Berton, Pierre "The Arctic Grail".
* Coleman, E. C. (2006). "The Royal Navy in Polar Exploration, Franklin to Scott".
* Coleman, E. C. (2006). "The Royal Navy in Polar Exploration, Frobisher to Ross". ISBN 0-7524-3660-0.
* McGoogan, Ken "Fatal Passage".
* McGoogan, Ken "Lady Franklin's Revenge".
* Mirsky, Jeannette (1970). "To the Arctic!: The Story of Northern Exploration from Earliest Times". ISBN 0-226-53179-1.
* Murray, David. (2004). "The Arctic Fox - Francis Leopold McClintock, Discoverer of the fate of Franklin". Cork: The Collins Press, ISBN 1-55002-523-6.
* NOVA - Arctic Passage Part 1 - Prisoners Of The Ice (TV documentary). See also program [ transcript] .
* Poulsom, Neville W. & Myres, J. A. L. (2000). "British polar exploration and research : a historical and medallic record with biographies, 1818-1999 ". London: Savannah.
* Stefánsson, Vilhjálmur (1938). "Unsolved Mysteries of the Arctic".
* Woodman, David C. "Unraveling the Franklin Mystery: Inuit Testimony".


*"The Discovery of Slowness", Sten Nadolny, Novel, 1983.
*"The Rifles (novel)", William T. Vollmann, Novel, 1994.
*"The Terror (novel)", Dan Simmons, Horror novel, 2007.
*"The Broken Lands", Robert Edric, Novel, 1992
*"The Ice Child", Elizabeth McGregor, Dutton, May 3, 2001
*"The Adventures of Captain Hatteras", Jules Verne, 1864, a novel in which Captain Hatteras shows many similarities with John Franklin.

External links

* [ NOVA's companion website for Arctic Passage]
* [ Biography at the "Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online"]
* [ The Fate of Franklin (Russell Potter)]
* [ The Life and Times of Sir John Franklin]
* [ List] of artifacts recovered from the Franklin Expedition
* [ Paper] from the Universary of Calgary about the discovery of skeletal remains in 1992
* [ Ottawa plans search for Franklin ships] , "Toronto Star", 14 August 2008.

Further reading

*Alexander, Alison (editor) (2005)"The Companion to Tasmanian History"Centre for Tasmanian Historical Studies, University of Tasmania, Hobart. ISBN 186295223X.
*Robson, L.L. (1983) "A history of Tasmania. Volume 1. Van Diemen's Land from the earliest times to 1855"Melbourne, Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195543645

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