The Past and Future History of the Arctic in the Public Imagination, 1854 to the Present

In 1854, Franklin’s true fate was discovered by Scottish explorer John Rae following a discussion with Inuit hunters. This discovery marked the end of the active rescue searches for Franklin but set off a new era of exploration and curiosity surrounding the Northwest Passage that reformed our vision of Franklin in the past. His legacy and emerging details of his expedition also help inform our vision of the Arctic for the future. Since the discovery, efforts to recover new evidence and other arctic explorations have shed new light on what really occurred during Franklin’s expeditions.  We provide insights into these events, including how they have shaped are understanding of the Arctic, in the following sections:

Klutschak, Heinrich. Overland to Starvation Cove: with the Inuit in Search of Franklin 1878-1880; translated and edited by William Barr. Toronto; Buffalo: University of Toronto Press, 1987.

Views Changing the Past

Transitional Period

Views changing the future

As you explore these sections, you will first see examples of important historical documents that influenced the view of both Franklin and the past Arctic. You will also see the efforts of Lady Franklin, the widow of Sir John Franklin, who worked to preserve and promote her husband’s legacy. Next, you will see discoveries and works that have both revealed new information about Franklin’s past and driven new rhetoric and images of the Arctic. Ungrounded misinformation yielded to evidence-based facts thanks to scientific advances of the digital age. Finally, you will see a revised, current history of the Arctic. Since the true revelation of John Franklin’s fate, public opinion about the Arctic and its people have been changed by his writings, research, and discoveries, leading to a new, more grounded image of the Arctic that prevails today.