In 1845 Sir John Franklin and 129 members of his crew became lost in the icy Arctic Sea in an attempt to traverse the fabled Northwest Passage. At the time, there was little information readily available to explain Franklin’s disappearance. We present the history of this time period in the following three sections:
In these sections, we provide a clear chronology of what occurred between the time Franklin’s expedition was declared lost and when Franklin’s fate was determined even though the search continued long afterward. Moreover, we show how the search for Franklin was presented in media and how available information was distorted into rumors and fantasies.
Once it became apparent that Franklin’s expedition was lost, his wife, Lady Jane Franklin, rallied public figures to send out search parties to determine Franklin’s fate. Included are two historical letters from Lady Franklin begging for the support of American and British governments in finding her husband.
Next are an array of news articles and books from the time Franklin was lost. These publications appealed to different demographics that ranged in socioeconomic status, highlighting distinctions between the quality of information available to the wealthy and poor.
Last are narratives from search parties, first-person accounts of potential Franklin sites in the Arctic, as well as the findings of major voyages in search of Franklin. These facts dispelled the rumors which surfaced from the media’s distortion of available information. Although the expeditions searching for Franklin revealed little indication of survival, they did provide evidence that helped separate fact from media fiction.
Through a retrospective lens, these artifacts piece together the reality of Sir John Franklin and his lost expedition.