Tracking the Franklin Expedition of 1845

The Facts and Mysteries of the Failed Northwest Passage Voyage


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About the Book

The Franklin Northwest Passage Expedition of 1845 is perhaps the greatest disaster in the history of exploration—all 129 men vanished, as did the expedition’s two ships, HMS Erebus and Terror. Over the next 150 years, searchers found bones, clothing and a variety of relics. Inuit narratives provided some of the details of what happened to the frozen, starving sailors after they deserted their ice-locked ships in 1848. Then, in 2014 and 2016, Canadian researchers found the sunken wrecks, not far from the bleak, windswept King William Island in the Arctic. At last, the mystery of the Franklin Expedition would be solved. Or would it?
This book pulls together the various searchers’ discoveries; the many recent scientific studies that shed light on when, how and why the men died (and whether, in extremis, they ate each other); and illuminates what we know, and what we don’t and may never know, about the fate of the expedition.

About the Author(s)

Stephen Zorn is a retired lawyer and law professor. He was a government official in Papua New Guinea, a United Nations technical adviser and a journalist at the San Francisco Chronicle and the Boston Globe.

Bibliographic Details

Stephen Zorn
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 209
Bibliographic Info: 27 photos, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2023
pISBN: 978-1-4766-9219-7
eISBN: 978-1-4766-5114-9
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vi
Preface 1
1. The Known Knowns 3
2. A Quantum Theory of History 17
3. Erebus and Terror 22
4. Who Sailed with Franklin? 29
5. Beechey Island 49
6. Westward Ho? 59
7. Which Side of King William Island? 64
8. Winter 1846–47 and Spring 1847 70
9. The Second Winter Trapped in the Ice 76
10. Where Did They Go? 81
11. Return to the Ships? Mutiny? 87
12. Off the Beaten Path—But Where? 93
13. What Killed Them—and When? 98
14. Cannibalism 114
15. Survivors? 121
16. Sir John’s Grave 124
17. Franklin’s Legacy 129
18. What Do the Recent Discoveries Mean? 133
Appendix I. The Victory Point Record 137
Appendix II. Erebus and Terror Muster Rolls 138
Appendix III. Sir John Franklin’s Sailing Orders 141
Chapter Notes 147
Bibliography 172
Index 197

Book Reviews & Awards

“An excellent starting point for the newfound Franklinophile… A breath of much-needed fresh air.”—The Arctic Book Review