The Arctic Expedition in Search of Sir John Franklin
Sailors in search of the lost Arctic explorer Sir John Franklin fend off polar bears in this lithograph produced circa 1850. In the spring of 1845, Franklin had embarked on a British expedition to find the Northwest Passage to connect the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. He and and his 128-member crew were last seen that July. After three years, the Admiralty offered a large reward to find Franklin, setting off a series of rescue attempts, among them the British expedition portrayed here under the command of Sir John Ross. There were also American efforts, including an eighteen-month Arctic mission in 1850–1851 in two brigs, the USS Rescue and USS Advance. Naval officer Robert Randolph Carter, who was aboard the Rescue, kept a daily journal of the expedition. The rescue attempts proved futile, however, as Franklin and the entire crew had already perished from disease, hypothermia, or starvation. There is evidence that the men eventually resorted to cannibalism.