Lady Franklin’s Rock

11 Jun
English: Graves of the dead crewman from the 1...

English: Graves of the dead crewman from the 1845 Franklin Northwest Passage expedition. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There are few more dramatic stories in Canadian history than the account of Sir John Franklin‘s death in the Arctic on June 11, 1847.  His expedition to discover the Northwest Passage sailed from Britain in May, 1845.  His ships, the Terror and Erebus, were last seen at the entrance to Lancaster Sound in July.  It took fourteen years of searching by many expeditions before it was learned what had happened.  A record was found in a cairn at Point Victory giving the history of the expedition until April 25, 1848.

After spending the winter of 1845-1846 at Beechey Island, North Devon, the expedition reached the west side of Cornwallis Island and followed a route that had been especially assigned before Franklin had left Britain.  He navigated Peel and Franklin Straits southward, but had been stopped by ice coming down McClintock Channel.  The ships were ice-bound on September 12, 1846.  Franklin died the following June.  By that time, the death toll of the expedition was 9 officers and 15 men of the total of 129 who had sailed from Britain.

The survivors stayed in the Erebus and Terror until April 22, 1848, when it was decided to trek overland to Back’s Fish River.  Not a single man survived.  Eskimos saw them trying to make their way over the ice, but said they died as they walked.

At one stage of Franklin’s career, he had been Lieutenant-Governor of Van Diemen’s Land, Tasmania, where British convicts were sent.  When he was lost, the colony gave Lady Franklin £7,000 to finance a search.  She not only sent out expeditions but went on one herself.  It tried to get to the Arctic by going up the Fraser River from the Pacific, but was stopped at what is now known as “Lady Franklin’s Rock.”

The record found at Point Victory included the information that Franklin had discovered a channel leading south along the west of North Somerset, discovered by Parry in 1819.  Franklin knew he could reach the Bering Sea through it, the long-sought Northwest Passage. Discovery of the Passage, however, was officially credited to Captain McClure who charted it when searching for Franklin in 1850.  His was only one of forty expeditions sent during the fourteen-year search.

Some of you will certainly want to learn more than what’s in this post, so I can suggest a few sites. You can begin with Sir John Franklin Was Here – it’s a real treat! Then, there’s The Canadian Encyclopedia  for a complete look at Franklin’s life and legacy. Another very interesting site, I suggest visiting Elisha Kent Kane Historical Society written by Russell A. Potter, Ph.D.. I found another good article at Canadian Geographic. Of course, another source that you can always depend on is CBC!


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14 responses to “Lady Franklin’s Rock

  1. afterthekidsleave

    June 11, 2013 at 1:27 pm

    Wow…I can’t imagine trying to follow the Fraser up to the Arctic. Great story!

    • tkmorin

      June 11, 2013 at 6:10 pm

      Thanks, I’m glad you enjoyed it! 🙂

  2. Michelle Bennetts Heumann

    June 11, 2013 at 9:57 am

    Poor Lady Franklin!

    You probably know this song…

    • tkmorin

      June 13, 2013 at 10:36 pm

      I love it!!

      By the way, I really appreciate your visits, comments and encouragement. Please accept the award at … Just my way of saying thank you! 🙂

      • Michelle Bennetts Heumann

        June 14, 2013 at 10:24 am

        That song gives me goose bumps, and gets stuck in my head for days!
        And thank you for the award, that’s very kind!
        I had meant to tell you (and then never got around to it…) that I had linked to a couple of your posts when I did a ludicrously long blog post about Halifax – your summary of the Treaty of Utrecht, and Africville – so thanks! 🙂

        • tkmorin

          June 14, 2013 at 10:59 am

          I’m not sure my comment on the page has gone through, but suffice it to say that I thoroughly enjoyed it. Your writing style and the great details! I’ve bookmarked it so that I can go back and follow the links! 🙂

          • Michelle Bennetts Heumann

            June 14, 2013 at 11:00 am

            Thanks! There are a LOT of links… 🙂

          • tkmorin

            June 14, 2013 at 11:04 am

            I love it! When I write my posts, care of length, I use links for parts of stories I omit. I love links. 🙂

  3. weggieboy

    June 11, 2013 at 9:38 am

    Viewing photos of the well-preserved body of John Torrington, one of the first three to die on the expedition, is to witness a very human side of history rarely seen until the advent of photos, film, and video. Ironic, isn’t it, that the Northwest Passage now exists, thanks to global warming, and is open most of the year to shipping?

    • tkmorin

      June 11, 2013 at 10:35 am

      It is ironic, as many things are after time has elapsed. Thank you for the visit, and comment! -)

  4. L. Marie

    June 11, 2013 at 8:24 am

    Arctic stories are so fascinating. I admire these intrepid explorers, but how awful not to hear anything for such a long time about what happened to them. How incredibly sad.

    • tkmorin

      June 11, 2013 at 9:45 am

      I’m not sure I have what it took these these brave people to do what they had to do! I don’t think I’m that strong .. 🙂

  5. WM

    June 11, 2013 at 8:15 am

    A touching photo…

    • tkmorin

      June 11, 2013 at 9:41 am

      It is, isn’t it? WordPress finds the darnedest photos! 🙂


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