The Search for Franklin

In May 1845 Sir John Franklin set off on his third Arctic expedition with two Royal Navy vessels, Erebus and Terror, and 129 men. After being spotted by a whaling ship in Lancaster Sound in July 1845, they were never seen again.

The search for the Franklin expedition began in 1848, and grew to be one of the largest and most costly search and rescue operations in history. There were naval expeditions and privately funded search parties. In 1850 the first American Arctic expedition joined the search. Gradually the facts emerged: Franklin’s party had reached King William Island, but all 129 men had died.

“Discovery of the Franklin expedition boat.” Thirty Years in the Arctic Regions. New York, 1859.

The search for Franklin resulted in the mapping of the southern Arctic Islands and the first voyage through the Northwest Passage, although part of the voyage was accomplished by sledge.

Click on the images in the right-hand panel to view details.