1902 Encyclopedia > Geography > Sir John Franklin

(Part 49)

Sir John Franklin

On the return of Sir James Ross attention was once more turned to the Arctic regions; and in the spring of 1845 Sir John Franklin’s Arctic expedition, consisting of the "Erebus" and "Terror," sailed from Woolwich. His instructions were to make the North-West Passage, but the main object of the expedition was the advancement of science, and to secure it the most accomplished officers in the navy were appointed, as well as the eminent naturalist Dr Goodsir.

It is now known that, in the first and second seasons, the expedition was very successful. In 1845 Sir John Franklin made a remarkable run up Wellington Channel to 77º N., in 1846, proceed
ing south, he had almost achieved the North-west Passage when his ships were permanently beset to the north of King William Island in 70º 5´ N. and 98º 23´W. Here the veteran explorer died on June 11, 1847; and all his companions perished in the attempt to reach one of the Hudson’s Bay Company’s settlements in the summer of 1848. Those among them who reached Cape Herschel, and it is certain that some did reach that point, undoubtedly discovered the North-West Passage.

The expeditions which were sent out in search of Sir John Franklin’s ships did much important geographical work; but their principal use was the establishment, through their means, of the true method of extensive Arctic exploration. The grand object of the officers and men employed on this service was the relief of their missing countrymen, and their utmost efforts were devoted to the examination of the largest possible extent of coast-line.

Hence the discovery of the modern system of Arctic sledge travelling, the only efficient means of exploring the icy regions around the North Pole. In 1848-49 Sir James Ross discovered the western side of North Somerset, and Sir Leopold McClintock served his first apprenticeship in the ice under that veteran explorer.

Austin’s expedition sailed in 1850, and wintered nearly in the centre of the region discovered by Parry during his first voyage. It was then that McClintock developed and put in practice the system of Arctic sledge-travelling which has since achieved such grand results; and Captain Ommanney, McClintock, and his colleagues Sherard Osborn, Frederick Mecham, Robert Aldrich, and Vesey Hamilton made what were then unparalleled journeys in various dierections.

In December 1849, also Captains Collinson and McClure went out to conduct further search by way of Behring Strait. The former made the most remarkable voyage on record along the north coast of Ameerica, while McClure took his ship between the west coast of Banks Island and the tremendous polar pack, until he was within great sight of the position attained by Parry in his first voyage from Baffin’s Bay. Here McClure’s ship was finally iced up in the Bay of God’s Mercy.

On the return of Austin’s expedition, the same ships were again sent our under Captains Belcher and Kellett by Baffin’s Bay; and McClintock, Osborn, Mecham, and Hamilton, who were once more in the front rank of searchers, surpassed even their former efforts. Mecham discovered a record left by McClure on Melville Island which revealed his position, and thus he and his officers and crew, by marching from their abandoned ship to the "Resolute" and returning to England with the expedition of Belcher and Kellett, were enabled to make the North-West Passage partly by ship and partly sledging over the ice. They all returned in 1854.

But the concluding search was made by Sir Leopold McClintock in the "Fox" from 1857 to 1859, when he found the record on King William Island, and thus discovered the fate of Franklin. These search expeditions added immensely to our knowledge of the Arctic regions, and established the true method of exploration. Sea voyages in the summer season are useful for reconnaissances, but efficient polar work can only be achieved by wintering at a point beyond any previously reached, and sending out extended sledge parties in the spring.

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