The Arctic Council planning a search for Sir John Franklin
, 1851. Left to right are:
William Edward Parry
, Edward Bird,
James Clark Ross
(seated), John Barrow, Jnr,
William Alexander Baillie Hamilton
Frederick William Beechey
Map of the probable routes taken by
during Franklin's lost expedition. Disko Bay is about 3,200 kilometres (2,000 mi) from the mouth of the
was Barrow's reluctant choice to lead the expedition.
(later Lady Franklin), 24, in 1815. She married John Franklin in 1828, a year before he was knighted.
Franklin's lost expedition was a British voyage of
Arctic exploration led by Captain Sir
John Franklin that departed England in 1845 aboard two ships,
HMS Erebus and
HMS Terror. A Royal Navy officer and experienced explorer, Franklin had served on three previous Arctic expeditions, the later two as commanding officer. His fourth and last, undertaken when he was 59, was meant to traverse the last unnavigated section of the
Northwest Passage. After a few early fatalities, the two ships became icebound in
Victoria Strait near
King William Island in the Canadian Arctic. The entire expedition, 129 men including Franklin, was lost.
Pressed by Franklin's wife,
Jane, Lady Franklin, and others, the
Admiralty launched a search for the missing expedition in 1848. Prompted in part by Franklin's fame and the Admiralty's offer of a finder's reward, many subsequent expeditions joined the hunt, which at one point in 1850 involved eleven British and two American ships. Several of these ships converged off the east coast of
Beechey Island, where the first relics of the expedition were found, including the graves of three crewmen. In 1854, explorer
John Rae, while surveying near the Canadian Arctic coast southeast of King William Island,
acquired relics of and stories about the Franklin party from local
Inuit. A search led by
Francis Leopold McClintock in 1859 discovered a note left on King William Island with details about the expedition's fate. Searches continued through much of the 19th century.
In 2014, a Canadian search team led by Parks Canada
 located the wreck of Erebus west of
O'Reilly Island, in the eastern portion of
Queen Maud Gulf, in the waters of the Arctic archipelago. Finally,
two years later, the wreck of Terror was found south of King William Island in pristine condition by the Arctic Research Foundation.
In 1981, a team of scientists led by Owen Beattie, a professor of anthropology at the
University of Alberta, began a series of scientific studies of the graves, bodies, and other physical evidence left by Franklin's men on Beechey Island and King William Island. They concluded that the men buried on Beechey Island most likely died of
pneumonia and perhaps
tuberculosis, and that
lead poisoning may have worsened their health, owing to badly
soldered cans held in the ships' food stores. However, it was later suggested that the source of this lead may not have been
tinned food, but the distilled water systems fitted to the ships.
 Cut marks on human bones found on King William Island were seen as signs of
cannibalism. The combined evidence of all studies suggested that the crewmen did not all die quickly.
Hypothermia, starvation, lead poisoning and diseases including
scurvy, along with general exposure to a hostile environment whilst lacking adequate clothing and nutrition, killed everyone on the expedition in the years following its last sighting by Europeans in 1845.
The Victorian media portrayed Franklin as a hero despite the expedition's failure and the reports of cannibalism. Songs were written about him, and statues of him in his home town, in London, and in
Tasmania credit him with discovery of the Northwest Passage which was actually found by John Rae. Franklin's lost expedition has been the subject of many artistic works, including songs, verse, short stories, and novels, as well as television documentaries.