“Lady Franklin's Lament (The Sailor's Dream)”

Alternate titles: “Lord Franklin”
Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1878 (Faulkner, _Eighteen Months on a Greenland Whaler_); broadside versions probably date from the period 1850-1853
Keywords: sailor wife death exploration Eskimo
Found in: Canada(Mar,Newf,Ont) Britain(Scotland) Ireland


A sailor has a dream (. He hears Lady Franklin) telling of the loss of her husband, who disappeared in Baffin's Bay as he sought the Northwest Passage. He never returned, and is presumed dead, but Lady Franklin would give a great fortune to be certain


This song is the chief musical relic of one of the saddest events in the history of arctic exploration: The last failed attempt in the nineteenth century to sail the "Northwest Passage" from the Atlantic to the Pacific north of Canada.

It was a popular theme in broadsides, but most of the results were terrible (for an example of just how bad they can be, see "A Ballad of Sir John Franklin," in Sandler, pp. 96-98. For the list of books cited in this note, see the bibliography at the end of this essay). It appears that none of these products survived in tradition -- except this song, which has proved enduringly popular.

Unfortunately, the song ends in the middle of the story, with an unsolved mystery. Most books about the Franklin Expedition, simply describe the quest for the Northwest Passage, Franklin's part in it -- and then the quest to discover what happened to Franklin. I'm going to try to do it from the standpoint of the song, telling the history of the quests for the passage, then discussing Franklin, then looking what the song has to say on the subject -- and only then talking of the search for and fate of Franklin. It's not a very coherent story this way, but it avoids "cheating." If you want a more orderly exposition, try one of the books listed in the bibliography (I'd recommend Delgado or Fleming-Barrow).

The quest for the Northwest Passage began because the sea trip from Europe to Asia was so long -- going eastward, it required ships to not only sail the length of Eurasia but, in the period before the opening of the Suez Canal, also south around the Cape of Good Hope. The westward route was also long, and required making the dreadful trip around Cape Horn, which is perpetually stormy. Mariners desperately wanted a shorter, safer route. For that reason, the Northwest Passage had been a goal of mariners since Martin Frobisher in the sixteenth century (McGhee, pp. 23fff.) -- but, at that time, the Little Ice Age almost certainly made it impossible.

As the climate warmed, and as ships improved, chances became better. Plus, despite centuries of failures, people becane more willing to look. For most of the eighteenth century, apart from a naval expedition around 1740 (Williams, pp. 62-108), the area of the Passage had been in the hands of the Hudson's Bay Company, a closed group with no willingness to spend money on speculations or on anything that might affect their business (Williams, p. 49fff. Their employees at one time were given instructions to give no cooperation at all to Passage expeditions -- which, in practice, meant that they interfered with them; Williams, pp. 142-143). But then came Napoleon. Since it was only the Navy that kept the French from invading England, the Navy had to expand; it ended up roughly four times bigger in 1812 than it had been 25 years earlier. (This had dramatic side effects, such as the Nore and Spithead mutinies; see "Poor Parker" for background.)

Following the Napoleonic Wars, the Royal Navy was dramatically reduced; some 90% of Navy officers were on "half pay" -- i.e. still on the books, but with no commands; in effect, they were in reserve -- and, often, going slowly bankrupt; Fleming-Barrow, pp. 2-3. The attempts at the Northwest Passage were in part an attempt to find something for them to do. With so many officers available, it is no surprise that many exploratory voyages, to all parts of the world, were ordered. Britain ruled the waves; now it wanted to know just what waves it ruled.

Some of these exploratory voyages were successful, but those to the Northwest Passage all failed, and most resulted in much privation and some death -- Cookman, pp. 221-222, examines eight Passage attempts between 1819 and 1836: Three under Parry, two under Franklin, one under John Ross, and two under Back. 15 men died out of a total force of about 450 embarked. His list is not comprehensive -- e.g. Williams, pp. 18-32, documents the early eighteenth century expedition of James Knight, which was lost without any survivors from two ships and a crew numbering in dozens. (It is strange to note that no serious attempts were made to find Knight, even though the approximate site of his disappearance was known. Recent expeditions have discovered his ships and winter camp, but no records and almost no bodies; the best guess is that, like the Franklin expedition a century and a quarter later, Knight's men left their ships and vanished in the wilderness; Williams, pp. 32-45.)

But most of these were relatively small attempts. Franklin's 1845 expedition was organized on a massive scale.

Someone compared the quest for the Northwest Passage to the 1960s Apollo lunar program. In terms of cost, the comparison is ridiculous, but in one sense, it's accurate: The quest pushed the limits of what was possible with current technology. It is unfortunate that the Admiralty tried to hurry the Franklin expedition due to budget constraints.

The comparison with NASA is instructive. NASA's lunar expeditions were preceded by every possible test -- three generations of manned hardware (Mercury, Gemini, Apollo), plus much detailed exploration (Ranger, Surveyor, Lunar Orbiter). Even so, there were disasters (Apollo 1) and near-disasters (Apollo 13). The Franklin expedition made no such preparations. No one tried to finish off the maps of the relevant area; no one tested the new equipment in Franklin's ships. The massive expedition thus became a massive disaster. What follows can only sketch the story as far as it is now known.

John Franklin, the leader of the expedition, was born on April 16, 1786; he joined the Royal Navy in 1801. His early career was distinguished; he fought as a junior officer at Copenhagen and Trafalgar (aboard the _Bellerophon_, one of the more heavily-engaged ships, and the one which would later bear Napoleon into exile); the noise was so great as to cause permament damage to his hearing (Wilkinson, pp. 117-118).

Franklin then became a noted explorer. In his late teens, he helped chart portions of the south Pacific -- and faced a shipwreck and his first experience of starvation. In 1818, as lieutenant in command of the of the _Trent,_ he was part of David Buchan's failed push from Spitzbergen toward the North Pole, narrowly surviving the encroachments of the ice (Fleming-Barrow, pp. 53-55, speaks of a "hair-raising series of near disasters"). The next year, on foot rather than by ship, he explored the north coast of Canada between Point Turnaround and the Coppermine River -- an expedition that nearly caused his death, and resulted in charges of cannibalism and murder, though by men who were separated from Franklin at the time.

Berton, p. 70, accuses Franklin of "ignor[ing] common sense," but also admits that his orders were faulty and the mission funding was inadequate. Fleming-Barrow, p. 125, says more charitably that he was "ordered to hitch-hike through a war zone into a wilderness," being forced to beg assistance from the Hudson's Bay and North West Companies, which at this time were engaged in a small-scale war of raids; they had no time for a Royal Navy interloper.

It would not be the last time John Barrow, the Second Secretary of the Admiralty who dreamed up most of these projects (and for whom Point Barrow, Alaska is named; Savours, p. 39), sent Franklin on a mission that was not adequately prepared.

At least Franklin could learn. In 1825 he went on another expedition in northern Canada. This one charted the coastl region from the Coppermine River to the Mackenzie, and this time, his planning for the expedition was much better; Fleming-Barrow, p. 173, says he allowed "little scope for failure." There were no casualties, and much territory was charted. It also showed how good Franklin was at charming people; at one time he had in his camp Englishmen, Gaelic-speaking Scots, Canadians, Inuit, and four different tribes of non-Inuit Indians, but there were no fights (Savours, p. 88). Almost the only problem was a failure of two of their three chronometers (Savours, p. 89), making some of their maps ever so slightly inaccurate, but hardly Franklin's fault!

It was, in many ways, the highlight of his career. Never again would he have such a happy result while on duty. Franklin was knighted for his work (Fleming-Barrow, p. 175; Savours, p. 102, says this happened in 1829. We should note that the song's title "Lord Franklin" is not correct; he was neither an admiral nor a peer. His highest title was "Sir John Franklin," and his wife was Lady Franklin).

Incidentally, the 1825 expedition split into two smaller parties once it reaached the coast, with Franklin going west and the other party going east. One of Franklin's most important subordinates in the eastern group, Dr. John Richardson, apparently felt that they explored enough coast to have mapped the Northwest Passage (Savours, p. 99). This was almost true; the upper coast of Canada was mapped -- except for the Boothia Peninsula and the water route between it and Victoria Island. It could be said with fair confidence that there was a water route; between what James Clark Ross, Parry, and Richardson had found, that much seemed certain. But that did not show how a ship could travel it. So Richardson (properly, to my mind) was not given the reward for finding the passage.

Having made those three exploratory voyages, Franklin went back to more normal sea duties for about a decade, serving for a time in the Mediterranean and earning the famous Franklin Medal from William IV for services done on behalf of the Greek government.

Eventually, though, he was called home, and found he needed a job. Explorers were not wanted at the time, and the navy still had lots of excess officers. It took him a while before he was given an offer he thought worthwhile -- and it was one for which he really wasn't competent.

From 1837-1843 Franklin served as governor of Van Diemen's Land, bringing much relief after the dreadful leadership of George Arthur -- Franklin, in a brutal age, was gentle enough that he trembled when seamen were flogged, and one of his subordinates on one of the Canadian expeditions told of him refusing to kill a mosquito that landed on him (Fleming-Barrow, p. 129). He even tried to learn about the few surviving Tasmanian natives, though it was far too late to help them. He also founded what would become the Royal Society of Tasmania, and made some efforts to treat prisoners humanely (Wilkinson, p. 128; Cookman, pp. 26-27).

Frankly, he was just what the colony needed -- except that he didn't have the deviousness to outmaneuver the local officials. And, unfortunately, his civilized attitude was resented by the local establishment; they quarrelled with him constantly, and still more with Lady Jane Franklin, who actually wanted to be a human being rather than a ceremonial ornament, and who did much exploring and even founded a local college.

(Franklin's career seemed jinxed, but he was very lucky in love: His two wives were both beautiful, forthright, and highly intelligent. His first, Eleanor Ann Porden, gave him his only child, a daughter, but died of tuberculosis six days after he set out on one of his expeditions. On his return, he married the former Jane Griffin -- in 1828, according to Savours, p. 167. Lady Jane Griffin Franklin, 1791-1875, would prove one of the most determined women of the nineteenth century. It has been said that Franklin's wives were smarter than he was. Very likely true -- but at least he was a man enough to let them be the brilliant women they were.)

(Today, Lady Franklin is known mostly for her quest for her husband, but if things had turned out differently, or if she had lived a century or so later, things might have been very different: She wanted to learn, study, and work; Berton, p. 138, sourly remarked on her room in Tasmania that it was "'more like a museum or menagies than the boudoir of a lady,' being cluttered with stuffed birds, aboriginal weapons, geological specimens, and fossils." I can't help but think, had she been born in the twentieth century, she would have made a good Education Secretary.)

(Franklin also inspired real loyalty from his subordinates. John Hepburn, who had served with him as early as 1818, and also lived through the disastrous first land expedition, still cared for his commander enough to volunteer, when in his early sixties, for one of the Franklin searches; Savours, p. 241.)

MSmith, p. 86-87, sums up Franklin's time in Tasmania this way: "Van Diemen's Land was an unpleasant, half-forgotten penal colony on the fringe of the Emmpire. Over 17,000 of the island's population of 42,000 were shackled convicts and many of the free citizens were former prisoners.... To Franklin and his feisty, strong-willed wife, Lady Jane Franklin, it was a hellhole. To round things off, almost everyone in the suffocating, reactionary frontier community disliked the Franklins, who were regarded as outsiders and dangerous liberals. Lady Franklin, an assured, unconventional woman in her late forties, simply grated... They found her aggressive and disconcertingly radical, especially when she defied convention by straying into unwelcome areas, such as her attempts to improve the island's mediocre schools.... John Franklin was a square peg in a round hole. He was a genial an inoffensive man who had very little in common with the hostile colonialists or the wretched convicts and often found himself at the mercy of the wily civil servants in the Colonial Office."

Franklin eventually was recalled from Tasmania in mild disgrace, though it's reported that thousands of non-government officials showed up to cheer him off. (In fact, the people of Tasmania would later contribute 1700 pounds to the search for Franklin; Berton, p. 140. This out of a relatively impoverished free population numbered in the tens of thousands. As a result, the Tasmania Islands in the Arctic are named for them; Savours, p. 168) But, when he got back to England, he again needed a job.

And, after years of ignoring the Arctic, the Royal Navy was getting interested again. It was clear the Passage would never be commercially useful with nineteenth century ships -- but Admiralty Second Secretary Barrow, who had sent out all those other missions of exploration, was in his eighties, and knew he wouldn't be around much longer; he wanted the Passage to finish off his career.

(How hard has it been to make it through the passage? Cookman, p. 197, counted only seven successful trips through the passage as of 2000 -- though Savours, pp. 326-328, has a list of 49 passages from 1906 to 1990, with the rate increasing steadily over the years. But most of these are icebreakers or small boats. It appears, until around 2000, the passage was *still* not commercially viable -- MacInnis, p. 121, notes that in his first two years of hunting for the _Breadalbane_, there were only seven days of suitable weather, and Edinger, pp. 263-264, describes the attempt of the icebreaker/tanker _Manhattan_, which made it through the passage carrying a symbolic barrel of oil,but sustained heavy damage in the process; the attempt was not repeated.)

(It's likely that global warming will change that in the next few years, though; I heard a recent report of a group of people canoeing the Northwest Passage in a single year. Williams, p. xix, notes that the _St Roch II_ in 2000 made it through the passage in a month, without ever being halted by ice! And the difficulty of the Passage does not mean that there is no traffic up there; oil has been discovered in the Artic Archipelago, so ships are frequently going in and out, and there are several icebreakers on regular arctic duty. It's just that they don't take the Passage; they go out the same way they came in.)

Once the Passage expedition was chartered -- and thrown together hastily to get it on the present budget -- someone had to run it. Usually a commander was lined up before an expedition was organized. Not this time.

There was no question about who the first choice would have been: Captain James Clark Ross was the greatest Arctic explorer then alive. He had served on Passage expeditions with his uncle John Ross and with William Edward Parry; he had discovered the North Magnetic Pole, and he was just back from the most successful Antartcic expedition ever made. There was no man alive who knew more about arctic exploration.

But he ruled himelf out. Part of the reason was that he had not fully recovered from the Antarctic expedition; in addition, he had promised his wife and father-in-law that the southern expedition would be his last. (Fleming-Barrow, p. 351; MSmith, pp. 76, 137-138).

The next choice would be Ross's former commander William Edward Parry, whose 1819 Passage attempt had come closer to success than any before or since (Delgado, pp. 58-64), and who had followed it with two other, less successful attempts at the Passage and an 1827 attempt at the North Pole which failed but which set a new "Farthest North" record that would stand for fifty years (Berton, p. 637). But Parry was now 54 and not interested (MSmith, p. 138).

With those two out of the running, there was no really obvious choice left. The leaders in Arctic experience were Franklin and Captain F.R.M. Crozier; each had drawbacks. Crozier had less seniority; though an intelligent self-made man, had never held an independent command. And, somehow, he never seemed to gain any recognition or fame (MSmith, p. 132).

To be sure, his paper credentials were excellent. Born in Banbridge, Ireland (MSmith, pp. 6-7), he was of an Ulster Presbyterian family (the family home, now known as Crozier House, still stands). He was born around September 17, 1796. His family joined the (Anglican) Church of Ireland in the aftermath of the 1798 rebellion (MSmith, p. 10).

Francis himself joined the navy in 1810, at the age of 13 -- an unusual choice, since most of the other members of his family were solicitors. He served as a midshipman on the _Fury_ during Edward Parry's 1821 expedition to Hudson Bay, where he became friends with his future commander, James Clark Ross (MSmith, p. 29). He was also part of Parry's 1824 Passage expedition which ended in the loss of H.M.S. _Fury_ (MSmith, p. 51). He was made lieutenant in 1826, and in that capacity he joined Parry's 1827 North Pole quest, and commanded _Hecla_ while Parry was away trying (and failing miserably) to sledge across the polar ice (MSmith, p. 59). But then -- nothing. He was a lieutenant on half-pay (i.e. without an actual posting) for most of the next seven years (MSmith, pp. 66-67), though he did briefly serve on an expedition sent to rescue some whalers (MSmith, pp. 71-73); if nothing else, that earned him a promotion to Commander (MSmith, p. 74). In 1839, James Clark Ross asked him to be second-in-command of the expedition he was taking to the Antarctic, and it was Crozier who did most of the work of organizing this highly successful expedition (MSmith, p. 78). But, of course, the credit would go mostly to Ross.

It was probably small consolation to be elected a member of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1827 (MSmith, p. 67). Crozier also has a lunar crater named after him, close to the Mare Fecundatis, between it an the Mare Nectaris, close to Columbo Crater. It's a small crater, though, barely visible on most maps. Nor is it located anywhere near either pole, unlike Amundsen Crater (which is right at the South Pole) or Scott Crater (and why Scott should get a bigger crater than Crozier is beyond me, except that he had a great P.R. machine) or Nansen crater near the North Lunar Pole. In time, he even was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society -- a major tribute to his scientific work (MSmith, p. 145).

But he seems to have lacked self-confidence (MSmith, p. 29). And -- he was a victim of unrequited love. His history in that regard was strange and sad. MSmith, pp. 75-76, tells of hints that he was attracted to the poetess Jean Ingelow (1820-1897), very well known in her time but now remembered, if at all, only for "High Tide on the Coast of Lancashire." She was less than half Crozier's age at the time they met, and nothing ever came of it -- but, strangely enough, she would never marry, and some of her poetry refers to loving a sailor lost at sea.

It wasn't Crozier's last odd romantic attachment. His may have been one of the strangest love triangles of all time. The woman he had fallen in love with was Sophia Cracroft, Franklin's niece (Cookman, p. 54; Savours, p. 177; MSmith, pp. 87-88, says she was the daughter of Franklin's younger sister Isabella and Thomas Cracroft, and was known as "Sophy." Her father died in 1824, when she was nine, and Franklin, and later Jane Franklin, watched over her from that time. Franklin's relationship with Isabella was mutually beneficial, since Isabella watched over his daughter when he was at sea.).

Sophy Cracroft, after she grew up, served as a sort of general assistant to Lady Jane Franklin. She met Crozier in Van Dieman's Land, when Franklin was Governor there; Crozier and James Clark Ross twice stopped there during their Antarctic voyage. Crozier promptly fell in love with her, but she just as promptly fell in love with his commander Ross, even though he was already spoken for (Fleming-Barrow). Sophy, who apparently was quite flirtatious, was not interested at all in Crozier, calling him "a horrid radical and an indifferent speller" (! -- MSmith, p. 89). Smith seems to think he proposed to her at least twice, once while in Hobart (MSmith, p. 95) and once in 1844 after he and she had returned to England (MSmith, p. 133); on the latter occasion, she reportedly told him that she would not be a captain's wife.

Crozier apparently didn't hold her feelings against Ross (they continued to serve well together, and Crozier kept writing to Ross after the expedition ended -- indeed, Crozier lived with Ross and his wife in the last month before the Passage expdition; MSmith, p. 152), nor seemingly against Franklin, but he continued to carry a torch for her. (Interestingly, Cracroft never did marry. She stayed with Jane Franklin to the end of the former's life, and would take possession of her papers after her death.) In the course of the Antarctic expedition, Crozier was finally promoted to Captain (MSmith, p. 119). Crozier and Ross also selected the site of the future Port Stanley, the only significant town in the Falkland Islands (MSmith, p. 122).

All this seems to have left Crozier depressed. Jane Franklin and Ross both worried about him (MSmith, p. 134). He ended up taking a leave of absence from the Navy to try to get his feelings straightened out (MSmith, p. 135). When the possibility of the Passage expedition came up, he declared "I am not equal to the hardship" (MSmith, p. 140), and turned down the command (Fleming-Barrow, p. 366) -- though this may not really have been his choice; as a self-educated Ulster Presbyterian, he had no political clout, and would likely have been rejected anyway by political hacks (Sandler, p. 72); he would, as we shall see, accompany the party as second-in-command (MSmith, p. 141, calls this "the worst of all decisions," but I can't see why this is so; Crozier's depression would have made him a poor commander -- and it sounds as if it got worse as the expedition went along; his last letter, written to the Rosses, sounds like a man on the brink of a breakdown; it is quoted on MSmith, pp. 162-163. But he had shown his skill as an executive officer).

John Franklin, though more willing, had a very different, and probably worse, set of drawbacks. He was elderly, overweight, not a strong physical specimen (Sandler, p. 32, says that he had had circulation problems even when in his twenties), and though he had long before explored northern Canada, he had not been part of any previous naval expedition to the Passage. But he was the only Arctic veteran available, so he was appointed to command even though many simply didn't think him up to the task (Beattie, p. 36; Fleming-Barrow, pp. 366-368).

Franklin's last expedition was mounted in 1845, with the explorer acting as commodore commanding two ships (the reinforced bomb ships H.M.S. _Erebus_ and H.M.S. _Terror_). Not a single man ever returned (MSmith, p. 164). It has been argued that they must have found the Northwest Passage. But it is certain they could not travel it. Their fate would not be learned for many years, and even now, much about it is unknown.

By the late 1840s, the world was growing very concerned about the Expedition. They had been given supplies for three years -- enough that they would probably last four. But that time was about up, and nothing had been heard. A vast effort was mounted to try to learn the expedition's fate.

Looking at the fuller versions of this song, including the Murray broadside, we observe that the texts detail rescue attempts but do not recount the fate of Franklin's crew. I think it nearly certain that the piece originated in this period -- probably in broadsides of 1850-1851, when almost nothing was known and before it became clear that M'Clintock and Rae and McClure, not Austin and Ross and Grinnell, were the most important of the searchers.

It is possible that the Murray broadside is the original of the piece; it looks like a partial adaption of another lost-sailor song (in it, Lady Franklin is seen wandering by the Humber looking for her husband!). Nearly every other version, though, is shorter and frankly better; I suspect that there is at least one other deliberate recension standing between the Murray text and the large majority of traditional versions.

This song is surprisingly accurate in its details (another indication that it is contemporary), though later texts have mangled some names badly -- e.g. I can't imagine who captains Hogg(s) and Winslow might be (Mirsky, pp. 322-324, lists all Franklin search parties; neither name is mentioned, nor anything that sounds similar). Some examples of correct references in one or another text:

"I dreamed a dream, yes I thought it true": The idea of a sailor seeing Franklin in a dream is not just fiction; one W. Parker Snow had dreamed of finding Franklin near the North Magnetic Pole (which, amazingly and ironically, was actually about right; the Pole at that time was on the western side of the Boothia Peninsula, the expedition passed quite close to it shortly before Franklin's death. Had rescuers gone straight there at the first opportunity, they might have rescued some of his men, would almost certainly have learned his fate sooner, and might even have saved one of the ships). Snow joined one of the searches as a result, though he was of no other significance to the search for Franklin (Berton, p. 174, etc.). He later ended up having a major row with the later explorer Charles Francis Hall about a book they both wrote, but that is another story altogether (Sandler, p. 269; Berton, p. 370).

Lady Jane Franklin, to her discredit, also tried consulting spiritualists to seek her husband (MSmith, pp. 203-205). Strangely enough, this also pointed to roughly the right part of the Arctic, but nothing ever came of it.

There is a third spiritual link in the Franklin story, making you wonder how anyone could call this an enlightened period: Elisha Kent Kane, who tried to reach the North Pole while pretending to search for Franklin, was involved with a "spiritualist" named Margaret Fox; her ability as a "spirit rapper," according to Berton, p. 237, was "the mould from which all future mediums were fashioned." Berton's claims that no one tried to communicate with the dead are patently false -- note that Saul is reported to have brought up the shade of the Prophet Samuel in 1 Samuel 28! -- but Fox perhaps did found the modern industry of making a *profession* of lying to fools stupid enough to listen to them. Supposedly Kane tried to get her out of this business, but still, he was attracted to her.

"In Baffin's Bay where the whale fish blow...": The Northwest Passage does begin from Baffin Bay -- up the Davis Strait, into the Bay, through Lancaster Sound (which separates Baffin and Devon Islands) and Barrow Strait (between Somerset Island on the south and Devon and Cornwallis Islands on the north), with several alternatives from there (the straight path is through Viscount Melville Sound and McClure Strait, but these are almost always blocked by ice; the best route is south through Peel Sound, passing to the east of Prince of Wales and King William Islands, and then west along the north coast of the Canadian mainland). On July 28, 1845, in Baffin Bay, the Franklin Expedition was seen for the last time by Europeans; they met the whalers _Enterprise_ and _Prince of Wales_ before heading into Lancaster Sound.

(Whalers, we should add, did most of the original exploring of these northern regions; indeed, it was the report of a whaler, William Scoresby, that the ice was melting in the north, that helped encourage the British voyages of exploration after the Napoleonic Wars; see Berton, pp. 24-26. Whales, and hence whalers, are common in far northern and southern latitudes, because that's where the food is -- cold water holds more dissolved oxygen than warm.)

"Three ships of fame": Franklin's expedition of course consisted only of two ships, _Erebus_ and _Terror_, but they had initially had the supply ship _Barretto Junior_ along; it turned back before they went on the ice. In addition, H.M.S. _Rattler_, famous for being an early screw steamer, accompanied them as they left England; Cookman, p. 74. (Some versions say he had only two ships anyway.)

The ships were indeed famous, given their Antarctic adventures with James Clark Ross; Mt. Erebus and Mt. Terror in Antarctica are named for them. _Terror_ also participated in the bombardment of Fort McHenry that gave rise to "The Star-Spangled Banner"; as a bomb ship, she would have been responsible for at least some of the "bombs bursting in air." Since _Terror_ had been part of George Back's arctic expedition of 1836, and both had been to the Antarctic with James Clark Ross, they were already adapted for arctic service, and were selected because they would need relatively little modification.

But this is where the technology of the time became a problem. Bombs were immensely strong; no ships in use were better designed to withstand the pressure of the ice; they had been used for exploration as early as Middleton's expedition a century earlier (Williams, pp. 62-64). But bombs -- tubby, heavy, low-riding vessels -- were probably the slowest class of ships in the navy, and the modifications for Arctic service, which added to their weight and put them lower in the water, made them slower still. Almost painfully slow. _Terror_ was particularly bad (during the Antarctic expedition, Ross in _Erebus_ often had to shorten sail to let Crozier's ship catch up; MSmith, p. 84). _Terror_ even before her refit was capable of only nine knots before the wind and five when close-hauled (Cookman), p. 74. Those figures probably fell by a third as refitted.

It was hoped that steam might provide the answer. The two ships had revolutionary engines -- removable screw propellers powered by locomotive engines -- but the supply of coal was finite and could not be replaced, and the engines developed only a few dozen horsepower anyway. This was the result of Barrow's hurrying the expedition along; the Admiralty had little time to fit engines more suited to the actual ships. The result was that their engines gave them a speed of only about four knots (Cookman, p. 41; MSmith, p. 149, notes that _Terror_ even on her test run under steam reached only four knots, implying that she would be slower still in field conditions).

Franklin's _Erebus_ and _Terror_ were not the first ships to use steam power in the Arctic -- _Victory_, sailed by John Ross in 1829, also used steam. But he found the engine so useless in arctic conditions that he actually yanked it out of his ship in 1830! (Fleming-Barrow, p. 283; Edinger, p. 33, mentions the curious fact that Ross didn't just toss the engine overboard, but carefully disassembled it and had it carried to a beach nearly a mile away. This was nice for historians -- Delgado, p. 91, shows a photo of some of the parts still by the seaside -- but a rather pointless burden for the crew. Ross's adventures inspired at least one song, "The Bold Adventures of Captain Ross,? found in C. H. Firth, _Publications of the Navy Records Society_ , 1907, p. 331, available in Google Books, though this shows some pretty substantial errors).

Steam technology had improved since then -- notably in the replacement of paddlewheels with screw propellors -- but steam engines were still not mass-produced items; each had its own peculiar characteristics. And Cookman argues that, in this case, the engines used coal that the expedition really needed for heating. _Erebus_ and _Terror_ would be slow to make the passage even under ideal circumstances -- and ideal conditions never happen in the Arctic, and the ships were very unhandy if there were a need for fast maneuvering.

There was another drawback to the steam engines: They were not interchangeable. It had been settled policy for decades to send two nearly-identical vessels on exploring missions (Savours, p. 115); this meant that they could sail the same passages, move at the same speed, and interchange parts at need -- plus, if one ship sank, its crew would be able to fit on the other. And, indeed, _Erebus_ and _Terror_ were close to identical as originally built. But there was no way they could swap engine parts. We have no reason to think it mattered -- but, with the fragmentary information we have, we can't prove it didn't, either. It's another small bit of evidence of the hastily-thrown-together nature of the trip.

Another side-effect of the hasty throwing-together of the expedition was the lack of a backup plan. Voyages to the Arctic *did* end in disaster -- as Ross's _Victory_ expedition had shown; given supplies for only a year and a half, they spent four years on the ice, surviving only because of the caches left on Fury Beach years before by Parry. Ross had known about this, and planned all along to use those supplies -- though hardly intending to use them to survive two extra winters! (For details on how _Victory_ was trapped, see Edinger, pp. 123-128; for her abandonment, pp. 170-177.) Franklin had no such emergency cache, and no backup route home -- and, like Ross, his ships would be iced in for more than one winter.

"Captain Perry of high renown": Not one of Franklin's officers; Captain F. R. M. Crozier commanded the _Terror_, which had also been his ship during Ross's Antarctic expedition, while the slightly newer and larger _Erebus_ was under the immediate direction of Commander James FitzJames -- an officer so promising and so well-versed in current technology that Secretary Barrow had thought about giving him command of the expedition, but he was considered too young at 33 (Sandler, p. 72; Cookman, pp. 55-57; MSmith, p. 138, is scathing about this nomination, which he thinks political, but none of the other authors seem to have thought him unfit). Instead, he was given the post of Commander aboard _Erebus_, where Franklin flew his flag -- making him, in effect, her captain, since Franklin, the nominal skipper, would be commanding the whole expedition.

"Perry" refers rather to the aforementioned William Edward Parry (1790-1855), an explorer active mostly from 1819-1825 -- and one of the best in terms of ground covered and casualties avoided; his first voyage had disovered Barrow Straight and Viscount Melville Sound and made it farther west than any expedition for more than thirty years. He, like James Clark Ross, had been offered command of the Franklin expedition -- and turned it down; he was long since done with adventure.

"Captain Ross": Either John Ross or his nephew James Clark Ross. The elder Ross, who led expeditions in 1818 and then commanded the aforementioned _Victory_ expedition of 1829 (the primary subject of Edinger), had harmed the quest for the Passage by erroneously stating that Lancaster Sound was a closed inlet. His four-year second expedition (1829-1833 -- the one that resulted in him tossing his steam engine on the beach) learned survival techniques that the Franklin expedition ignored to its cost -- but also produced a distorted map of King William Island, with what proved fatal consequences (Delgado, p. 93; Fleming-Barrow, p. 288; Mirsky, pp. 132-133; MSmith, pp. 68-69, points out that this was one of the few Arctic expeditions that did not include F.R.M. Crozier, and that this would, ironically, prove fatal to him).

At 72, John Ross led an expedition to find Franklin in 1850 -- but found nothing, and came back with a third-hand report from Greenland that the entire Franklin party was dead. That was, in fact, true, but the details of the report were entirely wrong, and were (properly) ignored. Lady Franklin bitterly remarked that, if she could have done so, she would have put after her name in the subscription list for Ross's expedition, "with a deep sense of gratitude to Sir John Ross for murdering her husband" (Edinger, p. 249). Nonetheless, the Admiralty sent more expeditions; they just didn't send Ross. He died in 1856.

Ross the younger, who had served under his uncle and under Parry, commanded _Erebus_ and _Terror_ on their Antarctic expedition (1839-1843), making many important discoveries including the Ross Sea and Ross Ice Shelf (which were named for him). Though Ross had refused to command the Passage expedition of 1845, he took a turn hunting for his friends Franklin and Crozier in 1848-1849 (and broke his health in the process).

"Captain Austin": Horatio T. Austin of HMS _Resolute_, one of the search vessels. A man of great experience and courage (Sandler, p. 115), he nonetheless proved a not very inspiring leader. Clements Markham, a midshhipman on the expedition, describes him as small and stout, an advocate of steam, a "great talker," "genial and warm-hearted," "fond of detail," and having "wide knowledge, though he was a little narow in his views. But for managing the internal economy of an expedition... he was admirable" (Savours, p. 205).

Austin and Erasmus Ommaney of _Assistance_ were the first to find any traces of the Franklin expedition, in the form of discarded supplies on Devon Island, and later three graves and other artifacts on the peninsula known as Beechey Island (Berton, p. 180). But they did not learn the expedition's fate (and met public scorn on their return home in 1851). Having concluded that Franklin could not be west of Lancaster Sound, and could not have turned south because Peel Sound was blocked, they turned north into Jones Sound, where Franklin never ventured (Savour, p. 211)

The very fact that the Austin expedition's early return is not mentioned in the earliest known broadside hints that it dates from before they made it back. Austin would not serve in the Arctic after his first mission, and spent the last years of his career in what amounted to desk jobs (Sandler, p. 252)

"[Captain] Osborn": Given its context and the timing, this is probably an error for "Captain Austin," but it might refer to Sherard Osborn, who as a lieutenant commanded the _Intrepid_ during Austin's expedition and also served under Edward Belcher during the expedition of 1852-1854. Osborn was arrested by Belcher for arguing about the commander's plans -- but it wasn't held against him, because Belcher's expedition was such a disaster. Osborne later wrote a book called _Stray leaves from an Arctic journal_ (Savours, p. 206).

(Arressting a subordinate was by no means unusual for Belcher. Savours, pp. 243-245, devotes three pages to a history of his arguments with junior officers. On p. 245, she cites a source describing which tells how Belcher *habitually* court-martialed his officers at the end of a voyage!)

All that can be said in defence of Belcher is that few men died on his watch. Otherwise, his expedition was an unmitigated disaster, learning nothing useful and resulting in the loss of four ships. And not to the ice -- Belcher (who had from the start indicated little interest in the Arctic) after two years decided he had had enough, and despite the arguments of his subordinates abandoned four of his five ships, even though they were still intact. Berton, p. 244, calls him "one of... the most detested figures in the Royal Navy" and Sandler summarizes his actions as a "disgraceful performance"; p. 253. Belcher of course faced a court-martial, which concluded that his actions fell within his discretion, but they gave him back his sword "in stony silence"; (Sandler, p. 145).

Belcher was deprived of all future commands -- and his subordinate Osborn promoted for his actions (Mirsky, p. 153). Indeed, Osborn would campaign for expeditions to the Pole long after the Admiralty had decided to stop wasting ships and men on the Arctic.

(It was, incidentally, during Belcher's expedition that the supply ship _Breadalbane_ was sunk off Beechey Island; MacInnis, p. 38. The search for the _Breadalbane_ was the subject of MacInnis's book; the ship was and is the northernmost known shipwreck. The ordeal of the ship shows clearly the problems or operating in the Arctic. _Erebus_ and _Terror_, despite a year and a half trapped in the ice, stayed afloat until abandoned, showing the strength of bomb ships. The unreinforced _Breadalbane_ was not supposed to enter the ice -- but you can't avoid ice in the Arctic. Off Beechey Island, she was "nipped" by the ice and sank in 15 minutes; MacInnis, p. 116. Had the rest of Belcher's expedition not been based there, the entire crew would probably have been lost.)

"[Captain] Penny": This might be an error for the more famous Captain Parry, but chances are it refers to captain William Penny, an experienced whaler. Lady Franklin managed to convince ("con" might be a better word) the Admiralty into sending this veteran arctic sailor on a search expedition in 1850-1851, but he didn't find much (Berton, p. 171.); he was sent into Jones Sound (north of Lancaster Sound, and far away from the path Franklin had been ordered to follow; Berton, p. 173). It was closed by ice, so he headed for Lancaster Sound, but that left him among all the other search vessels. His men were the first to find the traces on Beechey Island (Sandler, p. 115), but there is no doubt they would have been found soon anyway.

He then wanted to head north up Wellington Channel, but even had this been permitted, that wouldn't have found Franklin either. Berton thinks it might have caused the search to be directed in a better direction (pp. 190-191), but I can't see how.

Penny ended up in a dispute with Austin, and went back to whaling after his one experience with the navy (Simpson, p. 264).

"Granville": Probably Henry Grinnell, an American trader who was convinced by Lady Franklin to support the search. He paid for (but did not accompany) two expeditions; neither accomplished much except to make Elisha Kent Kane briefly famous for surviving a disaster he largely caused.

"With a hundred seamen he sailed away": Franklin's force initially totalled 134 men, one of the largest forces ever sent on an exploratory voyage; five were sent home sick before the ships entered Lancaster Sound and were the only survivors. Three of those initial losses were significant: the sailmaker from _Terror_ and armorers (gunmakers) from both _Erebus_ and _Terror_ (McClintock, p. 231). The loss of the latter would make hunting for provisions much harder (and fresh food was the only way to get the Vitamin C to avoid scurvy); the loss of the former meant that the two ships -- never speedy, as we saw above -- might end up even slower.

It's perhaps worth reminding moderns, who never face scurvy, how deadly it was at the time. It affects the connective tissue especially, meaning that scars reopen; it also casuses blood vessels to leak, resulting in bruises where there has been no trauma; it leaves men weak and gasping for breath, and kills when blood vessels in the brain rupture (Sobel, p. 14). For years, it had ruined crews on long voyages, opening old wounds, causing joint pains, eventually resulting in the loss of teeth as the jaws swelled up; it also affected the mind, so the victims did not realize how bad the problem was.

Scurvy is prevented by Vitamin C, but that is found primarily in fresh vegetables, and also to an extent in fresh meat (especially organ meat). Crews on sea voyages had none such, and the symptoms usually started to occur in four to six months. This is because crews lived mostly on biscuit and salt meat (as late as the Franklin search, the daily died for sledgers consisted of 3/4 of a pound of salted meat and bacon, a pound of biscuits, a drib of many-year-old potatoes, and chocolate and tea; Savours, p. 263). By the time of the Franklin expedition, the use of lemon juice (frequently called "lime juice") was common -- but the juice loses potency over time.

Another curious fact about the expedition is that, though the crew was hand-picked, it had very little useful experience (MSmith notes that the Admiralty had given responsibility for choosing the crew to FitzJames -- ordinarily it would have been Crozier's job -- and blames him for botching it, even accusing FitzJames of "nauseous whiff of patronage"; p. 146. This was unfortunate in at least one way: It meant that the depressive Crozier had no close friends aboard the expedition; MSmith, p. 155). Apart from Franklin and Crozier, the only commissioned officer who had been to the arctic was Lt. Graham Gore of the _Erebus_ (Fleming-Barrow, p. 373) -- and his experience was slight; he had been on George Back's disastrous expedition on the _Terror_, which would have taught him a lot about shipwreck but little about arctic survival. Plus he, like Franklin, would die fairly early on. Crozier was the only officer on the expedition to know about wintering in the arctic on a ship.

The men were rather better. On paper, only about half a dozen sailors had arctic experience (Cookman, p. 61) -- but some of those who did had very extensive backgrounds indeed. Thomas Blanky, who had been first mate on John Ross's harrowing four-year expedition of 1829-1833 (Edinger, p. 244), meaning that he had more experience of wintering in the arctic than any man alive other than James Clark Ross, would go on to be _Terror's_ Ice Master (cf. Savours, p. 127). One of the surgeons had been on whaling voyages; there was a whaling captain who served as an Ice Master (Savours, p. 178). Even the men who had not been to the Arctic -- who were, of course, the large majority -- were mostly veterans with good records.

"To the frozen ocean in the month of May": The expedition left the Thames on May 19, 1845, to arrive in Baffin Bay in June (there was little point in arriving before June due to the ice, though a departure date a few weeks earlier might have allowed the expedition to make it a little farther before their first winter. At least in a normal year, though 1845 was more than usually icy; MSmith, p. 163. But a departure date earlier than mid-May was impossible due to the rush with which the expedition was put together. In any case, it appears that there was ice in Barrow Straight in the first year of the Franklin expedition, causing them to make a useless circuit of Cornwallis Island before settling down to winter at Beechey Island. So an earlier start, in 1845, would have done no good at all. The really strange part is that the expedition seems to have left no records at all at Beechey Island -- just empty cans and a few other artifacts and the three graves).

"On mountains of ice their ship was drove": The whole Northwest Passage is around 70 degrees north; as early as 1631, Luke Foxe had proved that there was no passage south of the Arctic Circle, and this was confirmed by the explorations of the west side of Hudson Bay done in the eighteenth century. Despite stories by men such as Juan de Fuca, the last blow to the "Straits of Anian" (an easy Northwest Passage with at most a short stretch in the Arctic) was struck by Samuel Hearne, who in 1771 (in the company with a party of natives) reached the mouth of the Coppermine River and became the first European to view the seas around the Arctic Archipelago. His journey showed for the first time that northern Canada was very large and contained no straights or sounds or passages (Williams, pp. 231-233). The passage, such as it was, is all in the Arctic.

(Hearne, incidentally, was forced to witness a massacre along the way, and his sad retelling of the tale would much later inspire Coleridge's "Rime of the Ancient Mariner"; McGoogan, pp. 1-3.)

Much of the Passage, including Lancaster Sound, is well north even of the Arctic Circle. Even in summer, the waters are never entirely free of ice; in winter, they all freeze over, and it's a matter of luck which ones thaw out in any given spring.

Nearly every arctic expedition at some point found itself frozen in, and those which handled their ships badly would see them crushed by the ice. Franklin was neither the first nor the last to come to grief this way, though severe weather in 1847 probably sealed the expedition's fate. (Beattie, p. 128, notes that ice cores show that "the Franklin era was climactically one of the least favorable [i.e. coldest and iciest] periods in 700 years," while MSmith, p. 179, mentions an Inuit report that "there was no summer between two winters" in the time the ships were trapped in the ice.)

The history of ships in the passage shows how deadly the ice could be. Parry's H.M.S. _Fury_ was lost to it on his third expedition. The ice had trapped John Ross's _Victory_, forcing him to abandon the ship. _Terror_ herself had nearly been wrecked in George Back's expedition of 1833-1835 -- the ice "once hurled his battered vessel forty feet up the side of a cliff" (Berton, p. 130); the ship barely made it back across the Atlantic and had to be beached on the Irish coast. _Breadalbane_, mentioned above, lasted only a few days in the Arctic. And H.M.S. _Investigator_ never escaped Mercy Bay after being trapped in the Franklin search.

"Only the Eskimo in his skin canoe Was the only one to ever come through": The Inuit did indeed use skin kayaks, and they did know the paths through the ice -- and, as it turned out, saw at least some of the Franklin survivors. They had saved John Ross's 1829 expedition, which would have perished due to starvation and scurvy without them. But not every European commander had the diplomatic skills or wisdom to work with them (no one prior to Charles Frances Hall in the 1860s really tried to make friends with them), and no one bothered to talk to them about Franklin until John Rae in 1854. Even more important, Franklin had too many men for the Inuit to be able to provide useful supplies; the natives travelled in small bands and were barely able to feed themselves even so.

"For my long-lost Franklin I'd cross the main": Lady Franklin did not physically participate in all the searches (Sandler, p. 86, says that she volunteered to join John Richardson's search, only to be politely rejected), but she did in fact go to the Americas during the hunt, and during the great push starting in 1850, she was hovering around the edges of the search.

"Ten thousand pounds would I freely give": The Admiralty for a time was offering twenty thousand pounds for anyone who could rescue the Franklin expedition, and half that for definitive word of Franklin's fate, but eventually dropped it, though Rae did manage to collect.

Lady Franklin spent much of her limited fortune financing search parties; M'Clintock's final expedition, which found the key evidence telling of the expedition's fate, was relatively small mostly because of Lady Franklin's need to keep costs down (Berton, pp. 317-318): it consisted of one small ship, with the officers serving as volunteers. The exact amount she spent is unknown -- I've seen estimates as low as 3,000 pounds and as high as 35,000 (so Berton, p. 333, though this probably includes contributions from others) -- but it was substantial.

I do not know if it is significant, but Berton, pp. 202-203, says that Lady Franklin brought ten thousand pounds to their marriage, and that part of the estate was one of the things he left her in his will. Thus, if she did spend ten thousand pounds, it was the entirety of her own money. (But she spent more than her own money, by every indication; Franklin had left his first wife's dowry to his daughter Eleanor, and she quarrelled with her stepmother, arguing that Jane Franklin had wasted her estate.)

Lady Franklin's dedication did do some slight good for feminism: She would be the first woman to be given the Patron Medal of the Royal Geographic Society.

As we see, the song ended before the fate of Franklin was known. So what happened to him?

From what was learned later, we know that the ships were caught on the ice; eventually they were abandoned and wrecked (this was verified both by Inuit accounts and by wreckage; Collinson found some as far away as Dease Strait, some ten degrees west of where the ships went down; Savours, p. 233), but the men were unable to reach civilization.

Bad maps may have played a role. The Northwest Passage can be thought of as proceeding from Baffin Bay in four stages: The first is Lancaster Sound, then the Barrow Straight. The obvious third stage was the straight path through Viscount Melville Sound (which runs north of Victoria Island). This path, however, is usually frozen; Parry had made it part way on his first voyage, but had eventually been halted, and no one else had even come close. The fourth stage would be due west to the Beaufort Sea and out the Bering Strait.

The first, second, and fourth parts were known, but no one had even mapped a complete route for the third stage. It was known, e.g., that there was a straight path to the south of Victoria Island, but no one knew how to get to Victoria Island from Barrow Straight.

Franklin's first attempt at finding the third stage was an unfruitful exploration of Cornwallis Island; this led nowhere. Franklin then properly headed south through Peel Sound and past Prince of Wales island, just to the west of the Boothia Peninsula.

The question then was whether to pass east or west of King William Island, which lies in the area between the Boothia Peninsula and Victoria Island. This was where Franklin had to make a guess. And the charts Franklin had were not just incomplete but inaccurate. John Ross's error, cited above, closed off the eastern passage around King William Island (which, in any case, was narrow and shallow; it would have been hard to navigate -- MSmith, p. 171). Another error seemed to imply a useful passage further west which did not exist. (Lest we criticize, the Arctic Archipelago -- called the "District of Franklin" when they were still part of the Northwest Territories -- is among the hardest places on earth to map; I have an atlas from 1967 which still contains some fairly significant errors, such as showing Borden and Mackenzie King islands as one; an atlas from 1952 is even worse, omitting islands and bays and creating a great bay which doesn't exist.)

Given that misinformation, Franklin chose to steer west of King William Island. That route, while short in air distance, is exposed to pack ice coming down M'Clintock Channel. While technically ocean, the route in fact almost never thaws -- there is so much ice that it periodically throws floes high up on King William Island (Fleming-Barrow, p. 288; MSmith, pp.170-171, quotes James Clark Ross's observtions of the ice on the island). Franklin seems to have entered it at one of the few times when it was partly open. His ships were frozen on the ice for almost two years before they were finally abandoned.

Franklin did not live long enough to know the worst. He died, of unknown but probably natural causes, aboard _Erebus_ on June 11, 1847; his body has not been found. His loss shouldn't have been fatal -- after all, that left the veteran F. R. M. Crozier in command.

But the loss of their paunchy admiral seemed to take something out of the expedition. Crozier, though an intelligent self-made man, had never held an independent command. And, somehow, he never seemed to gain any recognition or fame (MSmith, p. 132).

Crozier told the wife of another officer that he didn't expect to get back alive from the Franklin Expedition (MSmith, p. 156; cf. Cookman, p. 73; Fleming-Barrow, p. 374). His last letters hint strongly at depression (Cookman, p. 54), and Lady Franklin wrote that he "seemed... ill and dispirited when he left" (Savours, p. 192). He felt, with some justice, that his record should have earned him more recognition than he had been given. Bitter and pessimistic, he was hardly the man to save a bad situation.

After being frozen off King William Island for two winters, Crozier finally abandoned the ships and tried to head back to a possible rendezvous point by the Great Fish River. But there were no rescue ships there, and indications are that the crew broke up into smaller groups, none of which survived. Several bodies have been found which seem to come from the Franklin Expedition -- and which show obvious signs of cannibalism.

The last written record of the expedition comes from the spring of 1848, as they abandoned the ships, though we know some men lived longer -- possibly into the 1850s.

Franklin's problem, perhaps, could ultimately be put down to "bad luck" -- i.e. lack of actual genius; his 1819 expedition had ended in disaster through minor errors in what we would now call "staff work," and that is perhaps part of what happened here: When he needed to be inspired, he instead got bogged down, wasting much time circling Cornwallis Island, failing to leave cairns to mark his progress (or building cairns but leaving no records in them; see, e.g., Savours, p. 292), and then dying before he could rectify his mistake.

(Most books seem to take a position that is either strongly pro- or anti-Franklin. I must admit that I find this hard. Of the men most qualified to know -- Parry, James Clark Ross, and Crozier -- all initially approved of his appointment; although Crozier eventually because depressed, he had written to Ross somewhat earlier expressing his approval of Franklin; Savours, p. 178. Reading the passages from Frankin's notes compiled by Savours, pp. 169-177, it appears he was much wiser about the Arctic than his superiors. And yet -- he *did* fail. My best guess is that he was a better-than-average commander for the task -- but that the task, given the weather conditions in the late 1840s, needed someone who was better than better-than-average.)

All this of course was reconstructed from the findings of the expeditions sent to look for Franklin. There were many (Beattie, pp. 262-263, list some 17 ships sent out by 1850, plus some land expeditions; Delgado, p. 149, says that 32 expeditions were mounted from 1847 to 1859), but the initial searches were rather a failure; although the ships charted some new territory, few discovered anything and several managed to come to grief themselves.

Lady Franklin did not get any useful word until 1854. At that time, John Rae -- who wasn't even searching for Franklin; he was exploring the Boothia Peninsula for the Hudson's Bay Company (Savours, pp. 270-271) -- met sundry Inuit (Savours, p. 272) who had collected a few relics (including the Franklin Medal) and had also seen a company of perhaps forty white men struggling south in the snow. The Europeans had starved to death (Savours, p. 273), and the Inuit had collected the relics.

While that located the expedition in the waters off the Boothia Peninsula -- an area that no one had bothered to search, though Lady Franklin had urged it -- it left at least two-thirds of the men unaccounted for, though Franklin on the evidence was surely one of the casualties. The Admiralty was satisfied; it closed the books (Cookman, pp. 1-2, prints the preliminary Admiralty order to pay off the men's widows after a certain date if no word was heard. This was before Rae reported; obviously his report just made it final). The Navy declared the seamen dead, passed out a few knighthoods, and sent its fleet to fight in the Crimean War (where the British forces suffered more wastage than they ever did in Lancaster Sound, and for even less use. The Northwest Passage expeditions not only charted new ground, but they made biological, geological, and anthropological discoveries, though hardly enough to justify the lives they cost).

Lady Franklin wasn't satisfied, but from now on, she was entirely on her own. She would finally learn her husband's fate in 1859.

In 1857, Lady Franklin had chartered one last expedition, under Francis M'Clintock -- one of the most industrious of the early explorers, though he didn't become famous at the time. They had only a single small ship, the _Fox_, a 177 ton topsail schooner, formerly a yacht, with auxiliary steam (Savours, p. 284) that had to be crammed to the bilges to fit in all the men and supplies (Savours, p. 285) -- but they finally went to the right place, searching (mostly by sledge) around King William Island and the Boothia Peninsula. They also talked to quite a few Inuit.

During their search, they found skeletons, more relics -- and two of the expedition's summary reports (Franklin had had orders to leave reports, sealed against water, at regular intervals, though only a handful were ever found, most from very early in the expedition; in effect, we have only one document of the last stages). These two summaries were both written on the same sheet of paper, and found in a cairn by one of McClintock's officers (for details of the finding, see e.g. Sandler, pp. 182-185, plus of course McClintock, pp. 190-192).

The first report, from May 28, 1847, was still optimistic. The expedition, after wasting most of 1845 circling Cornwallis Island, had spent the winter of 1845-1846 at Beechey Island. Once the ice broke up the next spring, Franklin had headed south, spending the winter of 1846-1847 off King William Island. At the time the report was written, the ships were still stuck there. Still, there seemed to be hope.

The second report, from (probably) April 25, 1848, was a grim addendum written in the margins of the first; the ships had been ice-locked by dreadfully cold weather for more than a year and a half. Both Franklin's subordinate captains, Crozier and FitzJames, were alive to sign the report (McClintock, p. 193, believed that the note was written by FitzJames himself, save the last words which were by Crozier; he does not give reasons for this, but Savours, p. 292 accepts it). Franklin, though, had been dead for ten months, and a total of two dozen men -- 20% of the expedition's total -- had been lost. There seemed no way to escape by sea. On April 22, Crozier ordered the 105 survivors to abandon the ships and head for the mainland.

The 1848 report did not tell the fate of the last survivors, of course. Most think they simply tried for the mainland (the report says they would "start tomorrow... for Back's Fish River") and failed to make it. But David Woodman speculated that they wanted to hunt and fish at the river to restore their strength, then return to the ships (Delgado, p. 163). This would explain why there were relics found at so many places -- and also why the one ship's boat that was found was found on a sledge heading *north* (Savours, p. 296). On this theory, some of the crew may have lived until 1851 or 1852. But they were never seen again by Europeans.

They may have made severe mistakes in planning this last stage -- M'Clintock found they took a lot of junk, such as books and silverware, with them, though it has been argued that they simply emptied the ships (perhaps of materials not needed for the final part of the voyage, or perhaps to keep them available should the ships sink).

They may not have been in shape to travel. Their sledges were ill-designed and heavy. It is little surprise that most died along the trek. It appears that quite a few simply dropped as they walked, and died where they fell (Beattie, pp. 80-81). Then, too, the evidence of cannibalism is overwhelming (Rae observed it at once -- Savours, p. 273 -- and others later confirmed it), in the form bones carved by knives and often scattered in a completely unnatural way (Delgado, p. 168; Sandler, pp. 150-151; Cookman offers additional details on pp. 176, 178, then proceeds on p. 184 to accuse Crozier of killing living men to feed the others. Of course, the only evidence of that is Cookman's drug dreams).

The Inuit would indicate that, after _Erebus_ and _Terror_ were abandoned, one sank and one was crushed by ice (Sandler, p. 180). This seems likely, and would accord with a few pieces of wreckage which have been found, but unlike the _Breadalbane_, their wrecks have not been discovered (it's a lot easier to search around Beechey Island, where the waters open almost every year and which is close to regular sea routes, than the often-frozen waters off King William Island).

Their strange behavior in these final months led to speculation that the men were slowly losing their minds. Much would be made of this in the next century.

It is an irony of the search for Franklin that it finally *did* find the Northwest Passage; explorers from the west, led by Robert McClure, discovered McClure and Prince of Wales Straits and followed each far enough to sight Melville Sound and Parry's Winter Harbour (where that explorer had wintered in 1820), "forging the last link," as the journalists of the time put it (it apparently was Franklin's friend John Richardson who first said the that Franklin's party "forged the last link of the Northwest Passage with their lives"; Mirsky, p. 136. But the phrase became a commonplace). Both these routes, however, were blocked by ice and unusable at the time (and are close enough to the arctic pack that they rarely open).

McClure managed at one point to sledge to Winter Harbor, the westernmost point reached by any expedition from the east, but he and his ship _Investigator_ did not come through -- and indeed blundered around so much that the ship was lost (having first risked a winter in open ice -- Mirsky, p. 145 -- the next year McClure entered a cul-de-sac he called "Mercy Bay," where the ship was trapped; Berton, pp. 228-232). Shortly before they were found, McClure engaged in a brazen attempt to send more than half of his crew to their deaths so that the remainder (the strongest) would have a better chance to survive (Sandler, pp. 131-132). Fortunately, they were found before he managed to execute his plan.

Even when McClure's crew was rescued by sledges from ships in the east, he tried to keep his sick crew on his ship, so he could try to claim the prize money for the passage -- but he simply couldn't convince the crew to do it (Berton, p. 248). Fleming-Barrow, p. 405, calls his behavior at this time "a little mad," which may be an understatement; several of his crew were dead, all had scurvy, and clearly they weren't strong enough to sail the vessel, but McClure tried to trick his superior into forcing them to stay with his ship. He also tried to force his crew to abandon the journals which would have documented his behavior (Savours, p. 222).

What it came down to was that McClure's crew made the passage (from west to east) -- but no ship did. In the end, the eastern expeditions returned east, and the the one surviving this that had gone in from the west went back west, without their vessels meeting.

Captain Richard Collinson, McClure's nominal superior, also discovered a passage (Delgado, p. 133), approximating that later used by Amundson, but gained little credit for it, in part because McClure made it home first and in part because he didn't actually follow the passage. Yet, as his brother noted in editing his journals that he "demonstrated practically that it is navigable for ships" (quoted by Savours, p. 231) -- that is, Collinson, though he mapped only a small part of the Passage, was the first to sail a ship through large portions of it. It was Collinson, not McClure or Franklin or anyone else, who proved that -- under ideal circumstances -- it was possible to get a ship through the Passage. (Amundsen would later say that Collinson would get far too little credit for what he did; Savours, p. 307). All that was needed after that was for someone to actually do it.

It was not until 1903-1906 that Amundsen in the _Gjoa_ would make the actual passage from Baffin Bay to Beaufort Sea -- and even he didn't take the Lancaster/Melville/McClure route, but turned south from the Barrow Strait to take the longer, narrower, but less icy, route east and south of King William Island and then south of Victoria Island -- in effect combining the first part of Franklin's path with the main part of Collinson's.

It wasn't until 1944 that Larsen made it through the icy Lancaster/Melville passage. (Amazing to realize that, now, there are actual settlements -- Resolute and Grise Fjord, among others -- north of that route. Though Wilkinson, p. 78, notes an interesting point about Resolute: It is mostly a military base and airfield, designed to watch the Pole -- and it was supposed to be set up at Parry's Winter Harbor. But there was too much ice to get there, so they set up on Cornwallis Island instead. Winter Harbor ended up being the place where the first Arctic oil drilling began, though -- Wilkinson, p. 99. If that's something worth memorializing.)

But why did the expedition fail? Why did they make the strange decisions they did, and why weren't they able to make it home? Crozier and company were far from anywhere when they abandoned ship, but they should still have had enough supplies to make it to one or another Hudson Bay Company outpost.

This is the second Great Mystery of the Franklin Expedition -- the one that endures to this day.

The obvious answer is, Scurvy, or vitamin C deficiency (cf. MSmith, p. 174, who estimates that the disease would have turned serious just about when Franklin died). As noted above, this had been the constant companion of long sea voyages for as long a men could remember; it nearly ruined Magellan's first circumnavigation of the globe.

Franklin's crews of course were given the standard rations of lemon juice -- but the standard ration is not by itself enough to prevent scurvy. On most ships, this doesn't matter; the crews get at least some fresh food. Not in the Arctic, though! And Vitamin C has an unfortunate tendency to degrade when exposed to light and air, so a dose of lemon juice that might have prevented scurvy in 1845 would have been too weak to do much good in 1847. Plus, Sherard Osborn noted that no canned materials were found among any of the relics found along King William Island. If the survivors had any provisions left, they were in the form of salt meat and biscuits, which had no vitamin C at all (Savours, p. 297).

What's more, scurvy affects both the mind and the body; a man too badly afflicted might make the sort of strange decisions Crozier and his surviving officers are accused of having made.

Yet many deny the possibility of scurvy (e.g. Fleming-Barrow, p. 416 thinks it killed too quickly). Owen Beattie found another theory. In 1984 and 1986, he autopsied the bodies of the first Franklin men to die (the three buried on Beechey Island in the first winter). He found extremely high levels of lead. He also looked at some of the bones of the skeletons found along the path of the Franklin Expedition. He found strong evidence of scurvy (Beattie, p. 16) -- and more lead. His theory is that the men were driven mad by lead poisoning, which would explain their erratic behavior, and of course would make them less able to bear the privations of an arctic journey. Documentation of this may be found in Beattie.

But while the lead theory has become popular, the evidence is far from complete -- Beattie examined only a handful of bodies, and only the three from Beechey Island were intact; all three had elevated levels of lead, but all died of other causes. And even if lead poisoning caused some of the other deaths, we cannot be sure if these men were typical.

If anything, the evidence for lead poisoning is stronger in the search expeditions -- e.g. nearly everyone in James Clark Ross's crew came down sick for extended periods, and their problem does not appear to have been scurvy (Sandler, p. 93).

Against the lead theory may be set the fact that the last message, written and signed by Crozier and FitzJames, seems largely coherent and reasonable. The men were debilitated, but not entirely mad. Berton, p. 146, mentions the lead theory but says flatly that "the main cause of death was clearly scurvy." MSmith, p. 181, notes that Crozier's decision to abandon the ships in April 1848 was rational: although the weather would be warmer later on, this was the best time to travel across the ice, which would still be firm after the winter.

In any case, there is the question of where the lead came from. *This* question we can answer: It came from their food. About a third of the provisions supplied to the Franklin Expedition came from canned food -- in tin cans sealed with lead. And yet, other expeditions also sailed with lead-sealed cans, and survived. Indeed, thirty-some years later, the _Jeannette_ expedition suffered from lead poisoning (in the form of stomach cramps) -- and they identified the condition and corrected it (see Leonard F. Guttridge, _Icebound_, p. 158; for background on the _Jeannette_, see the notes to "Hurrah for Baffin's Bay").

This led Cookman to another theory. Canning was still a new technology in 1845 (the first British patent was granted in 1811), and people were still tinkering with it. The contract to supply the Franklin Expedition was so large that most canners had backed out. One who did not was Stephan Goldner -- who submitted by far the lowest bid.

Cookman portrays Goldner as the extreme villain of the piece, deliberately cheating the Admiralty. This need not follow -- but it is quite clear that Goldner was not really up to the job he had contracted for. He was supposed to supply a variety of provisions -- canned vegetables, meats, soups -- mostly in small cans. He delivered almost nothing by the contract date, and was allowed to substitute large cans (cheaper and faster to manufacture) at the last moment.

By the end of the 1850s, it would become clear that Goldner's methods simply didn't work. He did not cook the contents of the cans sufficiently, and he didn't solder them tightly enough; the contents, in addition to being saturated with lead, very often rotted in the cans, or in some instances burst.

Cookman thinks that Goldner probably adulterated what he shipped, as well; since he was canning in the spring, there would have been few fresh vegetables, and little fatted meat, available. Between the inferior ingredients, the inadequate cooking, and the undeniably unsanitary conditions in Goldner's factory, the canned goods would almost certainly have been breeding grounds for bacteria. Including botulism bacteria.

But is this a quality control problem or deliberate cheating? Cookman thinks the latter -- but it appears that some contemporary Goldner products had proved acceptable (Beattie, p. 65), and that Goldner had given satisfaction in the past (Beattie, p. 45). And Cookman is demonstrably wrong in one charge against Goldner (p. 87, where Goldner, correctly, argued that round cans are structurally more sound than square. Goldner's explanation is imprecise, so Cookman calls it a lie even though the gist of it is true).

But deciding that Goldner was evil allowed Cookman to evolve a vision of the expedition which makes Franklin and Company look much better: At every stage their behavior was rational. They just kept dying of food-borne illnesses. The idea is old: as early as Austin's expedition, Captain Ommaney, counting the number of tins left on Beechey Island, thought that some of Franklin's food might have been bad. The only problem with Cookman's version it is that it's about 10% facts (the facts being Goldner's problems, the large number of cans in the cairn on Beechey Island, and the known places where Franklin artifacts were found) and 90% Cookman -- and Cookman's writing shows his ability to substitute speculation for fact; his history of the expedition often includes detailed descriptions of events no one witnessed or could reconstruct from the available data (e.g. he actually tells us which hatches were bolted on Franklin's ships during the winter -- see p. 95).

Still, MSmith, p. 150, mentions the botulism theory with some approval.

That Goldner's products were inferior is certain; there were many complaints in the years after the Franklin expedition, and eventually the Admiralty imposed such stringent conditions on him that he appears to have been driven out of business. Even if his products weren't filled with lead or fatal bacteria, many of the cans probably contained spoiled food.

This would fit Beattie's autopsy of Marine Private William Braine, who was very tall for the period (about 6 feet/180 cm.) but utterly emaciated (about 40 kg/90 pounds); botulism frequently affects the digestion first, and other forms of food poisoning target the digestion even more.

In this regard, the Admiralty's decision to fit out a large expedition was probably largely to blame: The ships were heavily modernized and very up-to-date -- but, with so many hands, the crew could not possibly pick up enough food to significantly supplement their diets. (Indeed, it appears they didn't have anyone trained as a hunter.) They had to rely overwhelmingly on provisions taken from England -- which, whether lead-contaminated or not, whether poison or not, whether vermin-infested or not, lacked Vitamin C and were guaranteed to produce scurvy.

It seems to me that all the individual theories have contradictions. If the problem were lead alone, then there was enough food, so why cannibalism? If it were scurvy alone, again, why cannibalism? If it were botulism alone, then why were there so few deaths on Beechey Island? Hundreds of cans were discarded, yet only three men died, at least one of them primarily of tuberculosis. Even when the men abandoned the ships, the casualties were still only in the dozens. Goldner's cans may have been filled with junk, but at most a tiny fraction could have contained actual toxins. And if there were no toxins, then Cookman's diatribe against Goldner has no point.

One thing I note is that very many Arctic expeditions -- e.g. those of Kane, Hall, and Greeley, for which see "Hurrah for Baffin's Bay," and the _Karluk_ voyage, for which see "Captain Bob Bartlett" -- ended in madness and insubordination. This was true from the time of the earliest explorers: Martin Frobisher, the first man to seek the Northwest Passage, came to blows with some of his captains during his third voyage to Baffin Bay (McGhee, pp. 143-145). Henry Hudson's crew set him adrift in Hudson's bay because he would not abandon the weaker members of the party (Mirsky, pp. 62-63; Woodman, pp. 36-40, thinks that the madness was actually Hudson's, not his men's, and suggests that "there seems little doubt that Hudson, whatever his skills as a seaman and his experience as an explorer, was a feeble commander. Setting aside the suggested ambiguities in his sexuality, his vacillations and his biddable character are enough to condemn him"). Williams, pp. 16-17, tells of exploring parties sent by the Hudson's Bay Company in which men -- often the leaders -- lost their minds; in a later expedition, two ship captains ended up quarrelling over something as trivial as who distributed ptarmigan brought in by Indians (Williams, p. 173), and the officers were accusing each other of plotting murder (Williams, p. 175).

The Arctic brought out the worst in men, and not just because of hunger and scurvy. Noah Hayes, who was on Charles Francis Hall's 1871 expedition, wrote "I believe that no man can retain the use of his faculties through one long [Arctic] night" (quoted in Fleming-North, p. 145).

Thomas Collinson, who edited the journals of his brother Richard Collinson (who spent five arctic winters in the search for Franklin), confessed "there appears to be someting in that particular service... that stirs up the bile and promotes bitter feelings" (Berton, p. 296); Berton himself says on pp. 392-393, "The history of Arctic exploration is riddled with irrational decisions and events."

That there was an Arctic disorder seems clear. I've not seen any writing explaining it, though -- seasonal affective disorder might play a part (the Inuit actually had a name for that; they called it "perlerorneq"; MSmith, p. 175) , but it hardly seems sufficient. Perhaps SAD plus incipient vitamin deficiency? Or calcium deficiency? In Robert Peary's later expedition, his Inuit were sometimes attacked by a disease called _piblokto_, which produced vicious and erratic behavior; it is now thought to be caused by lack of calcium (see Fleming-North, p. 359). Reading the accounts of Dr. Frederick A. Cook's arctic quest, I thought his behavior evidence of some sort of mental disturbance, and Bryce, p. 844, quotes another source who had the same thought. Whatever the "arctic madness" was, who is to say it didn't affect the Franklin expedition?

The various books I've consulted all seem quite certain about their theories. But it appears that, barring additional evidence, we simply cannot be sure. It is true that occasional relics continue to turn up, but they don't tell us much. Barring some other written record -- and, after 150 years, such a record is unlikely to be found (particularly since the detailed 1879 search by Frederick Schwatka, which most most of the remaining relics, was so thorough; Beattie, p. 99) -- we will remain as uncertain as the author of this song.

It's pretty useless at this stage to assign blame, but it's worth noting that not everyone thinks Franklin entirely at fault for the disaster. He has had a curious history -- the British at first treated him as a near-saint. Then came the reaction in which he was treated as a fool. Now there are various attempts to vindicate him. The truth probably lies somewhere in between. A wiser man would probably have done better with the materials he had at hand, but it was not Franklin who designed the expedition. That was done by John Barrow, the Admiralty Second Secretary. Cookman, p. 204, blames Barrow explicitly; Fleming-Barrow implies it repeatedly. Ironic, then, that I have never seen a version of this song which mentions Barrow.

For the later fates of some Franklin searchers, who then turned to North Pole exploration, see "Hurrah for Baffin's Bay."


In writing this summary, in addition to the standard references, I have heavily consulted the following works, of varying quality.

Beattie: Owen Beattie & John Geiger, _Frozen in Time_ (revised edition by Greystone, 2004). This is specific to the fate of the Franklin Expedition, but says less about the Franklin itself than about Beattie's autopsies; it's not really a history of the Franklin Edition. It exists mostly to advance the lead theory.

Berton: Pierre Berton, _The Arctic Grail_ (Viking, 1988). This covers the whole history of Polar and Passage exploration. It has a very low opinion of most arctic explorers -- it is almost as if Berton set out to insult as many people as possible -- but which includes much useful detail. Because it predates Beattie's main publication, it does not address the lead issue in full detail.

Bryce: Robert M. Bryce _Cook & Peary: The Polar Controversy, Resolved_ (Stackpole, 1997) is not about Franklin, or the Northwest Passage, but contains so much detail that some of it reflects on the Franklin expedition.

Cookman: Scott Cookman, _Ice Blink: The Tragic Fate of Sir John Franklin's Lost Polar Expedition_ (Wiley, 2000). Another Franklin-specific book. Although published as non-fiction, and including several useful appendices, this is really more of a historical novel. It advances the botulism theory -- and then basically invents a history of the expedition, right down to what Captain Crozier was thinking as he abandoned the ships and decided to engage in cannibalism. Uh-huh. Maybe there is merit to his theory -- but he'd have done a lot better to present his theory, not write a piece of fiction and try to sell it as fact.

Delgado: James P. Delgado, _Across the Top of the World_ (Checkmark, 1999). This book, which provides a good general overview of Passage exploration, briefly cites this song (and Stan Rogers's "Northwest Passage" and is a good place to start studying Passage exploration. Incidentally, Rogers looked almost eerily like early engravings of Franklin; see, for instance, Delgado's modern edition of Franklin's own edition _Journal to the Polar Sea_ -- there is a reproduction facing p. 160), and appears to be up to date on the state of research through 1999. This has the advantage of providing a good context, since it covers the Northwest Passage expeditions before and after Franklin.

Edinger: Ray Edinger, _Fury Beach: The Four-Year Odyssey of Captain John Ross and the Victory_, Berkley, 2003. Mostly about Ross, of course, rather than Franklin, but it has some useful background.

Fleming-Barrow: Fergus Fleming, _Barrow's Boys_ (Grove, 1998) covers the explorations undertaken at the behest of John Barrow, Second Secretary of the British admiralty for most of the first half of the nineteenth century. This includes most of Franklin's explorations, though it includes much other material as well. Still, it gives the feel of the period better than any of the other books, including Delgado.

Fleming-North: Fergus Fleming, _Ninety Degrees North: The Quest for the North Pole_ (Grove, 2001). In some ways, a companion volume to the preceeding, devoted mostly to the quest for the North Pole with occasional side glances at other aspects of arctic exploration. It of course shares most of the characteristics of Fleming-Barrow.

MacInnis: Joe MacInnis, _The Land that Devours Ships: The Search for the Breadalbane_ (CBC, 1985). The story of a modern search for one of the Franklin rescue ships, with relatively little about Franklin himself -- but, because of its monotonous background about the process of the search, it gives a fair amount of detail about working on shipboard in the Arctic.

McClintock: Francis McClintock, _The Voyage of the Fox_, 1860(?); I use the 1998 Konemann edition which omits most of the extensive appendices but retains the main narrative. This is one of the key source documents, though it is unindexed and not particularly readable. NOTE: This edition spells the captain's name "McClintock," in accord with modern usage; he and his contemporaries used the spelling "M'Clintock."

McGhee: Robert McGhee, _The Arctic Voyages of Martin Frobisher: An Elizabethan Adventure_, University of Washington Press, 2001. It barely mentions Franklin, but it documents the first-ever search for the Northwest Passage.

McGoogan: Ken McGoogan, _Ancient Mariner: The Amazing Adventures of Samuel Hearne, the Sailor Who Walked tot he Arctic Ocean_, Harper Perennial Canada, 2003. Obviously not about Franklin -- it never even mentions the 1840s expedition, though it does briefly allude to the disastrous 1821 trip that retraced part of Hearne's route. But it gives good background on the whole nature of exploring northern Canada.

Mirsky: Jeannette Mirsky, _To the Arctic: The Story of Northern Exploration from the Earliest Times to the Present_, revised edition, Knopf, 1948. Given its date, this inevitably shows its age. It also glosses over almost all errors while stressing the heroism of arctic explorers. But it covers all attempts at the Arctic, even those by Russians, which is rare.

MSmith: Michael Smith: _Captain Francis Crozier: Last Man Standing_ (Collins Press, 2006). The first attempt at a full biography of Frankin's second-in-command, it gives a rather different look at the whole Northwest Passage expedition. There are a number of mathematical gaffes (the author does not understand the difference between linear and area measure!), but it is useful as a counterweight to the usual books all about Franklin.

Sandler: Martin W. Sandler: _Resolute_ (Sterling, 2006). This is, of all things, a book about a desk. But it's a desk made out of wood from one of the Franklin search ships. I ended up -- by accident , thanks to Half Price Books selling a copy that should not be sold (a fact I failed to notice) -- with an uncorrected review copy. I've noticed several small errors in dates, but I assume the pagination will be little changed.

Savours: Ann Savours, _The Search for the North West Passage_ (St. Martin's, 1999). I found this somewhat heavy going, and while it is footnoted it manages to quote the Stan Rogers song "Northwest Passage" as a "seafarer's song" (p. viii), but the appendices, with lists of Northwest Passages and artifacts from the Franklin Expedition, are most useful, and it covers the ground thoroughly.

Sobel: Dava Sobel, _Longitude_, 1995 (I use the 2007 Walker edition with a foreward by Neil Armstrong). This has nothing to do with Franklin, but has useful information about scurvy and about navigation in unknown waters.

Wilkinson: Douglas Wilkinson, _Arctic Fever: The search for the Northwest Passage_ (Clarke Irwin, 1971). This seems to be written for a school-aged audience; footnotes are few, and there are a lot of minor slips. It's quite readable, though, and has some information not found elsewhere, mostly about the Arctic today.

Williams: Glyn Williams, _Voyages of Delusin: The Quest for the Northwest Passage_ (HarperCollins, 2002; I use the 2003 Yale University Press edition). Despite what you might think from its title, this is not a history of all the Passage attempts; it ends c. 1800, and Franklin is mentioned only three times, briefly. But it's a good background book for the pre-Franklin period.

Woodman: Richard Woodman, _A Brief History of Mutiny_, Carroll & Graf, 2005. It doesn't even mention Franklin, but some of its insights on mutiny in the cotext of Arctic Madness are interesting.


Greenleaf/Mansfield states that 151C is a different song from 151A and 151B. The text is

We sailed away down Baffin Bay,

Where the nights and days were one;

And the Huskimaw in his skin canoe,

That was the only living soul.

The ice-king came with his eyes aflame,

Perched on our noble crew,

And his chilly breath was cold as death,

It pierced our warm hearts through.

- BS

It is noteworthy that Laws does not list that song with this piece, and most of the lines quoted above are not normally found in "Lady Franklin's Lament." The reference to Eskimos, however, *is* found in other Franklin versions, so (given the rarity of this version), I'm still lumping the songs for the moment.

Incidentally, though the word "Huskimaw" for "Eskimo" seems to be extinct today, it was common enough in the past that it gave rise to the name "husky" for arctic dogs. (Thanks to J. V. Arkle and Lyle Lofgren for bringing this to my attention.) - RBW

Historical references




  1. Laws K9, "Lady Franklin's Lament (The Sailor's Dream)"
  2. Doerflinger pp. 145-147, "Lady Franklin's Lament" (2 texts, 1 tune)
  3. Colcord, pp. 159-159, "Franklin's Crew" (1 text, 1 tune)
  4. Fowke/Mills/Blume, pp. 154-156, "The Franklin Expedition" (1 text, 1 tune)
  5. SHenry H815, p. 103, "Franklin the Brave" (1 text, 1 tune)
  6. Greenleaf/Mansfield 151, "The Franklin Expedition" (3 texts, 1 tune)
  7. Blondahl, pp. 65-66, "Franklin In Search of the North-West Passage" (1 text, 1 tune)
  8. Creighton-Maritime, p. 145, "Franklin and His Ship's Crew"; p. 146, "Franklin and His Bold Crew" (2 texts, 1 tune)
  9. Creighton-SNewBrunswick 97, "Franklin and His Bold Crew" (1 text, 1 tune)
  11. Roud #487
  12. BI, LK09