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Materials on the Lost Franklin Expedition from The Illustrated London News.
The purpose of the Franklin Expedition was to map out the North-West Passage from Europe to Asia. This story can be linked to Victorian attempts to complete geographical knowledge of remote regions, to fulfill the historical goals of Elizabethan navigators and explorers such as Sir Walter Raleigh and Sir Francis Drake, as well as to English Literature, in terms of its link to such stories involving polar settings and issues of survival as Mary Shelley’s Romantic novel Frankenstein (1818) and Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s literary ballad The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.
The Franklin Expedition had five years of food supplies, including 8,000 tins of meat, vegetables, and soup. In Frozen in Time (1987), basing their conclusions on forensic examinations of two of the expedition members’ bodies, Owen Beattie and John Geiger contend that the tins were sealed improperly, with lead solder running down the inside of each tin; since lead if ingested is poisonous, the metal probably seeped into the crews’ food. In addition to the technical innovation of tinned goods, Franklin’s vessels the “Erebus” and “Terror” had cabins which were heated by hot water piped through the floor. The ships’ bows were reinforced with iron planks to help them break through ice. Moreover, each ship was equipped with a specially designed screw propeller driven by a wheel-less steam locomotive from the London and Greenwich Railway. Thus, better equipped than any previous polar expedition, Sir John Franklin set out on his fourth search of the North-West passage on 19 May 1845, with 134 sailors and officers. They were last seen by the crew of two whaling ships, the “Prince of Wales” and the “Enterprise,” in Baffin Bay at the end of July. In 1850, near the mouth of Great Fish River, Inuit hunters discovered the bodies of 30 men and a number of graves. Since some of the bodies were mutilated, the natives believed that the white men had resorted to cannibalism.