Sir John Franklin’s fabled Arctic expedition departed England in May 1845 in search of the Northwest Passage, equipped with two state-of-the-art Royal Navy bomb vessels, the HMS Erebus and the HMS Terror, 129 men and three years’ worth of provisions. Soon after they had reached Arctic waters, both ships became locked in ice and the crew was forced to abandon their trapped vessels to seek shelter and safety on foot. None of them were ever seen again.

The disappearance of the Erebus and Terror set off one of the greatest rescue operations in naval history, with over 30 rescue expeditions and an information reward of £20,000. Despite all efforts, the fate of the crew remains an enigma that has captured the imagination of historians, archaeologists, and adventurers for centuries. While the HMS Erebus was found in 2014, in Canada’s Queen Maud Gulf, the whereabouts of the HMS Terror remained a mystery until this week, when a team of Canadian researchers shared footage of a perfectly preserved shipwreck off the coast of King William Island in Terror Bay. It is believed to be the HMS Terror.

While the individual histories of the crew will likely never be uncovered, many of their belongings such as books, papers and personal effects were recovered on Canada’s King William Island a couple of years after the ships first disappeared. These relics have since had a life of their own – photographed, analysed, catalogued and displayed in glass cases in London.

Franklin Expedition

Relics of the Franklin Expedition gives a definitive history of their preservation and exhibition from the Victorian era to the present, richly illustrated with period engravings and photographs, many never before published. Appendices provide the first comprehensive accounting of all expedition relics recovered prior to the 2014 discovery of Franklin’s ship HMS Erebus.

Relics of the Franklin Expedition
Garth Walpole
Edited by Russell Potter
December 2016 Paperback 9781476667188 
You can pre-order the book here.