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Franklin, John - Narrative of a Journey to the Shores of the Polar Sea (1824)


Author: Franklin, Sir John and Sir John Richardson

Title: Narrative of a Journey to the Shores of the Polar Sea in the Years 1819-1820, 1821, and 1822

Year: 1824

Publisher: London: John Murray, Albemarle-Street

Pages: 402

Source: Google Books  

Description: "Franklin entered the Royal Navy at the age of 14, went on his first exploratory voyage to Australia (1801-03), and served in the battles of Trafalgar (1805) and New Orleans (1814) ... In September 1846, during his final expedition, he became trapped in the ice in Victoria Strait, off King William Island (the midpoint between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans), which culminated, in April 1848, in the deaths of Franklin and 23 explorers" (Amazon).

"John Barrow, the Admiralty’s second secretary and a noted traveller ... proposed that two expeditions should continue the search for a northwest passage in 1819 ... A second expedition, for which Barrow proposed Franklin as leader, would set out overland from Hudson Bay to explore and chart the north coast of the American continent eastwards from the mouth of the Coppermine River and thereby, in theory, delineate the most direct route for a northwest passage. The plan set many difficulties before Franklin. The coast had been sighted by explorers only twice before – by Samuel Hearne at the Coppermine in 1771 and by Alexander Mackenzie at the Mackenzie River’s delta in 1789 – and it lay hundreds of miles north of the territory explored by fur traders. The Hudson’s Bay and North West companies were expected to convey Franklin to the edge of unknown territory and to equip him for the coastal journey, but they were only established as far north as Great Slave Lake (N.W.T.), their supply lines were tenuous, and they were engaged in trade warfare. Franklin had just three months to prepare for an expedition that had few precedents in the history of exploration. Advice was scarce and often misleading or excessively optimistic, and he received assurances of greater assistance from the fur-trading companies than they could actually provide. The party selected to accompany him consisted of midshipmen George Back and Robert Hood, surgeon and naturalist John Richardson, and seaman John Hepburn" (Dictionary of Canadian Biography).

"Franklin and his party set sail from Gravesend in the Prince of Wales in May 1819, arriving at York Factory, on the Hudson Bay, towards the end of August. From there the expedition travelled overland and by canoe, following the course of lakes and rivers in a north-westerly direction. Good progress was made at first and the party reached Fort Providence on the Great Slave Lake. Here, however, two factors - the shortage of supplies and the very hard winter of 1820 - began to hamper severely the progress of the expedition. It seems likely that the Admiralty, lacking experience in organising overland, as opposed to seaborne, Arctic expeditions, had underestimated the quantity of supplies required. Franklin was obliged to winter at Fort Enterprise, north of the Great Slave Lake, rather than pressing on to the mouth of the Coppermine River. It was not until July 1821 that the expedition reached the northern coast of Canada. Then, after travelling eastwards along the coast for a while, mapping the coastline and recording meteorological, botanical and zoological phenomena, the party reached Point Turnagain, where Franklin took the decision to strike southwards overland. Supplies were running low and it was essential that the party reach Fort Providence as soon as possible. The story of this desperate journey is told in harrowing detail in the Narrative; cold, hunger and exhaustion took their toll on the party and some did not survive. Midshipman Robert Hood was murdered by one of his starving companions, Michel Teroahauté, who was subsequently executed by Dr John Richardson, the expedition's surgeon and naturalist. At last the survivors made contact with Akaitcho, the chief of the Yellowknife people, who had helped them earlier in their journey, and he brought them back to the safety of Fort Providence in December 1821. From there they eventually returned to York Factory" (K. Sambrook, "Franklin Voyage").  


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