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Africa Antarctica Arctic Australia Canada Mexico North America South America Space Undersea Women
1300's and Earlier 1400's Early 1500's Late 1500's 1600's 1700's 1800's 1900's Glossary of Exploration Terms

Sir John Franklin: English Explorer

Sir John Franklin (1786-1847) was an English explorer and Admiral who proved the existence of a Northwest Passage (a water route from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean through Canada).

From 1819 to 1822, Franklin surveyed part of the northwestern Canadian coast east of the Coppermine River. On a second expedition, from 1825 to 1827, Franklin explored the North American coast from the mouth of the Mackenzie River, in northwestern Canada, westward to Point Beechey (Alaska, USA). Franklin was knighted and then served as the governor of Tasmania from 1836 to 1843.

In 1845, Franklin sailed from England with an expedition of 128 men to Canada in search of a Northwest Passage. His ships, the Terror and the Erebus, became trapped in ice, and the desperate, freezing and starving survivors resorted to cannibalism. [These two ships had been used earlier by James Ross on a successful Antarctic expedition.] A small contingent of the expedition (without Franklin) may have reached Simpson Strait, the final part of the Northwest Passage.

Scottish explorer John Rae determined that Franklin and his expedition had died of starvation and exposure in the Arctic; Eskimos at Pelly Bay told Rae of Franklin's fate. Lead poisoning from poorly-canned food may also have hastened their death. Many years later, after reading about Franklin's adventures, Roald Amundsen (as a teenager) decided to become an Arctic explorer.

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