The McClintock Arctic Expedition

In 1845, a great British naval expedition was sent to the Arctic with the goal of finding the Northwest Passage, a shorter passage connecting the Atlantic to the Pacific. That expedition had two ships, HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, 129 men, and was commanded by Sir John Franklin. Both ships were last seen by whalers in August 1845. By 1847, with no news of the expedition, other ships were sent to try to find them. Lady Franklin purchased a steam yacht, the Fox, and placed command with an veteran captain of the Arctic waters, Francis Leopold McClintock, who had also been in other earlier Franklin search expeditions. Early in April 1859, they left the ship in small parties to travel overland to King William Island. They found human skeletons in a cairn with two brief notes dated April 1848 made by officers of Erebus and Terror. The note described the fate of the Franklin expedition - both ships were deserted a few days after being beset in the ice in September 1846 and 9 officers and 15 men were already dead. The note recorded that the remaining 105 crew would try to reach the Back River. Illustration created for Desperta Ferro Arqueología e Historia n.º 41 Exploraciones polares