John Franklin

Sir John Franklin ( born April 15, 1786 in Spilsby, Lincolnshire, † June 11, 1847 in front of King William Island in the Canadian Arctic ) was a British rear admiral and Arctic explorer.


Franklin was born in Spilsby, Lincolnshire as one of twelve children. One of his sisters was the mother of Emily Tennyson, wife of the poet Alfred Tennyson.

At 14 years, Franklin decided on a career as a sailor and took part in the 1801 Battle of Copenhagen in 1805 at the Battle of Trafalgar. During the latter he served aboard HMS Bellerophon. An uncle Franklin was Captain Matthew Flinders, with which he sailed around 1801-1803 Australia. 1814 Franklin took part in the Battle of New Orleans. His first polar expedition, which established his fascination for this region, he experienced in 1818 under the direction of David Buchan. During a devastating running Expedition 1819-1822 in the Northwest Territories of Canada Franklin and his crew were forced to eat lichen and the like in order to survive. They even tried to eat her leather boots, what Franklin the nickname " the man who ate his boots " earned. After returning to Britain, he married in 1823 the poet Eleanor Anne Porden and composed the expedition report on his recent trip, which helped him gain a certain notoriety and popularity. His wife died in 1825, shortly after she had convinced Franklin to perform a planned expedition to Alaska in spite of her poor health.

1828 Franklin was knighted by King George IV in the peerage. 1836 he was appointed Governor of Tasmania, 1843, he was for his attempts to reform the penal colony, removed from office. Franklin was still obsessed with the idea to find the Northwest Passage.

The last expedition

After he had found the necessary funds, he broke on May 19, 1845 two ships, the HMS Terror and HMS Erebus of, and 129 man crew to a last expedition, of which he should not return. In the following eleven years, many efforts should be made ​​to find the members of the expedition. 1854 was another explorer, John Rae, evidence of Franklin's fate, and his second wife, Lady Jane Griffin, funded expeditions that should search for the missing men. In 1859 one of these groups some dead bodies and a note of Franklin's deputy. She gave information about the fate of the expedition and the death of Franklin.

Although funded by the British government, Franklin's widow and the U.S. shipowners Henry Grinnell expeditions in the mid- 19th century, sought to Franklin, their real goal is not reached, but they wore much for the exploration and mapping of the Canadian North and the Canadian Arctic archipelago - in. Involved in the search for Franklin included the polar explorer Edward Belcher, Robert McClure, Elisha Kent Kane, Isaac Israel Hayes, Edward Inglefield, William Kennedy, Joseph René Bellot -, Francis Leopold McClintock, Charles Francis Hall and Edwin De Haven.

There are various theories about the fate of the expedition. Among other things, it is assumed that the participants died of chronic lead poisoning caused by the entrained defective soldered cans. Cause of this assumption were increased lead content, which could be detected in the remains of some participants. It seems, however, that at the time an increased lead content in blood and tissues was not so extraordinary, contributed to, for example, through the years of use of tin cups, drinking contaminated water, etc. long before the expedition, since the accumulated in the body lead naturally can not be broken. Lead poisoning in itself does not lead beyond inevitably to death.

Probably affected the surviving members of the expedition, after they had given up the two fixed frozen in the ice ships of scurvy. Bone remains found on King William Island suggest the suspicion that the last survivors in the end even succumbed to cannibalism. A large number were typical cut and stitch patterns demonstrate that emerged from a forensic point of view by cropping the bodies for consumption of meat on the bones of some members of the expedition. To counter this accusation was, and is partially maintained by the British side, if it were injuries from being eaten by animals ( polar bears ) or it could have come to clashes with the Inuit.

Franklin as a character in a novel

The German writer and historian Sten Nadolny describes Franklin's life in his biographical novel The Discovery of Slowness (1983). However, this is deliberately not kept authentic, because the protagonist of the novel is in contrast to the real model of a slowness Obligated man with modern ideals.

Furthermore, it is told in Dan Simmons ' novel Terror (partly fictitious and beyond with horror elements offset ) story of his last expedition and its failure.

In the novel, Polar Storm by Clive Cussler, reference is made ​​to the Franklin expedition. After Franklin's death, members of the expedition fell by mercury poisoning prey to madness and eventually died.

The 1955 ( and 1979 in a revision) published novel ... and the ice remains mute yourself by Martin shows one possible version of what happened.


According to John Franklin, Franklin Island in the Kennedy Channel (Greenland ), and the Franklin Island were named in the Antarctic Ross Sea.