Sir John Franklin’s Last Arctic Expedition: The Franklin Expedition; A Chapter in the History of the Royal Navy

p. 43-4: Research work was planned in magnetism, geology, botany, and zoology, and all the necessary instruments were supplied. Great importance was attached to magnetic observations, for the taking of which an elaborate and very comprehensive outfit was provided. Colonel Sabine gave special instruction in magnetism to several of the officers. Furthermore, a library was supplied to each ship, the one in the Terror comprised twelve hundred volumes, and the one in the Erebus was probably at least as large—Commander Fitzjames described it as a ‘very capital library’. The books included not only those in the ‘Seamen’s Library’ ordinarily issued to every ship, but also technical treatises on the management of steam engines, narratives of previous Arctic expeditions, geographical journals, and some lighter literature, such as Pickwick Papers, Nicholas Nickleby, The Ingoldsby Legends, Charles O’Malley, and volumes of Punch. Seventy slates, slate pencils, two hundred pens, ink, paper, and some ‘Common Arithmetic’ books, were supplied expressly for use in the schools which Sir John Franklin intended to hold for the men during the winter months. He was very anxious that every man should be adequately supplied with devotional works, and shortly before he sailed requested the Admiralty to furnish a hundred Bibles, Prayer Books, and Testaments, for sale on board the ships at cost price to all who applied for them. The Admiralty took immediate steps to comply with this request, but friends and various societies presented so many religious books that those furnished by the Admiralty were not needed and were, therefore, returned.

Mr. Beard, at Sir John Franklin’s request, supplied a complete daguerreotype apparatus. A hand-organ, which played fifty different tunes, ten of which were psalms or hymns, was purchased by subscription for each ship. Everything which seemed likely to be needed was freely provided. Probably no Arctic expedition had ever been so lavishly equipped.

p. 59: He [Franklin] devoted his spare time to re-reading the notes of his own journeys in Arctic America and to studying the narratives of Sir Edward Parry, Dr. Richardson, and Thomas Simpson.

p. 75, Cyriax points out the popular interest in Franklin’s fate in the late 1840s: Books dealing with Arctic enterprise found a ready sale; panoramas of Polar Landscapes were exhibited in London and Brighton; and a diorama of Arctic scenery was included amongst the attractions of the season at Vauxhall Gardens during the summer of 1852.

p. 106, speculates on Franklin’s first winter: Scientific work must have continued daily; Sir John Franklin’s intention to hold schools for the men was undoubtedly carried out; in all probability he followed the example of Sir Edward Parry by promoting concerts and plays and by issuing a newspaper. (cf. newspaper on H.M.S. Hecla in winter 1819-20 with Sir William Edward Parry.)

p. 124-25, here Cyriax speculates on what navigational charts would have been supplied to Franklin by the Admiralty and whether any would have included an isthmus between King William Land and Boothia, but he adds: In all probability [Franklin] had with him Sir John Ross’s narrative and Simpson’s account. Their maps would have deterred him from trying to reach Simpson Strait by way of James Ross Strait, and would have led him to presume that he had no alternative but to pass through Victoria Strait, which offered, in any case, the shortest and most direct route. On September 12th, 1846, the ships were beset near the coast of King William Land and locked in the ice passing through McClintock Channel into Victoria Strait.

p. 146-47, raises question of why Crozier left his ships to head for the Great Fish River: Captain Crozier’s reasons are not known, but several can be suggested, based partly on opinions that were held by his contemporaries and may therefore be reasonably assumed to have been held by him, partly on information that he either had acquired when serving in previous expeditions or had within reach in books on board his ships. [Footnote: “The Admiralty Records (A.R., Victualling Department, ‘Miscellanea’, vol. 6) and remarks made by Sir John Franklin (Rev. Edward Parry, op. cit., p. 279, 280) leave no doubt that Captain Crozier had with him all the books (with two possible exceptions) published before 1845 that are quoted in this chapter as supplying him with reasons for choosing the route that he did. One possible exception is T. Simpson’s Narrative of the Discoveries on the North Coast of America, etc., of a North-West Passage, 1835. There seems to be no absolute proof that these books were among those taken, but their omission is so extremely unlikely that their inclusion may be regarded as certain.]

The pre-1845 books Cyriax cites in this chapter are:

Back, George. Narrative of an Expedition in H.M.S. ‘Terror’. (London:1838).

—-Narrative of the Arctic Land Expedition to the Mouth of the Great Fish River. (London, 1836).

King, Richard. Narrative of a Journey to the Shores of the Arctic Ocean. (London, 1836).

Parry, W. Edward. Journal of a Voyage for the Discovery of a North-West Passage. (London, 1821).

—-Journal of a Third Voyage for the Discovery of a North-West Passage. (London, 1826­).

Ross, John. Narrative of a Second Voyage in Search of a North-West Passage. (London, 1835).

—-Journal of a Second Voyage. (London 1824).