Sunday Express



POLAR EXPLORER Sir John Franklin left London on an expedition to find the Northwest Passage, a sea route connecting the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

The mission – aboard HMS Erebus and HMS Terror – would end in the worst ever disaster of British polar exploratio­n.

Both ships were lost and all 129 crew and officers aboard perished in mysterious circumstan­ces.

Despite the Royal Navy launching the most extensive search in its history, only a few bodies and artefacts were found. It would take 170 years to find both shipwrecks.

It was Sir John’s third attempt to find the passage and together with senior officers Francis Crozier and James Fitzjames they offered years of polar experience.

Both ships had their bows reinforced to protect against ice and steam engines to supplement their sails and provide heating and fresh water.

Erebus, commanded by Sir John, and

Terror, by Crozier, were last spotted by whalers in late July 1845 in Baffin Bay, Canada. No Europeans saw them again.

After two years the Admiralty launched land and sea searches. The few human remains they found suggested the crew had suffered from starvation, scurvy and lead poisoning from contaminat­ed food cans. Some bones also had cut marks.

In May 1859 a note by Fitzjames and Crozier was found in a stone cairn on

King William Island.

It revealed both ships became trapped in ice, forcing the crew to spend the winters of 1846 and 1847 on the island.

Sir John had died aged 59 on June 11, 1847, while 105 survivors were planning to cross the island and sea ice to reach the mouth of the now Back River, 248 miles away on the Canadian mainland.

Accounts by the Inuit people in the

1850s were dismissed because they told of the crew’s incredible suffering, which included cannibalis­m.

Question: Who was beheaded on the orders of Henry VIII on this day in 1536?

Last week I asked: Who was born in Florence this day in 1820, which is now Internatio­nal Nurses Day? FLORENCE NIGHTINGAL­E

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