[1966:] Sir John Franklin set out with two ships, the 'Erebus' and the 'Terror', on his second attempt to discover the North West Passage and was never heard of again. It was almost twelve years before the story of what had actually happened to the expedition was finally pieced together. After sailing round the islands in the far north of Canada, the ships, predictably, became trapped in the ice; what was completely unexpected, however, was that the lime juice stored in barrels became useless and half the crews of both ships died of scurvy. Some of the others decided to strike across country for a mission station, but one by one they died on the journey. How they managed to die in country that was full of game where Eskimos had lived for generations is a mystery.
The real tragedy was Franklin's blunder in not allowing for such a contingency: he had taken along beautiful tea-services, flags and dress uniforms for the celebrations when their mission was accomplished, instead of extra food supplies.
Several rescue operations were mounted, one by Lady Franklin herself from the proceeds of a public fund she started for that purpose after the Admiralty had washed its hands of the whole affair, having itself failed in a rather desultory rescue attempt. The truth was actually discovered by an expedition in which the U.S. Navy took part. (Notes Martin Carthy, 'Second Album')
[1979:] Eines der rätselhaftesten Schicksale auf dem Meer war das des Sir John Franklin, dem Arktis-Eroberer [sic!], und seiner mehr als 200 Mann starken Besatzung. Er segelte 1845 von England mit zwei Schiffen, der H.M.S. Eribus [sic!] und Terror (was für Namen!) los, um eine Passage durch die Arktis zu suchen. Nachdem sie einem Walfänger in der Nähe von Baffin-Land begegneten, verschwanden sie auf immer im ewigen Eis.
Eine Suchexpedition, die endlich durch Lady Franklin im Jahre 1859 gestartet wurde (ganz schön spät für eine Suchaktion!), fand auf einem Steinhügel auf King William Land die Botschaft, daß Franklin gestorben sei und der Rest der Mannschaft einen Weg nach Süden über das Eis zum Festland suchen würde. Nie hat jedoch jemand von ihnen das rettende Festland erreicht. (Bursch 76)
[1990:] Eins der größten Geheimnisse, das die Erforschung des Nordpols umgibt, ist der rätselhafte Tod von 129 Mannschaftsmitgliedern und Offizieren, in deren Begleitung der Forschungsreisende Sir John Franklin in den Jahren 1845 bis 1848 versuchte, die Nord-West-Passage zu finden. Jetzt endlich haben Wissenschaftler des Department of Anthropology an der Universität von Alberta Licht in das Dunkel gebracht. [...] Erst kürzlich wurden im hohen Norden Kanadas - in Beechey und auf den King-Williams-Inseln - durch Zufall die sterblichen Reste von Menschen gefunden, die einst Angehörige der Franklin-Expedition gewesen sein müssen. Bei der Untersuchung mit dem Atomabsorptionsverfahren entdeckten die Anthropologen, daß das Gewebe der unglücklichen Opfer in hohem Maße mit Blei angereichert war. Daraus folgerten die Wissenschaftler, daß die Expeditionsteilnehmer aller Wahrscheinlichkeit nach an den Folgen einer akuten Bleivergiftung gestorben sind. Als Quelle des Bleis wurden ebenfalls gefundene Konservendosen identifiziert, die offenbar mit einem bleihaltigen Lötmetall verschlossen worden waren. (Jochen Kubitschek, Frankfurter Rundschau, 6. Nov.)
[1992:] Die Franklin-Expedition ist nicht aus einem einzigen Grund gescheitert, sondern an einer Kombination tödlicher Fakten. [...]
Was sich [...] klar abzeichnete, war, daß Blei eine ganz wesentliche Rolle bei dem sich ständig verschlechternden Gesundheitszustand der Mannschaften von Erebus und Terror gespielt hatte. Die fortschreitende Bleivergiftung führte nicht nur zu einem Schwinden der Körperkräfte, sondern drückte sich auch in zunehmender Verzweiflung aus. Appetitverlust, Müdigkeit, Schwäche und Koliken sind einige der Symptome einer solchen Vergiftung; sie kann aber auch zu Störungen des zentralen und peripheren Nervensystems führen und ein neurotisches und unberechenbares Verhalten auslösen - bis hin zu einer Lähmung der Gliedmaßen. Möglicherweise wirkte sich die Beeinträchtigung der Gehirntätigkeit für die Expedition am verheerendsten aus. Unter den anhaltenden Streßsituationen eines langen Arktisaufenthalts könnte selbst eine geringfügige Bleivergiftung den Entscheidungsprozeß der Männer, besonders der Offiziere, nachhaltig beeinflußt haben. Nur ein klarer Kopf bei der Einschätzung der Situation läßt auf eine richtige Entscheidung hoffen. [...] Falls die Offiziere, die selbst auf langen Reisen und unter räumlich beschränkten Verhältnissen eine Gruppe für sich bildeten, von Zinngeschirr aßen und eine bessere Kost erhielten (was proportional wahrscheinlich mehr Konserven bedeutete), haben sie von Anfang an sehr viel mehr Blei "geschluckt" als die übrigen Mannschaftsmitglieder. Es besteht durchaus die Möglichkeit, daß auch Sir John Franklin direkt oder indirekt an den Folgen einer Bleivergiftung starb. [...]
Es ist eine traurige Ironie, daß Franklins machtvolle Expedition, mit Sicherheit eine der größten Forschungsreisen zur See, die je stattfand[en], die mit allem ausgestattet war, was die aufstrebende Industrie und der Erfindergeist jener Zeit zu bieten vermochten, ausgerechnet von einer dieser Erfindungen tödlich getroffen wurde. [...] Niemand konnte ahnen, daß in den Konserven, die im Laderaum seiner Schiffe verstaut waren, eine Zeitbombe tickte [...]. Das Gesundheitsrisiko, das der Gebrauch einer Blei-Zinn-Lötmasse mit sich brachte, war zu jener Zeit noch nicht bekannt. [...]
Menschliche Forschung, die sich auf neue Technologien stützt, muß hierfür häufig einen grausamen Preis zahlen. Dies hat sich erst kürzlich wieder beim "Challenger"-Unglück gezeigt. (Beattie/Geiger, Der eisige Schlaf - Das Schicksal der Franklin-Expedition, 157ff)
[1993:] In 1843, Sir John Franklin set off with two ships, the Erebus and the Terror to search for a 'north west passage'. Nothing was heard of the expedition and whalers were asked to keep a look out for it. [Captain William] Penny did what he could to locate the missing ships, but his efforts upset the owners of the St Andrew, who thought he was spending too much time on it. Penny gave them a short reply - he resigned.
His new vessel was a Dundee whaler, the Advice. He made only one voyage on her, and on this trip he again tried to contact the Franklin ships. When he returned to Aberdeen, he wrote to Lady Franklin and the Admiralty and offered to lead a Franklin search expedition. The Admiralty were impressed by this 'daring but prudent' whaling master, and Lady Franklin liked the man she called her 'Silver Penny'. He was given two ships - HMS Lady Franklin, built in Aberdeen by Walter Hood, and HMS Sophia. Penny, however, fell out with Captain H. T. Austin who commanded four other ships taking part in the search, and his request for command of another expedition in 1852 was turned down. [...]
Penny was out of the Franklin search, but, oddly enough, it was an Aberdeen-built ship that played a major part in the closing chapters of the Franklin story. The Government pulled out of their commitment to the search and Lady Franklin fitted out an expedition at her own cost. The yacht Fox, adapted for Arctic conditions by the shipbuilders, Alexander Hall, was put under the command of Captain Francis McLintock. She sailed on 1 July 1857. Lady Franklin travelled north to see her off, and hundreds of people turned out to cheer her on her way. In 1859, McLintock's men discovered the log of the last days of the Erebus and Terror and the Franklin drama was finally over. (Smith, Whale Hunters 22f)
The fate of the Franklin expedition brought a huge outpouring of verse, including Lady Franklin's Lament. 'Penny of much renown' was mentioned for his part in the search. Whoever wrote this emotionally over-charged piece was no poet, but tears were shed by many who read it:
They've sailed east and they've sailed west
Round Greenland's coast they knew their best
In hardships they vainly strove
On mountains of ice their ships were drove
In Baffin's Bay where the whale-fish blows
The fate of Franklin there's no one knows
Which causes many a child and poor wife for to mourn
And sad forebodings for their return
(Smith, Whale Hunters 43)
There is a road in Stromness named after Franklin, but [Orkney author] George Mackay Brown once said it should be called Rae Road, for the real hero of the tragedy that wiped out the Franklin expedition was a Stromness man. [Dr John] Rae, chief trader with the Hudson Bay Company, played a major role in mapping out Northern Canada and was also the first man to discover what happened to the crews of the Erebus and Terror. [...] When he was asked to join the search for Franklin in 1847 he had just successfully charted 625 miles of coastline, travelling 1,200 miles on foot, living off the land. He was a loner. His relationship with his Navy colleagues on the Franklin search was an uneasy one. They could never understand a man who appeared to be as primitive as the natives, who copied the Eskimo way of life [...].
The 1847-48 expedition shed no new light on the fate of Erebus and Terror crews and the search dragged on long after hope of finding anyone alive had been abandoned. In April, 1854, while surveying the Boothia Peninsula, Rae found the first key to the Franklin mystery - and put himself in line for an award worth £10,000. At Pelly Bay he met an Eskimo, Innook-po-zhee-jook, who said he had heard stories from other natives of thirty-five or forty white men who had starved to death some years earlier, about twelve days' journey away. Later that year, it was established that the bodies had been found near the estuary of the Great Fish River. The Eskimos brought a mass of relics to Rae at Repulse Bay - one of Franklin's decorations, a small plate with his name on it, silver forks and spoons, a surgeon's knife, a gold watch, and other items. They also told Rae that Franklin's starving men had committed acts of cannibalism. When this news reached Britain the reaction was shock and disbelief. The writer Charles Dickens, while obviously believing that the 'treacherous and cruel' Eskimos might eat each other, thought it was 'in the highest degree improbable' that Englishmen would eat Englishmen. Doubt was cast on both Rae's discovery and on the cannibalism report, but the Orkney explorer held his ground. He got his £10,000, with £2,000 of it going to his men.
The house where John Rae spent his childhood ['The Haven'] can still be seen in Stromness [...]. In 1851, Lady Jane Franklin and her niece Sophia stayed at The Haven while visiting Stromness during the hunt for her missing husband. [...] At that time Lady Franklin had a high regard for the Orkneyman, but her admiration diminished after she had heard his report about members of the Franklin expedition engaging in cannibalism.
The islanders were intrigued by the two Englishwomen, for they remembered seeing Sir John Franklin when the Erebus and Terror called at Stromness in 1819 [sic!]. The whalermen who put in to Stromness knew all about the Franklin drama, for many of the whale ships had taken part in early searches for the missing ships. In 1848, the Admiralty offered a reward of 100 guineas to any whale ship which gave any authentic information about the Erebus and Terror in Lancaster Sound, and an offer from Lady Franklin was published in the whaling ports - £1,000 for any ship that found the expedition and another £1,000 for any vessel which made 'extraordinary exertions' to find Franklin and his party and bring them back to England. (Smith, Whale Hunters 49ff)
One of the exhibits in the [Broughty Castle] museum has a curious link with the Franklin tragedy - a chunk of tobacco. It was found on Beechey Island in 1887 by Patrick Bell of the whaler Resolute of Dundee, part of a cache of supplies left by Sir John Franklin's expedition during his bid to find the North-West Passage. (Smith, Whale Hunters 98)
Vgl. auch Sten Nadolny, Die Entdeckung der Langsamkeit
[2000:] The tale of Sir John Franklin's doomed 1845 attempt to find a passage from Britain to India by going round the top of the North American continent seems almost ludicrous to us today, but in the eyes of nineteenth century British society Franklin and his men epitomised the best that our island had to offer - pride and commitment, dedication and bravery - and an unshakeable commitment to being the first. When the whole expedition was lost, it was a national tragedy - and also the source of endless speculation, especially after a relief expedition failed to find them.
And like all heroes who last in the mind of the common man and woman, Franklin was eventually immortalised in song - in this case, a very fine song. Brian first heard the tune of it in Canada in 1981, entitled Lady Franklin's Lament. He played for years simply as an instrumental, on the fiddle rather than the concertina, and he was delighted when Iain told him, right at the beginning of their collaboration, that he'd always had a hankering to do the song on stage and that he'd simply been waiting for the right musical circumstances. (Notes Iain MacKintosh & Brian McNeill, 'Live and Kicking')
Tune: The Croppy Boy