In the 1800’s, John Franklin led a ship full of men on a voyage to find Asia. Though their travels would be dangerous, the brave men were hopeful that the adventure would yield a promising return. This voyage came to be known as the Franklin Expedition. Franklin and his men traveled on two ships, Terror and Erebus. Ultimately, their ships were seized in thick sheets of ice, trapping it and rendering the men helpless. The basic need for survival took over for many of these men. A number of them had never been exposed to the freezing temperatures of the North before. Surviving this voyage would only be possible for survival of the fittest. Though a search for the missing ships was established, it did not find and rescue the men in time. When the dead bodies of these crew men were found, it became evident that they had spent the remainder of their days starving. For those who didn’t starve, they resorted to picking and eating at the flesh of their former crew members. The Franklin Expedition highlights one of the most devastating times in exploration history. Just think about how long ago this has happened- today, the subject is still taught in classrooms across the world. When I heard about the Franklin Expedition, I tried picturing what it would be like if I had been in those mens’ shoes. How scary would it have been to be stranded on a ship, with no food, no warmth, and no way of communicating with the rest of the world? Today, we live in a world where everyone is so reliant on technology. As a young person of the 21st century, I would’ve probably lost it as soon as my phone battery died. I’m amazed by how long the crew men lasted after they had become stranded. Their prolonged survival was purely based on the basic skills of human kind: finding sustainable food. It makes me realize how scary today’s generation has become so dependent on second and third party providers. We have people cook for us, drive us to work, buy our clothes, etc. When it comes to the day where we must fend for our selves, would we even last twice as long as the men of these ships? Though the expedition did not complete its mission in finding a route to the continent of Asia, I think the men on these ships should be remembered as heroes for risking their lives, and ultimately dying an inhumane death.
2 thoughts on “The Crewmen of the Franklin Expedition”
In your post, you touch a little bit on our reliance of technology for survival and you state that you wonder if any of us today would survive if we found ourselves in situations like the men found themselves in during the Franklin Expedition. This is something I think about often and for the past few years I have tried to curtail that sort of fear. I think it would be somewhat responsible for us to learn the basics of survival. By basics I mean the foundation of survival skills, not the full blown conspiracy nuts who buy 12 assault rifles and think the government is going to declare marshal law. I mean simple things like reading a compass and a map, how to farm food, how to safely get water and forage. I have read a lot about this stuff and hopefully, if I ever have kids, I can teach them the basics. If for some reason we find ourselves in a vulnerable position like the men of the Franklin Expedition, hopefully it won’t be in the arctic for one, but once we no longer have a signal on our phone we will need basic navigation and a level head in order to get ourselves out of that situation.
I found your blog post very interesting. To the point where the men began eating corpses, they must have been very desperate. I can imagine how hard it was for them to survive in these harsh conditions throughout their journey.
I came across other theories that have attempted to explain the deaths of the 129 men aboard the two ships. One theory talks about lead poisoning. In the 19th century, the tin can was made of a combination of lead and tin because lead did not melt away easily. However, lead causes lead poisoning and symptoms such as delusion, lethargy and inability to make decisions. According to a study by Owen Beaty, high levels of traces of lead were found in the men’s bones.
Another theory that tries to explain the mysterious deaths of the men is food poisoning. According to this theory, it is possible that the food was not properly prepared or sealed before their departure, causing bacteria (Clostridium botulinum) to infect the food. Death usually results from paralysis of respiratory muscles if the correct antitoxin is not administered. I found it interesting that it mentions the men had only a surgeon (but not a doctor) who could not diagnose them accurately.
As you mentioned, we should continue to honor these men for their courage, determination, and willingness to participate in the expedition. In honor of John Franklin and the crews of the two ships, a memorial has been set up at the entrance to the St Peter and St Paul Chapel in Greenwich, London.
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