The Franklin Expedition and Human Thought

The search for the Northwest Passage led many west, into unknown territories, risking their lives to find a potential route to Asia. This search costs the lives of many. The Franklin Expedition was one of these missions, led by hopeful men, which ended in tragedy. In the fall of 1846, the expedition found themselves trapped in ice pack as they tried to find a passage to Asia across the Artic. After being trapped for almost two years, the remaining crew members abandoned the ships to try to head south. However, their journey south to safety was never completed. Exposure to the harsh conditions of the Artic and a lack of food eventually led to their demise.

The story and history of the Franklin Expedition’s fate can now be a teaching point for human decision making and fight for survival. Trapped in ice, these sailors remained with their ships for almost two years. In the summer when the ice did not recede, the crew remained. Why did the crew not abandon the ship in the summer when the ice continued to hold their ships? Why did they decide to wait out another winter? In the spring of 1848, the crew finally left their ships. Evidence has been found that shows many unnecessary items were taken on their journey south. Now, this could be concluded to be from a lack of experience. But at the time, what was going through the minds of the sailors when they decided to take these items? This story is very much a story of human’s ability to make critical decisions in life or death situations. If these sailors had left the ships the first summer, they may have had the strength and resources to make it far enough south to survive. Also, if so many extra items were not taken, they may have had more strength and been able to travel faster to areas south. We will never know the answer to these questions but they can be used today as a way to consider situation like this.

Later interviews with Inuit people in the region led to evidence these people saw the explorers. The Inuit lived in the artic, knew how to hunt for food and survive in the harsh conditions. However, the expedition members never asked the Inuit to help. Were they scared of these people? Did they think it might risk their lives? Evidence now shows that these Inuit people would have likely helped the stranded explorers. Here is another example of when a lack of proper decision making impacted their future survival. On the contrary, why had the Inuit people not approached these sailors themselves? Did the Inuit think it was not their responsibility? Were they concerned about the foreigners? There are many questions about what caused the explorers to end up in the situation they did. By studying this expedition, we can learn more about how these people thought and how people in general react in stressful situations.