Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

Canada's Greatest Arctic Disaster: In 1845 British explorer Sir John Franklin, in two ships, the Erebus and the Terror, and some 130 men, set out to find a way through the ice-bound channels around the north end of the Canadian arctic. They never returned, and within a couple of years, search parties set out by land and sea to try to reach the spot in the arctic where they might possibly be. But all that was ever found were relics and bones.

It turned out that the ships were frozen in and the men abandoned them and tried to walk out, south to Hudson's Bay posts. None of them made it. Relics were gathered from Inuit people who salvaged what the men abandoned or dropped as they died of starvation.

During a seal hunting expedition, historian John Goldi trekked along the southern shore of King William Island, following the trail by skidoo during April, the same month the men died along the shore, when the land was snow-free, but the ice was still thick on the sea. He found numerous cairns containing bones, set up in the 1930s by Hudson's Bay Manager Paddy Gibson FRC. The jaw bone, left, probably from a cabin boy who was on the expedition, was found alone, along the shore by an Inuit hunter who was accompanying John Goldi. "Kabloonak! Not Eskimo" he said.

There are no teeth, indicating scurvy had ravaged through the gums of the dying men as they stumbled on to their deaths.

Sir John Franklin's Jawbone, 1847
Lower jaw - Size - 10cm d
Found - Peffer Point, King William Is, NT
Copyright Goldi Productions Ltd. - 1996, 1999, 2005

Sir John Franklin's Jaw - 1847


History Page 6

Great Canadian History