Exhibitions

By the nineteenth century, it seemed increasingly unlikely that the Northwest Passage -- if found -- would offer a viable sea route to Asia. Earlier voyages into the Arctic by James Cook and others had all but confirmed that the passage, if it existed, would be far too perilous for commercial ships. Why pursue it? Because explorers now had different motives. In the 1800s, nations understood that the greatest benefits of exploration were symbolic, that they accrued to national reputation rather than commerce or territory, and that however effervescent its objects, expeditions for glory were valuable enough to stake money and lives in their prosecution. The Franklin Expedition represented the culmination of this symbolic effort to discover the Northwest Passage. [2-1] A veteran of three Arctic campaigns, Sir John Franklin was well-suited to the difficult tasks that he knew lay ahead. In 1845 he left Britain with two ships, Erebus and Terror, and 128 men. He would never be heard from again. The party’s disappearance was a blow to the British Admiralty and its efforts to discover the Northwest Passage. Yet finding Franklin became the new object of Arctic exploration, a project that piqued popular interest in Great Britain and the United States, and launched dozens of rescue expeditions on both sides of the Atlantic. [2-3] [2-2]

Beechy Island: Franklin's First Winter Quarters

After a drawing by James Hamilton, USA, b. Ireland, 1819-1878
Elisha Kent Kane (author), USA, 1820-1857
Harper & Brothers (publisher), USA, est. 1833
Beechy Island: Franklin's First Winter Quarters
from The U.S. Grinnell Expedition in Search of Sir John Franklin: A Personal Narrative, 1854
mezzotint with etching in bound volume
Courtesy of Michael Robinson

The Yacht "Fox" Wintering in the Pack

George C. Leighton (publisher)
The Yacht "Fox" Wintering in the Pack
from The Illustrated London News, October 15, 1859
wood engraving
Courtesy of the Osher Map Library and Smith Center for Cartographic Education
OML-1859-16

13709.0001
Sir Edward Belcher's Arctic Exploring Expedition

William Little (publisher)
Sir Edward Belcher's Arctic Exploring Expedition
from The Illustrated London News, April 17, 1852
wood engraving
Courtesy of the Osher Map Library and Smith Center for Cartographic Education
OML-1852-16

5672.0001