Section Eight: Arctic Images in Illustrated London News

Items 46 through 49

These images from the Illustrated London News depict the harsh conditions endured by the various expeditions sent to rescue Captain Sir John Franklin between 1848 and 1878. Captain Franklin departed from England for the Arctic in search of the Northwest Passage in 1845 with two ships, HMS Erebus and HMS Terror. After a few early fatalities, the two ships became icebound in the Victoria Strait near King William Island in the Canadian Arctic. The entire expedition, 129 men including Franklin, was lost.

In 1847, after two years had passed with no word from Franklin, public concern grew. Lady Jane Franklin, members of Parliament, and British newspapers urged the Admiralty to send a search party. In response, the Admiralty developed a three-pronged plan (East, Center, and West) that was put into effect in the spring of 1848. First, an overland rescue party, led by Sir John Richardson and John Rae, was sent down the MacKenzie River to the Canadian Arctic coast. Two expeditions by sea were also launched, one entering the Canadian Arctic archipelago through Lancaster Sound, and the other entering from the Pacific side. In addition, the Admiralty offered a reward of £20,000 “to any Party or Parties, of any country, who shall render assistance to the crews of the Discovery Ships under the command of Sir John Franklin.” When the three-pronged effort failed, the British public’s concern and interest crescendoed into a full-blown national obsession with finding Franklin.

The search for the lost expedition continued for decades, even after the discovery of relics from Franklin’s ships and camps, bones from some of the crew, and reports from many local Inuits who sighted the lost men travelling on foot through the harsh Arctic conditions. The HMS Erebus was finally located in 2014 by a Canadian search team; the Arctic Research Foundation located the HMS Terror south of King William Island in 2016.

Items 50 through 53

These images from the Illustrated London News depict scenes from the British Arctic Expedition of 1875-1876, funded by the British Admiralty and led by Sir George Strong Nares in the ships HMS Alert and HMS Discovery. The goal of the expedition was to reach the North Pole by traversing the theorized Open Polar Sea, a navigable body of water just beyond the initial ice pack encountered by explorers that was supposedly fed by warm currents from the Pacific. Since the Open Polar Sea did not exist, the expedition could not achieve its goal of traversing it to reach the North Pole. However, Nares and his crew did manage to explore and survey coastlines of Greenland and Ellesmere Island, returning home with valuable geographic data.


46. Illustrated London News, 1875


46. Illustrated London News, "South Strom-fiord, Greenland, the great inland glacier in the distance" (1875).
OML Collection.

47. Illustrated London News, 1875


47. Illustrated London News, "Catching a Young Bear" (1875).
OML Collection.

48. Illustrated London News, 1881


48. Illustrated London News, "Meeting with the Netchillik Esquimaux" (1881).
OML Collection.

49. Illustrated London News, 1881


49. Illustrated London News, "Graves of the Comrades of Sir John Franklin" (1881).
OML Collection.

50. Illustrated London News, 1854


50. Illustrated London News, "Travellers Attacked by Wolves" (1854).
OML Collection.

51. Illustrated London News, 1875


51. Illustrated London News, "Gigantic Iceberg seen by the Arctic ships" (1875).
OML Collection.

52. Illustrated London News, 1875


52. Illustrated London News, "The High Land of Disco in the Background" (1875).
OML Collection.

53. Illustrated London News, 1895


53. Illustrated London News, "Christmas Dinner for the Exploring Party" (1895).
OML Collection.