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July 16, 2017

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Death in the Ice explores Franklin’s fateful trip

A new major London exhibition aims to solve a 170 year-old mystery surrounding the disappearance of British explorer John Franklin in the Arctic.

“Death in the Ice” retraces his final expedition, to discover the Northwest Passage linking the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, since its departure from Britain on May 19, 1845. Franklin and 128 crew were last seen in July of that year.

The two ships, the HMS Erebus and HMS Terror sunk in the Arctic, and were only found in 2014 and 2016.

The exhibition showcases 200 items, many of which were recovered on the Erebus.

The ships’ fate didn’t become clear until 1859, when a vessel chartered by Franklin’s widow came across a somber message on King William Island revealing Franklin and 23 of the crew had died on June 11, 1847. A year and a half later, stuck in the ice and having run out of supplies, the survivors left the ships to reach solid ground on foot, but none survived. Photographs on display show the bodies of three crew members buried in the ice and amazingly preserved.

Canadian researchers in the 1980s said the remains of expedition members found on Beechey Island indicated they had died of cold, hunger and lead poisoning from canned food.

Pictures and videos of the shipwreck in the Victoria Strait, off the coast of King William island, are on show in “Death in the Ice” from now until January 2018 at the National Maritime Museum.


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