the Arctic 1850: Search for Franklin
In 1845 the renowned British explorer Sir John Franklin had set off to find the Northwest Passage, but by winter 1846–7, with no word from Franklin reaching Britain for over a year, it became clear something was wrong. Over the next decade, more than a dozen expeditions crossed and mapped the North American Arctic in search of Franklin, finally discovering that he and his crew had perished in 1847–8.
25 Mar 1848–10 Sep 1851 Rae-Richardson Arctic Expedition▲
British explorers Sir John Richardson and John Rae mounted several journeys overland and by canoe to cover the areas along the proposed route of the lost Franklin expedition near the Mackenzie and Coppermine rivers. Although no direct contact with Franklin’s forces was achieved, Rae later interviewed the Inuit of the region and obtained credible accounts that the desperate remnants of Franklin’s team had resorted to cannibalism. This revelation was so unpopular that Rae was effectively shunned by the British Admiralty and popular opinion, and the search for Franklin continued for several years.
12 May 1848–? Nov 1849 Ross’s search for Franklin▲
The British explorer James Clark Ross with the HMS Enterprise and the HMS Investigator sailed to the Arctic via Baffin Bay in an attempt to find Sir John Franklin’s lost expedition. He soon encountered heavy ice and was frozen in at Port Leopold off the northeast tip of Somerset Island until spring. After further search attempts were frustrated by the ice, he returned to England.
13 Jan 1849 Colony of Vancouver Island▲
The British founded the Crown Colony of the Island of Vancouver and its Dependencies, centered on Fort Victoria, Vancouver Island. The colony was immediately leased to the Hudson’s Bay Company for a ten-year period, and the company’s Chief Factor James Douglas was charged with encouraging British settlement. Richard Blanshard was named the colony’s governor, but could do little in the face of the company’s dominance.
10 Jan 1850–6 Oct 1854 McClure Arctic Expedition▲
A British expedition, led by Captain Richard Collinson and Commander Robert McClure, sailed from Woolrich, England, to Bering Strait via Cape Horn to search the Arctic region for the lost Franklin Expedition. After spending four winters trapped in ice aboard HMS Investigator, McClure departed with a sledge team to contact the HMS Resolute to the east. After rescuing McClure’s crew, the Resolute was in turn abandoned in the ice near Beechey Island, but the joint crews eventually made it back to England—in the process making McClure’s crew the first to transit the Northwest Passage.
22 May 1850–30 Sep 1851 First Grinnell Arctic Expedition▲
The first United States effort to find the lost Franklin Expedition, financed by Henry Grinnell and led by Lieutenant Edwin De Haven, sailed from New York and explored Baffin Bay. In August they made contact with several British expeditions in the region and together they discovered the remains of Franklin’s winter camp on Beechy Island including three graves, providing the first solid clues to Franklin’s fate. The parties were broken up by storms in September, leaving the Grinnell expedition trapped in ice until May—when they escaped and returned to New York.
13 Aug 1850 Foundation of Nikolayevsk-on-Amur▲
A Russian expedition led by Gennady Nevelskoy founded Nikolayevsky Post near the mouth of the Amur River, in land claimed by the Chinese Empire. The post was the first Russian settlement in the region and soon became one of the most important centers on the Pacific Coast of the Russian Empire. In 1855 it became Russia’s main Pacific harbor after the Allies besieged Petropavlovsk in the Crimean War.