6. Franklin, John, Sir (1786-1847) 

Narrative of a Journey to the Shores of the Polar Sea: in the Years 1819, 20, 21, 22.  London: John Murray, 1823.


Campsite on the trip to Fort Enterprise, from John Franklin, Narrative of a Journey, 1823.


Crossing Great Slave Lake in wintertime, from John Franklin, Narrative of a Journey, 1823.


Preparing camp on the Barren Grounds, from John Franklin, Narrative of a Journey, 1823.

John Franklin began an unusual search for the Northwest Passage in 1819, when he, a naval captain, was asked to lead an overland expedition through Hudson’s Bay Company territory, to the north shore of the American continent. 

His lieutenants were also naval officers, but the rest of the party consisted of voyageurs and native Indians. 

They built a camp at Fort Enterprise, north of Great Slave Lake, and then located and descended the Coppermine River to the northern coast. 

They explored eastward along the coast, as far as what they named Point Turnagain, on Kent Peninsula.  They then tried to return to their camp at Fort Enterprise by crossing the Barren Grounds, which are almost devoid of vegetation. 

The party nearly started to death on the return trip, having to resort to eating rock tripe (lichens) and even their boots and moccasins to stay alive. 

Eleven of the party of twenty did not survive, including one officer, who was murdered.  Franklin’s narrative, which he wrote within a year of his return, is thus quite harrowing and exciting, and it went through several editions within a year. 

The illustrations are mostly by Lt. George Back, who would lead several expeditions on his own in the 1830ss. (See item 18 and 19).










Linda Hall Library Logo