Skead, British Naval Franklin Search Expedition, 1850-1855

Scope and Content

  • MS 1161;D Journal, 14 December 1849 to 8 March 1852 [In HMS Enterprise] 119 leaves, holograph (Xerox)
  • MS 1504/BJ Private journal, 1850-1852 [Written as master of HMS Enterprise] 1 volume

Administrative / Biographical History

In 1845 Sir John Franklin sailed north in command of the British Naval Northwest Passage Expedition. Sent by the Admiralty the two ships HMS Erebus (Franklin) and HMS Terror (Francis Crozier) were to search for a passage via Lancaster Sound. With provisions designed to last three years the expedition sailed north in May 1845. Whalers in Baffin Bay were the last Europeans to see the two ships in July of 1845.

Many searches were conducted for the missing expedition during the course of which the main facts regarding the route taken and the final fate of the expedition were established.

The British Naval Franklin Search Expedition, 1850-1855 (leader Richard Collinson) was despatched to search for the missing expedition via Bering Strait. HMS Enterprise (Collinson) was accompanied by HMS Investigator (Robert McClure). The vessels became separated on the outward voyage; Collinson proceeded to Point Barrow, Alaska, where Clavering Enterprise was prevented by ice from passing into the Beaufort Sea. After wintering in Hong Kong, Collinson returned north and entered Prince of Wales Strait in August 1851, turning back after ice prevented progress. Returning to the southern end of Prince of Wales Strait a safe winter harbour was selected at Victoria Island. The following spring, Collinson led a sledge journey to the northern end of Prince of Wales Strait, exploring the north coast of Victoria Island as far as Wynniatt Bay before returning to the ship.

Enterprise was released from the ice in August 1852 and sailed south and east discovering that Prince Albert Sound to be an enclosed inlet and not a strait as previously assumed. A safe harbour was found in Cambridge Bay on the south coast of Victoria Island where the expedition wintered. In the spring of 1853, Collinson led a party of three sledges to search and explore along the east coast of Victoria Island where he found a note left by John Rae indicating that he had searched the same stretch of coast two years earlier. Forced to spend a third winter in the Arctic after bad weather impeded their progress on the return journey, the expedition eventually arrived in England in May 1855.



Related Material

The Institute holds several archival collections containing material relating to this expedition, see SPRI collection GB 15 Edward Adams, GB 15 Sir George Back, GB 15 John Rae and GB 15 Richard Collinson for more information