Nelson, British Naval Franklin Search Expedition, 1850-1854

Scope and Content

  • MS 748/1-2;BJ Journals (2), 1850-1854 [Voyages of HMS Enterprise & HMS Investigator] 2 volumes, holograph (Xerox)

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, 1850-1854 (leader Robert McClure) sailed from London in January of 1850 to search for the missing expedition by way of the Bering Strait. HMS Investigator was separated early in the voyages from Richard Collinnson's British Naval Franklin Search Expedition, 1850-1855 (HMS Enterprise) Investigator proceeded to Point Barrow in August 1850 and sailed along the north coast of Alaska, becoming the first ship to navigate the waters of the Beaufort Sea. In September 1850, McClure discovered Prince of Wales Strait between Banks and Victoria Islands, which he managed to sail part way up before becoming frozen in for the winter. Further exploration by sledge showed that the strait led to Viscount Melville Sound, confirming the existence of a Northwest Passage.

Ice prevented further travel up Prince of Wales Strait so Investigator sailed to the northern end of Banks Island where the expedition wintered. Remaining beset in Mercy Bay throughout 1852, McClure sledged east to Winter Harbour on Melville Island where he left a note describing the ships position, this led to the rescue of the expedition in 1853 by members of HMS Resolute British Naval Franklin Search Expedition, 1852-1854 (leader Henry Kellett).



Related Material

The Institute holds several archival collections containing material relating to this expedition see SPRI collections GB 15 Sir George Back and GB 15 Robert McClure