|About the Book|
IT was in the summer of 1845 that Sir John Franklin undertook his fourth voyage into the Arctic regions, in search of a northwest passage, and disappeared forever in that icy waste.Franklin’s two ships, the Erebus and the Terror, were supposed to beMoreIT was in the summer of 1845 that Sir John Franklin undertook his fourth voyage into the Arctic regions, in search of a northwest passage, and disappeared forever in that icy waste.Franklin’s two ships, the Erebus and the Terror, were supposed to be provisioned for three years. When this interval had passed without word of the daring navigator there was grave fear that he had met with disaster. Then began an unparalleled series of search and relief expeditions, public and private, English and American: five separate ones in 1848, three in 1849, ten in 1850, two in 1851, nine in 1852, five in 1853, two in 1854, one in 1855, and one in 1857.Among the earliest of these was one from the United States, known as the first Grinnell expedition, which left New York in May, 1848. Lady Franklin had appealed to the President of the United States to « 8 » enlist his countrymen as a “kindred people, to join heart and hand in the enterprise of snatching the lost navigators from a dreary grave.” Accordingly a bill was introduced in Congress to fit out an expedition for this purpose- but the process of legislation was too slow to provide vessels and equipment in the short time that was left for such a venture.At this juncture a New York merchant, Henry Grinnell, outfitted two of his own vessels for the service and proffered them gratuitously to our government. They were at once accepted under a joint resolution of Congress, and the President was authorized to detail officers and men from the navy to man the ships.This little squadron comprised the Advance, of 144 tons, and the Rescue, of 91 tons, carrying, respectively, seventeen and sixteen officers and crew. The expedition was under command of Lieut. Edwin J. De Haven.The senior medical officer was Dr. Elisha Kent Kane, who was destined later (1853) himself to lead a second Grinnell expedition « 9 » on this same quest. In the present instance, Dr. Kane states that “while bathing in the tepid waters of the Gulf of Mexico” he received a telegram from Washington detaching him from the Coast Survey and ordering him to proceed forthwith to New York for duty upon the Arctic expedition. Although he made the overland trip of thirteen hundred miles with all possible despatch, he had only a fraction of a day left in New York in which to equip himself for service in the polar seas. It fell to him to be not only chief surgeon and scientific observer of the expedition, but also its historian.