Author: Ruth Sandwell
Editor: Warren Woytuck, Ruth Sandwell
Series Editor: Roland Case
A critical thinking challenge for students, ages 16-18
In 1845, HMS Erebus and HMS Terror set sail from England under the command of Sir John Franklin. Their mission was to explore what is now the Canadian Arctic in search of the Northwest Passage and to look for what the new science of geomagnetism had suggested should be a magnetic north pole. Both ships and the entire party of 129 men disappeared into the Arctic and never returned. Their disappearance immediately sparked one of the most extensive search efforts in world history. What happened to that fateful expedition?
In 1854, Inuit eyewitnesses told a British explorer that they had found objects from a foreign ship and unidentified frozen bodies. Between 1857 and 1859, Inuit provided vital information to a British search team led by Captain Francis McClintock and Lieutenant H.W. Hobson, hired by Lady Franklin to find her husband's missing expedition. Harper's Weekly of 1859 published a dramatic representation of what they found. In 1869 and 1879, American search parties conducted more extensive interviews with Inuit who had not only seen the bodies decades earlier, but also interacted with Franklin's men. The original illustration in Harper's Weekly was created using limited evidence and few viewpoints. What would the illustration have looked like if it had included more evidence from and perspectives of the Inuit?
Your task is to redraw the illustration of the Franklin Expedition to include Inuit evidence and perspectives. You will begin by analyzing the explicit meanings and implied attitudes found in the 1859 illustration in Harper's Weekly that, drawing on the reports from Captain Francis McClintock's search expedition, portrayed the first human remains of the expedition. Then you will examine some of the Inuit testimony provided in 1869 and in 1879, and finally, will use this evidence to redraw the illustration to better represent Inuit attitudes towards the men and the environment.
The Franklin Expedition drew considerable attention from the British public when it was first launched because it represented an exciting and daring venture that attempted to draw on the latest scientific inventions-including steam-powered motors and scientific instruments for detecting geomagnetic forces-in the interests of increasing British trade, commerce and wealth.
Read the introduction to the Franklin Expedition and the timeline of the events:
Explore more of the British contexts of the Franklin Expedition's search for the Northwest Passage by reading some of the selections here:
Though many British and Chinese merchants saw the Arctic as a mere passage between two important places, it had been the home of Inuit people for thousands of years. Explore the primary sources (documents and artifacts created around the time of Franklin's Expedition) and secondary sources (the interpretations written by historians) to learn more about the Inuit people (the Netsilingmiut) and the Arctic regions they lived in for thousands of years prior to the Franklin Expedition:
See a map of the Franklin Expedition's route here:
Your first task is to explore the explicit meanings of an illustration portraying the Franklin Expedition. Using the chart Deciphering the explicit meanings (Activity Sheet 1) as a guide, identify the explicit meanings of the illustration Discovery of the Franklin Expedition Boat of King William's Land by Lieutenant Hobson, 1859, by "J. Mcn.", from Harper's Weekly, Volume 3, 1859, 696-7. This drawing portrays the discoveries of the first human remains from the Franklin Expedition by Americans Charles Hobson and later Frederick McClintock.
Working in pairs, use the final column, "Plausibility Rating," to assess your inferences on a scale from 10 (highly plausible) to 1 (unlikely). Revise your inferences to better meet the criteria. Click here to learn more about using criteria to assess the plausibility of your inferences.
Your next task is to uncover what the artist really thought about the people, places and events represented in the illustration. To learn how to explore the implied attitudes click here. Using the chart Deciphering the artist's implied attitudes (Activity Sheet 2), enter your inferences and the supporting evidence about the implied attitudes towards the men, the environment and the expedition. Then, in the final column, enter words or phrases that sum up the artist's implied attitudes towards Franklin's men, the environment and the expedition.
Use the column, "Plausibility Rating," to assess the plausibility of your inferences on a scale from 10 (highly plausible) to 1 (unlikely). Revise your inferences to better meet the criteria.
Once you have identified the explicit meanings and implied attitudes, your next task is to explore evidence and points of view discovered after the creation of the original illustration. Read the document about McClintock's discoveries (document 2a), and at least four other Core documents found in Evidence in the case, being sure to select one document from each group.
Use the chart Comparing the evidence (Activity Sheet 3) to note any evidence the documents provide about the event or Inuit perspectives, remembering to search for evidence that could guide redrawing of the illustration.
After exploring these sources, use the chart Revising the image (Activity Sheet 4) to organize details about the original image. Begin by recording key details about the explicit meanings and implied attitudes of the illustration in the left hand column. Next, use the middle column to describe how these messages might be changed given the new evidence and Inuit perspectives. Record the evidence supporting your findings and suggestions in the third column. Finally, use the bottom of the chart to begin planning how you might illustrate the changes.
Your final task is to redraw the illustration to include the additional evidence and Inuit perspectives. Remember to consider how the design elements (spatial composition, visual techniques and profiled features) can be used to convey explicit meanings and implied attitudes. Draw your suggested changes on a copy of the illustration Discovery of the Franklin Expedition Boat of King William's Land by Lieutenant Hobson.
Rubric 1, Assessing the evidence and inferences may be used to assess the plausibility of inferences for both the explicit meanings and implied attitudes.
Rubric 2, Assessing the reinterpretation may be used to assess the plausibility of the recreated image.
Activity Sheet 1: Deciphering the explicit meanings
Activity Sheet 2: Deciphering the artist's implied attitudes
Activity Sheet 3: Comparing the evidence
Activity Sheet 4: Revising the image
Assessment Rubric 1: Assessing the evidence and inferences
Assessment Rubric 2: Assessing the reinterpretation
The Harper's Weekly illustration that you will be redrawing:
Discovery of the Franklin Expedition Boat of King William's Land by Lieutenant Hobson
Dr. John Rae's findings
1a) Dr. Rae: The first signs of the expedition, 1852:
Recent Explorations along the South and East Coast of Victoria Land
Source: Dr. John Rae, "Recent Explorations along the South and East Coast of Victoria Land," Journal of the Royal Geographical Society of London, 1852.
1b) Dr. Rae: Dreadful rumours:
Proceedings of Dr. Rae [Relating to His Arctic Expeditions, 1853-54]
Source: "Rae Proceedings1854," Further papers relative to the recent arctic expeditions in search of Sir John Franklin and the crews of HMS Erebus and Terror, Great Britain. House of Commons. Sessional Papers, Accounts and papers (January 1855), 1854-55, v. 35, no. 1898, pp. 835-844.
McClintock's discoveries, 1859
2a) The cairn, and first-hand evidence of the expedition's fate:
McClintock on the Fate of the Franklin Expedition
Source: Francis Leopold McClintock, The voyage of the "Fox" in the Arctic Seas, a narrative of the discovery of the fate of Sir John Franklin and his companions (London, 1860), pp. 255-271.
2b) Read the message in the cairn:
Last Record of Sir John Franklin's Expedition
Source: Message found by the McClintock Expedition near Point Victory, northwest coast of King William Island, detailing the fate of the Franklin Expedition, April 25, 1848, Object ID no PAF0263, National Maritime Museum, England.
2c) See an artist's representation of that momentous event:
Opening of the Cairn on Point Victory which Contained the Record of Crozier and Fitzjames
Source: Illustrated London News, 15 October 1859, p. 366.
C.F. Hall's narrative and interviews with the Inuit (conducted 1869, published 1879)
3a) Hall's arrival on King William Island; overview of his findings:
Testimony of Innookpoozhejook, Teekeeta and Other Inuits
Source: Charles Francis Hall, Narrative of the Second Arctic Expedition Made by Charles F. Hall (Washington, 1879), pp. 395-415.
3b) Hall's interviews-May 8, 11, 14, 1869; Inuit evidence that Crozier met with Inuit; remains of five bodies found:
C.F. Hall Conversations with Innuits
Source: Interviews from May 8, 11, 14, 1869; Charles Francis Hall, Narrative of the Second Arctic Expedition Made by Charles F. Hall (Washington, 1879), pp. 606-608.
3c) Hall-July 2, 1869; supplements information about boat with bodies found by McClintock:
Hall's Interview with In-nook-poo-zhee-jook
Source: Interview from July 2, 1869; Charles Francis Hall, Narrative of the Second Arctic Expedition Made by Charles F. Hall (Washington, 1879), pp. 418-21.
Frederick Schwatka's interviews; conducted 1878-80, published 1882
4a) More Inuit testimony about the five bodies:
Ahlangyah's Testimony to Schwatka
Source: Frederick Schwatka, The Search for Franklin: A Narrative of the American Expedition under Lieutenant Schwatka, 1878 to 1880 (Edinburgh: T. Nelson and Sons, 1882), pp. 35-38.
4b) More Inuit testimony about the five bodies:
Adlekok and C.F. Hall's Cairn at Pfeffer River
Source: Frederick Schwatka, The Search for Franklin: A Narrative of the American Expedition under Lieutenant Schwatka, 1878 to 1880 (Edinburgh: T. Nelson and Sons, 1882).
4c) Excerpts-more Inuit testimony about the five bodies:
Tooktoocheer and Ogzeuckjeuwock's Testimony to Schwatka [Reported by Gilder]
Source: W.H. Gilder, The Search for Franklin: A Narrative of the American Expedition under Lieutenant Schwatka, 1878 to 1880 (Edinburgh: T. Nelson and Sons, 1882), from pp. 103-09.
4d) Excerpt from Admiral Richards, in a letter to The Times (October 20, 1880) re: cannibalism:
Adlekok and C.F. Hall's Cairn at Pfeffer River
Source: Frederick Schwatka, The Search for Franklin: A Narrative of the American Expedition under Lieutenant Schwatka, 1878 to 1880 (Edinburgh: T. Nelson and Sons, 1882), p. 109.