Lady Franklin's Lament (The Sailor's Dream) [Laws K9] -- Part 02
DESCRIPTION: Continuation of the notes to "Lady Franklin's Lament (The Sailor's Dream) [Laws K9]" [Laws K9]. -- Part 01
Last updated in version 4.3
NOTES [6473 words]: The quest for the Northwest Passage began because the sea trip from Europe to Asia was so long -- going eastward, it required ships to not only sail the length of Eurasia but, in the period before the opening of the Suez Canal, also south around the Cape of Good Hope. The westward route was also long, and required making the dreadful trip around Cape Horn, which is perpetually stormy. Mariners desperately wanted a shorter, safer route. For that reason, the Northwest Passage had been a goal of mariners since Martin Frobisher in the sixteenth century (McGhee, pp. 23fff.) -- but, at that time, the Little Ice Age almost certainly made it impossible.
As the climate warmed, and as ships improved, chances became better. There was actually a case of a ship apparently making it through from west to east, although no one aboard survived; the Octavius had been frozen in off Alaska in 1762, but was found off Greenland in 1775 (Hendrickson, pp. 166-167). Plus, despite centuries of failures, people became more willing to look. For most of the eighteenth century, apart from a naval expedition around 1740 (Williams-Delusion, pp. 62-108), the area of the Passage had been in the hands of the Hudson's Bay Company, a closed group with no willingness to spend money on speculations or on anything that might affect their business (Williams-Delusion, p. 49fff. Their employees at one time were given instructions to give no cooperation at all to Passage expeditions -- which, in practice, meant that they interfered with them; Williams-Delusion, pp. 142-143).
Then came Napoleon. Since it was only the Navy that kept the French from invading England, the Navy had to expand; it ended up roughly four times bigger in 1812 than it had been 25 years earlier. (This had dramatic side effects, such as the Nore and Spithead mutinies; see "Poor Parker" for background.)
Following the Napoleonic Wars, the Royal Navy was dramatically reduced; some 90% of Navy officers were on "half pay" -- i.e. still on the books, but with no commands. In effect, they were in reserve -- and, often, going slowly bankrupt; Fleming-Barrow, pp. 2-3. The search for the Northwest Passage was in part an attempt to find something for them to do. With so many officers available, it is no surprise that many exploratory voyages, to all parts of the world, were ordered. Britain ruled the waves; now it wanted to know just what waves it ruled.
Some of these exploratory voyages were successful, but those to the Northwest Passage all failed, and most resulted in much privation and some death -- Cookman, pp. 221-222, examines eight Passage attempts between 1819 and 1836: Three under Parry, two under Franklin, one under John Ross, and two under Back. 15 men died out of a total force of about 450 embarked. His list is not comprehensive -- e.g. Williams-Delusion, pp. 18-32, documents the early eighteenth century expedition of James Knight, which was lost without any survivors from two ships and a crew numbering in dozens. (It is strange to note that no serious attempts were made to find Knight, even though the approximate site of his disappearance was known. Recent expeditions have discovered his ships and winter camp, but no records and almost no bodies; the best guess is that, like the Franklin expedition a century and a quarter later, Knight's men left their ships and vanished in the wilderness; Williams-Delusion, pp. 32-45.)
But most of these were relatively small attempts. Franklin's 1845 expedition was organized on a massive scale.
Someone compared the quest for the Northwest Passage to the 1960s Apollo lunar program. In terms of cost, the comparison is ridiculous, but in a way, it's accurate: The quest pushed the limits of nineteenth century technology. It is unfortunate that the Admiralty tried to hurry the Franklin expedition due to budget constraints. (Lambert, p. 145, also notes that an international agreement on magnetic cooperation ended at the end of 1845, so it was important to try to get the expedition done in that year. But I'm not convinced that is significant.) This meant that the officers had little time to train for their tasks, according to Lambert, p. 154. Franklin himself wasted much time in a political controversy over his previous appointment in Tasmania (Lambert, p. 159).
(The irony is that Woodman, p. 3, says that the Franklin Search was the largest manhunt in history and cost 760,000 pounds. A little more investment up front would surely have paid off!)
The comparison with NASA is instructive. NASA's lunar expeditions were preceded by every possible test -- three generations of manned hardware (Mercury, Gemini, Apollo), plus much detailed exploration (Ranger, Surveyor, Lunar Orbiter). Even so, there were disasters (Apollo 1) and near-disasters (Apollo 13). The Franklin expedition had no such preparations. No one tried to finish off the maps of the relevant area; no one tested the new equipment in Franklin's ships. The massive expedition thus became a massive disaster.
John Franklin, the leader of the expedition, was born on April 16, 1786; he joined the Royal Navy in 1801. His early career was distinguished; he fought as a junior officer at Copenhagen and Trafalgar -- in both cases, aboard heavily engaged ships, the Polyphemus at Copenhagen (Beardsley, p. 6-7) and aboard the Bellerophon, which would later bear Napoleon into exile, at Trafalgar (Beardsley, pp. 22-23, says that he was the signal midshipman who took down Nelson's "England expects every man" message); the noise was so great as to cause permanent damage to his hearing (Wilkinson, pp. 117-118; Beardsley, p. 26, adds that a quarter of Bellerophon's crew were casualties, including her captain. Franklin's behavior was highly praised, but it didn't earn him promotion, perhaps as a result). Although he came through Trafalgar unscathed, he would be wounded during an attack on New Orleans in the War of 1812 (Beardsley, p. 32).
This set the tone for his career -- whatever his faults, he was certainly brave enough (Brandt, p. 19, declares that "No other word but intrepid will do for him").
Franklin then became a noted explorer. In his late teens, as a midshipman, he helped chart portions of the south Pacific -- and faced a shipwreck and his first experience of starvation when the accompanying ship, rather than try to rescue the survivors, sailed off on its own (Beardsley, pp. 14-15). In 1818, as lieutenant in command of the of the Trent, he was part of David Buchan's failed push from Spitzbergen toward the North Pole, narrowly surviving the encroachments of the ice (Fleming-Barrow, pp. 53-55, speaks of a "hair-raising series of near disasters"). The next year, on foot rather than by ship, he explored the north coast of Canada between Point Turnaround and the Coppermine River -- an expedition that nearly caused his death, and resulted in charges of cannibalism and murder, though by men who were separated from Franklin at the time.
Berton, p. 70, accuses Franklin of "ignor[ing] common sense," but also admits that his orders were faulty and the mission funding was inadequate. Fleming-Barrow, p. 125, says more charitably that he was "ordered to hitch-hike through a war zone into a wilderness," being forced to beg assistance from the Hudson's Bay and North West Companies, which at this time were engaged in a small-scale war of raids; they had no time for a Royal Navy interloper. The supplies they made available were too few and, in at least one important instance, spoiled (Brant, p. 105).
Lambert, p. 31, also makes the point that "As a career navy officer Franklin had neither training for nor experience of overland travel." And Lambert, p. 33, adds that Franklin kept his men moving when they should have given up and died. Brant, p. 92, says, "[H]e was in fact a beggar, in no position to demand anything [of the companies]. And this rank amateur of the north was trying to do what only two other white men, Hearne and Mackenzie, had ever done, reach the Arctic Ocean across the barren lands, above the tree line, and come back alive."
It would not be the last time John Barrow, the Second Secretary of the Admiralty who dreamed up most of these projects (one of Britain's "first pure civil servants," according to Brandt, p. 41, for whom Point Barrow, Alaska is named; Savours, p. 39), sent Franklin on a mission that was not adequately prepared.
At least Franklin could learn (Lambert, p, 33, says he "never made the same mistake twice"). In 1825 he went on another expedition in northern Canada. This one charted the coastal region from the Coppermine River to the Mackenzie, and this time, his planning for the expedition was better; Fleming-Barrow, p. 173, says he allowed "little scope for failure." There were no casualties.
This expedition also showed how good Franklin was at charming people; at one time he had in his camp Englishmen, Gaelic-speaking Scots, Canadians, Inuit, and four different tribes of non-Inuit Indians, but there were no fights (Savours, p. 88). Almost the only problem was a failure of two of their three chronometers (Savours, p. 89), making some of their maps ever so slightly inaccurate, but hardly Franklin's fault!
He earned real scientific recognition as a result, especially for the magnetic data he gathered. (Brant, p. 37, notes that at the beginning of his career, no one even knew for certainty that there was only one north magnetic pole!) He was not really a scientist, in that he did not analyze his data or try to construct models to explain it. But Lambert, p. 35, notes that he was known and respected by such men as Michael Faraday, Charles Lyell (the geologist whose research showed that the earth was old, giving Charles Darwin the time he needed for evolution to work), and John Herschel (the son of the discoverer of Neptune). He would later supply substantial aid to the great naturalist Joseph Hooker while both were in Tasmania (Lambert, pp. 131-132; Alexander, p. 109, says Hooker attributed this to Jane Franklin).
The period after the second arctic expedition was, in many ways, the highlight of his career. Never again would he have such a happy result while on duty. Franklin was knighted for his work (Fleming-Barrow, p. 175; Savours, p. 102, says this happened in 1829. We should note that the song's title "Lord Franklin" is not correct; he was neither an admiral nor a peer. His highest title was "Sir John Franklin," and his wife was Lady Franklin -- not Lady Jane Franklin). Nor was he ever to achieve the rank of admiral; that depended on when older admirals retired, and by the time a slot opened in 1852 (Lambert, pp. 46, 279), Franklin was dead -- although no one knew it at the time.
Incidentally, the 1825 expedition split into two smaller parties once it reached the coast, with Franklin going west and the other party going east. One of Franklin's most important subordinates in the eastern group, Dr. John Richardson, apparently felt that they explored enough coast to have mapped the Northwest Passage (Savours, p. 99). This was almost true; the upper coast of Canada was mapped -- except for the Boothia Peninsula and the water route between it and Victoria Island. It could be said with fair confidence that there was a water route; between what James Clark Ross, Parry, and Richardson had found, that much seemed certain. But that did not show how a ship could travel it. So Richardson (properly, to my mind) was not given the reward for finding the passage.
Although Franklin's career seemed jinxed by this time, he was very lucky in love: His two wives were both beautiful, forthright, and highly intelligent. His first, Eleanor Ann Porden, gave him his only child, a daughter, but died of tuberculosis six days after he set out on the second arctic expedition. Moss, p. 15, thinks it an unhappy marriage, and Brandt, pp. 143-145, notes that their correspondence was rather stiff and shows signs of disagreement -- but much of this seems to be a case of conforming to the conventions of the time. Whatever it was like, it left him a widower with a very young daughter.
Fortunately for him (although perhaps not for his daughter), he had another string for his bow. On his return, he married the former Jane Griffin in 1828 (Savours, p. 167). He had already named a spot in Canada "Griffin Point," according to Brandt, p. 231, and called on her family very soon after he returned from that trip. Sadly, we know little about their courtship; he had little to say about it, and she (or someone) destroyed her account of their meeting and some later records as well (McGooganFranklin, p. 57).
Lady Jane Griffin Franklin, 1791-1875, would prove one of the most determined women of the nineteenth century. The second daughter of a wealthy silk and gold merchant (Brandt, p. 232), she was beautiful if short, and reportedly kept her looks into her thirties. She was also well-educated, especially for a woman of the period, and loved to travel even before she met Franklin (Brandt, p. 232-233). Alexander, p. viii, declares that "From an early age she wanted to live life to the full, doing and seeing everything she could. She never turned down an opportunity, whether it was to climb a mountain, spear a shark, dally with a charming man, or... investigate a coal mine -- even if it meant being wet, muddy, bent double and worn out. Probably the most travelled woman of her time, she made long, adventurous trips to every continent except Antarctica. The range of her activities in her seven years in Australia was unique, from starting a scientific society to building a Greek temple in the buch and founding an agricultural settlement."
In school, she excelled at reading, French, and history, was less capable in mathematics, and disliked that staple of the era, sewing (Alexander, p. 3). Alexander thinks Jane, who lost her mother at a young age, was a tomboy; I wonder if she wasn't autistic (note that I do not consider autism a handicap; it is simply a difference).
It has been said that Franklin's wives were smarter than he was. Very likely true -- but at least he was a man enough to let them be the brilliant women they were. (McGooganFranklin, p. 68, makes the interesting observation that, at a time when men were usually and by default given absolute control of their wives' dowry, even if they died childless, Franklin signed an agreement with Eleanor Porden's father, and apparently had an informal understanding with Jane Franklin's father, letting his wives control their money -- part of the reason for Eleanor Franklin's dispute with her stepmother, no doubt.) The fact that Jane Griffin accepted his proposal is most intriguing, given that she had rejected many earlier suitors (Alexander, pp. 10-11; Brandt, p. 231; McGooganFranklin, p. 38, counts at least six). It helped his finances very much, since she brought some ten thousand pounds to the marriage (Brandt, p. 233).
Today, Lady Franklin is known mostly for her quest for her husband, but if things had turned out differently, or if she had lived a century or so later, things might have been very different: She wanted to learn, study, and work; Berton, p. 138, sourly remarked on her room in Tasmania that it was "'more like a museum or menagerie than the boudoir of a lady,' being cluttered with stuffed birds, aboriginal weapons, geological specimens, and fossils." She also travelled to the Middle East, and even learned some Arabic -- studying it while in company with a much younger missionary but without her husband! At least once, someone thought they must be married because they were so close (Alexander, p. 42; McGooganFranklin, pp. 122-125 notes that other Europeans definitely looked askance at that). I can't help but think, had she been born in the twentieth century, she would have made a good Education Secretary -- but it's easy to see why she was regarded as scandalous at the time.
(Franklin also inspired real loyalty from his subordinates. John Hepburn, who had served with him as early as 1818, and also lived through the disastrous first land expedition, still cared for his commander enough to volunteer, when in his early sixties, for one of the Franklin searches; Savours, p. 241.)
Curiously, the Franklins voluntarily spent much time apart early in their marriage (Alexander, p. 36). It was only after his disappearance that Lady Franklin became fanatical about his fate.
Having made those three exploratory voyages, Franklin went back to more normal sea duties for about a decade, serving for a time in the Mediterranean and earning the famous Franklin Medal from William IV for services done on behalf of the Greek government (Brandt, pp. 234-236. While he was at it, he saw many Greek historical sites -- and sneered at Lord Elgin's desecration of the Parthenon).
After a few years of frequent separation, in which Lady Franklin added extensively to her diaries and Franklin added slightly to his resume, they were left looking for another job for him. Explorers were not wanted at the time, and the navy still had lots of excess officers. It took him a while before he was given an offer he thought worthwhile -- and it was one for which he really wasn't competent. Having turned down a job as lieutenant governor of Antigua (Alexander, p. 50), Franklin was soon after offered the same post in Van Diemen's land (now Tasmania) -- which, despite the title, made him the on-the-scene head of state (Beardsley, pp. 150-151). He would be only the second governor in the penal colony's history (Beardsley, p. 155). The Franklins set out in August 1836 (Alexander, p. 51).
From 1837-1843 Franklin served as governor of Van Diemen's Land, bringing much relief after the dreadful leadership of George Arthur -- Franklin, in a brutal age, was gentle enough that he trembled when seamen were flogged (Beardsley, p. 148n.), and one of his subordinates on one of the Canadian expeditions told of him refusing to kill a mosquito that landed on him (Fleming-Barrow, p. 129. Lambert, p. 47, notes that when he served in the Mediterranean, his ship was known as "Franklin's Paradise" because he so rarely resorted to the lash. While there, he did some fossil digging and visited Mycenae and other classical sites.) HIs own wife recorded, "Sir John's sensitiveness is beyond conception" (McGooganFranklin, p. 184).
Franklin's goal, according to Lambert, pp. 98-103, was to build a civil society out of Tasmania's convict system, and expected transportation to stop. (Transportation to Australia proper was stopped at this time -- but the Tasmanian officialdom was getting rich off convicts and made sure Franklin's request to halt forced migrations was set aside. Ironically, they used some of Lady Franklin's arguments against transportation to show why it should continue; McGooganFranklin, pp. 226-227.) Franklin even tried to learn about the few surviving Tasmanian natives, though it was far too late to help them. (This makes an interesting contrast to his contempt for the voyageurs he hired for his first arctic expedition, described on pp. 140-141 of Brandt. Perhaps he suffered a bit of arctic madness -- a topic to be discussed more below.)
As part of his scientific work, Franklin helped rescue the expedition of Dumont d'Urville (Lambert, p. 116); if the expedition is now remembered mostly for being mentioned in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, it was a big deal at the time. He also founded what would become the Royal Society of Tasmania, attempted to found a university (Lambert, p. 111, although the school failed once he left), and made some efforts to treat prisoners humanely (Wilkinson, p. 128; Cookman, pp. 26-27).
Frankly, he was just what the colony needed -- except that he didn't have the deviousness to outmaneuver the local officials. Brandt, p. 293, suggests that as a naval officer he was used to being obeyed, not to negotiating with his subordinates. And his civilized attitude was resented by the local establishment; they quarreled with him constantly, and still more with Lady Jane Franklin. Lambert, p. 99, thinks that Jane Franklin's actions were in part due to Franklin's own deafness; she talked a lot to make sure that he knew what was going on. Alexander, p. 177, implies that Jane meddled because Franklin was in over his head. Either way, her role made a bad impression -- e.g. one of his senior subordinates griped about the "petticoat influence."
MSmith, p. 86-87, sums up Franklin's time in Tasmania this way: "Van Diemen's Land was an unpleasant, half-forgotten penal colony on the fringe of the Empire. Over 17,000 of the island's population of 42,000 were shackled convicts and many of the free citizens were former prisoners.... To Franklin and his feisty, strong-willed wife, Lady Jane Franklin, it was a hellhole. To round things off, almost everyone in the suffocating, reactionary frontier community disliked the Franklins, who were regarded as outsiders and dangerous liberals. Lady Franklin, an assured, unconventional woman in her late forties, simply grated... They found her aggressive and disconcertingly radical, especially when she defied convention by straying into unwelcome areas, such as her attempts to improve the island's mediocre schools....
"John Franklin was a square peg in a round hole. He was a genial and inoffensive man who had very little in common with the hostile colonialists or the wretched convicts and often found himself at the mercy of the wily civil servants in the Colonial Office." Indeed, Lambert, p. 137 etc., reports that they schemed directly against him to feather their own nests. Ironically, Franklin's predecessor, George Arthur, who had largely encouraged their deeds, ended up losing a lot of money due to their behavior and came to shun them (Lambert, p. 138).
Alexander, p. 172, observes that George Arthur had controlled the factions under him with an iron hand. Franklin, much gentler, was appreciated by the ordinary citizens, but he simply couldn't control the power centers in the hierarchy. Even Jane Franklin thought he wasn't tough enough for the job (Alexander, p. 173) -- although Jane Franklin's answer to almost everything seems to have been "more punishment." Genius though she was, she was also quite brutal.
The politics of all this were so complex that after reading two different accounts of it I still couldn't make sense of it, but local officials headed to London with complaints, and circulated at least one scurrilous, only partly true private book insulting the Franklins (McGooganFranklin, pp. 254-256), but it is certain that the local power brokers went over his head to the Colonial Office. Franklin eventually was recalled from Tasmania in mild disgrace (many of the lies about him had been printed in English papers; McGooganFranklin, p. 260. He wasn't even told that a new governor was being sent until half a day before the new governor occupied the governor's mansion; Alexander, p. 199). Franklin was so irked by what happened that he eventually wrote a 157 page book about it, which he had privately published and distributed (Alexander, p. 204; Beardsley, pp. 181-182; McGooganFranklin, p. 268, adds that Lady Franklin didn't want him to publish but ghost wrote it when he insisted).
It is reported that thousands of non-government officials showed up to cheer him off; Brandt, p. 294. Indeed, Alexander says that it was "Hobart's largest crowd so far." Lambert, p. 139, says that his tenure would later be recalled as "the golden days of Tasmania." The people of Tasmania would later contribute 1700 pounds to the search for Franklin; Berton, p. 140. This out of a relatively impoverished free population numbered in the tens of thousands. As a result, the Tasmania Islands in the Arctic are named for the Tasmanian people; Savours, p. 168. Later, the government erected a statue to him -- the only governor so honored, according to Lambert, p. 295. Clearly the people appreciated him; it was the officialdom that didn't. But, when Franklin got back to England, he again needed a job.
And, after years of ignoring the Arctic, the Royal Navy was getting interested again. It was clear the Passage would never be commercially useful with nineteenth century ships -- but Admiralty Second Secretary Barrow, who had sent out all those other missions of exploration, was in his eighties, and knew he wouldn't be around much longer; he wanted the Passage to finish off his career.
Williams-Labyrinth, p. 167, compares Barrow's attitude to that of the First World War generals who, in the face of all evidence, somehow thought that "one more push" would break the enemy's lines. Even Franklin, whose optimism was almost limitless, seems to have thought Barrow's dreams of open water were hopelessly optimistic (Williams-Labyrinth, p. 175, quotes a note of Franklin's that seems to say he doesn't believe in open sea even though Barrow "will have it").
(How hard has it been to make it through the passage? Cookman, p. 197, counted only seven successful trips through the passage as of 2000 -- though Savours, pp. 326-328, has a list of 49 passages from 1906 to 1990, with the rate increasing steadily over the years. But most of these are icebreakers or small boats. It appears, until around 2000, the passage was *still* not commercially viable -- MacInnis-Land, p. 121, notes that in his first two years of hunting for the Breadalbane, there were only seven days of suitable weather, and Edinger, pp. 263-264, describes the attempt of the icebreaker/tanker Manhattan, which made it through the passage carrying a symbolic barrel of oil but sustained heavy damage in the process; the attempt was not repeated.)
(It's likely that global warming will change that in the next few years, though; I heard a recent report of a group of people canoeing the Northwest Passage in a single year. Williams-Delusion, p. xix, notes that the St Roch II in 2000 made it through the passage in a month, without ever being halted by ice! And StarTrib reports that, in 2009, the Northeast Passage was first navigated commercially. The Northeast Passage is much more open than the Northwest Passage, so it is easier find a path, but it is -- or used to be -- almost as icy. Climate change has made it much more accessible.)
(Also, the difficulty of the Northwest Passage does not mean that there is no traffic up there; oil has been discovered in the Arctic Archipelago, so ships are frequently going in and out, and there are several icebreakers on regular arctic duty. It's just that they don't take the Passage; they go out the same way they came in.)
Once the Passage expedition was chartered -- and thrown together hastily to get it on the present budget -- someone had to run it. Usually a commander was lined up before an expedition was organized. Not this time.
There was no question about who the first choice would have been (Brandt, p. 291): Captain James Clark Ross was the greatest Arctic explorer then alive. He had served on Passage expeditions with his uncle John Ross and with William Edward Parry; he had discovered the North Magnetic Pole, and he was just back from the most successful Antarctic expedition ever made. There was no man alive who knew more about arctic exploration.
But he ruled himself out. Part of the reason was that he had not fully recovered from the Antarctic expedition; in addition, he had said he had promised his wife and father-in-law that the southern expedition would be his last. (Fleming-Barrow, p. 351; Lambert, p. 145; MSmith, pp. 76, 137-138).
The next choice would be Ross's former commander William Edward Parry, whose 1819 Passage attempt had come closer to success than any before or since (Delgado, pp. 58-64), and who had followed it with two other, less successful attempts at the Passage and an 1827 attempt at the North Pole which failed but which set a new "Farthest North" record that would stand for fifty years (Berton, p. 637). But Parry was now 54 and not interested (MSmith, p. 138).
With those two out of the running, there was no really obvious choice left. The leaders in Arctic experience were Franklin and Captain F.R.M. Crozier; each had drawbacks. Crozier had less seniority; though an intelligent self-made man, had never held an independent command. And, somehow, he never seemed to gain any recognition or fame (MSmith, p. 132).
To be sure, his paper credentials were excellent. Born in Banbridge, Ireland (MSmith, pp. 6-7), he was of an Ulster Presbyterian family (the family home, now known as Crozier House, still stands). He was born around September 17, 1796. His family joined the (Anglican) Church of Ireland in the aftermath of the 1798 rebellion (MSmith, p. 10).
Francis himself had joined the navy in 1810, at the age of 13 -- an unusual choice, since most of the other members of his family were solicitors. He served as a midshipman on the Fury during Edward Parry's 1821 expedition to Hudson Bay, where he became friends with his future commander, James Clark Ross (MSmith, p. 29). He was also part of Parry's 1824 Passage expedition which ended in the loss of H.M.S. Fury (MSmith, p. 51). He was made lieutenant in 1826, and in that capacity he joined Parry's 1827 North Pole quest, and commanded Hecla while Parry was away trying (and failing miserably) to sledge across the polar ice (MSmith, p. 59).
But then -- nothing. Crozier was a lieutenant on half-pay (i.e. without an actual posting) for most of the next seven years (MSmith, pp. 66-67), though he did briefly serve on an expedition sent to rescue some whalers (MSmith, pp. 71-73); if nothing else, that earned him a promotion to Commander (MSmith, p. 74). In 1839, James Clark Ross asked him to be second-in-command of the expedition he was taking to the Antarctic, and it was Crozier who did most of the work of organizing this highly successful expedition (MSmith, p. 78). But, of course, the credit went mostly to Ross.
It was probably small consolation to be elected a member of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1827 (MSmith, p. 67). Crozier has a lunar crater named after him, close to the Mare Fecundatis, between it and the Mare Nectaris, close to Columbo Crater. It's a small crater, though, barely visible on most maps. Nor is it located anywhere near either pole, unlike Amundsen Crater (which is right at the South Pole) or Scott Crater (and why Scott should get a bigger crater than Crozier is beyond me, except that he had a great P.R. machine) or Nansen crater near the North Lunar Pole. In time, he even was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society -- a major tribute to his scientific work (MSmith, p. 145), which apparently included making improvements to the instrument known as a dipping needle (Beardsley, p. 192).
But he seems to have lacked self-confidence (MSmith, p. 29). And -- he was a victim of unrequited love. His history in that regard was strange and sad. MSmith, pp. 75-76, tells of hints that he was attracted to the poetess Jean Ingelow (1820-1897), very well known in her time but now remembered, if at all, only for "High Tide on the Coast of Lancashire" and perhaps "Seven Times One." The former (Ingelow, p.111) is in a stilted, slightly archaizing dialect, apparently referring to a disaster in 1571; the latter (Ingelow, p. 126) is a child's self-description at age seven -- with the curious lines, "I am old, so old, I can write a letter; My birthday lessons are done; The lambs play always, they know no better; They are only one times one." That perhaps hints at a fear of premature age....
She was less than half Crozier's age at the time they met, and nothing ever came of it -- but, strangely enough, she would never marry, and some of her poetry refers to loving a sailor lost at sea (e.g. "A Sea Song," Ingelow, p. 141, calls, "Come over, come home, Through the salt foam, My sailor, my sailor boy..."). An 1869 tale, "Mopsa the Fairy," tells of a boy who meets Mopsa, a young fairy, then watches "as she grows until she is older than he." They are then forced to part (Zipes, p. 247). This again sounds a bit like a tale of a lost sailor.
It wasn't Crozier's last odd romantic attachment. His may have been one of the strangest love triangles of all time. The woman he had fallen in love with was Sophia Cracroft, Franklin's niece (Cookman, p. 54; Savours, p. 177; MSmith, pp. 87-88, says she was the daughter of Franklin's younger sister Isabella and Thomas Cracroft, and was known as "Sophy." Her father died in 1824, when she was nine, and Franklin, and later Jane Franklin, watched over her from that time.).
Sophy Cracroft, after she grew up, served as a general assistant to Lady Jane Franklin. She met Crozier in Van Diemen's Land, when Franklin was Governor there; Crozier and James Clark Ross twice stopped there during their Antarctic voyage. Crozier promptly fell in love with her. Sophy, who apparently was quite flirtatious, was not interested at all in Crozier, calling him "a horrid radical and an indifferent speller" (! -- MSmith, p. 89).
Cracroft apparently had many suitors on her line, none of whom interested her, because she wanted James Clark Ross (Alexander, p. 166; McGooganFranklin, p. 209; the whole thing sounds like a bad soap opera). Smith seems to think Crozier proposed to her at least twice, once while in Hobart (MSmith, p. 95) and once in 1844 after he and she had returned to England (MSmith, p. 133); on the latter occasion, she reportedly told him that she would not be a captain's wife, and she turned down another naval officer, Owen Stanley, as well (Alexander, p. 205). (This turned out not to be smart, since eventually the men stopped calling and she ended up working for Jane Franklin until Jane died; Alexander, pp. 211-212. One clairvoyant, consulted during the Franklin search, told Cracroft that one of the ship captains was always longing for her; Alexander, p. 216, thinks that this means that Crozier's feelings were widely known and Cracroft had regrets, and I grant that the first of these seems likely.)
Crozier apparently didn't hold her feelings against Ross (they continued to serve well together, and Crozier kept writing to Ross after the expedition ended -- indeed, Crozier lived with Ross and his wife in the last month before the Passage expedition; MSmith, p. 152), nor seemingly against Franklin, but he continued to carry a torch for her. (Interestingly, Cracroft never did marry. She stayed with Jane Franklin to the end of the former's life, and would take possession of her papers after her death. Cracroft, who by the end was almost Jane's shadow, was also the single largest beneficiary of Jane's will, with Jane leaving a relatively limited amount to her stepdaughter's family; McGooganFranklin, p 417. McGooganFranklin, p. 421, shows Sophy taking care of Jane's agenda to commemorate Leopold McClintock even after Jane's death.) In the course of the Antarctic expedition, Crozier was finally promoted to Captain (MSmith, p. 119). Crozier and Ross also selected the site of the future Port Stanley, the only significant town in the Falkland Islands (MSmith, p. 122).
All this seems to have left Crozier depressed. Jane Franklin and Ross both worried about him (MSmith, p. 134). He ended up taking a leave of absence from the Navy to try to get his feelings straightened out (MSmith, p. 135). When the possibility of the Passage expedition came up, he declared "I am not equal to the hardship" (MSmith, p. 140), and turned down the command (Fleming-Barrow, p. 366).
His decision to turn down the command may not really have been his choice; as a self-educated Ulster Presbyterian, he had no political clout, and would likely have been rejected anyway by political hacks (Sandler, p. 72); he would, as we shall see, accompany the party as second-in-command.
MSmith, p. 141, calls his acceptance of the post "the worst of all decisions," but I can't see why this is so; Crozier's depression would have made him a poor commander -- and it sounds as if it got worse as the expedition went along; his last letter, written to the Rosses, declares he is "sadly lonely"; he sounds like a man on the brink of a breakdown; it is quoted on MSmith, pp. 162-163 and on pp. 276-277 of Williams-Labyrinth. He praises Franklin's kindness but desperately misses James Clark Ross. But he had shown his skill as an executive officer.
John Franklin, though more willing to command the Passage expedition, and more socially acceptable (Moss, p. 137, calls him "securely part of the establishment," which he was not -- hence his problems getting a job! -- but he was an establishment type), had a very different, and probably worse, set of drawbacks. He was elderly, very overweight, not a strong physical specimen (Sandler, p. 32, says that he had had circulation problems even when in his twenties, although Brandt, p. 234, says that he did not start putting on weight until his enforced idleness after his marriage. But he ended up weighing over 200 pounds despite being only five feet, six inches tall.), and though he had long before explored northern Canada, he had not been part of any previous naval expedition to the Passage.
But he wanted the job. Most naval officers his age were ready to retire (he said himself that "the Admiralty might be 'disposed to take my age and Crozier's [the latter was 51] together and reckon is a somewhat heavy amount"; Williams-Labyrinth, p. 170), but he wanted to redeem his reputation (Brandt, p. 292). Told he was too old, he admitted that he was too feeble for a walking edition, but pointed out that it he was sound enough to walk the decks of a ship (Brandt, p. 300).
There was apparently another candidate, one John Lort Stokes (Battersby, p. 155). But he had no arctic credentials. Franklin was the only Arctic veteran available, so he was appointed to command even though many simply didn't think him up to the task (Beattie, p. 36; Fleming-Barrow, pp. 366-368; on the other hand, Lambert, p. 60, thinks he was "the best man for the job").
Franklin's last expedition was mounted in 1845, with the explorer acting as commodore commanding two ships (the reinforced bomb ships H.M.S. Erebus and H.M.S. Terror). Not a single man ever returned (MSmith, p. 164). It has been argued that they must have found the Northwest Passage. But it is certain they could not travel it. Their fate would not be learned for many years, and even now, much about it is unknown.
By the late 1840s, the world was growing very concerned about the Expedition. They had been given supplies for three years -- enough that they would probably last four. (When they set out, the ships had been so full that even Franklin's cabin had been filled with canned goods; Lambert, p. 162) But that time was about up, and nothing had been heard. A vast effort was mounted to try to learn the expedition's fate.
Last updated in version 4.3
Go to the Ballad Search form
Go to the Ballad Index Song List
Go to the Ballad Index Instructions
Go to the Ballad Index Bibliography or Discography
The Ballad Index Copyright 2018 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.