Sir John Franklin, naval officer, arctic explorer (b at Spilsby, Eng 16 Apr 1786; d 11 June 1847 aboard HMS Erebus, in Victoria Str, NWT). From 1801 to 1804 Franklin developed surveying skills and an interest in natural science, which determined his future as the best-known and perhaps greatest explorer in the British-American Arctic. He owes his fame to the long and much publicized search for him and his lost vessels; he earned it with his exploratory expeditions - westbound from the Atlantic - and by his charting of Canada's arctic seaboard. He has been called discoverer of the NORTHWEST PASSAGE, but not one man lived to report his success, which only became known 9 years after its discovery by Robert MCCLURE had been announced.

In 1818 Franklin was second in command of an abortive voyage into the Spitsbergen ice. In 1819 the British ADMIRALTY appointed him to map North America's unknown arctic seaboard. He was to descend the turbulent and supposedly unnavigable COPPERMINE R and explore eastward by canoe. In 1821 he surveyed about 340 km of intricate, ice-infested shoreline, but through cold and hunger lost about 10 men on the overland homeward trek owing to the inadequacy of canoes in pack ice and his unfamiliarity with traders, VOYAGEURS and northern conditions. In his well-organized second expedition (1825-27), he made the approach in seaworthy boats by the Mackenzie River, and from its mouth sent 2 boats east to map as far as the Coppermine River while he headed west. Hindered by ice and fog he surveyed 640 km of shoreline before turning back from an inlet he named Prudhoe Bay. The eastern detachment completed its assignment and, as prudently arranged by Franklin, made a quick, safe return overland.

Thomas Simpson of the Hudson's Bay Co extended these surveys, and to the north ships explored among the islands. In 1845 Franklin was sent with 2 vessels, Erebus and Terror, to join these discoveries together and sail through the Northwest Passage. He never returned, and after a 12-year search by numerous vessels it was learned that on the brink of success his ships had been frozen in west of King William Island. Franklin had died 11 June 1847, and command devolved on Captain Francis Crozier, who abandoned ship and with 105 surviving crew trekked southward toward the Back River. All perished, most of them near Victory Point. The fame of Franklin's "mystery" and the many voyages made to solve it have obscured the explorer's solid merits. He had shown boldness and resource in pioneering a new method of discovery in the Arctic and had added more to the coastal map of Canada than any other explorer except George VANCOUVER.

See also FRANKLIN SEARCH.