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THE FATE OF SIR JOHN FRANKLIN., Otago Witness, Issue 186, 31 March 1855
THE FATE OF SIR JOHN FRANKLIN.
The veil that obscured the fate of Sir John 1 Franklin has been unexpectedly lifted. Dr. Racy of the Hudson's Bay Company, has reached England, bringing with him from the Arctic Seas aJ number of articles that belonged to Franklin and his companions. The story of the recovery of Ihese memorials is 1 most painfully interesting. Dr. Rae'sf account, which may, of course, be implicitly relied on, is this. In the spring he fell in with a party of Esquimaux, who were in possession off a number of articles known to belong to Sir John Franklin himself, and other things the property of members 1 of his party. These articles included amongst the rest some silver plate bearing the crests of the owners. WKen the Esquimaux were questioned as tor the way in which they became possessed of such valuables- belonging to the Royal Navy of England, they said that the vessels of Franklin had been crushed in the icebergs, and their crews forced to 1 set out over the snow on their way towards 'the territory of the Hudson's Bay Company— that in 1850 the Esquimaux had met forty Englishmen belonging to Sir John Franklin's ships travelling on foot, and dragging a boat over the ice, near King William's Land. That the officer in command of these unfortunates had bought from the Esquimaux, for his followers', a' small seal, being greatly in want of provisions. That, lit a' later period, the Esquimaux found the dead bodies of the whole of this party on the ice near Back River, surrounded by evidences that they had been driven td cannibalism to prolong existence. The Esquimaux helped themselves to the stores of the dead, taking gunpowder, silver plate, and whatever else they thought fit ta appropriate. The following is tft. Kae's report to the Secretary of the Admiralty : — " Repulse Bay, July 29, 1854. " Sir, — I have the honor to mention for the information of my Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, that during my journey over the ice and snow this spring, with the view of completing the survey of the west shore of Bothnia, I met with Esquimaux in Pelly Bay, from one of whom I learned that a party of ' white men' (Kablounans) had perished from want of food, some distance to the westward, and not far beyond a large river containing many falls and rapids. Subsequently, further particulars were received, and a number of articles purchased, which place the fate of a portion, ifno't all, the then survivors of Sir John Franklin's long lost party beyond a doubt — a fate terrible as the imagination can conceive. " The substance of the information obtained at various times and from various sources was as follows :—: — " In the sprirrg, four winters past (spring of 1850}' a party of white men, amounting to about forty, were seen travelling over the ice and dragging a boat with them, by some Esquimaux who were killing seals near the north shore of King William's Land, which is a large island. None of the party could speak the Esquimaux language intelligibly ; but by signs the natives were made to understand that their ship, or ships, had been crushed by the ice, and that they were now going to where they expected to find deer to shobt. From the appearance of the men, all of whom, except one officer, looked thin, they were then supposed to be getting short of provisions, and purchased a small seal from the natives. At a later date the same season, but previous to the breaking up of the ice, the bodies of some thirty persons were discovered on the continent, and five on an island near it, about a long day's journey to the N. W. of a large stream, which can be no other than Back's Great Fish River, (named by the Esquimaux Doot-ko-hi-calik) as p its description, and that of the low shore in the | neighbourhood of Point Ogle and Montreal Island agree exactly with that of Sir George Back. Some of the bodies had been buried, probably those of the first victims of famine ; some were in a tent or tents ; others under the boat, which had' been turned over to form a shelter, and several lay scattered about in different directions. Of those found onthe Island, one was supposed to have been an officer, as he had a telescope strapped over his shoulders, and his double-barrelled gun lying underneath' him. " From the mutilated state of many of the corpses, and the contents of the kettles, it is evident that our wretched countrymen had beendriven to the last resource — cannibalism — as ameans of prolonging existence. " There appeared ta have been an abundant stock of ammunition, as the powder was emptied in a heap on the ground by the natives out of the kegs or cases containing it ; and a quantity of bail and shot was found below high water mark, having probably been left on the ice close to the beach. There must have been- a number of watches, compasses,' telescopes, guns' (several double barrel), &c, all of which appear to have been broken up, as I saw pieces of those different articles with the Esquimaux, together with silver spoons and forks. J purchased as many as I could get. A list of the, most important I enclose, with a rough sketch of the crests and initials of the forks and spoons; The articles- themselves shall be handed over to the Secretary of the Hudson's- Bay Company on my arrival in London. " None of the Esquimaux- with vvhonr I conversed had seen the "whites," nor had they ever been at the place where the bodies were found, but had their information from those who had beetf there, and who had seen the party when travelling. " I offer no apology for taking the liberty of addressing you, as I> do so from a belief that their Lordships would be desirous of being put in possession, at as early a date as- possible, of any tid--ings, however meagre and unexpectedly obtained,* regarding this- painfully interesting subject. " I may add, that by rneansof our guns and nets* we obtained an ample supply of provisions "jast autumn, and my small party passed the winter insnow houses in comparative comfort, the" skins of the deer shot affording abundant warm clothing and bedding. My spring journey was a failure, in' consequence of an accumulation of obstacles, several of which my former experience in Arctic' travelling had not taught me to expect. — I have, &c. Jo«n Rae, C. E., " Commanding Hudson's Bay Company's « Artie Expedition." i -<
THE FATE OF SIR JOHN FRANKLIN., Otago Witness, Issue 186, 31 March 1855
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