Haunted History: The Lost Franklin Expedition

image courtesy Public Domain
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Taught by Patty Hamrick

Patty Hamrick has an M.A. in Archaeological Anthropology from New York University. She has worked on excavations across Europe, Asia, and North America, including India, Cyprus, and Syria. She loves bringing her passion for the past to new people. You can follow her on twitter, @pluperfectpatty.

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In 1845, Captain John Franklin left England with two ships on a mission to discover the fabled Northwest Passage that would allow Europe to trade directly with Asia. Because Franklin suspected that there might be a safe water route north of Canada, they sailed into the Arctic Circle. His ships were equipped with the latest technology – steam engines and canned food – and specially designed to survive the cold, with iron plates and rudders to prevent them from being crushed by floating sea ice. But despite these precautions, no one from the Franklin expedition ever returned to England.

For many years, despite numerous search teams, no one knew exactly what had happened to Franklin and his ships. Only recently has archaeology begun to reveal the truth. Hidden messages have been found and bodies of crew members recovered and studied. Finally, in 2014 and 2016, the missing ships themselves were located, still in pristine condition despite resting on the bottom of the ocean.

The story of the Franklin Expedition has fascinated people for over a century. From the AMC miniseries The Terror to the writings of Mark Twain and Jules Verne, from famous paintings to haunting folk songs, artists in every medium have speculated about what really happened. In this class, you’ll learn the harrowing truth about how a mission to explore our planet instead uncovered brutality and fear in one of the most extreme environments on Earth.

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