The steam yacht 'Fox'

A portrait of the barque-rigged steam yacht ‘Fox’ which was bought by Lady Franklin in 1857 for an expedition to the Arctic. The ‘Fox’ was strengthened to resist polar ice before setting out on the privately funded expedition in search of Lady Franklin’s husband Sir John Franklin. He had been missing for twelve years during his attempt to discover a sea route north of the American mainland. Following reports that the Inuit had seen Europeans on King William Island and the nearby mainland, the expedition aimed to rescue any survivors, retrieve relics, and establish if Sir John’s expedition had achieved its mission.

Lady Franklin appointed Francis Leopold McClintock to command the ‘Fox’. She crossed the Atlantic and entered the Arctic Archipelago from Baffin Bay. Finding Peel Sound blocked by ice, she sailed down Prince Regent Inlet and wintered at the eastern end of the Bellot Strait. In March 1858, a small sledge party led by McClintock and Allen Young met a party of Inuit near the North Magnetic Pole on the Boothia Peninsula. McClintock purchased a number of items which had belonged to the missing expedition. A larger sledge party also set out and found traces of the missing expedition at Cape Felix. Further south they came across the place where the expedition had reached the shore after abandoning ship. Nearby were found two records, each deposited in a cairn, that provide the only written evidence of Franklin and Crozier’s decisions and the expedition’s route. Further down the coast at Erebus Bay, Hobson found a boat containing a large quantity of equipment and facing in the direction of the abandoned ships. He also found the remains of two men who had been armed with a couple of loaded shotguns at this site. When they crossed to King William Island they found a skeleton in the remains of steward’s uniform. The ‘Fox’ returned to London on 23 September 1859. Of all the voyages sent in search of Franklin, McClintock’s men provided the most information about the fate of the missing expedition.

This ship’s portrait shows the steam yacht ploughing through Arctic waters surrounded by icebergs and large blocks of floating ice. Figures are visible on deck, keeping a look-out, smoke from the stack is shown trailing behind the yacht.

The painting appears at one stage to have been framed as an oval in the manner of topographical works for printed publication.

Object Details

ID: BHC3351
Collection: Fine art
Type: Painting
Display location: Not on display
Creator: British School, 19th century
Vessels: Fox (1855)
Date made: 19th century
People: Franklin, Jane
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
Measurements: Frame: 696 mm x 905 mm x 90 mm;Painting: 510 mm x 760 mm

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