Inside the exhibition: Death in the ice

Get a glimpse inside Death in the ice, the new exhibition telling the tragic tale of Franklin's final expedition to the arctic which ended in the loss of 129 men. 

The exhibition is home to objects, artefacts, paintings and curiosities that together, tell the story of Franklin's last venture into the Arctic in search of the North-West Passage.

Inuit testimonies

The Franklin expedition crewmen were last seen by the people who lived in the area. Inuit people had adapted to the Arctic's harsh climate, and had the skills and knowledge to thrive. They saw European explorers and were curious about their inadequate clothing and methods of surviving Arctic conditions.

The Inuit model of a ship



The exhibition explores how the oral testimonies of the Inuit have helped European explorers over centuries and were crucial in the search for the Franklin expedition.

Winter in the Arctic

The plan was for the Franklin expedition to winter at Beechy Island and as we can see from the Point Victory note, at this point all was going to plan. It states, "John Franklin commanding the expedition. All well".


Point Victory note from the Franklin expedition
The Point Victory note gives an insight into what happened on the expedition.

Explorers had learnt from earlier expeditions that it was important to keep the crew busy and active during the difficult winters in the Arctic. The crew would have put on shows, carried out exploration of the area by foot and had lessons in reading and writing. 

Lost gloves



What went wrong?

At some point after that first winter, things started to go wrong. Franklin died in 1847, two years after having set sail from England, and by the time the ships were abandoned 25 of the crew were dead. We do not know how those men died, but several clues are examined in the exhibition.

An officer's shoe

From that point, the tragic events start to unfold. Men would have been desperate for food, warmth, medicine, their families and homes. What was life like for those men in the last months of their failing expedition?

A sea boot was found at Starvation Cove, indicating that someone had made it on foot to mainland Canada – so close to finding help, yet unable to make those last steps of the journey. A sad reminder of the tragic end to this story. 

The ship's bell