Napoleon Bonaparte and his epoch
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Franklin John

Franklin John (17861847)

At a very young age, John Franklin wanted to join the navy. His father, a cloth merchant, began by being opposed to this career but then helped him enter it. Born in 1786, in Spilsby, England, Franklin left school at the age of 12 to become a sailor on board a merchant ship. A year later, his father entered him as a volunteer in the Royal Navy, but took him out the following year to let him join the expedition of one of his uncles, Matthew Flinders, to the coast of Australia in 1802-1803. On his return, Franklin went back into the Royal Navy and served in its ranks until the end of the Napoleonic Wars. He then expressed an interest in taking part in Arctic explorations. After a first, unsuccessful, expedition beyond the Spitzbergen archipelago, he conducted three voyages in search of the Northwest Passage for the Admiralty. He never returned from the last one.

In 1819, Franklin left on an expedition to explore the coast of the Arctic Ocean eastwards, starting at the Coppermine River. To get there, he took a Hudson's Bay Company ship, landed at Fort York and passed through Cumberland House, Saskatchewan, and then through Fort Chipewyan, Alberta, the latter a North West Company post. He recruited Native guides and hunters but too few in number because conflicts between the two fur companies made labour hard to secure. Moreover, Franklin found that the hunters could not provide him with the promised supplies, a fact which did not bode well. Nevertheless, in the summer of 1820, he got as far as Winter Lake, where he spent the winter. In this place, which he called "Fort Enterprise," Franklin, gripped with the problem, among others, of having too few provisions, reacted badly and infuriated both the Native people and voyageurs. Luckily, ensign George Back calmed everyone by acquiring provisions at Fort Chipewyan. Still, these provisions did not suffice and the men were starving when they reached the mouth of the Coppermine River in 1821.

Grenada Grenadines, 2001, HMS Erebus and John Franklin

Seychelles, 2009, John Franklin


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