As an historian, sea voyages of exploration have always been of great interest to me. When I heard about the discovery of the poor men who lost their lives during the 1845 expedition to the Arctic, I have been fascinated by this expedition more than any other. Then when the ships HMS Erebus and HMS Terror were found, in 2014 and 2016 respectively, it was like I was on my own journey again.
I have read lots about this trip and the people involved in it, from the seamen and their families to those who went searching for them from the 1800s to the twenty-first century. As technology and science has improved, so has our understanding of what they did and what they suffered. A wonderful fictional account is The Terror by Dan Simmons that I heartily recommend. This book, however, is facts only.
The story of this voyage is as exciting as a novel, the thrills, adventure and suspense is as good as anything. Added to that this particular book has plenty of photographs, illustrations, letters and maps to express the expedition in all aspects. It starts by explaining the purpose of the voyage (finding the north-west passage route through the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean across the top of America) , which was also attempted by Captain Cook, who was killed before he could complete it. It has a chapter dedicated to Sir John Franklin, one to his crew and one to the ships and the daily expedition life. The second half of the book looks at the search for Franklin, his crew and ships.
If you can, read the physical version as the images and photographs are so much better on the glossy page than on the ebook. The author, Gillian Hutchinson, is a curator at the National Maritime Museum, and an expert in her field. This is exemplified by the intricate research and authoritative narrative, but above all it is the illustrations that make this book stand out against the many books written about this expedition. Not an academic piece but essential for the history buff, bringing the whole tragic episode to life. Haunting and terrific. Highly recommended.
Published by Adlard Coles on 13 July 2017. Part of the Bloomsbury Publishing Group and copyright National Maritime Museum Greenwich.