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Finding Franklin's Relics

When the Franklin Expedition set out from England in 1845, it was one of the best equipped expeditions in history. In the minds of the British people, it wasn't a matter of "if" it would succeed in finding the Northwest Passage, but rather "when".

When Franklin's two ships disappeared without a trace, it set off a series of search expeditions unlike anything the British had ever undertaken before. The searches became so famous that Canada even issued a stamp (almost a century and a half later) commemorating "Finding Franklin's Relics".

The search was unnecessarily long (almost 15 years), very often inept or even farcical, and expensive! How expensive?

The British government spend about 675,000, and Lady Franklin (Sir John's widow) spent another 35,000 on private searches.

The U.S. Government directed $150,000 to support the Arctic searches, and the head of the American Geographical Society contributed another $100,000.

These mid-nineteenth century amounts, adjusted for inflation, would represent about $80,000,000 in current American funds.

Neither Franklin or his ships have ever been found, but there were some benefits. By 1859, most of the North American Arctic had been mapped.

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