One Woman's Desperation Advanced Polar Exploration

Meet the remarkable Lady Jane Franklin
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 11, 2017 3:20 PM CST

In 1845, renowned explorer John Franklin set sail from England across the northern Atlantic in the hopes of discovering and successfully navigating the Northwest Passage. Three years later, with no word from the HMS Erebus and the HMS Terror, it became clear that the seasoned Arctic explorer and his crew had not made it to the Pacific, and the British Navy sent search parties and posted a reward, reports Atlas Obscura. Many people and ships became involved, but it was his wife, Lady Jane Franklin, who was unrelenting in her mission to find her lost husband—making a significant mark on polar exploration in the process. The woman, who'd married Franklin in 1828 at the age of 37, was herself no stranger to travel, having been raised by a father who took her around Europe.

Described as one of the most traveled women of the time, her claims to fame include being the first woman to scale Tasmania's Mount Wellington. When her husband vanished, she lobbied for the Americans to get involved, paid for seven missions, and bought a ship. It was in fact one of her own missions, in 1859, that found a message left on King William Island saying that Franklin had met his death within a year of departure. She died in 1875 not knowing where his ships were located (the HMS Erebus was found in 2014, and the HMS Terror in 2016). But one expert makes the case that in bringing the Americans into her quest, she jumpstarted their own polar expeditions, which culminated in getting to the North Pole in 1908. (The men from Franklin's expedition became more than cannibals.)

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