Exploration in the Canadian Arctic [Inuktitut Version]

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Introduction MP-0000.50.1 M993X.5.1358.2 M993X.5.1357 P316_A.03 MP-0000.597.111 M993X.5.1348.2 MP-0000.597.209 M989.89.1
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Creative Commons License
Probable route of the Franklin Expedition, painted lantern slide, 1855-60
Anonyme - Anonymous
1855-1860, 19th century
Paint on glass - Hand painted
7 x 7 cm
Purchase from Arts & Antiques
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Art (2774) , Painting (2229) , painting (2227)
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Keys to History

Arctic geography gradually gave up most of its secrets to 19th-century Europeans, in large part thanks to expeditions led by several generations of explorers starting with John and Sebastian Cabot in the 15th century. Maps and marine charts thus became increasingly accurate and detailed over the course of this period. They were based on the survey work of the explorers, of course, but also on information provided by the Inuit the explorers encountered on their voyages. Little by little, the fuzzy details of maps and charts, often based on mere supposition, were replaced by increasingly precise markings. This map, for example, shows that around 1850, Arctic geography was fairly well known, despite a few minor inaccuracies.

  • What

    The map shows the probable route of British explorer Sir John Franklin's last expedition, in 1845-47. Franklin perished during the expedition, in which he was seeking the Northwest Passage.

  • Where

    The Canadian Far North, comprising what is now known as the Northwest Territories, Yukon and Nunavut, covers almost four million square kilometres -- close to 40% of Canada's total area.

  • When

    Sir John Franklin left England in 1845 for the Arctic. Two years later, still without news of the explorer, the British Admiralty sent some ships out to look for him. It wasn't until 1858-59 that an expedition led by John Rae and Francis Leopold McClintock discovered remains of Franklin's crew.

  • Who

    Sir John Franklin (1786-1847) was a naval officer, explorer and author. He had a brilliant career in the Royal Navy, taking part in the Battle of Trafalgar and explorations off the coast of Australia.