This is the first edition of Sir John Franklin’s account of his second expedition to the Canadian Arctic, which set off in 1825 and lasted for two full years. The expedition was a follow-up to Franklin’s first voyage (1819-22), which had mapped extensive tracts of coastline east of the Coppermine River. While the first expedition was a success in regard to its scientific and cartographic outcome, it was beset with violence, suffering, and death. The second expedition proved a far more comfortable experience, with ample supplies provided and managed by the Hudson Bay Company.
Known as the Mackenzie River expedition, the goal of the second voyage was to survey the northern coastline from the mouth of the Mackenzie River and westward. While the formal objective was charting the shoreline and rivers, there was also a more romantic element of exploration at play. Franklin’s second in command, Frederick William Beechey, had been charged with approaching the Mackenzie River from the East by sailing up through the Bering Strait and turning east. The goal, of course, was finding a Northwest Passage, and the failure to do so was the primary reason that Franklin embarked on his disastrous third expedition in 1845.
Like in his first expedition, Franklin approached the north coast by land. This time, however, the party used the standard Hudson Bay Company route to Great Slave Lake and sailed more than a thousand miles down the Mackenzie River to reach its mouth in August of 1825. The team wintered at Fort Franklin on Great Bear Lake before making their way down river again when the snows melted. Despite the season, Franklin found the sea frozen and instead continued west on foot. When the expeditionary force finally gave up and back-tracked in August of 1826, they named the furthest point Return Reef. Its location was only about 150 mi (240 km) east of Point Barrow, the easternmost point reached by Beechey.
Franklin’s team reached the safety of Fort Franklin in late September and spent the winter at Fort Chipewyan. He returned to Liverpool in early September 1827. As a historical curiosity associated with this particular expedition, excerpts from Franklin’s diary describe his men playing hockey on the ice of the Great Bear Lake while waiting for the winter snows to melt. The town of Délı̨nęis is consequently considered one of the birthplaces of the sport.
Just like the narrative of the first expedition, this volume was published in quarto format by John Murray of London. It is bound in 19th century-half calf and contains 31 engraved plates and six folding maps. In addition to surveying a significant portion of America’s northern coastline, the expedition was also responsible for collecting new and important data related to magnetism, geology, topology, and meteorology.