Charles Francis Hall

Charles Francis Hall (c. 1821 – November 8, 1871) was a renowned American Arctic explorer who investigated Inuit accounts of the Franklin Expedition and led the Polaris expedition to reach the North Pole. In his first expedition (1860-63), Hall discovered relics from Martin Frobisher’s venture and possible evidence of survivors of Franklin’s fateful expedition to find the Northwest Passage. A second expedition (1864-69) uncovered actual artifacts from the Franklin expedition but left Hall disillusioned with the Inuit for abandoning the crew. Hall shot and killed Patrick Coleman during the second voyage, claiming it was in self-defense. Other whalers among the crew subsequently deserted the expedition.

On his third voyage (1871-1873), known as The Polaris Expedition, Hall faced internal strife and insubordination. Combined with his poor leadership skills, this caused massive disarray on the team, and the Polaris was eventually abandoned to the ice. After returning from an exploratory journey, Hall fell ill and accused crew members, particularly Emil Bessels, of poisoning him. Investigations initially attributed Hall’s death to apoplexy, but arsenic poisoning was established from his remains almost a century after his death. It is still unproven whether the arsenic resulted from self-treatment or murder by Bessels (or possibly a combination). However, affectionate letters to sculptor Vinnie Ream suggest Bessels despised Hall and had ample motive to eliminate him.

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