Perhaps the most important factor in saving Franklin from the ignominy of his deadly expedition was the popularity of his account that was published in 1823. Despite receiving a hero’s welcome from the Admirality and British public, officials in Canada were withering in their criticism of Franklin. However, once his narrative became a bestseller, the death and suffering endured during the catastrophic expedition became a sensational tale of triumph over extreme adversity and survival against all odds.
Franklin lost the journals of the expedition from Coppermine onwards on September 14, 1821, so he had to cobble together the latter part of his account from Richardson, Back, and Hood’s notebooks. As such, the first volume covers the expedition from England to Fort Enterprise in far greater detail than the actual journey to the polar sea and back. Ironically though, the text gains a greater narrative momentum after that date, once the return journey becomes a death march for its voyageurs and officers.
Narrative of a Journey to the Shores of the Polar Sea in the Years 1819-20-21-22
Volume I of John Franklin’s account of the 1819-22 expedition spans the party’s departure from England in 1819 to the stay at Cumberland House, Richardson and Hood’s alternative route to Fort Chipewyan, and the end of 1820 when the party wintered at Fort Enterprise.
The Officers’ Journals
The journals of Hood, Back, and Richardson, along with companion artwork plates were meticulously retrieved, edited, and reproduced in the 1970s and 80s by Clarence Stuart Houston (1927 – ), a leading Saskatchewan radiologist, ornithology expert, and historian. With the addition of his informed commentary, they provide a particularly thorough overview of the expedition and individuals who participated. Houston was named to the Order of Canada in 1992.
To the Arctic by Canoe 1819-1821
The Journal and Paintings of Robert Hood, Midshipman with Franklin
The Journal and Paintings of George Back, Midshipman with Franklin, 1819-1822
The Journal of John Richardson, Surgeon-Naturalist with Franklin, 1820-1822
The wide availability of 18th and 19th century Arctic journals in the public domain have contributed to their continued popularity in modern times. The full text of Franklin’s journals from both the first and second overland expeditions as well as journals by other 19th century Arctic explorers have been made available by the Gutenberg Project. Excerpts of other texts can often been found via Google Books.
Since 1971, Project Gutenberg has been at the forefront of expanding public access to literature in the public domain. Volunteer teams around the world have digitized, proofread, and uploaded to the internet tens of thousands of classic works.
Over the last two decades, Google has built on these efforts with its own Google Books, further offering selected previews of copyrighted materials that are made searchable via OCR scanning. Despite winning court cases over copyright violations, Google Books like so many beta Google products and services has slowed to a halt. Fortunately, important exploration journals were fully digitized before this slow down.