‘Death in the Ice: The Shocking Story of Franklin’s Final Expedition’ exhibition at the National Maritime Museum, 14 July-7 January

The NMM is hosting a major exhibition exploring the fate of Sir John Franklin and his crew on their final expedition including 200 objects from the Canadian Museum of History (CMH) and the Inuit Heritage Trust alongside finds from expedition ship HMS Erebus, which was found in 2014.

I think it will be stunning.

The story of Franklin’s expedition is a tremendous one. The expedition set from the Thames on 19 May 1845 in two ships, HMS Erebus and HMS Terror to find the a North-West Passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific. The expedition was last seen by European eyes in July 1845, in Baffin Bay. After two years passed in which nothing was heard of the men the first of a series of expeditions to be sent into the Arctic in an attempt to find them. In all, between 1847 and 1880, over thirty search expeditions were mounted.

Urged by Lady Jane Franklin, Parliament and the British press, the Admiralty dispatched expeditions both overland and by sea and in 1850 offered a substantial reward for news of the expedition or for assisting its crew.

Over the next 30 years, news and relics, such as tin cans, snow goggles and cutlery filtered back to Britain. They showed that the entire crew had died through a combination of factors including scurvy and starvation, and theories about cannibalism and madness brought on by lead poisoning.
In 1859 a piece of paper, known as the Victory Point Note (on display as part of the exhibition) was found that bore the date of Sir John Franklin’s death – 11th June, 1847.

Forensic anthropologist Dr Owen Beattie’s expeditions from the early 1980s onwards found evidence of lead poisoning, probably caused by lead in the expdition’s tinned food. The submerged wreck of HMS Erebus was discovered by Parks Canada in 2014 and then HMS Terror in 2016.

The exhibition includes the role of Inuit in uncovering the fate of the Franklin expedition, including Inuit oral histories and Inuit artefacts, including some incorporating materials of European origin, which were traded from explorers or retrieved from abandoned ships, will also be on display.

500 years of Trinity House and safety at sea exhibition at the NMM from April

Grace Darling and her father going to the rescue; Grace Darling statuette; Watercolour sketch of the Nore light-vessel, by William Lionel Wyllie, early 20th century; Watercolour sketch of Maplin lighthouse, by William Lionel Wyllie; oil painting of the Eddystone lighthouse, by Isaac Sailmaker, about 1709 at sea; George Herbert’s patent buoy model of 1845. All images © National Maritime Museum, London

An exhibition of 70 objects showcasing the work the Corporation of Trinity House over five centuries titled Guiding Lights opens at the National Maritime Museum in April.

In 1514, Henry VIII granted a charter to a fraternity of London mariners charging them with improving the safety of navigation on the River Thames. Later in the 16th-century their remit expanded to setting up beacons and seamarks to help ships avoid dangers.

This group became the Corporation of Trinity House, and since that time Trinity House had a range of roles, including General Lighthouse Authority for England, Wales, the Channel Islands and Gibraltar; providing aids to navigation to assist the safe passage of a huge variety of vessels through some of the busiest sea-lanes in the world; and of course deep sea pilotage.

What you may be more surprised to learn is that Trinity House is also a charitable organisation dedicated to the safety, welfare and training of mariners.

There’s no doubt that the work of Trinity House has prevented countless shipwrecks and immense loss of life, and its employees have often shown great skill and bravery and endurance.

The history of Britain’s lighthouses will be told through models, film and lighthouse keepers’ personal effects. Light vessels, buoys and yachts will illustrated through a selection of rarely-seen watercolour sketches by marine artist William Lionel Wyllie.

Tales of personal bravery include that of lighthouse keeper’s daughter Grace Darling, who became famous in the 1830s for her role in a daring rescue mission to rescue a group of survivors after she spotted the shipwrecked Forfarshire on nearby rocks.

The story is told with the aid of prints depicting the dramatic rescue.

The show runs from the 16th April 2014 to the 4th January 2016, so there should be plenty of time to see it!