This was the press announcement of an attempt to find out once and for all what had happened to Lady Franklin’s husband, the Polar explorer Sir John Franklin, and his team of 129 men.
“Lady Franklin… has decided to send out another and final expedition to clear up the great Arctic mystery. Her Ladyship has purchased a steam yacht… Captain M’Clintock has accepted command of the expedition. The yacht here referred to is the ‘Fox’, built and fitted by Messrs Hall for the late Sir Richard Sutton… ”
from the Aberdeen Press & Journal, Wednesday April 29, 1857
In 1845 they had set sail aboard two specially-equipped Royal Navy ships to find a route through the North West passage – and never returned. Among the team were at least three Aberdonians: Daniel Arthur, James Reid and Josephus Gaeter.
Steam Yacht Fox had been built in the 1840s at Hall’s shipyard in Aberdeen for Sir Richard Sutton at a cost of around £5,000.
This colossal sum for the time reflected the quality of the vessel and its fittings. Sadly, Sutton enjoyed only the maiden voyage to Norway, dying shortly after the return.
Originally built as a pleasure yacht, it had to be refitted to withstand being icebound in the Arctic.
The workers at Hall’s stripped out the original sumptuous interior fittings. The large glass skylights were blocked in.
Extra-strong strutting was added as well as a double skin of stout oak to reinforce the hull.
A new propeller was also fitted along with a mechanism to allow it to be raised out of the water.
Thus reconfigured and equipped, M’Clintock and 25 members of the expedition set sail from Aberdeen on June 30, 1857.
Two years later, on King William Island in the Canadian Arctic they discovered written proof of the death of Franklin and later the rest of his team.
They had been ice-bound for over two years and were weakened from starvation and lead poisoning from the ship’s water tank.
The Fox had a long working life after the expedition to find Franklin.
This included surveying the route for the first transatlantic telegraph cable, as well as providing vital supplies in a humanitarian effort to help the inuit people of West Greenland. It was eventually abandoned in 1912.
However, the Fox still plays a part in the life of the people in Godhavn in Greeland. Its funnel, painted bright red, acts as one of the main navigation marks for boats entering the harbour.
Aberdeen Built Ships website has lots of information on SY Fox and many Aberdeen vessels www.Aberdeenships.com
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