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ARCTIC ARCHIPELAGO - The Searchers For Franklin

John Hepburn (1794-1864)

The persons connected to Franklin, provided they were officers, either military or HBC types, are the ones we are able, these days, to write about -- for they are the ones who filled up reports and journals. John Hepburn was not one of those. He was a "Lower Deck" type, an ordinary seaman, who, however, managed to leave his historical mark by his deeds, written about by the officers in charge.

Hepburn after first being discovered by Franklin, was to be with Franklin, thereafter, as chosen by Franklin; the best connection was that Hepburn had in Franklin's arctic expedition of 1819-22.

I quote, Clive A. Holland:

"Of all the hundreds of ordinary seamen who served in the Canadian Arctic during the 19th century, Hepburn was undoubtedly the best known. He was a simple man with little education, yet he won the love and respect of many who were far above his station in life. Franklinís devotion to him is amply illustrated; Lady Franklin, Richardson, Kennedy, Bellot, and others wrote of him with admiration and affection. It was not only courage and endurance in the field that won him such respect. He was humble and almost excessively modest: in Van Diemenís Land, he was rather embarrassed by his elevated status and by Franklinís ambitions for him, and Richardson wrote in 1851: 'he always spoke of himself with much diffidence.' But, above all, Hepburnís unfailing loyalty and devotion to Franklin commanded admiration. His return to the Canadian Arctic in his old age, 'as the best tribute he can render, of his affection for his old commander,' was indeed a touching sequel to their long friendship."1

1 Biographical article,

[A LISTING OF The Searchers For Franklin]

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Peter Landry