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ARCTIC ARCHIPELAGO - The Searchers For Franklin

William Robert Hobson (1831-1880)

Being the son of William Hobson (1792-1842), the governor of New Zealnd; the Franklins, when in Tasmania, were to meet Hobson's parents and thereafter took a keen interest in their son, William. He is one of the Searchers of Franklin, as he was with McClintock when McClintock was put in charge of an expedition commissioned by Lady Franklin, in 1857.

I have written about the voyage in the Fox, in 1857, as part of my larger narrative, so certain of what follows is repetition; however, the expression and detail of the following paragraph is such, that it is too much to resist, I set it out:

"In April 1854 Dr. John Rae heard from Inuit at Pelly Bay an account of the last fateful days of Franklin's expedition, missing somewhere to the west for a number of years. ... When his report of his discovery reached England, Lady Jane Franklin mounted a private expedition ... to search for relics of the expedition on the site. Commander of the expedition was Captain Francis Leopold McClintock .... McClintock chose Lieutenant William Robert Hobson as his second-in-command. ... William joined the Navy in 1845 and was promoted to mate in 1852, in the interim serving aboard a number of ships on fairly routine duties. Early in 1853 he was appointed mate aboard Rattlesnake, which had been ordered to take supplies to Plover, waiting at Point Barrow, Alaska, in support of McClure's Investigator and Collinson's Enterprise. These latter ships had entered the Arctic via Bering Strait in 1850 to search for the Franklin expedition from the west. ... In February, Hobson, with two seamen and nine dogs, set off on a sledge journey northward across the Seward Peninsula to Chamisso Island. This had been set as the rendezvous for Frederick Beechey in Blossom and John Franklin during the latter's second land expedition in 1825-1827, and hence it was thought that Franklin might have headed here again. Hobson's task was to check for signs of Franklin at Chamisso Island. He returned to Rattlesnake on 27 March, having reached his goal and finding no sign of Franklin. ... On the basis of this arctic experience, McClintock chose Hobson as his second-in-command for his search expedition aboard Fox. Sailing from Aberdeen on 2 July 1857, Fox made her way north to Melville Bay, where she was caught in the pack ice and drifted for eight months before she could break free. The Fox found more secure winter quarters the next year at Port Kennedy, near the east end of Bellot Strait, and Hobson led several depot-laying trips to the west side of Boothia Peninsula. (See Map.) During a reconnaissance trip in February 1859, McClintock encountered Inuit near Cape Victoria who possessed various relics from the missing Erebus and Terror, and reported that one of them had been crushed west of King William Island. On the basis of this information McClintock and Hobson set off, each leading a party that included one man-hauled sledge and one dog sledge. ... Heading west across Ross Strait, Hobson and his men reached the coast of King William Island. (See Map.) Near Cape Felix they found a cairn and the remains of a camp; by the clothing and equipment scattered around, Hobson deduced it had been a hunting or observatory camp occupied for quite some time by a party from Erebus and Terror. Three days later they found another cairn, originally built by James Ross, and inside it, in a cylinder, the only record that has ever been found describing, in frustratingly brief terms, the final outcome of the Franklin expedition, including the information that Franklin had died in 1847 and ending with the horrifying announcement that the survivors were about to start to walk south to the nearest fur trade post. ... Hobson and his men continued south on 7 May. For nearly two weeks they struggled south along the barren west coast of King William Island despite almost constant blizzards. ... Hobson reached Simpson's cairn at Cape Herschel on the 19th. Next, he crossed Simpson Strait to the mainland and continued some distance farther east, finally turning back on the 21st. ... For his achievements on King William Island, made in the face of vile weather and despite a progressively incapacitating attack of scurvy, Hobson deserves better than the passing recognition that has been accorded to him."1


[A LISTING OF The Searchers For Franklin]

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Peter Landry