John Torrington, John Hartnell and William Braine’

Additional notes on Torrington, Hartnell and Braine:

  • Hartnell’s autopsy was performed with an inverted Y incision. This suggests it may have been rushed as this method allows faster access to organs but is less ‘tidy’ and harder to reintern the organs. Although there was no formalized way to perform this procedure in the 19th century this type of incision strongly implied speed was the priority. Likely due to not wanting to upset the crew and to decrease possible contamination if they truly feared that he had a contagious illness. It can also not excused as inexperience. The four doctors working on the two ships where highly experienced (Henry Goodsir was an anatomist and natural scientist. Interestingly he had been a student of Robert Knox, the doctor who benefited from the crimes of Burke and Hare). However, this is to be taken with a pinch of salt. Speed and results were the pride of a Victorian doctor over neatness and care.
  • The scarring on John Torrington’s lungs suggest he had a history of Tuberculosis (or consumption as they would have understood it) Some writers and historians have theorized that he may have joined  the expedition as a means to ‘cure’ his illness as it was thought that sea air and being away from any sort of smog ridden city would save a person.
  • The Coffins were small and collapsible, made with thin wood so they could be stored discreetly and easily. The relatively thin structure made them take in water and ice. In any other environment this would result in fast decomposition. But the freezing climate froze them in time.
  • Five men where sent home during the final cargo stop in Greenland. The reason being their poor health or demonstrating they where unfit to serve. This could have been them suffering early signs of lead poisoning or other illnesses that Torrington, Hartnell and Braine later did.


Goldners Tinned goods.

Goldners tinned foods had been used on a handful of previous shorter expeditions, notably by James Clark Ross only a few years before. However, they did not make up the bulk of their diet. No other expedition had ordered so many units or at such a short notice. Goldners company had been under scrutiny for a few years before and after Franklins voyage. Improper sealing of the cans was a major issue. An investigation was carried out in 1852.The findings where published in ‘The London Illustrated news’. Eighteen cases where taken and opened to assess quality. They discovered that the overwhelming majority was ‘putrid’. On average a snapshot of 306 cans, 264 where inedible. Furthermore, Goldner was accused of using cheaper meats in the place of what was claimed, for example ‘beef Tongue’ was deemed more likely Dog or sheep.  A summery of the report can be found here. http://www.ric.edu/faculty/rpotter/goldner.html

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