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ARCTIC ARCHIPELAGO - The Searchers For Franklin

Horatio Thomas Austin (1801-1865)

Austin was a British Naval Officer. At his age, 27, Austen went out aboard HMS Chanticleer as First Lieutenant, second to the captain, for a long sail to the Pacific. The captain, Henry Foster, lost his life at Panama and Austin's big opportunity came along as he assumed command. The Chanticleer completed her objectives under Austin, a circumnavigation in the Southern Hemisphere which included rounding Cape Horn and visits to New Zealand, South Georgia, and back out into the Atlantic via Cape of Good Hope near the southern tip of the African continent. He then crossed over and made port at Trinidad, before returning across the Atlantic Ocean to Falmouth, in 1830.

When James Clark Rossí returned from his search for Franklin, in the fall of 1849, the Admiralty determined to send out yet another expedition under Austin. It consisted of the Resolute (Captain Austin) and Assistance (Captain Erasmus Ommanney) together with two screw steamers, Pioneer and Intrepid; the fleet set out on 3 May 1850. This time, "the first traces of Franklinís expedition at Cape Riley and Beechey Island."1 Going beyond, to the west, they were, as expected, I am sure, beset by ice and wintered-over in Barrow Strait. (See Map)

"Three other ships sent out that year, Lady Franklin and Sophia, commanded by William Penny, and Felix, by Sir John Ross, wintered close by. They maintained communications with Austinís ships, and the three expeditions shared the search by sledge in spring 1851: Austin undertook to search to the west and south, Penny to examine Wellington Channel. ...
Austin did not himself take part, but must be given some credit for organization. His men undertook six major journeys and many smaller ones; they made extensive discoveries along the coasts of Bathurst, Byam Martin, Melville, and Prince of Wales islands, and surveyed the smaller islands in Barrow Strait, but they found no further trace of Franklin."2
Though Austin had an unblemished career as a capable and well-respected officer, "he made many enemies during the Franklin search," particularly Captains Penny and Osborn. Nonetheless, there were those who gave Austin "full credit for the brilliant organization of what was, in many ways, one of the most successful Arctic expeditions to that date ..."
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NOTES

1 Clive A. Holland, DCB.

2 Holland.

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Peter Landry
2015