Beechey Island

This island in Canada is filled with the belongings and graves of 19th century explorers

The bleak, desolate landscape of Beechey Island is known for being a significant site in the history of Arctic exploration. 

The isle is connected to Devon Island, in the Arctic Archipelago of Nunavut, and despite only being 2.5 kilometres across, is a prominent landmark due to its steep shores, rising to a flat plateau 800 feet high. 

The first European visit to the island was in 1819. The newly discovered island was named after the artist William Beechey by his son, who was serving as the lieutenant on the expedition.

Due to its flat and sheltered setting, many different ship crews wintered here during Arctic expeditions. British explorer, Sir John Franklin and his team stayed at this protected harbour in 1845 during their search for a Northwest Passage.

Three graves of members from Franklin's expedition still stand on the island today. The site of these lost explorers was not discovered until 1851 by British and American search vessels. 

Another explorer died on a search expedition in 1854, and was buried alongside the graves of the three original Franklin crew members.

The ill-fated Franklin expedition resulted in the eventual death of the entire crew. Their mysterious disappearance resulted in a search that led to the discovery of three Northwest Passages and the mapping of half of the Canadian Arctic.

There’s also a large number of surviving archaeological remains on the island and in the nearby waters, related to the Franklin Expedition, as well as the other later expeditions.

The remains of Northumberland House, a supply depot and emergency shelter built by another expedition in 1852 can still be found on the island, as well as the shipwreck of HMS Breadalbane.

Lead photo by

fwneave


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