Explore the enduring mystery behind Sir John Franklin’s tragic expedition. Leaving Britain in 1845 to chart the Northwest Passage through the Arctic, the expedition’s two ships and 129 men never returned. Through historical artifacts and Inuit oral history, this groundbreaking exhibition provides the most comprehensive account to date of Franklin’s final voyage.

Frozen. Isolated. Trapped.

In 1845, Sir John Franklin led the Royal Navy’s sturdiest two ships into the Arctic to great international acclaim. His mission: to discover a Northwest Passage to Asia. Franklin and his crew were never heard from again. Thirty-seven expeditions were launched from several countries in a decades-long effort to discover the fate of Franklin’s men. Tantalizing clues, including graves, provisions, Inuit tales, and a single handwritten note told a grim story, but the men and ships would never be found.

Discover one of the most fascinating mysteries in the history of exploration.

This most enduring of mysteries leapt back into the headlines in 2014 with the discovery of Franklin’s flagship, HMS Erebus, then two years later with the discovery of HMS Terror, each incredibly well preserved at depths of less than one hundred feet in the Arctic Ocean. Dives aboard the wrecks are rapidly changing our understanding of what befell Franklin’s expedition.

This exhibition pulls together the strands of this epic history. Included are expedition materials from London along with Inuit culture and knowledge that led to the wrecks’ discoveries from Canada, and artifacts raised from HMS Erebus.

Good Reads About the Franklin Expedition

The Great Polar Mystery: Closing in on the Truth (New Science)

Mysterious Lost Ships. HMS Terror and Erebus Reveal New Layer of Clues in Arctic (Washington Post)

Tales of the Doomed Franklin Expedition Ignored the Inuit Side, But "The Terror" Flips the Script (Smithsonian Magazine)

Ghost Ships of the Arctic (Daily Mail)


Special exhibition pricing

Death in the Ice: The Mystery of the Franklin Expedition is $5* plus general admission.
*Special exhibition fee applies at all times.


  General Admission General Admission
+ Death in the Ice
Adult $18 $23
Alaska Resident $15 $20
Senior/Military/Student (with ID) $12 $17
Children 3 - 12 $9 $14

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HMS Erebus in the Ice

François Étienne Musin

© National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, Caird Collection

The Erebus bell

The ship’s bell was the first artifact recovered from Erebus. It is marked with “1845,” the year Franklin’s Expedition departed Britain.

© Parks Canada, Marni Wilson, 2014

Oceangoing Kayak and Wooden Paddle

This kayak’s wooden frame is 5.5 metres long and covered in sealskin sewn with a waterproof stitch.

© Canadian Museum of History

Message Tin and Fragmentary Notes Cornwallis Island

The papers inside this message canister, a repurposed ammunition box, were damaged when the container was bitten by a polar bear.

© Canadian Museum of History

Dessert Fork, Arctic Medal and Case

The descendants of those who died on the Franklin Expedition retain their connections with the Expedition and the Royal Navy’s long history of polar exploration. The Canadian Museum of History recently acquired a collection of artifacts, carefully handed down through Lieutenant Fairholme’s family, which serve as a memorial to his life.

From Lieutenant Fairholme’s collection.

© Canadian Museum of History

Inuit Wooden Model of a European Ship

This carving depicts a type of multi-decked sailing ship common during the 1500s and 1600s. The style of the figure’s hat is similar to those worn by European sailors during the same period. The carving was collected from an archaeological site in Amadjuak Bay, on the south coast of Baffin Island.

© Canadian Museum of History


This exhibition was developed by the Canadian Museum of History (Gatineau, Canada), in partnership with Parks Canada Agency and the National Maritime Museum (London, United Kingdom), and in collaboration with the Government of Nunavut and the Inuit Heritage Trust.

Anchorage Museum Donors

Eunice D. Silberer
Jan and Jeri van den Top
Van Wyck Family
Susanne Byrd