In the little port of Stromness in the Orkney Islands, there is a memorial to Sir John Franklin and his expedition. Stromness was the last stop in the British Isles for Franklin's two ships, the Erebus and the Terror, before they headed northwest towards Greenland and northern Canada - there to search for the Northwest Passage. The basic facts of the Franklin tragedy are well known. The two ships sailed down the Thames in May 1845 and, after stops in Orkney and at various points around the coast of Greenland, had their last contact with Europeans when they were sighted by two English whalers in Baffin Bay in August 1845.
Franklin failed to return to England in 1847, and in 1848 the Admiralty offered a reward for intelligence on the Erebus, the Terror and their crews which numbered in total some eleven dozen men. The following years saw many private expeditions combing the Canadian Arctic in search of Franklin, plus a number of Admiralty vessels too. The expedition members were never found alive, but in 1859 a search party discovered under a cairn on King William Island two notes about the fate of the ships, which had been beset by ice for two hard winters from September 1846 until the crews abandoned their vessels in April 1848. One of the notes reported that Sir John Franklin had died in June 1847. During the spring and summer of 1848, over one hundred men who had survived those two icebound winters tried to walk south to safety. All perished from illness or starvation.
We hear so much of media hype today, but things were little different in mid nineteenthcentury England.