Sir John Franklin, the Victorian Arctic explorer, was the original doomed polar hero of British popular acclaim. From him eventually sprang the legend of Scott of the Antarctic. That is the underlying theme of this book, and here I must declare my interest. Andrew Lambert quotes me with disapproval because I have written that Franklin was a bungler. Knowledgeable contemporaries thought so too, and history has proved them right.
The kernel of this book is naturally Franklin's last, calamitous expedition. In May 1845, commanding two naval vessels, Erebus and Terror, he sailed for the Canadian Arctic to complete the North-West Passage, the elusive short cut between the Pacific and the Atlantic. On 26 July he met two