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All Well

Found 30 August 1868, San Buenaventura Beach, California.

In a water-tight bottle, written in the margins of a printed form, much mutilated:

[Printed text, in five languages:]

WHOEVER finds this paper is requested to forward it to the Secretary of the Admiralty, London, with a note of the time and place at which it was found; or, if more convenient, to deliver it for that purpose to the British Consul at the nearest Port.

[Written text:]

HMS Erebus and Terror. 28 of May 1847. Having wintered in 1846-47 at Beechey Island in Lat. 74* 43’ 23” N. Long. 91* 39’ 15” W. After having ascended Wellington Channel to Lat 77* and returned by the West side of Cornwallis Island. Sir John Franklin commanding the expedition. All well.

[Written at foot:]

Party consisting of 2 officers and 6 men left the ships on Monday, 24th May, 1847. G. M. GORE, Lieut. CHAS. F. DesVOUX, Mate.

[Written in margins:]

1848. H. M. ships Terror and Erebus were deserted on the 22nd April, five leagues N. N. W. of this, having been beset since Sept. 12, 1846. The officers and crews, consisting of 105 souls, under the command of Captain F. R. M. CROZIER, landed here – in lat. 69* 37’ 24”, lon. 98* 4’ 15”. A paper was found by Lieutenant IRVING under the cairn supposed to have been built by Sir JAMES ROSS in 1831, four miles to the northward, where it had been deposited by the late Commander GORE in June, 1847. Sir JAMES ROSS’ pillar has not, however, been found, and the paper has been transferred to this position, which is that in which Sir J. ROSS’s pillar was erected. Sir JOHN FRANKLIN died on the 11th of June, 1847, and the total loss by deaths in the expedition has been to this date 9 officers and 15 men. JAMES FITZJAMES, Captain H. M. S. Erebus. F. R. M. CROZIER, Captains and senior officer, and start on tomorrow, 26th, for Back’s Fish River.

Explorer Sir John Franklin’s fourth and final Arctic expedition set sail from Greenhithe, England, on 15 May 1845, with 24 officers and 110 men. Franklin was attempting to navigate the Northwest Passage, connecting the Atlantic and Pacific via the Arctic Ocean. The entire expedition was lost. The last recorded sighting was in late July 1845. The first traces of the expedition were found by search parties in 1850.

Numerous searches took place over the following decades, and the first note was found in 1859. Other Admiralty Forms were found, with duplicated updates scrawled in their margins, on land and at sea. It is thought that, with their ships icebound, the starving men set out onto the ice, where they were driven to cannibalism, before eventually succumbing to the elements.

[New York Times, 17 September 1869]