The mystery of Sir John Franklin’s expedition has always fascinated me. He set off to find the North-West Passage in the 1845 and was never seen again; his two ships – the Erebus and the Terror – and their crews vanished. When the wrecks were found in 2014 and 2016, I thought that that was the solution. Wrong. As I discovered when I read this book, the fate of the expedition was pretty well known by the late 1860s.

So I bought it under the misapprehension that it would be all about The Mystery. It isn’t. It’s about the entire life of the HMS Erebus, from its construction, to initial naval service, to its part in explorations of the Antarctic. Its final North West Passage mission is just the conclusion of its life.

Read it for a picture of an age when exploring the unknown was of national importance; when sea journeys lasted years; when naval charts were sketchy and incomplete; when England saw itself as the leader of the world, and took action to discover- and lay claim to – what it saw as its rightful property. It’s a fascinating, very readable story.

And you do, eventually, learn what happened to the Franklin expedition.

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