Geneticists have identified the remains of a member of Franklin’s lost Arctic expedition. Relatives of the traveler John Gregory themselves contacted the scientists and agreed to take DNA tests.
In May 1845, 129 officers and crew commanded by Sir John Franklin departed England in two ships – HMS Erebus and HMS Terror – to explore the Northwest Passage, which connects the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans through the Canadian Arctic.
The polar expedition was destined to be the deadliest in history.
On July 9, 1845, John Gregory, engineer of the oceanic expedition to the Arctic, wrote a letter to his wife Hannah from a stop in Greenland. This was the last time his family heard from him. Together with 128 other scientists, he went missing in 1847. In September 1846, the ships were trapped in the Canadian Arctic off King William Island. Part of the crew died, stuck on the ship. But 105 crew members survived thanks to the ship’s supplies and eventually decided to leave the ship, according to a statement from the University of Waterloo.
The remains of a sailor, recently found in northern Canada, as it turned out, belonged to John Gregory, a member of John Franklin’s Arctic expedition. Scientists identified them using the DNA of his descendants. The press service of the University of Waterloo reported this with reference to an article in Polar Record magazine.
After the disaster, archaeologists discovered the remains of dozens of researchers in the area of the expedition. Most of them were on King William Island, along the planned escape route. Although historians know the names of those on board the ships, none of the skeletons have been identified. To date, scientists have been able to extract DNA from 27 members of the expedition.