Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre, Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada

Northern Vignettes

Arctic Harpoons
Beechey Island
Crystal II
Deline/Fort Franklin
Fort Hope
Fox Moth
Kellet's Storehouse
Old Fort Providence
Old Fort Reliance
Stone Church
Thule Village
Fort Journal

Beechey Island

GravesBeechey Island has been an important landmark for almost every vessel that has entered the High Arctic over the last two centuries. It bears particular meaning for the seafarers of every nation, and especially for the British Royal Navy, because of its association with the final expedition of Sir John Franklin and the numerous search vessels sent in his wake.

The mystery surrounding the fate of Franklin and his men has been partially dispelled by the evidence acquired on some twenty-five search voyages. Inuit stories, artifacts, human remains and one grim note left in a cairn on King William Island reconstruct the tragedy.

Northumberland House on Beechey Island was built in 1852-1853 by Commander W. J. S. Pullen, H.M.S. North Star, of the 1852-54 expedition of Sir Edward Belcher. This was the British Admiralty's final concerted effort to trace Sir John Franklin and his crew. Belcher commanded a fleet of five ships, H.M.S. Assistance, Pioneer, Intrepid, Resolute, and North Star captained by seasoned officers.

The hardships of the expedition seemed to tax Belcher beyond his capabilities as a commander. He ordered four ice-bound ships abandoned in May 1854, perhaps without justification. The Resolute was later retrieved by an American whaler. Belcher returned to England to face a court martial but was acquitted.

Beechey Island was declared a site of territorial historic significance by the Government of the Northwest Territories in 1979. The fragile remains are protected from any disturbance by the Northwest Territories Archaeological Sites Regulations.