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
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.