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


EgheechololleAfter the Napoleonic Wars of the early nineteenth century, Britain's Royal Navy renewed its efforts to explore the world's oceans for its expanding commercial trade. A major initiative was the charting of the Northwest Passage, a navigable route between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans through the Canadian Arctic.

Sir John Franklin, on three separate forays, was one of the central figures in this drama of exploration and scientific discovery, beginning in 1819. His considerable accomplishments in mapping vast territories unknown to Europeans are played against a backdrop of severe suffering and privation.

Fort FranklinIt was on the second expedition that Fort Franklin came into being as the staging area and winter quarters for a party of nearly fifty people. Factor Peter Warren Dease of the Hudson's Bay Company selected one of the most productive Dene fisheries in the Mackenzie River drainage as the location of the Fort. It was known locally as Dôline ("where the water flows"), on Sahtu (Great Bear Lake), near the present-day community of the same name.

Fort Franklin2 The expedition came into close contact with the Dogrib who wintered there, and with the Hare-Slavey and Gwich'in who journeyed from along the north shore of Sahtu to trade meat and furs. The meat trade with the Dene of Great Bear Lake was essential to the expedition's food supply. Without this exchange, the expedition might well have faced the privation which had befallen the first. In exchange, Dr. Richardson, a naval surgeon, provided medical care.

kitchen excavation Archaeological excavations of the original fort were conducted by the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre with the cooperation and assistance of the people of Dôline, in the summer of 1987. The information from the excavation has led to a fuller understanding of the role played by the native people of Great Bear Lake in Franklin's second expedition. Recovery of quantities of beads, rings, and buttons verify the importance of the trade between the Dene and Europeans.

There is still much to be learned from this site. Its fragile remains are protected from any disturbance by the Northwest Territories Archaeological Sites Regulations.