Burial of John Franklin. Author: me


Kabloonas is the way in which the Inuit who live in the north part of Canada call those who haven´t their same ascendency.

The first time i read this word was in the book "Fatal Passage" by Ken McGoogan, when, as the result of the conversations between John Rae and some inuit, and trying to find any evidence of the ill-fated Sir John Franklin Expedition, some of then mentioned that they watched how some kabloonas walked to die in the proximities of the river Great Fish.

I wish to publish this blog to order and share all those anecdotes that I´ve been finding in the arctic literature about arctic expeditions. My interest began more than 15 years ago reading a little book of my brother about north and south pole expeditions. I began reading almost all the bibliography about Antarctic expeditions and the superknown expeditions of Scott, Amundsen, Shackleton, etc. After I was captured by the Nansen, Nobile and Engineer Andree. But the most disturbing thing in that little book, full of pictures, was the two pages dedicated to the last Franklin expedition of the S.XIX, on that moment I thought that given the time on which this and others expeditions happened, few or any additional information could be obtained about it. I couldn´t imagine that after those two pages It would be a huge iceberg full of stories, unresolved misteries, anecdotes, etc. I believe that this iceberg, on the contrary than others, would continue growing instead melting.

lunes, 22 de diciembre de 2014


After the recent discovery of a portrait of Lt. John Irving by a fellow Franklinite in an on-line picture library from Edinburgh called Capital Collections, I thought, why could not I find another portrait of a member of the Franklin expedition in that same place? 

I, obviously, took the muster roll of the HMS Terror, and began to check the origins of her officers. Then, I found that John Smart Peddie, the surgeon of the Terror was from Edinburgh too, like Irving. Well, I have to say that I found nothing in Capital Collections but while I was digging in his life to ascertain where did he came from, I learnt some details about his life which I didn´t know. 

First, I was surprised when I learnt that he joined the Franklin Expedition with 29 years old. He had been recently promoted from assistant surgeon to surgeon few months before departing in 1845. Wouldn´t have been more appropiate for an expedition like that a more experienced surgeon? The age of Stephen Stanley, the surgeon of the Terror is not known, so, I have nothing to compare with ...unless I began another study about average ages of surgeons in Polar expeditions, which, thinking on it well, I could do too....why not?.

I read the article named "The men who sailed with Franklin"  where is mentioned that previously to get on board the Terror, Peddie, came from the ship "William and Mary", however, it is not mentioned which may have been likely his first appointment. A ship with the evoking name of HMS Sparrow, where he, allegedly, entered the 20th of december of 1836 not long after  having obtained the licence of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh as assistant surgeon. Interestingly, the HMS Sparrow was built in Pembroke docks, the same shipyard where it was built the Erebus. 

HMS Sparrow??
View of the Harbour of Port Louis - Berkley Sound, East Falkland

The HMS Sparrow was, during the years 1837-39, part of the British Naval Expedition to the Falkland Islands commanded by Lt. Robert Lawcay. We have no reasons to think that Peddie did not form part of that expedition, so, if this fact is true, then we would have added a significant piece at his biography.

As I said before, I could not find any portrait of him, not even searching with the key words of "Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh". I thought that all those men might have been portrayed to be shown in a gallery of the college...but they are not. I found, though, which could be the portrait of his father, James Peddie, an architect of Edimburgh, who was born in 1776 and who died in 1837, a year after John Smart Peddie had joined the Royal Navy. Dates and name are coincident, which is not much but for now, and for me,  enough  to consider it as "likely":

James Peddie, Likely the father of John Smart Peddie
EDITED 1/8/2016
New information provided by Samuel Hare, whose Great-great-great-great grandfather was John Greig Stewart, quartermaster on the Erebus during the Antarctic expedition of 1839-42, confirms my theory. Samuel photographied brother and father´s grave of John Smart Peddie in Inverkeithing, Scotland, a small town located in the Firth of Forth, not far from Edimburgh. He kindly have passed me the pictures of James and Robert´s grave which I have, at the same time, added to the collection of pictures of Arctic explorers on which Stephen, Nicholson and Russell Potter are working for now.

James and Robert´s Peddie grave in Inverkeithing, Scotland
Pictures taken by Samuel Hare.

The plaque on the grave clearly states that James Peddie was an architect, so it seems the little mistery has been solved. The plaque also contains the name of John Smart Peddie, indicating that he sailed with the 1845 expedition in HMS Terror.

Having said that, I would like to add here, that if someone had any information about John Greig Stewart to share with us, it would be very welcome.

What remains of John Smart Peddie is a spoon which must be in some drawer at the Royal Maritime Museum of Greenwich. It seems that it was found in Starvation Cove to be given afterwards by some Inuit to John Rae. 

A fiddle-pattern silver dessert spoon owned by John Smart Peddie 

If Peddie was the one who was still using this spoon till the moment it was dropped in the muddy ground of the Starvation Cove beach, then, it was Peddie one of the ones who reached the farthest point of the route. It is a moving thinking consider that Peddie could have been driven by the powerful desire to see his daughter again, a daughter who was born in july of 1844 and baptised in january of 1845.

He could have been one of the few who found strength beyond the human limits to try to save his life pushing his will against the boundaries of his physical and psychical resistance. Unfortunately, he did not succeeded nor his daugther succeeded on surviving too. By the time Peddie was struggling  in 1849 against all hope to reach his family, his little daughter was dying in Woolwich, Kent.

As it happened with the vast majority of the 129 men who were on board the Erebus and Terror, Peddie doesn´t have any grave which you could visit to pay respects. From 125 of the men, you can  only find pieces of bones and skulls scattered all along King William Island or memorials distributed among Britain and other far places like Hobart in Tasmania. 

In the case of John Smart Peddie, he and his daughter were lucky enough to count with a small plaque as an individual memorial It is in the pathway of a church in Charlton, in the south east of London. This small stone, with some moving words carved on it, still provokes sad feelings on those who read them and it brings you to the reality that each of the men of the Franklin expedition left a life behind.

Those words are slowly dissapearing but they are still visible. Surely, this plaque was ordered by his wife, Eliza Matilda Harcorn, who lived till the year 1906. She surely would have prefered to avoid being witness of how subsequent  searching expeditions, year after year, brought news from the arctic with no essential new information. Nothing of which was brought from the arctic told her where his husband had breathed for last time or where his bones were resting.

"In memory of Annie Eliza PEDDIE, daughter of John Peddie, Esq., Surgeon, R.N. and Eliza Matilda, his wife, died 12 February 1849, aged 4½ years. 

"Suffer little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not, for us such is the Kingdom of God". 

Also in memory of John Stuart Peddie, Esq., father of the above, Surgeon H.M.S. Terror, who perished in the Polar Regions in the Expedition under Capt. John FRANKLIN."

7 comentarios:

  1. Thank you very much for this, Andrés. Medical men often lead interesting lives, and you have certainly put more flesh on the bones of Surgeon John Smart Peddie, RN.

  2. Thank you very much Glenn!

    The more I am searching for details about the lifes of this men, the more I get into the human aspect of the expedition.

    Of course, one could consider this was a small disaster in terms of numbers of men lost, at least, if you compared it with other shipwrecks of the time where sometimes more than seven hundred of men were lost. But the slow and tragic death of these "few" makes you think about how were really these men, what kind of lifes they lived and which were their motivations. The study of their lives and personalities should be considered an important aspect which eventually would help to ascertain who of them had more chances to survive and to have enough moral strength and experience to go ahead.

    I think that we really only know the tip of the iceberg regarding their lives. I think it would be possible to fill a book with all the small details we already know about the crews of both ships.

  3. Thanks very much. My husband Geoff Peddie says his dad and grandfather used to talk about John and the Franklin expedition. John is a relative but must be a cousin up in the line. Lots we didn't know and loved the pictures too.

    1. John Smart Peddie too was a relative to me too can u share the stories with me i would love to hear them

  4. Thanks you for your comment, Ped. It would be great to learn a little bit more about his family and, who knows, maybe you could eventually find a portrait of him. In that case I wouldn't mind to take a look to It.

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  6. I've been writing about Harry Goodsir and it strikes me that the ships' doctors may have lived longer than most - partly as they would instinctively consume the most health-giving food/drink from whatever was still available and partly due to their duty (as evidenced by the Hippocratic oath) to care for others.