State Library and Tasmanian Archives Blog

Tasmania Reads: Sir John Franklin and his Expedition of 1845 (Part One: The Challenge)

A row of old Ledger books on a shelf
Image credit: Tasmanian Archives.

The State Library and Archive Service is issuing a challenge to Tasmanians to read five different examples of nineteenth century handwriting from our Heritage Collections, each featuring a different set of records held in the State Archives.

The scripts are selected to give you insights into some of the key strengths of our collection and we hope they will pique your interest to explore further.

Today’s challenge is to decipher a note (which the library holds a reproduction of) made on a British Admiralty template by the members of Sir John Franklin’s ill-fated expedition for the Northern Passage of 1845. The State Library holds many resources relating to Franklin’s time as both Lieutenant Governor and as an explorer.

Your Transcription Challenge

This note has multiple parts to it, with writing in all directions.  This challenge focuses only on the writing in the centre of the page, and not the marginalia. This is a challenging transcription that gives two very different messages to the reader…

An old piece of paper detailing notes about 2 ships being wintered. It reads: H.M.S ships ‘Erebus’ and ‘Terror’ wintered in the Ice in lat. 70 05′ N., long. 98 23′ W. Having wintered in 1846–7 at Beechey Island, in lat. 74 43′ 28″ N., long. 91 39′ 15″ W., after having ascended Wellington Channel to lat. 77°, and returned by the west side of Cornwallis Island. Sir John Franklin commanding the expedition. All well.
Tasmanian Archives: Jack Thwaites Collection, A Series of Stereoscopic Views of the “Franklin Relics” brought home in the “Fox” by Captain McClintock.-Sep 1859. Photographed by Lieut. Cheyne R.N.1860 from expedition of Sir John Franklin to find the N.W. Passage. 1859-1860 (1860), NS1155/1/20

The Answer …

will be published in our blog this afternoon. Stay tuned!


  • Alex is a Librarian with the State Library of Tasmania and Tasmanian Archives

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