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Greenland and Arctic Canada

King William Island

Follow the step of explorer Roald Amundsen

Information about King William Island

The island (the 61st-largest island in the world and Canada's 15th-largest island) and the surrounding area was the region where the Erebus and Terror ended up.

It is now known the two ships became stranded in 1846 when frozen in the sea ice northwest of the island. After abandoning the two ships, most of the crew died from exposure and starvation as they attempted to walk south near the western coastline. Two of Franklin's men were buried at Hall Point on the island's south coast. It wasn't until June 29, 1981, that researchers finally had luck. A team led by Canadian archaeologist Owen Beattie, found 31 pieces of human bone fragments on the southern tip of the island, called Booth Point. On September 9, 2014 the Victoria Strait Expedition located the wreck of HMS Erebus. The HMS Terror, was found in 2016 in Terror Bay, off the south-west coast of King William Island.

The area also played an important for the Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen on the expedition through the Northwest Passage, spending nearly two years with his ship on the SE coast at what is now known as Gjoa Haven. The island is separated from the Boothia Peninsula by the James Ross Strait to the northeast, and the Rae Strait to the east. To the west is the Victoria Strait and beyond it Victoria Island. Within the Simpson Strait, to the south of the island, then the Adelaide Peninsula, part of mainland Canada. Queen Maud Gulf lies to the southwest.

Interesting facts about King William Island

Rae Strait between King William Island and the Boothia peninsula, and named after John Rae, who discovered the potential of this stretch of water that was the last link in the NW passage.

John Rae, an Orkney man who joined the Hudson Bay company, is one of the greatest polar explorers. Compared to many explorers, often with navy connections, that explored with a ship as base, John Rae and similar explorers went native, living and learning from the Inuit. John Rae was also the person who discovered the fate of the Franklin expedition from the Inuit, people who knew he could trust, including their reports that some of the last men had resorted to cannibalism. John Rae came back with the news but was denounced by Victorian society for suggesting that Englishmen, of all people, would resort to cannibalism. Only now is John ae getting the credit he deserves, perhaps the greatest British polar explorer.

Pictures of King William Island

Greenland and Arctic Canada
Greenland and Arctic Canada
Greenland and Arctic Canada

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