Franklin, Sir John (1786-1847), a British Arctic explorer. Franklin's third voyage in search of a northwest passage to Asia ended in disaster, and all 129 men on the trip died. Sir John Ross and Elisha Kent Kane gathered much new information on the Arctic regions while leading two of the dozens of search parties sent to find Franklin and his men.
Franklin was born in Lincolnshire and joined the Royal Navy in 1801. He took part in the battle of Trafalgar and the New Orleans expedition in the War of 1812. During Franklin's first two northern voyages, 1819-22 and 1825-27, he and his subordinate officers charted 1,200 miles (1,900 km) of the North American coastline, traveling east from the coast of northern Alaska to the mouth of the Coppermine River, at 115° west longitude. He was knighted in 1829.
In 1845, Franklin, a rear admiral, set sail for the Arctic with two ships, the Erebus and Terror. He was last seen in Baffin Bay, heading westward toward Lancaster Sound, a strait between Baffin and Devon islands. In 1859 a search party returned to England with news that it had found skeletons and records of the Franklin expedition. The records revealed that the ships had frozen in the ice in 1846. Franklin and several others died in 1847. In April, 1848, the survivors set out on foot for civilization, but died along the way. The graves of some of these men and the wreckage of one of Franklin's ships were found during 1879-80 on King William Island by Frederick Schwatka, a United States explorer.