In 1850, the graves of three members of the missing crew were found on a beach island, after which the search was stopped.
Only in 1984 a group of anthropologists went to the island. Oddly enough, all three bodies are completely preserved without any outside interference.
John Torrington was born in Manchester, England in 1825. He was a Petty Officer in the Royal Navy who was assigned to the catastrophic Franklin Expedition as stoker at the age of 19. John Torrington died 7 months into the expedition and was buried on Beechey Island, Canada. His barely decomposed body shocked scientists who exhumed it in 1984, more than a century later. Torrington was perfectly preserved and his eyes were open, looking straight at excavation crew.
In 1984, with the consent of Torrington’s descendants in England, a crew, led by archeologist Owen Beattie, commenced their work on Torrington’s grave. They dug 1.5 meters deep into the frozen ground to reach the coffin. Upon opening the coffin, they were struck by how well the body was preserved. Scientists melted the ice covering Torrington slowly to avoid damaging the body.
Further scientific research suggested that John Torrington had been very sick and weighed only 38.5 kilograms at the time of his death. His cause of death was determined to be pneumonia.
William Braine was a British explorer who was born in Oakhill, Somerset, in England in 1814. He was enlisted in the Royal Marines during the 1830s. Subsequently, Braine was assigned to HMS Erebus during Franklin’s Lost Expedition.
His corpse was found to be in the worst condition among the Beechey Island bodies, having been gnawed at by rats before burial. Recent scientific research has suggested that Braine’s body showed symptoms of tuberculosis and lead poisoning prior to his death.
John Hartnell was born in Gillingham, Kent, in England, to a family of shipbuilders. He was assigned to HMS Erebus with his brother, Thomas, as able seamen on the Franklin Northwest Passage expedition. He was one of the first casualties of the expedition, dying of suspected zinc deficiency and malnourishment during the expedition’s first year.
Hartnell’s incredibly well-preserved, mummified remains surprised the archeologists who exhumed his grave. When Hartnell’s cap was removed, they found his hair completely intact, which was later used to determine that his body contained large amounts of lead at the time of his death.