Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics
VICTORIA—THE LAND OF SNOW
 IN days long, long ago, men knew very little of the world,
and all the countries it contained. But in the time of Henry
VII., great sailors began to sail into far seas and discover
new lands. From that time onward there have been many great
and daring sailors who have sailed the seas and discovered
more and more lands, until the blue of our maps has became
marked with islands and continents.
The way to India and China is long, and, in the days when
there were no steamers, it was dangerous too. In the time of
King Henry VII. a man called Sebastian Cabot tried to find a
short way to India, by going round the north of America
through the Arctic Ocean. This began the quest of what was
called the "North-West Passage."
For hundreds of years men struggled to find this North-West
Passage, but all in vain, and many brave lives were lost in
the bitter frost and snow of the far north. As new lands
were discovered, the map of the Arctic region began to be
filled in bit by bit, but the North-West Passage remained
At last the British Government decided in 1845 A.D. to send
out an Arctic expedition, and Sir John Franklin, who had
already been on two voyages of discovery to Arctic regions,
was put in command.
 Sir John was no longer a young man, but he loved the sea and
the north, and he went out like an old sea-lion, eager to
find the long-sought passage.
He sailed away with two ships, called the Terror and the
Erebus, manned by a hundred men and more. The last good-bye
was said, the last handshake given, and away sped the ships
further and further north into the white and silent land,
never again to return.
THE SHIPS WERE CALLED THE "TERROR" AND THE "EREBUS"
A year passed, then another. At home anxious hearts waited
and waited for news, but no news came. Then, as nothing was
heard of the ships and their gallant crews, both Sir John
Franklin's wife and the British Government sent out
expeditions to try to find the Terror and the Erebus.
These new ships sailed to the north, keeping as much as
possible in the course Sir John had gone, but they could
find no trace of him. Here and there sailors landed on the
bare, white shores which they passed, and left supplies of
food under great heaps of stones or cairns as they are
called. They also left letters telling which way their ships
had gone. This they did hoping that some of Franklin's men
might pass that way and find the food and letters. The
sailors also caught white foxes which run about wild in
these cold countries. Round the necks of these foxes they
put copper collars on which were engraved directions how to
find the ships and the stores of food. The foxes were then
let loose again, in the hope that some of them might find
their way to the Terror and the Erebus and bring comfort and
encouragement to Sir John and his men.
But nothing was of any use. No sign of Franklin and his
brave men could be found, although expedition after
expedition was sent out. At one time as many as fifteen
ships were looking for Franklin, but each one failed.
 At last, after about twelve years, the searchers were
rewarded. They found a cairn in which was a tin can
containing a paper which had been put there by one of Sir
John's men. This paper told how at last the North-West
Passage had been discovered; how Sir John had died a few
days later, and how as the ships were stuck fast in the ice
and could not get through to the sea beyond, the men had at
last left them and started southward on sledges. That was
None of the men ever reached home again. They all died of
cold and hunger, and here and there along the way they had
gone their skeletons were found bleached and white.
The people who live in the cold, far north are called
Eskimos. When they were questioned, some of them remembered
having seen white men travelling southward with a sledge.
"But they were very thin," said one old woman, "they fell
down and died as they walked."
The Eskimos had among them silver spoons and forks which the
searchers knew had belonged to Sir John. These were all
collected and brought home, but of the ships themselves
nothing was ever seen.
All through the long search it was Lady Franklin who urged
the explorers on, and when at last she knew that her dear
husband was indeed dead, she raised a tomb to his memory in
Westminster Abbey. She herself wished to write the words
which were to be carved on the stone, but she died before
they were written. The great poet laureate, Tennyson, wrote
"Not here! The White North hath thy bones, and thou,
Heroic sailor soul,
Art passing on thy happier voyage now
Towards no earthly pole."
Although it is now known that there is a North-West Passage,
it is also known that it can be of no use for trade. Even if
the passage was not blocked with ice, the danger and
suffering from the cold are too great to be endured.
There are still wonderful things to be learned in the cold,
white north, and there have been many Arctic expeditions
since the death of Sir John Franklin, but I have told you
about him because he was one of the most famous Arctic
explorers. He really discovered the North-West Passage, and
his death in the far north caused many other expeditions to
be sent out, and, although they did not find Sir John, they
learned much that was new about the Arctic regions.