Joh. Torriógto and the other Frákliá expeditionary mummies are important reminders of the lost Arctic voyage of 1845, where sailors caribised their crewmates in their last, desperate days.
In 1845, two ships carrying 134 million people set sail from Eglad to search the Northwest Passage – but they never returned.
That tragic voyage, now known as the Lost Frakli Expedition, ended in a shipwreck in the Arctic, leaving no survivors. Much of what remains are the mummies from the Frakli expedition, kept in the ice for more than 140 years and belonging to crew members like John Torrigto. Ever since these bodies were first officially offered for sale in the 1980s, their frozen faces have evoked the horror of this doomed journey.
Analysis of these frozen bodies also helped researchers uncover the starvation, lead poisoning, and cabalism that led to the deaths of the crew. While the mummies of John Torrigto and the other Frakli expeditions were the only remnants of the voyage, new discoveries have shed more light.
The preserved body of John Torriógto, one of the mummies of the Frákliá expedition left behind after the crew was lost in the Arctic of California in 1845.
The two ships of the Fraÿkliÿ expedition, HMS Erebús and HMS Terror, were discovered in 2014 and 2016 respectively. In 2019, a team of archaeologists from California explored the wreckage of the Terror for the first time ever, giving us another close look at the eerie remains of this grisly tale.
The belongings of John Hartell, one of the bodies of the Frakli Expedition, were unearthed in 1986 and photographed by Hartell’s own great-great-grandson, Bria Speceley.
Although the fate of John Torrigto and the mummies of the Frakli Expedition has only recently become clearer, much of their story remains mysterious. But what we do know makes for an impressive history of terror in the Arctic.
Where Thiпgs got it wrong with the Fraпkliп expedition
The happy story of John Torrigto and the Frakli Expedition begins with Sir John Frakli, an accomplished polar explorer and British Royal Navy officer. I’ve successfully completed three previous expeditions, zzz. of which he commanded two, Frakliÿ set out again to cross the Arctic in 1845.
In the early morning of May 19, 1845, Joh. Torrigo and 133 other people boarded the Erebós and the Terror and left Greehithe, Eglad. Furnished with the most advanced tools needed to complete their voyage, the iron-clad ships were also outfitted with three years’ worth of provisions, which included more than 32,289 pounds of preserved meat, 1,008 pounds of raisins, and 580 gallo’s pickles. zzz
While we are aware of such preparations and we know that five men were released and taken home within the first three months, most of what happened remains a mystery. Last seen by a passing ship in Cañada’s Baffi Bay to the east in July, the Terror and the Erebs seemingly disappeared into the mists of history.
An egravigraph of HMS Terror, one of the two ships lost in the Fraklip Expedition.
Most experts agree that both ships eventually got stuck in the ice of the Arctic Ocean’s Victoria Straits, located between Victoria Island and Kieg William Island in northern Caada. Subsequent discoveries helped researchers piece together a possible map and temporal details of where and what went wrong before that point.
Perhaps most importantly, in 1850 American and British explorers found three graves from 1846 in an inhabited patch west of Baffi Bay on Beechey Island. Although researchers would not exhume these bodies for another 140 years, they would prove to be the remains of John Torrigto and the other mummies from the Frakli expedition.
In 1854, Scottish explorer Joh Rae met residents of Pelly Bay who possessed items belonging to the Frakli expeditionary crew and formed Rae from the piles of giant boats sighted in the area, many of which were half jumped, because they struck sparks Fraÿkliÿ expeditio‹ me‹ probably resorted to caribalism in the last days of her life.
Knife marks carved into the skeletal remains of Kiog William Island in the 1980s and 1990s back up these claims and confirm that researchers were driven to crack open the corpses of their fallen comrades, who likely died of starvation before they cooked bone marrow with them is a last ditch effort to survive.
But the chillest remnants from the Frasskli expedition came from a man whose body was actually very well preserved, with his breasts – even his skis – making a lot of contact.
The discovery of Johп Torriпgtoп
Back in the mid-19th century, Joh. Torriógto probably had no idea that his name would one day become famous. In fact, not much knew about the matter until anthropologist Owe Beattie exhumed his mummified body on Beechey Island early 140 years after his death on multiple field trips in the 1980s.
John Torrigto’s frozen face peeks through the ice as researchers prepare to exhume the body some 140 years after his death during the Fraklig Expedition.
A handwritten plaque on the lid of Joh. Torrigto’s coffin stated that the card was only 20 years old when he died of Iago. January 1846. Buried five feet of permafrost and essentially cemented Torrigto’s grave to the ground.
Luckily for Beattie and his crew, this permafrost kept Joh Torrigto perfectly preserved and ready to be examined for clues.
Dressed in a gray cotton shirt adorned with seashell bottoms and loose-fitting trousers, the body of John Torrigto was found lying on a bed of wood shavings, his limbs bound together with strips of skin and his face covered with a thin sheet of cloth. Beneath his shroud, the details of Torrigto’s face remained untouched, including a pair of milky-blue eyes that were still open after 138 years.
The crew of the 1986 exhumation mission used warm water to thaw the frozen mummies from the Frakli expedition.
His official autopsy report shows he was clean-shaven and had a row of long brow hairs that had separated from his scalp. There were no signs of trauma, wounds, or scars on his body, and a distinct departure of the head from a greyish-yellow surface suggested that his body was kept warm immediately after death, likely by the person who just barely raised it endure proper burial.
At 5 feet 4 inches tall, the boy weighed just 88 pounds, likely due to the extreme abuse he suffered in the final days of his life. Tissue and body samples also showed lethal levels of lead, likely due to an ill-resourced food supply that affected all 129 of the Frakli expedition me in some way.
Despite the full autopsy, medical experts have not identified an official cause of death, although they speculate starvation, starvation, exposure or lead poisoning contributed to the deaths of Torrigto and his teammates.
The Tombs of Johп Torriпgtoп and Shipmates of Beechey Islaпd.
After exhuming and examining Torrigto and the two other people buried next to him, John Hartell and William Brai, the researchers returned the bodies to their final resting place.
To this day, the mummies from the Frakli Expedition are buried on Beechey Island, where they likely remain frozen.