Who is this Cabin Boy?

    Franklin Expedition Mystery


    Dedicated to all the members of the Lost Franklin Expedition who tragically lost their lives.
    The search is on for the identity of one of the Lost Franklin Expedition cabin boys.
    Who is he? As his face slowly appeared in my drawing, I couldn’t help but think to myself; it is like history is coming alive while his face appeared. Who is this handsome young man with such distinctive facial features? I created his face based on his skull for identification purposes. 

    Presentation of the original cranium.
    © Anne Keenleyside

    The Team

    My personal involvement in the Lost Franklin Expedition began when I was initially approached in 2014. The Expedition quickly earned worldwide attention and I am now honoured to be involved in the third facial reconstruction based on this cabin boy’s skull. A little information about this team:

    Dr. Douglas R. Stenton (Director of Heritage (Retired), Government of Nunavut, Department of Culture and Heritage), has directed archaeological research in the Eastern Canadian Arctic since 1980, and since 2008 has led the investigations of Franklin expedition archaeological sites on King William Island and Adelaide Peninsula. Douglas also played a key role in the discovery of the HMS Erebus.

    Dr. Anne Keenleyside (Department of Anthropology, Trent University) is a bioarchaeologist, who analyzes skeletal remains from historic and archaeological contexts and has worked on the Franklin expedition project since 1993.

    Dr. Robert Park (Department of Anthropology, University of Waterloo) also played a role in the discovery of the HMS Erebus.

    History of the 1845 Lost Franklin Expedition

    This cabin boy went missing during the ill-fated Franklin expedition, just over 170 years ago. There were four “Boy 1st Class” (trainees) on the expedition. With this illustrated face, one of the four cabin boys who are missing may be identified.

    Explorer Sir John Franklin set off from England in 1845. He and his crew of 128 individuals disappeared while searching for the Northwest Passage across what is now Canada’s Arctic. The two navy ships, HMS Erebus and HMS Terror had vanished. The expedition ended in disaster when both ships became trapped in ice well into their journey. Sadly, the crew never returned home alive.

    Both ships have been found in Nunavut. In September 2014, HMS Erebus was discovered south of King William Island. In September 2016, HMS Terror was discovered in Terror Bay. This has been one of the Arctic’s biggest mysteries and it is starting to unfold.

    Two-Dimensional Facial Reconstruction Drawing

    When skeletal remains are found, it is essential for the skull to be positioned in the Frankfort Horizontal Plane position. Once the photograph is ready, the two- dimensional facial reconstruction drawing can begin.

    Diana Trepkov illustrates with pencil the face of the Cabin Boy. © Martin Brown

    Anthropologist Dr. Anne Keenleyside informed me that this individual was a Caucasian male, approximately 15 to 16 years of age, based on the degree of dental development, but he could have been as old as 19 at the time of his death. DNA analysis was able to match the skull and mandible together. The remains were discovered in 1993 at the NgLj-2 site in Erebus Bay, Nunavut.

    While illustrating this cabin boy’s face, I drew in the zygomatic arch and his cheekbone that was missing from the original skull. Usually if there are missing parts from a skull, I will study the skull and draw on a photograph according to the bone structure, to complete the face.

    Ever since I was a child, I have been fascinated with eyes as they reveal a lot about a person. The eyes are the mirror to the soul. This cabin boy’s eyes seem gentle and sweet.

    The cabin boy’s eye placement is the first part of the drawing I placed on paper. The eyeball and iris are centred within the bony orbit; the human eyeball is approximately 25 millimetres and the size of the iris is 12 millimetres. His eyeball was measured and drawn at 1 inch.

    While following his skull as a template, I began to see a young boy develop before my eyes. I followed the brow bridge on the skull and drew in fuller brows. The eyebrows do lie directly on top of the brow bone covering the superior margins of the bony orbits of this cabin boy’s eyes.

    According to the skull, the cabin boy has a wide forehead as shown in the drawing.

    Ears on the facial reconstruction were created as generic and are positioned behind the angle of the jaw. Average ears were drawn in, as there is no way of indicating what his ears would look like in life from just the skull. Ears are usually estimated to be equal in length to the nose length. They are positioned parallel to the top part of the eye area and parallel to the bottom part of the nose.

    This was followed by the placement of the thickness and width of the nose. I drew in a bulkier soft tissue nasal tip on the nose following the nasal aperture. The nose width is 10mm (5mm on each side) for Caucasoids, which was used for this cabin boy.

    As for his mouth, I drew in the missing teeth on the photo of the mandible to have a better understanding of the shape of his mouth.

    I followed the contours for cheeks, jaw and chin along with the outline of his face, which was drawn accordingly to the shape of his skull. His hairstyle and clothing were replicated based on fashion research from the 1845 era.

    Many of the techniques I use have been learned from many years of training and experience. When the technical part of the drawing is finished, I usually view it later. In this way, I observe my work more clearly. Placing the final drawing upside down will also always show if something appears off. It is a test I do at the end of an illustration.

    After illustrating the face from his skull, this is the face I believe to be an accurate representation of this cabin boy. I stopped as soon as I felt the boy was correctly drawn and didn’t over render since forensic art is an “investigative tool for identification” and not a portrait.

    Facial reconstructions, also known as craniofacial reconstructions, are a way for the public to recognize a face from an unidentified skull. Forensic art is 75 per cent science and 25 per cent art. Facial reconstruction is not a positive identification method strictly on its own. Dental records and DNA are accepted methods that are used to make a positive identification.

    The skull gave many clues to who this unidentified cabin boy was. Now that his face is released to the public, his identity may be revealed.

    We are concentrating on living descendants who will see his face and come forward with information on his identity. Who is this young Cabin boy from the Sir John Franklin Expedition? I am hoping we will soon discover his identity. Working together as a team is the only way I believe he will get his name back!