New face of the Franklin Expedition reconstructed

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Diana Trepkov reconstructs the new face from the Franklin Expedition. © Marty J. Brown

Sir John Franklin’s expedition sailed to the Arctic in 1845, and tragically, the entire 130 expeditionary crew lost their lives in the attempt to navigate the fabled Northwest Passage.

The grave of the Franklin expedition officer was discovered in July 1879 by the Franklin search expedition led by U.S. Army Lt. Frederick Schwatka, who was assisted by several Inuit families who played an instrumental role in the success of the expedition.

Dr. Douglas Stenton led the investigation of Franklin’s archaeological sites on King William Island and Adelaide Peninsula on behalf of the Government of Nunavut. Dr. Stenton played a key role in the discovery of the 169-year-old mystery of HMS Erebus.

The rediscovery of the gravesite in 2018 was part of the Government of Nunavut’s continuing investigations of the archaeology of the 1845 Franklin Northwest Passage Expedition.

A plastic, 3D print of the human skull from the site was sent to me by Dr. Stenton to examine and continue the forensic aspect of the investigation. Anthropologist Dr. Anne Keenleyside, who analyzes skeletal remains from historic archaeological sites, also provided input on the skull before I started the skull facial reconstruction.

This unknown human skull appears to be American European derived and I used a medium build to match the material. I added oil base clay because it does not dry. I use prosthetic eyes, as they are lifelike. I sculpted his face with a closed smile, which was measured in distance six teeth across the mouth.

Three-dimensional clay facial reconstructions can eventually be bronzed for the purpose of permanent display in museums.

Who is this new face from the Sir John Franklin Expedition? I believe we will soon discover his identity.

Dedicated to all the members of the Lost Franklin Expedition who tragically lost their lives.