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DNA identification of a sailor from the 1845 Franklin northwest passage expedition

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 April 2021

Douglas R. Stenton*
Affiliation:
Department of Anthropology, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, ONN2L 3G1, Canada Department of Anthropology, Trent University, Peterborough, ONK9L 0G2, Canada
Stephen Fratpietro
Affiliation:
Paleo-DNA Laboratory, Centre for Analytical Services, Lakehead University, Thunder Bay, ONP7B 5Z5, Canada
Anne Keenleyside
Affiliation:
Department of Anthropology, Trent University, Peterborough, ONK9L 0G2, Canada
Robert W. Park
Affiliation:
Department of Anthropology, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, ONN2L 3G1, Canada
*
Author for correspondence: Douglas R. Stenton, Email: dstenton@uwaterloo.ca

Abstract

The 1845 British polar expedition in search of a northwest passage through the Canadian Arctic under the command of Sir John Franklin resulted in the greatest loss of life event in the history of polar exploration. The names of the 129 officers and crew who sailed and died on the catastrophic voyage are known, but the identification of their skeletons found scattered along the route of their attempted escape is problematic. Here, we report DNA analyses from skeletal remains from King William Island, where the majority of the expedition fatalities occurred, and from a paternal descendant of a member of the expedition. A match was found between an archaeological sample and a presumed descendant sample using Y-chromosome haplotyping. We conclude that DNA and genealogical evidence confirm the identity of the remains as those of Warrant Officer John Gregory, Engineer, HMS Erebus. This is the first member of the 1845 Franklin expedition whose identity has been confirmed through DNA and genealogical analyses.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
© The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press

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