On 5 October 1851 a balloon was found near Gloucester, England, bearing a message from one of Sir John Franklin's two ships, last seen by Europeans six years before. The Admiralty responded swiftly and investigated the circumstances for several days before announcing that the message was a fake. During their inquiries no news appeared in the press. When newspapers at last published the story, most of them called the episode a hoax, although their accounts differed from each other and from the facts in many details. The Admiralty's brief announcement late in the day on 11 October gave the impression that the incident had been trivial, but in fact they had taken it very seriously. The author suggests that the hoax was carried out with an authentic balloon made for Admiralty expeditions to the Arctic, inflated with hydrogen or coal gas.
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