The U.S. Grinnell Expedition in Search of Sir John Franklin: a Personal Narrative


Elisha Kent Kane (1820–57) was an American Arctic explorer. He studied medicine in his native Philadelphia and in 1843 entered the U.S. Navy as a surgeon. In 1850 he sailed as the senior medical officer and naturalist on an expedition in search of Sir John Franklin (1786–1847), the British naval officer and explorer who had been missing in the Canadian Arctic since 1845. Funded by New York merchant Henry Grinnell and carried out by the U.S. Navy, the expedition explored Lancaster Sound and Wellington Channel and found one of Franklin's camps but no trace of the men. The expedition was led by Lieutenant Edwin Jesse De Haven and consisted of two ships, the brig Advance and the brig Rescue. In 1853–55 Kane was placed in command of a second expedition, also funded by Grinnell, which also failed to find Franklin. This book, published in 1854 while Kane was in the Arctic, is his narrative of the first Grinnell expedition. It contains Kane’s detailed observations about pack ice, glaciers, icebergs, and Arctic fish and wildlife. The narrative is followed by a lengthy appendix that includes six documents: the instructions from the Secretary of the Navy William Ballard Preston to De Haven; De Haven’s official report on the expedition; three sets of abstracts and tables containing detailed meteorological data compiled from the log book of the Advance; and the text of a lecture about the expedition given by Kane to the American Geographical and Statistical Society in December 1852.

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Harper & Brothers, New York


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552 pages : 15 leaves of plates ; 24 centimeters


  1. Ted Heckathorn, “Kane, Elisha Kent,” American National Biography (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999).
  2. Robert E. Johnson, “Kane, Elisha Kent,” Dictionary of Canadian Biography (Toronto: University of Toronto / Université Laval, 2003),

Last updated: August 17, 2016