Scientists used lasers and high-energy beams from the Canadian Light Source in Saskatoon to illuminate the last few months of the doomed 19th-century British voyage to the Northwest Passage.
The study, published in the Journal of Archaeological Science, firms up earlier conclusions that the Franklin’s 129 crew members didn’t die of lead poisoning from canned food. It also suggests the expedition was running low on supplies long before its ships became stranded in ice – all from the careful examination of a tiny piece of toenail.
“This is kind of like a Canadian myth,” said co-author Laurie Chan. “I get excited at the opportunity to work on it and talk about it.”
The Franklin expedition headed north, never to return, in 1845. Some remains of its crew have been discovered, along with ghastly evidence of cannibalism. Its two ships, Erebus and Terror, were found within the last two years by underwater archeologists.
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