Natural history

Alongside the records of seamanship and suffering, books recounting Arctic expeditions often included detailed surveys of the Arctic flora and fauna and animal and fish life.

​Arctic explorers had diverse interests. Alongside the negotiation of the passage, expeditions also paid intense attention to the natural history of the Arctic region. Alongside the records of seamanship and suffering, books recounting expeditions often included detailed surveys of the Arctic flora and fauna and animal and fish life. Franklin's Narrative of a Journey to the Shores of the Polar Sea (1) included such surveys in a weighty appendix that also included a number of plates by J. Curtis such as the drawing of a Back's Grayling (now the Arctic Grayling). Sometimes the survivalist and scientific perspectives came together. Rock lichen in Franklin's Narrative is referred to as 'Tripe de Roche' and, when boiled, it served as a major source of sustenance for the expedition after the explorers' food ran out midway through 1821; the technical rendering by Curtis of this vital foodstuff holds at arm's length the intense fears and pains the men experienced when the plant served as their only source of food. 

(1) The 'tripe de roche', even where we got enough, only serving to allay the pangs of hunger for a short time. Sir John Franklin, Narrative of a Journey to the shores of the Polar Sea, in the years 1819, 20, 21, and 22 (London: John Murray, 1823), p. 407.



Illustration:
J. Curtis, 'Back's Grayling', in Sir John Franklin, Narrative of a Journey to the shores of the Polar Sea, in the years 1819, 20, 21, and 22 (London: John Murray, 1823), Plate 26.









Illustration:
J. Curtis, 'Rock Lichens' in Sir John Franklin, Narrative of a Journey to the shores of the Polar Sea, in the years 1819, 20, 21, and 22 (London: John Murray, 1823), Plate 30.