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BERT V. GOULAIT/Washington Times/Landov
BERT V. GOULAIT/Washington Times/Landov

How Each State Decided What to Put on Its Commemorative Quarter

BERT V. GOULAIT/Washington Times/Landov
BERT V. GOULAIT/Washington Times/Landov

Between 1999 and 2008, the United States Mint produced a series of commemorative quarters, with a new state-specific design released approximately every ten weeks. The quarters were released in the same order that the states ratified the Constitution or were admitted into the Union, and that year is marked under each state's name. Here's how each state decided what to put on its quarter.

1. Alabama

The design of this coin which, in 2003, was the 22nd to be released, shows Alabama native Helen Keller reading a braille book. The design was one of many submitted by Alabama schoolchildren as part of a statewide competition with the theme "Education: Link to the Past, Gateway to the Future." The initial favorite depicted a historical timeline of the state, but it was deemed too intricate to fit on the face of a quarter.

The image of Keller was chosen by her living relatives and she is identified on the coin both in English and in braille. She is flanked on either side by southern longleaf pine branches (Alabama's official state tree) and camellias (Alabama's official state flower) while a banner below reads: Spirit of Courage.

2. Alaska

Released in 2008, Alaska's quarter was the second-to-last to debut. The image is of a grizzly bear with a salmon in its mouth, a fitting symbol considering that over 98% of the grizzly population in the country lives in Alaska. The inscription reads "The Great Land," which beat out other possibilities like "The Last Frontier," "North to the Future," and "Land of the Midnight Sun" (taken together, these sound like the titles of a dystopian young adult trilogy).

The Alaska Commemorative Coin Commission invited citizens to submit ideas for the quarter and received over 850 suggestions. A final four were forwarded to the US Mint for consideration, and those designs included a polar bear, a dog musher, and a gold panner.

3. Arizona

As the last state in the contiguous U.S. to be added to the Union, Arizona was number 48 in coin release order. After soliciting suggestions from citizens, 4,200 ideas were whittled down to five narratives that were sent to the Mint for approval and artistic rendering. The five final images were then subjected to a statewide online poll. The final selection features a (relatively) sprawling view of the Grand Canyon with a saguaro cactus in the foreground. The banner declares it the "Grand Canyon State." Three of the four other finalists also featured the natural wonder.

4. Arkansas

The 25th quarter design to be released celebrates Arkansas as the "Natural State." A total of 9,320 designs were submitted for consideration and the field was cut to three—all of which chose to focus on the abundant natural resources in the state. After the final three designs were modified by the US Mint, Governor Mike Huckabee chose a winner. A giant diamond floats above a serene lake and is flanked by rice stalks and a mallard duck. The diamond represents Arkansas' popular Crater of Diamonds State Park, home to the only diamond mine open to the public. The rice represents (what else) the prolific rice production in the state, while the mallard attracts hunters from across the nation.

5. California

The 31st quarter in the series commemorates California conservationist John Muir's work with Yosemite Park and the Sierra Club, of which he was the first president. The Scottish-born Muir is shown gazing at the granite "Half Dome," which is one of the most recognizable features of Yosemite Valley. Both Muir and the Valley are named on the face of the coin.

The submissions from a statewide contest for the quarter design were narrowed to a field of 20 by a specially appointed California State Quarter Commission. From there, then-Governor Gray Davis chose five to send to the Mint: the winning selection as well as ones based around the themes "Waves and Sun," "Gold Miner," "Golden Gate Bridge," and "Giant Sequoia."

6. Colorado

Colorado was the 38th state to join the Union and thus the 38th quarter in the series. The commemorative design shows a sweeping view of the Rocky Mountains with a swatch of evergreen trees in the foreground and a banner proclaiming the state "Colorful Colorado." The four other designs that were sent the US Mint for consideration included depictions of Mesa Verde National Park, the 10th Mountain Division, a prospector's pick and shovel with the Colorado Gold Rush slogan "Pikes Peak or Bust," and a decorative 'C' in honor of Colorado's nickname, the Centennial State, which it earned for gaining statehood less than one month after the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

7. Connecticut

Connecticut's quarter, the fifth in the series, honors an early act of American patriotism and bravery with a depiction of the Charter Oak. The story goes that on the night of October 13, 1687, a representative of King James II came to Connecticut to demand the surrender of the Connecticut Charter. To thwart this effort, Captain Joseph Wadsworth squirreled the document away and hid it in the unusually large white oak, which quickly became famous for its role in American independence.

The famous tree, which fell during a storm in 1856, is such an enduring source of pride for Nutmeggers that out of the 112 submissions from citizens, 19 included some rendition of the Charter Oak.

8. Delaware

As the first state to ratify the Constitution, Delaware's depiction of Caesar Rodney was the inaugural release in the state quarter project and bears the designation "The First State." The commemorative design harkens back to Delaware's role in America's independence. On July 1, 1776, Delaware native and Congressional delegate Rodney rode the 80-mile journey to Philadelphia to cast the deciding vote in favor of independence through thunderstorms and a heat wave despite suffering from cancer and asthma.

After the submissions for a design had been narrowed down to a final three, Rodney received 948 of the 1,519 total votes in a telephone and email poll, beating out a quill pen and parchment design and one depicting an allegorical "Lady Liberty."

9. Florida

The 27th quarter design features a "Gateway To Discovery" motto and ship iconography. The tall ship is a 16th century Spanish galleon, like the ones on which Ponce de Leon and Hernando de Soto sailed before arriving in Florida. Above it, the space shuttle represents Florida's Kennedy Center. Along with the two bookends of exploratory spirit is a depiction of the state's idyllic coastline.

In a three-week public vote, Floridians chose this design over four other finalists: "The Everglades," "Fishing Capital of the World," "St. Augustine," and "America's Spaceport."

10. Georgia

The fourth-released quarter showcases a peach inside an outline of Georgia. The image is flanked by sprigs of Live Oak, which is the state tree, and you can read the state motto, "Wisdom, Justice, Moderation," on the surrounding banner. The shape of the state's outline has come under some criticism for apparently excluding one of Georgia's counties.

Dade County is located in that most northwestern corner of the state, where it looks like a chip has fallen off in the quarter design. Some people go so far as to say that the absence is an intentional exclusion as a form of delayed revenge for Dade's attempt to secede from the state prior to the Civil War.

11. Hawaii

The final coin in the commemorative series is the only one to feature royalty. Along with the eight major islands and the state's motto—written in Hawaiian, meaning "The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness"—is King Kamehameha I, who is renowned for unifying the many islands in the early 1800s.

In an online poll that garnered over 26,000 votes, this design beat out four other finalists: an alternate depiction of King Kamehameha, a female hula dancer, the Diamond Head mountain landmark, and a surfing-centric design.

12. Idaho

The face of the commemorative Idaho quarter, the 43rd in the series, is dominated by the profile of a peregrine falcon, which was once on the endangered species list but has been brought back to thrive throughout Idaho by conservation efforts. The design also features a silhouette of the state and the motto, "May it be forever," written in Latin.

The falcon beat out other options, such as "Farmland Tapestry," which celebrated the state's agriculture, and "State Song," which included the lyrics "And here we have Idaho, Winning her way to fame."

13. Illinois

There are 21 stars around the border of the Illinois coin to commemorate its status as the 21st state to join the Union. Inside an outline of the state is a young Illinois resident, Abraham Lincoln, who strides confidently towards his future as the 16th president. To the left is a silhouette of a farmstead and to the right is the Chicago skyline.

The initial contest for ideas was open to schoolchildren in the state and received over 6,000 submissions. From there, the pool was narrowed down to three main concepts: Illinois history, agriculture and industry, and state symbols.

14. Indiana

Indiana's quarter also sports stars to show its place in the evolution of the country—19 for the 19th state. The rest of the coin pays homage to the Indianapolis 500 with a race car superimposed on the shape of the state itself. The theme and official motto of the state, "Crossroads of America," is emblazoned across the middle. This beat out other finalists that included more sporting images, state iconography and Chief Little Turtle, generally considered the last chief of the Miami Indians.

As with the Georgia quarter, some say the Indiana outline is missing the most northwestern county—Lake County, in this case.

15. Iowa

The design of the Iowa quarter, the 29th in the series, comes directly from a painting by Grant Wood, he of "American Gothic" fame. The Iowa native became famous for his small-town scenes and the one chosen for this quarter has a specific focus on education. Along with Wood's name, the inscription reads "Foundations in Education," and shows a one-room schoolhouse with a teacher and her students planting a tree.

The quaint design was not without controversy, however. During the selection process, there was a push for one of the other finalists, which featured the Sullivan siblings. The five brothers from Waterloo all enlisted in the army following America's entry into World War II and were all killed aboard the U.S.S. Juneau during the Battle of Guadalcanal.

16. Kansas

The Kansas quarter, number 34, is one of the most straightforward: an image of a buffalo and a sunflower, the state's official animal and flower, respectively.

17. Kentucky

Kentucky was the first state on the western frontier to join the Union, and the 15th overall. An inscription reads "My Old Kentucky Home," which is the nickname for the pictured Federal Hill mansion, an old plantation house that supposedly was the inspiration for the song written by Stephen Foster.

In the foreground, a stately thoroughbred stands at the fence of a pasture, representing the tradition of raising racehorses in the state as well as the famous Kentucky Derby.

The design combines the elements of two other finalists: one dedicated to "My Old Kentucky Home" and one more overtly referencing the history of horse racing. Other options included an homage to Daniel Boone and a depiction of the state's legacy as Abraham Lincoln's birthplace.

18. Louisiana

The 18th quarter in the series includes not just an outline of the state itself but the entire Louisiana Purchase. In addition to the geographical representation, the design sports the state bird, the pelican, and a trumpet releasing musical notes as an homage to the jazz music of New Orleans.

19. Maine

Many of the finalists for the Maine quarter, the 23rd in the series, honor its coastal status and maritime activity. The winning design features Pemaquid Point Lighthouse, which was first commissioned by John Quincy Adams in 1827. In the water around the lighthouse is a three-masted schooner which is intended to resemble Victory Chimes, the last surviving Chesapeake Ram schooner.

20. Maryland

The centerpiece of the Maryland quarter, the seventh in the series, is the distinctive dome of the Maryland State House, the largest wooden dome built without nails in the country. It served as the nation's first peacetime capitol from 1783 to1784 after the Treaty of Paris that ended the Revolutionary War was signed there.

Other finalists honored the Star Spangled Banner, which was sewn by Mary Pickersgill while living in Baltimore, and the Ark and Dove, two ships that comprised the first expedition to Maryland from England.

21. Massachusetts

The sixth quarter in the series honors the minutemen who made America's independence possible. The image is of the the Concord Minute Man of 1775 statue by Daniel Chester French, the man who also designed the Lincoln Memorial. The designs for the quarter were solicited through a statewide contest among elementary schoolchildren.

22. Michigan

All the finalists for the design of Michigan's quarter included the Great Lakes that define the state's history and identity. The final result kept it simple, featuring an outline of the state that highlights the lakes.

23. Minnesota

Minnesota is famous as the Land of 10,000 Lakes, which is featured on its quarter, but that's a low-ball boast as it actually features 11,852 bodies of water. The design also shows a loon—Minnesota's state bird—and a boat full of happy recreational fishers.

24. Mississippi

All three finalists for Mississippi's quarter, the 20th in the series, bore the inscription, "The Magnolia State." The image that was ultimately selected features a closeup of two of the state flowers. Critics of the coin have said that, while nice in theory, this design ends up looking like an amorphous blob when produced quarter-sized.

25. Missouri

The 24th quarter to be released came with a lot more controversy than any of those preceding it. The final design depicts the historic return of Lewis and Clark's expedition down the Missouri River with the Gateway Arch rising behind them (symbolically, since construction on the Arch didn't begin until more than a century after Lewis and Clark's exploration).

It's a nice image, but the man who designed it despises it. Missouri artist Paul Jackson was named the winner of the statewide contest after his submission was chosen. But when he saw the Mint's finished design, he didn't recognize it as his own. The engravers at the Mint, it seems, are not looking for an exact image, but rather an idea. What they produced doesn't look like Jackson's original design, so he took his protest all the way to Washington D.C., where he rolled a four-foot quarter down the street demanding justice. He argued that the engravers were looking to have their names and initials immortalized along with the finished product, not those of the citizens whose submissions were selected. 

The Mint claimed the conditions of such design contests never promised faithfulness to the winning submissions, but following "Quartergate," the term "design contest" was dropped from solicitations for ideas for later state quarters.

26. Montana

Montana's quarter features a mountain range flattening into a vast plain across the diameter of the coin as reference to the varied and valuable topography of the state. The caption reads "Big Sky Country," the state's oft-cited, unofficial nickname. The most prominent feature, however, is a bison skull, an iconic, albeit nonspecific symbol of Western, cowboy-like pursuits such as cattle ranches and fur trapping.

27. Nebraska

The caption on the Nebraska state quarter, which was the 37th in the series, reads "Chimney Rock," and it includes an image of the striking geological structure rising out of the Nebraska plains in the background. The towering rock formation, which has been named a National Historic Site, served as an important landmark for many westward voyages in America's early days. An ox-drawn covered wagon carrying pioneers dominates the foreground of the design and commemorates Nebraska as home to portions of the Oregon and Mormon trails. Other finalists from the statewide solicitation included two images of the Nebraska state capitol in Lincoln—one of the building itself and another featuring The Sower statue that sits atop it— as well as a depiction of Chief Standing Bear from the Ponca Native American tribe.

28. Nevada

More than 50% of the country's wild horse population lives in Nevada, and they make for a fitting design for the state's quarter. Behind the trio of mustangs is a mountain range, and the scene is flanked by sprigs of sagebrush, the official flower of the state. "The Silver State" refers to the nickname that commemorates the Comstock Lode of silver ore that was the first of its kind discovered in the U.S. Several of the other finalists played up this claim to fame with images of miners and swinging picks while others focused on the Nevada wilderness.

29. New Hampshire

The nine stars on the New Hampshire quarter commemorate its status as the ninth state. The design features two phrases: the state motto, "Live Free or Die," and "Old Man of the Mountain," a caption for the craggy rock formation pictured. The unique shape of the 1,200 foot mountainside was formed by a series of five granite cliff ledges that distinctly resembled a facial profile. The quarter is already a relic, as the formation collapsed in 2003.

30. New Jersey

As just the third state to join the Union, and thus the third coin in the series, New Jersey's quarter features an iconic image of Revolutionary history. The design is based on Emanuel Leutze's famous "Washington Crossing the Delaware" painting, which depicts the 1776 Christmas night crossing by General George Washington and his troops to ambush the enemy in Trenton and Princeton, New Jersey.

31. New Mexico

All four of the finalists for the 47th quarter featured an outline of New Mexico and the Zia sun symbol. The Zia people revered the sun and made frequent use of the symbol that incorporated both the circular sun and the number four which was thought to be reflected in everything from the seasons of the year to the sacred obligations of life. In its statehood, New Mexico co-opted the symbol, which can be seen not just on the quarter but also on the state flag and even in the shape of the State Capitol.

32. New York

New York's quarter celebrates the state's historical significance as an entry point for the millions of immigrants who shaped America's identity.This design received 76% of the final vote and beat out designs like Henry Hudson and his ship and a rendering of the Battle of Saratoga.

33. North Carolina

The 12th quarter in the series features an engraved rendition of John T. Daniel's iconic photograph of the Wright Brothers' successful first flight in Kitty Hawk on December 17, 1903.

34. North Dakota 

The North Dakota quarter, the 39th in the series, depicts two American bison grazing on the state's Badlands. The once nearly extinct species has enjoyed a minor resurgence in areas like Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota. The other two finalists also highlighted the natural charm of the state, with one following an agricultural theme and the other depicting its sweeping landscape.

35. Ohio

North Carolina gets some commemorative competition from Ohio when it comes to aerial origins. While the former is the site of the "First Flight," the 17th state boasts itself as the "Birthplace of Aviation Pioneers." Not only was one half of the famous Wright brothers duo born there—hence the early flying machine— but so were astronauts Neil Armstrong and John Glenn, who are represented by an anonymous space suit on the coin. Despite this somewhat tenuous connection to aviation, it was a popular theme amongst the design finalists.

36. Oklahoma

The simple image of the state bird, the Scissortailed Flycatcher, and the state flower, the Indian Blanket (or gaillardia), beat out four other finalists which all featured scenes from pioneer life for the design of Oklahoma's quarter.

37. Oregon

The 33rd quarter in the series features a scene from Crater Lake, which was formed thousands of years ago by the collapse of the volcano Mount Mazama. The lake is notable for having no rivers running into it as well as for holding the distinction as the deepest lake in America. Also visible in the quarter design is Wizard Island, the larger of two land masses contained in the lake, which is itself a volcanic cinder cone. The Crater Lake design beat out three other finalists: a jumping salmon, the Oregon Trail, and Mount Hood.

38. Pennsylvania

The primary focus of Pennsylvania's quarter is an image of the Commonwealth statue that has stood atop the capitol building in Harrisburg since 1905, the 14' 6" bronze-gilded female figure crafted by Roland Hinton Perry. She is framed by the outline of the state and to her left is Pennsylvania's motto: "Virtue, Liberty, Independence." On her right is a pared-down depiction of a keystone, a nod to the state's nickname, which celebrates Pennsylvania's integral place in the country's early history.

39. Rhode Island 

What Rhode Island lacks in landmass it makes up for in beaches. The 13th state has over 400 miles of coastline, which is honored in its quarter with the caption "The Ocean State." It also features a sailboat sitting in Narragansett Bay, the largest estuary in New England and a defining factor in Rhode Island's geography. After the initial pool of submissions had been narrowed to a field of three finalists, a statewide poll awarded the sailboat design 57% of the vote.

40. South Carolina 

South Carolina, quarter number eight, went the hodgepodge-of-symbols route. Along with the state outline comes all the official flora and fauna: bird (Carolina wren), flower (yellow jasmine), and tree (palmetto).

41. South Dakota 

Quarter number 40 features South Dakota's most recognizable landmark: Mount Rushmore. In addition to the four-headed rock portrait, the coin design includes wheat stalks and a Chinese ring-necked pheasant.

Although these are all fitting symbols, critics have pointed out that, in a state that boasts a high population of Native Americans, the commemorative quarter features icons that are all, in some way, invasive. Mount Rushmore has attracted controversy for serving as a visual reminder of how the mountains and the surrounding lands were violently seized from the Lakota tribe, who have historically protested the sculpture. And both pheasants and wheat are exotic in South Dakota where they have pushed out native species.

42. Tennessee

The three stars on Tennessee's quarter refer not to its numerical place in the nation's formation—which is 16th—but rather the three regions of the state that have each made a unique contribution to the country's musical heritage. Along with an open book of sheet music, there is a fiddle representing the Appalachian music of east Tennessee, a trumpet for the Blues of Memphis and west Tennessee and a guitar to symbolize central Tennessee's country music, based in Nashville.

Eagle-eyed critics have pointed out that, for a state that takes such pride in these instruments, Tennessee failed to accurately render all of them—the quarter's acoustic guitar has just five strings.

43. Texas

The 28th quarter in the series depicts a visualization of Texas' nickname: The Lone Star State. Along with an outline of the state there is, well, a lone star. The image is bordered by a lariat, the rope used to form lassos of the sort Texan cowboys might use.

44. Utah

The back of Utah's quarter shows an artistic rendering of an actual event. On May 10, 1869, the Union Pacific and the Central Pacific railroads were joined to form the first transcontinental railroad. The ceremony for the so-called "wedding of the rails" took place in Promontory, Utah where, just as is shown in the quarter, trains from each railroad came face-to-face for the nailing of the final golden spike (not drawn to scale). The depiction of this event, which earned Utah the designation as "Crossroads of the West," beat out other finalists featuring a beehive, part of the state seal, and a winter sports design to celebrate Utah's role as host of the 2002 Winter Olympics.

45. Vermont

The first state admitted after the original 13 colonies, Vermont's quarter features an idyllic winter scene. As Camel's Hump mountain looms in the background, an appropriately bundled Vermonter taps leafless maple trees for sap. The state motto, "Freedom and Unity," is also inscribed on the coin.

46. Virginia

Quarter number ten celebrates Virginia's distinction as home to the first permanent English settlement in the Americas. The three ships shown in the design, the Susan Constant, the Godspeed, and the Discovery, were all part of the Virginia Company, chartered by King James I of England. On May 12, 1607, they landed on a small island along the James River and founded Jamestown, which celebrated its quadricentennial in 2007.

47. Washington

The "Evergreen State," quarter number 42 features a design heavy on the Pacific Northwest's natural beauty. A king salmon is shown leaping from the waters in the foreground while Mount Rainier, an active volcano encased in more than 35 square miles of snow and ice, rises out of a lush forest in the background. 

48. West Virginia 

West Virginia's quarter features New River Gorge, with the river below and the bridge above. When it was completed in 1977, the bridge held the distinction of being the world's longest steel single-span arch bridge as well as the highest vehicular bridge in the world (it is now the fourth longest and 15th highest). Although it didn't make to the final round, among 1,800 design concepts submitted, perhaps the most notable was a depiction of Mothman, the shadowy, 7-foot tall anthropomorphic winged figure who was reportedly spotted throughout the state in 1966 and '67.

49. Wisconsin

Of course quarter number 30 features a wheel of cheese. With 17,000 dairy farms, Wisconsin produces 350 varieties of cheese—more than any other state. But there's more to Wisconsin than just cheese, so an ear of corn is also present in the design to represent the rich agricultural production of the state.

50. Wyoming

Three of the five final designs for Wyoming featured an image of a bucking horse with a rodeo-style rider, so it's no surprise the pair is featured on the quarter. The cowboy represents the 44th state's Wild West heritage. The coin also includes Wyoming's motto: "The Equality State," which is a reference to its progressiveness on the issue of women's suffrage. In 1869, Wyoming became the first state to grant women the right to vote.

This post originally appeared in 2014.

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19 Facts About the Franklin Expedition, the Real-Life Inspiration for The Terror
Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The last Arctic expedition of Sir John Franklin began in 1845 with the hope of discovering the northwest passage, but it turned into a grim fight for survival. As seen in AMC's supernatural series The Terror, the story of the Franklin expedition still has the power to fascinate historians more than a century and a half later. (Spoiler alert: Though the expedition happened in real life, this list also mentions key scenes in The Terror—so if you haven't seen the show and plan to, read at your own risk!)

1. ITS COMMANDER WAS DESTINED FOR NAVAL SERVICE.

John Franklin was born in Spilsby, a village in the English county of Lincolnshire, in 1786. By marriage, he was a step-cousin of Royal Navy captain Matthew Flinders, who inspired Franklin to join its ranks when he was only 14. Franklin circumnavigated Australia with Flinders in 1802-1803, served in the Battle of Trafalgar during the Napoleonic Wars, and fought in the Battle of New Orleans in the War of 1812. His brave actions caught the eye of the Second Secretary of the Admiralty, Sir John Barrow, who had big plans for the young lieutenant.

2. FRANKLIN'S FIRST ARCTIC EXPEDITION WAS UNSUCCESSFUL …

From a report from whaling captain William Scoresby, Jr. relayed by Sir Joseph Banks, the president of the Royal Society, Barrow learned that the Arctic appeared to be relatively ice-free in the summer of 1817. The time seemed ripe for a voyage to find a northwest passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean, which would give England a lucrative trade route to Asia. In spring 1818, Barrow organized an expedition of four navy ships—the Isabella and Alexander would explore the eastern Canadian Arctic, and the Dorothea and Trent would attempt to sail over the North Pole by way of eastern Greenland and Spitsbergen. Franklin commanded the Trent but both vessels were stopped by violent storms and pack ice. (The Isabella and Alexander also turned back for an entirely different reason.)

3. … AND HIS SECOND WAS MUCH, MUCH WORSE.

Despite that failure, Franklin was appointed to lead an overland expedition to explore subarctic Canada in 1819. His route would take his party—which included physician/naturalist Sir John Richardson, three naval personnel, and a crew of voyageurs—from Hudson Bay to the Coppermine River delta on the Arctic Ocean. Disaster struck quickly: The party failed to return to their base camp before cold weather set in, their canoes fell apart, and they ran out of food. A voyageur allegedly killed and ate several men. Franklin and the others survived by nibbling shoe leather. On the brink of death, they were saved by Yellowknife guides who brought food and supplies. When he returned to England after this three-year calamity, Franklin was hailed as a hero—the "man who ate his boots."

4. THE ADMIRALTY PLANNED A HISTORIC ATTEMPT AT THE PASSAGE.

By 1843, just a few blank spaces remained on the map of the North American Arctic, and the discovery of the passage seemed entirely within Britain's reach. In spring 1845, the Admiralty would send HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, freshly returned from a grueling four-year voyage in Antarctica under the command of Sir James Clark Ross, back to previously charted Lancaster Sound, which most navigators believed was the main channel leading west. From there, the men were expected to be through the Bering Strait and in Hawaii by the following year.

5. FRANKLIN WASN'T THE FIRST CHOICE TO LEAD THE EXPEDITION.

Illustration of members of the Franklin Expedition
Portraits of the officers on the 1845 expedition, based on Daguerrotypes taken prior to the voyage.
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

By this point, Franklin was a decorated naval officer and experienced explorer—but he was also 59 years old and out of shape. So when Sir John Barrow began considering commanders for the 1845 voyage, Franklin was not at the top of the list. Veteran Arctic hands Sir William Edward Parry and Ross were Barrow's first choices, but both declined. Parry hinted that Franklin desperately needed the validation of a final, triumphant voyage to crown his naval career after his disappointing stint as the lieutenant-governor of Tasmania (where Franklin and his wife Lady Jane served from 1837 to 1843). Franklin lobbied hard and convinced the Admiralty that he was the best man for the job.

6. IT WAS THE BEST-PROVISIONED ARCTIC EXPEDITION IN HISTORY.

Franklin commanded the flagship Erebus, which was helmed by an up-and-coming captain, James Fitzjames. On the Terror, Captain Francis Rawdon Moira Crozier was the expedition's second-in-command. Both ships had been reinforced to withstand the pummeling of Arctic ice and stocked with supplies, including scientific instruments, navigational tools, one hand-organ per ship, daguerreotype cameras, and a pet monkey named Jacko (a gift from Lady Jane). A huge library was stocked with accounts of previous polar expeditions, devotional books, volumes of Punch magazine, and novels like Oliver Goldsmith's The Vicar of Wakefield. The ships also took an immense amount of provisions to feed 134 men for three years, including 32,224 pounds of salt beef, 36,487 pounds of ship's biscuit, 3684 gallons of concentrated spirits, and around 4980 gallons of ale and porter.

7. THE VOYAGE WENT ACCORDING TO PLAN …

On May 19, 1845, Erebus and Terror left Greenhithe, England, and sailed for the west coast of Greenland. At Disko Bay, five men were discharged due to illness, bringing the total number of expedition crew to 129. On July 26, en route to Lancaster Sound, Franklin met two British whaleships [PDF], the Enterprise and the Prince of Wales—the last Europeans to see the Franklin expedition alive.

The Erebus and Terror continued west in the summer of 1845 and circumnavigated Cornwallis Island via Wellington Channel. The crew overwintered on tiny Beechey Island, where three crewmembers died and were buried in the permafrost. If Franklin followed the Admiralty's orders, in the spring and summer of 1846 the Erebus and Terror would have continued west to Cape Walker at 98-degree west longitude, then proceeded south [PDF] and west down Peel Sound.

8. … UNTIL THE SHIPS GOT STUCK IN ICE.

On September 12, 1846, the sea froze around Erebus and Terror just north of King William Island, signaling the start of winter. The following May, a party of two officers and six men led by Lieutenant Graham Gore left a note in a cairn (tall piles of stones used as information kiosks in the treeless terrain) on the northwestern coast of King William Island. After noting the date and position where the two ships were beset in the ice, Gore wrote,

"Having wintered in 1846-7 [this was an error, the true period was 1845-1846] at Beechey Island, in lat. 74° 43' 28" N., long. 91° 39' 15" W., after having ascended Wellington Channel to lat. 77°, and returned by the west side of Cornwallis Island.
Sir John Franklin commanding the expedition.
All well."

Explorers knew that the sea usually froze in late August or early September, and then broke up the following spring—but in 1847, spring and summer never arrived in their corner of the Arctic. Erebus and Terror drifted slowly and helplessly with the pack ice down the west coast of King William Island.

9. SOMETHING MAY HAVE BEEN WRONG WITH THE PROVISIONS.

The Admiralty had provided Erebus and Terror with three years' worth of canned foods, including 33,289 pounds of meat, 20,463 pints of soup, and 8900 pounds of preserved vegetables.

The provider of the canned goods was Stephan (or Stephen) Goldner, who a few years later would be caught in a scandal regarding his canned foods going off rapidly—one report from 1853 said a ship needed to throw 1570 pounds of horrifically putrid canned meat overboard. Whether the Franklin expedition’s provisions suffered the same fate is debated, with one 1920s study concluding their canned meat was in perfect condition. In The Terror, assistant surgeon Henry Goodsir, who suspects there's a problem with the food, encourages poor Jacko to test the contents of one of the cans—and it doesn't end well for the monkey.

10. THEY ABANDONED SHIP.

Franklin expedition note found in the cairn at Point Victory
A facsimile of the note found in the cairn published in Carl Petersen's Den sidste Franklin-Expedition med "Fox," Capt. McClintock, 1860
British Library, Flickr // Public Domain

By spring 1848, the ships were still beset, the men were approaching the end of their original food supply, and they were without their captain: Franklin and several officers and crew had died of still-unknown causes. Crozier was now leading the expedition, with Fitzjames as his second-in-command. They decided to abandon Erebus and Terror in a last-ditch attempt at survival. The men hoisted two boats on sledges and packed them full of provisions and items refashioned for survival, such as a table knife with a sharpened blade inside a sheath made from a marine's bayonet scabbard [PDF].

Then they set off in search of rescue, returning to the cairn where Gore had left his note a year before. Now, Fitzjames and Crozier wrote:

April 25, 1848—H.M. ship Terror and Erebus were deserted on the 22nd April, 5 leagues N.N.W. of this, having been beset since 12th September, 1846. The officers and crews, consisting of 105 souls, under the command of Captain F.R.M. Crozier, landed here in lat. 69° 37' 42" N., long. 98° 41' W. Sir John Franklin died on the 11th June, 1847; and the total loss by deaths in the expedition has been to this date 9 officers and 15 men. And start to-morrow, 26th for Back's Fish River."

The 605-mile Back's Fish River (now more commonly referred to as the Back River), navigated by Sir George Back in 1834, led toward Hudson's Bay Company trading posts in the interior. But they were hundreds of miles away from King William Island.

11. THE MEN'S FATE WAS A MYSTERY FOR ALMOST 10 YEARS.

No one outside of King William Island had the faintest idea what had happened to the Franklin expedition when it didn't show up in the Bering Strait by 1846. The Admiralty resisted sending a rescue mission, since the Erebus and Terror had been provisioned for three years; some thought the food supply could be stretched to five years (to 1850). But Lady Jane Franklin launched a relentless campaign to force the Admiralty to act. Beginning in spring 1848—at exactly the same time that the 105 survivors abandoned ship—a series of massive search-and-rescue expeditions began combing the Arctic for clues. On August 27, 1850, a ship discovered the three graves on Beechey Island, the first tangible clue of Franklin's route, but found no letters or records. Despite that important find, subsequent expeditions in 1852 came up empty-handed.

12. THE TRUTH ABOUT THE EREBUS AND TERROR SHOCKED VICTORIAN ENGLAND.

In April 1854, Hudson's Bay Company surveyor John Rae met with several Inuit a few hundred miles east of King William Island. Rae asked if they'd seen white men or ships. One man said some families had encountered about 40 survivors marching south along the west coast of the island, dragging a boat on a sledge. Franklin's men, appearing thin and low on provisions, intimated that their ships had been crushed and that they were headed toward the mainland, where they hoped to find game. Rae relayed the Inuits' next observations to the Admiralty:

"At a later date the same season [1850], but previous to the disruption of the ice, the corpses of some 30 persons and some graves were discovered on the continent, and five dead bodies on an island near it, about a long day's journey to the north-west of the mouth of a large stream, which can be no other than Back's Great Fish River … Some of the bodies were in a tent or tents, others were under the boat, which had been turned over to form a shelter, and some lay scattered about in different directions. Of those seen on the island it was supposed that one was that of an officer (chief), as he had a telescope strapped over his shoulders, and his double-barreled gun lay underneath him.

"From the mutilated state of many of the bodies, and the contents of the kettles, it is evident that our wretched countrymen had been driven to the last dread alternative as a means of sustaining life. A few of the unfortunate men must have survived until the arrival of the wild fowl (say until the end of May), as shots were heard and fresh bones and feathers of geese were noticed near the scene of the sad event."

To support the oral history, Rae purchased artifacts from the Inuit that were clearly tied to the expedition: silver spoons and forks, a star-shaped medal, and a silver plate engraved with "Sir John Franklin, K.C.H." In England, the public reacted with shock and disbelief when his account was published in newspapers.

13. CHARLES DICKENS BLAMED THE INUIT.

Though research in the 1990s [PDF] and in 2016 strongly supported the cannibalism account, most Victorians thought it inconceivable that Royal Navy men would resort to "the last dread alternative." Charles Dickens captured the racist sentiment of the time when he wrote in his magazine Household Words, "No man can, with any show of reason, undertake to affirm that this sad remnant of Franklin's gallant band were not set upon and slain by the Esquimaux themselves … We believe every savage to be in his heart covetous, treacherous, and cruel." Yet physical evidence collected over the past 160 years has consistently proven the accuracy of Inuit oral histories of the expedition's final days.

14. THE EXPEDITION'S OFFICIAL RECORDS WERE NEVER FOUND.

In 1859, Lieutenant William Hobson, part of a search expedition led by Captain Francis Leopold McClintock, found a trail of bones and other evidence along the southwestern coast of King William Island. Along with a boat with two skeletons and piles of supplies, Hobson located the cairn and retrieved Fitzjames and Crozier's note, the sole piece of written evidence from the Franklin expedition. According to searchers, some Inuit families had found papers and books—possibly the expedition's log books and official charts—but they had been given to children to play with and had blown away.

15. SOMEONE ACTUALLY DISCOVERED THE NORTHWEST PASSAGE.

Back in England, Franklin was again hailed as a hero. His old friend Sir John Richardson wrote that Franklin had accomplished the mission: "They forged the last link of the Northwest Passage with their lives." Though there's no evidence of Franklin ever completing the passage, one of the rescuers, Captain Robert McClure, had a more likely claim. In 1853, his ship Investigator, approaching from the west, got stuck in ice north of Banks Island and McClure's men were forced to march to another ship that had approached from the east. They traversed the Northwest Passage in the process. But the first explorer to navigate the passage by ship, the original goal of the Franklin expedition, was Roald Amundsen in 1903-1906.

16. THE CREW MIGHT HAVE SUFFERED FROM LEAD POISONING.

Map showing the locations of Franklin expedition relics
A map based on a 1927 Admiralty chart showing the locations of Franklin expedition relics found by search parties in the late 19th and early 20th centuries
Canada Department of the Interior, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

In the early 1980s, Canadian anthropologist Owen Beattie and his research team exhumed the three bodies on Beechey Island and conducted forensic testing. He found very high levels of lead in all three, as well as in bones previously collected on King William Island. In his 1987 bestseller co-written with John Geiger, Frozen in Time: The Fate of the Franklin Expedition, Beattie suggested the lead solder used to seal the expedition's canned provisions had leached into the food, resulting in neurological impairment that could have contributed to the men's deaths. More recently, historians have moved away from the lead-in-the-cans theory. Researchers now believe the men probably succumbed to a combination of exposure, starvation, scurvy, tuberculosis, Addison's disease, and even severe zinc deficiency. The Terror gives a nod to the lead-cans hypothesis when Sir John Franklin (Ciarán Hinds) bites into some meat and spits out a metal blob; later, the Inuit woman named Lady Silence (Nive Nielsen) has laid out a collection of lead bits on an overturned bowl—perhaps meant as a warning to the crew.

17. AFTER 166 YEARS, ARCHAEOLOGISTS FOUND THE EREBUS AND TERROR.

Multiple search efforts and scientific research projects tied to Franklin's last voyage continued in the late-19th and 20th centuries. They collected relics and bones, located graves, and partnered with Inuit communities to conduct long-term searches for more clues to the expedition's fate. Yet two significant artifacts remained missing for more than 165 years: the ships themselves. Many researchers believed that the Erebus and Terror could hold a trove of clues to the men's final activities, but the brutal climate and brief research season on King William Island stymied progress. In 2014, with funding from the Canadian government and new sonar technology, archaeologists and Inuit historians, including Franklin scholar Louie Kamookak, finally found the HMS Erebus in Victoria Strait. Two years later, a report from an Inuit hunter, Sammy Kogvik, pointed archaeologists to Terror Bay, on the southwestern coast of King William Island, where they found HMS Terror.

18. SOME QUESTIONS MIGHT NEVER BE ANSWERED.

Without the journals from the expedition, we may never know some key facts about its fate. Historians still wonder what killed Franklin and so many of the officers and men before the Erebus and Terror were abandoned. Why did Crozier decide to march toward Back's Fish River, where possible help was hundreds of miles away, when he could have marched north to a depot of supplies and food left by an 1825 shipwreck, and where rescuers or passing whalers could have rescued them? Were the men's judgments really impaired by lead poisoning? How long did they survive? Archaeologists and Inuit oral historians continue to search for answers.

19. YOU CAN SEE THE ARTIFACTS IN PERSON.

Books, tools, boots, buttons, spoons, combs, pocket watches, food tins, Crozier and Fitzjames's note, and even a piece of canned meat from Franklin's last expedition are stored in the collection of the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, London. Artifacts retrieved from the Erebus and Terror, including the ships' bells, and other relics are part of the critically acclaimed exhibit, Death in the Ice, currently on display in the Canadian Museum of History through September 30, 2018.

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Why Swaziland Was Just Renamed eSwatini
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With the arrival of a new African nation, mapmakers just got a little bit busier. The king of Swaziland surprised foreign powers and compatriots alike when he recently announced that the country’s official name would revert to eSwatini, the name it went by prior to British colonialism.

King Mswati III, one of the few remaining absolute monarchs in the world, announced the name-change decision during celebrations marking the 50th anniversary of the country declaring independence from Britain.

"African countries on getting independence reverted to their ancient names before they were colonized. So from now on the country will be officially known as the Kingdom of eSwatini,” Mswati announced to a crowd in the city of Manzini, located about 23 miles from the capital Mbabane.

The king said there was another motivation for the name change: to avoid being regularly mistaken for Switzerland. "Whenever we go abroad, people refer to us as Switzerland," Mswati said.

While some consider the name change to be a patriotic move, others were critical of the decision, arguing that the small country in southern Africa has more pressing issues to tackle, including poverty, hunger, and the world's highest rate of HIV/AIDS.

The name eSwatini essentially means “land of the Swati” in siSwati, the local language. Editor and author James Hall took to twitter to break down the etymology of the name:

Several African nations have opted to shed the names given to them by colonial powers, including Botswana (formerly Bechuanaland), Burkina Faso (formerly Upper Volta), Djibouti (formerly French Somaliland), and others.

How hard is it for a country to change its name, though? According to eSwatini’s Ministry of Home Affairs, it “won’t happen overnight.” The country will also need to register its new name with international agencies like the UN and the Commonwealth of Nations.

Adopting a new internet domain could end up being one of the more time-consuming steps, according to the BBC. But fortunately, citizens of the country might not need to run out to get a new passport, as eSwatini is already included on the document in a smaller font.

[h/t CNN]

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