NOVEMBER 7, 1821


The Coppermine expedition (1819-22) was a British overland undertaking to survey and chart the area from  Hudson Bay to the north coast of Canada, eastwards from the mouth of the Coppermine River.  Organized by the Royal Navy, this was the first of 3 Arctic expeditions to be led by John Franklin to discover and map the Northwest Passage.  The expedition was plagued by poor planning, bad luck, unreliable European and Native allies, and unusually harsh weather.  While they made it to the Arctic coast, they exhausted their supplies and winter forced their return.  Often with nothing more than lichen to eat, 11 of the 22 died amid charges of murder and cannibalism.  They were rescued by Yellowknife leader, Akaitcho, and 2 other tribe members who brought food, caught fish, and treated them “with the same tenderness they would have bestowed on their own infants.”  After building up their strength for a week, they traveled to Fort Providence, arriving on December 11.

Source:  June Helm & Beryl C. Gillespie, "Arctic Profiles," Arctic Institute of North America, Vol. 36 (2), June 1983.  Retrieved 8/11/2020,
Sketch:  Robert Hood (1797-1822), 1821.  Akaitcho, the leader of the Yellowknife Indians, with his son.  Source:  Public domain in Canada.  Image pre 1949.  Image public domain in the United States.  Pre 1/1/1925.  Public Domain elsewhere where copyright term is author’s life plus 100 years or less.

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