A unique set of portraits from the doomed 1845 Franklin expedition to Canada’s Northwest Passage is to be auctioned for an estimated six-figure sum.
The 14 pictures, known as daguerreotypes – coined from the first successful form of photography – are of explorers who sailed with Captain Sir John Franklin but never made it home.
They represent the first and last time the men had their photos taken on British ship HMS Erebus, three days before the expedition launched.
The set are to go under the hammer at Sotheby’s auction house appraised between £150,000 to £200,000.
Sir Franklin and his crew of 128, on board the HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, were trying to find the passage linking the Atlantic and Pacific oceans when they became stuck in ice.
The men all died and the ships mysteriously vanished, with tales among Inuit people describing the crew’s descent into cannibalism.
The collection owned by Franklin’s direct descendants has never been exhibited in public.
The gallery, including Franklin himself, also features Robert Sargent and the only officer from the HMS Terror, Francis Crozier who commanded the ship – two more photos than the only other original collection of the portraits known to exist housed in the Scott Polar Research Institute (SPRI).
All but one of the Sotheby’s portraits have been adorned with gold shell which have been applied to the buttons, hat bands, and epaulettes of the officers’ jackets.
They also fit snugly in a case also believed to be an original.
In September 2014, explorers discovered the wreck of HMS Erebus.
Artefacts including guns, part of the wheel, fittings from the ship, dinner plates and clothing were recovered.
Fellow sunken vessel HMS Terror was found two years later in reportedly good condition.
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