William Braine

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William Braine
Died3 April 1846 (aged 32)
Cause of deathLead poisoning
Resting placeBeechey Island
74°43′N 091°51′W / 74.717°N 91.850°W / 74.717; -91.850

William Braine (1814 – 3 April 1846) was a British explorer. He served as a marine in the Royal Marines. From 1845 he was part of an expedition to find the Northwest Passage, but he died early in the trip and was buried on Beechey Island. His preserved body was exhumed in 1984, to try to determine the cause of death.[1]

Early life[edit]

William Braine was born in Oakhill, Somerset in 1814, and enlisted in the Royal Marines during the 1830s. He was assigned to HMS Erebus during Franklin's Lost Expedition.[2]

1845 Franklin expedition[edit]

Graves of William Braine (left), John Torrington (right) and John Hartnell (center).

Braine was a part of Sir John Franklin's final expedition to find the Northwest Passage.[3] The trip was expected to last about three years, so the ships were packed with provisions which included more than 136,000 pounds of flour, 3,684 gallons of high-proof alcohol and 33,000 pounds of tinned meat, soup and vegetables.[4][5]


Braine died ten months into the expedition, and was buried on Beechey Island with John Torrington and John Hartnell.[6] He died last, and his corpse was in the worst condition, having been gnawed by rats before burial.[7] Modern postmortem examinations suggested symptoms of tuberculosis and lead poisoning.[8][9] However, other studies suggest tuberculosis was unlikely to have contributed to his death.[10]


  1. ^ "What Can We Learn From the Well-Preserved "Franklin Expedition" Mummies?". fromquarkstoquasars.com. Archived from the original on 2014-10-25. Retrieved 2014-10-25.
  2. ^ "HMS EREBUS and TERROR, List of Officers and Men". National Maritime Museum. May 1845. Retrieved 5 October 2018.
  3. ^ "Franklin Expedition - William Braine, Mummified". AwesomeStories.com.
  4. ^ PBS, NOVA [Arctic Passage https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/arctic/provisions.html]
  5. ^ "The Franklin Expedition: Featured Mummy". mummytombs.com. Archived from the original on 2007-07-01. Retrieved 2007-06-29.
  6. ^ "Nunavut's Franklin artifacts make long-awaited debut in Canada". Arctic Today. 5 March 2018.
  7. ^ Hutchinson, Gillian (2017). Sir John Franklin's Erebus and Terror Expedition: Lost and Found. Bloomsbury. p. 82. ISBN 9781472948717.
  8. ^ Macleans
  9. ^ Nothdurfter, edited by Konrad Spindler, Harald Wilfing, Elisabeth Rastbichler-Zissernig, Dieter Nedden, Hans (1996). Human Mummies a Global Survey of their Status and the Techniques of Conservation. Springer Vienna. p. 101. ISBN 9783709165652. {{cite book}}: |first1= has generic name (help)CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  10. ^ Forst, Jannine; Brown, Terence A. (3 December 2017). "A Case Study: Was Private William Braine of the 1845 Franklin Expedition a Victim of Tuberculosis? + Supplementary Appendix 1 (See Article Tools)". Arctic. 70 (4): 381. doi:10.14430/arctic4683.

Further reading[edit]

  • Beattie, Owen; John Geiger (1998). Frozen In Time: The Fate of The Franklin Expedition. Douglas & Macintyre. ISBN 1-55054-616-3.