John Torrington

In 1845, a British voyage in search of the final piece of the Northwest Passage set off for the arctic.

24 officers and 110 men, led by Captain Sir John Franklin, sailed in two ships, the HMS Terror and the HMS Erebus.

Petty officer John Torrington was the first to die, but not the last, as both ships and the entire crew became trapped in the unforgiving arctic ice, and perished.

John Torrington was buried in a marked grave on Beechy Island.
Despite considerable, and ongoing efforts, the final resting place of Captain Franklin remains a mystery.


Today I saw John Torrington
rise up from the ground
and float above the icy shores
of Lancaster Sound
And when I tried to speak to him
he would not make a sound
he must have lost his voice somewhere
inside the frozen ground, the cursed frozen ground

Today I saw John Torrington
and the gleam in his youthful eyes
It seemed to ask “Oh Captain, why
did I have to die? ”
and since I answered truthfully
Our eyes would not stay dry
“John, my boy, I’d tell you now
if only I knew why, and I really don‘t know why”

Today I saw John Torrington
alive in Terror Bay
He was kneeling on the frozen deck
as if begging me to stay
“Go back to Beechey, John ” I said
“This aint no holiday,
north and south and east and west
the ice has blocked our way, completely blocked our way”

Tonight I saw John Torrington
He was looking for my grave
crawling on his hands and knees,
But his searching was in vain
for when I tried to call to him
I could not make a sound
I guess I lost my voice somewhere
Inside the frozen ground, in the cursed frozen ground

Today I saw John Torrington
Tonight I saw John Torrington
I know I saw John Torrington