Perhaps because they’re untouched by humans, desolate places can be some of the most beautiful. Beechey Island is one such example. From its steep snow-capped cliffs to its sharp shale beaches meeting the rounded cove of turquoise water, it’s a destination demanding respect. It’s certainly a pretty place, but the first impression it gives off is a palpable sense of sadness.
Upon landing on Beechey Island, one’s eyes are immediately drawn to the highest point on the beach. It’s not a grove of trees or a welcome sign. It’s a row of tombstones. They mark the graves of a few men from John Franklin’s unsuccessful expedition to find the Northwest Passage in 1845. All 130 crewmembers and their captains perished, mostly from starvation and illness, not far from this spot. It’s easy to imagine the skeletal remains, forlorn and frozen, scattered around Starvation Cove.
“This was where the rescue crew left supplies in case Franklin’s men were alive and returned to where they had wintered,” said Hector Williams, the Crystal Cruises historian who guided guests on their unexpected adventure—a visit to Beechey Island. He pointed to what remained of a building’s foundation. Rusted cans and rotted wooden planks littered the ground. “The men never arrived, and bears broke in and stole most of the supplies,” Edgar continued. “We know it was bears because they ate everything but left the jugs of rum untouched.”
“It was an incredibly moving experience,” remarked one guest as she got off the after her morning visit. Like the rest of the guests in her zodiac. Snow began to fall by the afternoon and Crystal Serenity sailed on. In the background, Beechey Island looked as beautiful as ever.
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