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In 1850, British Captain Robert McClure was sent on an expedition aboard the Investigator  to the Arctic to search for the lost expedition of Sir John Franklin who had departed England five years earlier. It was the second search party who went looking for the 129-crew Arctic exploration team, and one of many dozens that were to follow for the next four decades.

The Investigator sailed north through the Pacific and entered the Arctic Ocean by way of Bering Strait, sailing eastward past Point Barrow, Alaska to eventually link up with another British expedition from the north-west. When McClure’s search party approached the mouth of the river Horton on Beaufort Sea near Cape Bathurst in Canada's Northwest Territories, he noticed smoke in the distance. Suspecting the smokes could be from campfires, perhaps from Franklin, McClure at once sent a search party to investigate.

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