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Happy Christmas! Have Some Canned Meat!

Christmas of 1845 found the ships of the Franklin Expedition wintering in the ice off Beechey Island in the Arctic.

The celebration brought some relief from the dull routine. The ships carried theatrical costumes and plays were presented for entertainment. Officers mingled with the crew and the celebrating included drinking toasts to everyone from Queen Victoria to the ship's dog.

Sir John Barrow, Secretary of the British Admiralty had intended that this expedition be the most lavishly provisioned Arctic voyage ever. In addition to a three year supply of food, there were over 4,500 gallons of rum, 1,000 barrels of beer and ale, 200 gallons of French brandy, and 200 gallons of wines.

Although the best provisions were usually for the enjoyment of the officers, Christmas dinner provided special treats for the crew. This included some of the meats and vegetables preserved by the new method of "canning", and the cook likely made a special pudding, dappled with raisins or dried apples.

But this was the famous and soon to be lost Franklin Expedition, so you know the good times did not last. Unknown to the men, the canned food was contaminated, and with ships isolated and frozen in the ice, things quickly went from good, to bad, to worse!

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