For centuries, hundreds of sailors braved the dangers of the arctic in an attempt to find a waterway through the North American continent. Many of these naval efforts ended in tragedy, but there was one of them that incredibly came to rest in the White House.
The saga began with the Franklin Expedition in 1845. More than 100 sailors and officers set out on a polar expedition from England to find the elusive passage, and they were never heard from again.
In 1852 the British Admiralty dispatched HMS Resolute to search for the ill-fated Franklin Expedition, and it too never returned. After that, Great Britain gave up all hope of ever finding either expedition. Then along came the American whaler, George Henry, whose captain sighted the Resolute drifting in ice on Sept. 10, 1855.
After following her for six days, the captain of the whaler sent a group of men across the ice to board the lost vessel. What they found was a ghost ship. In spite of its “moldy appearance,” the wardroom table still held wine decanters and half-filled glasses. George Tyson, one of the American sailors took a sip and then raised a toast with his mates to the late officers and crew of HMS Resolute...