All Arctic expedition perished, but not because of lead

In a Sept. 9, 2014 picture of Parks Canada, the HMS Erebus is depicted on a sonar scan in the Queen Maud Gulf in Nunavut.

(Parks Canada and The Canadian Press via AP)

In 1845, Sir John Franklin set sail from England in the hope to discover and successfully navigate through the Northwest Passage. Instead, all 128 members of the crew on board the HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, eventually, death.

Almost all of them has survived until April 1848, when she fled to ships that were ice-bound and tried to help, on foot, only to die on King William Island.

Both shipwrecks were discovered in the past four years, and Gizmodo says “well-preserved bodies of some of the dead sailors have been located in the tombs.

But what felled them all is unknown, but there is a theory: lead poisoning. Now, a study published in PLOS One concludes that it was not.

The theory was born out of the previous tests on the bone, hair, and tissue taken from a number of sailors’ remains, with the idea that gaze, and the ships’ water filtration systems have pushed the levels above it.

The Canadian researchers compared three hypotheses: that the sailors who survived longer would have more lead in their bones, that bone microstructural properties” that grew near the time of death would show higher levels than older tissue, and that the lead levels would be higher than that of other concurrent sailors.

They then used a high-resolution scanning technique to compare bone and tooth remains that of the Royal Naval cemetery in Antigua, and found that none of the hypotheses held up—and so “together,” the researchers found the lead poisoning theory is not supported.

What does that mean for us? One of the researchers tells the CBC things just gradually deteriorated. “They would be of the hunger. They had nutritional deficiencies.” (Read about Franklin’s wife’s relentless search for her missing husband.)

This article originally appeared on Newser: Entire Arctic Expedition Perished, but Not Because of Lead

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