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Soup can yields details on doomed Franklin Arctic expedition

Tests on a 160-year-old can of soup taken to the Arctic with the Franklin expedition show that its lead levels were “off the scale”.

Scientists studying a 160-year-old can of soup found in the Canadian Arctic have detected lead levels in its broth and sealant that are “off the scale” — further evidence, they say, of the lead poisoning believed to have doomed the 19th-century Franklin Expedition during its quest to transit the Northwest Passage.

Researchers from McMaster University in Hamilton and Toronto’s Royal Ontario Museum — which had the historic tin of ox-cheek soup in its collection — performed tests on the can and its contents to try to confirm a controversial theory about the ill-fated polar voyage of the British ships Terror and Erebus in the late 1840s.

Franklin and 129 of his crew died during the journey across Canada’s forbidding northern sea route after the ships became irretrievably locked in ice near King William Island in 1847.

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