First site of John Hartnell's body


Mummified John Hartnell


John Hartnell's body


John while alive

John Hartnell
Human Mummy
Biographical Information
Name(s) John Hartnell
Age 25
Sex Male
Status Explorer
Culture British
Date(s) Born: 1820

Died: 4 January 1846 but his body wasn't discovered until 1984

Current Location
Location Beechey Island, Nunavut Ontario
74°43′N 091°51′W
Catalog #


Seaman John Hartnell (1820 — 4 January 1846) was an explorer, and part of Sir John Franklin's last expedition. His preserved body was exhumed in 1984, to try to determine the cause of death.

According to his grave marker, on Beechey Island, Hartnell died on 4 January 1846, at the age of 25. In 1852, an expedition sent to find Franklin and his men arrived at Beechey Island. Commanded by Edward A. Inglefield, the crew of the Isabel included a physician, Dr. Peter Sutherland. Inglefield published a journal reporting their findings. In 1984, Dr. Owen Beattie (from the University of Alberta) and his group of scientists arrived at Beechey Island to examine what may have happened to the three men whose lives ended on the tiny speck of land in the Canadian Arctic.


What they found was very surprising. Not only was Dr. Beattie stunned to see Hartnell's incredibly well-preserved (and mummified) remains through the melting ice, he was even more surprised to see that Hartnell's body had already been autopsied. Beattie and his team also noticed that John Hartnell's right eye seemed damaged (an issue beyond the sinking-into-the-sockets impact that would have occurred from prior thawing). Setting aside who did what to the mummy - before Owen Beattie's examination - we know that when Beattie and his team removed Hartnell's cap, they saw a great deal of hair. 


They were able to use Hartnell's hair to conclude that his body contained large amounts of lead at the time of his death.


Died of lead poisoning.

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