A monument in Westminster Abbey honors a man, born on April 16, 1786, whose grave has never been found. He was an Englishman who shipped to sea at age 15 with Admiral Nelson. He survived the Battle of Copenhagen then returned to England only to leave again, this time on a voyage to chart Australia. He next joined the Battle of Trafalgar, then the attack on New Orleans repulsed by General Andrew Jackson.

His name was John Franklin, and six years after the attack on New Orleans he joined an expedition trying to cross the Polar Sea. He fell in love with Arctic exploration, and when the ships were forced to return to England, he joined another expedition to chart the northern coasts of Canada.

John was blessed with optimism and never allowed himself to sink into depression or loneliness. Everyone he met became his friend. His secret, he said, was Christ. “If a man should inquire ‘How can I be saved?’ ” he wrote his sister from an ice-bound camp, “would it not be joy for him to find that the gospel points the way? Christ who died for the salvation of sinners is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”

One of his crew wrote, “He is quite a bishop! We have church morning and evening on Sunday. The men say they would rather have him than half the parsons of England.”

On May 19, 1845 he sailed from England to look for the Northwest Passage and to explore the Arctic. Two cheering letters came from him, then news ceased. Years passed, and the fate of John Franklin was unknown to family or country. His wife spent a fortune searching for him. Finally a boat was found frozen in the north. In it were two skeletons and Sir John Franklin’s Bible. Psalm 139:9,10 was underlined: If I … dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me (kjv).

John Franklin has since been credited with discovering the Northwest Passage, and his Arctic explorations resulted in his being knighted and given an honorary degree from Oxford.

You notice everything I do and everywhere I go. Suppose I had wings like the dawning day And flew across the ocean. Even then your powerful arm Would guide and protect me. (Psalm 139:3,9,10)

Robert J. Morgan, On This Day : 265 Amazing and Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs & Heroes, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000, c1997). April 16.

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