John Torrington was a steam boiler attendant who resided in Manchester prior to joining as a crew member of the doomed Franklin Expedition of 1845. Torrington was one of the first crew member's to fall ill and perish but by approximately 1848 all 129 members of the crew, including John Franklin, had met that same fate.
Burial and Mummification
Since Torrington was one of the earlier of Franklin's crew members to perish during the arctic expedition, he was buried in a tomb beneath approximately five feet of permafrost by his fellow men.
As a result of the subzero arctic temperatures, Torrington was preserved remarkably well with identifiable features including bright, pale blue eyes and skin that was still intact despite bruising and yellowing. A fellow crew member who had died around the same time and was buried next to Torrington also showed minimal signs of decomposition.
A full, four-hour autopsy was performed on Torrington's body in 1984 with the permission of living descendants. The procedure was performed out in the open arctic air; it consisted of dissecting and sampling each of the body's organs,bone examination, and extraction of hair, and nail samples for analysis. The autopsy team then re-dressed and re-buried the body in its arctic tomb.
Torrington had developed a fatal case of pneumonia prior to the disappearance of Franklin's expedition. Bone tissue samples taken from the body in 1984 also revealed that Torrington had lead poisoning; a common condition of arctic explorers of the time due to early canned foods as a primary food source. Additionally, inspection of the lungs also indicated that Torrington was likely a cigarette smoker, a plausible theory as he came from an industrial region of Britain. The lead poisoning and history of smoking would have worsened the symptoms and severity of pneumonia thereby leading to Torrington's demise around 1846.
Although John Torrington was outlived by a majority of the Franklin Expedition team, his corpse is one of the few found remains of the failed arctic quest which provides researchers with information on the conditions and lifestyle of the crew members.
Information and photo:
Dziezynski, J. (2011, January). Arctic autopsy: the immortal John Torrington. In Good Nature Travel. Retrieved October 31, 2015, from http://goodnature.nathab.com/arctic-autopsy-the-immortal-john-torrington/
Friedman, J. (1984, December 24). John Torrington. People, 22(27). Retrieved from http://www.people.com/people/archive/article/0,,20089591,00.html