One of the unsolved mysteries during George Peabody’s lifetime was Franklin’s lost expedition, a doomed British voyage of Arctic exploration led by Captain Sir John Franklin that left England in 1845 to cross the last un-navigated portion of the Northwest Passage. Franklin’s two ships became icebound in the Canadian Arctic; all 129 men, including Franklin, were lost.
The British Admiralty launched a search for the missing men in 1848 and offered a finder’s fee. As a result, many subsequent expeditions were undertaken, including the 1854 voyage of Elisha Kane that was funded primarily by George Peabody.
Kane also persuaded American merchant Henry Grinnell, the U.S. Navy and several scientific societies, to sponsor a second expedition in search of the lost expedition. He went north from Baffin Bay to the shores of the Polar Sea in search of Franklin – farther north than any other explorer of the day.
A “believer in the hypothesis of an open polar sea”, his ship, the Advance sailed up the west coast of Greenland and into a sound that Kane named “Peabody Bay”, which was later renamed Kane Basin. The ship’s northward progress was stopped by ice by the end of August.
Peabody Bay, now Kane Basin, is an Arctic waterway lying between Greenland and Canada's northernmost island, Ellesmere Island. It links Smith Sound to Kennedy Channel and forms part of Nares Strait. It is approximately 180 kilometres in length and 130 km at its widest.