The Ingram Expedition, also known as the Erstwhile Expedition after its main vessel, HMS Erstwhile, was an attempt on the Northwest Passage. While not as infamous as the lost Franklin Expedition that preceded it, the Ingram Expedition is noteworthy for the unusual method in which it met its end.

Ingram had been a mate on one of the many expeditions funded by Lady Franklin to find her husband, and had arrived home determined to make his own attempt at the route. In Ingram’s mind, the lack of appropriate stores was the major problem for any such expedition, and so he set to work finding a way for his ship to can and preserve the meat that it hunted along the way for future use.

In doing so, he collaborated with “Doctor” Omar Cyrus to create and perfect a portable cannery that would produce long-lasting and shelf-stable foods. Ingram was recorded as boasting that his “shelf-stable puffin” hunted in the Grand Banks would see his crew through the Passage. There was just one problem: Cyrus was an utter charlatan, with a fake medical degree and no actual experience in canning or preservation. His equipment and methods were, by and large, useless and led to spoiled stores or worse, outbreaks of acute botulism. This was discovered in a major food scandal not long after Ingram had set out, but a cutter sent to intercept him was unable to locate HMS Erstwhile.

The ship was eventually located off Baffin Island, having drifted some distance from its route and become icebound. Several men who had died of botulism were aboard, and the local Inuit led searchers to the graves of the few survivors, whom they had been powerless to help.

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