The remarkable new novel by Angus Wardlaw
‘PASSAGE’ is the shocking account of the tragic
John Franklin Expedition, brilliantly told in the
debut novel by Angus Wardlaw, descendant of
Captain Francis Crozier who commanded the
HMS Terror, sister ship to the HMS Erebus.
Wardlaw dramatically unveils the spine-tingling
true story of this ambitious but ultimately fated
expedition, that ended in death and
Meticulously researched, ‘Passage’ relates the
history, horror and extreme challenges to
human fortitude faced by the crews of the two
ships; familiar to many from ‘The Terror’ – the
chilling Ridley Scott produced TV series.
‘This is a book you will find hard to forget; a
riveting and terrifying journey’.
London Book Review
‘A disaster of this measure looks for an
explanation of equal magnitude’.
Sir Michael Palin, Erebus: The Story of a Ship
In 1845, the Sir John Franklin Expedition set out in their ships to find the fabled Northwest Passage - a
direct trade route to the Far East that could bring untold wealth and power to the British Empire.
But, tragedy grips when the sailors find that the tinned supplies in their holds are filled with nothing but
rotting filth and gore.
Trapped in sea ice, and with the body count rising, their troubled leader must take his starving, frozen
men off the ice and begin a 500-mile death march across the brutal High Arctic.
This is the true, epic story of brotherhood, heroism, and the abandonment of 129 men who were left to
do whatever they could to survive…
About the Author
This is Angus Wardlaw’s debut novel and one that has been some years in the crafting. After an award-
winning career in advertising, where he came up with the ‘great minds don't think alike’ campaign for
the Independent and ‘free your mind’ for Citroen he is now following the same dream of fellow
copywriters such as James Patterson, Joseph Heller, Dorothy Sayers, Don DeLillo and even F. Scott
Angus is a former soldier and intelligence officer as well as a descendant of Captain FRM Crozier. He lives
in London on a boat moored in the same dock that one of the rescue expeditions set off from to rescue
Sir John Franklin in 1847. He has long been intrigued by his forebear’s part in this expedition and also
written a screenplay of the book
For more, visit daredevilbooks/passage.com
***WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS***
Victorian London, England. Sir John Barrow, Second Secretary to the Admiralty, is having difficulty
securing a leader for one of the greatest, most illusive challenges on Earth: the discovery of the Arctic’s
Step forward Sir John Franklin: Aged fifty-nine, portly, sickly, and egged-on by an overbearing wife hell-
bent on redeeming his reputation after a disastrous earlier expedition in the Northwest Territories and a
fumbled governorship in the colonies. The Second Secretary had found his man.
Franklin and his 128 men set out from the Thames on the 19th of May, 1845 aboard HMS Erebus and
HMS Terror. The expedition’s second in command is Francis Crozier: one of the most respected Polar
explorers of the age, whilst Franklin’s own captain on Erebus is the inexperienced but very well-
connected James Fitzjames.
As the first winter sets in, all is going to plan. Morale is high following a series of successful overland
exploratory parties; elaborate theatrical entertainments; and rugby matches on the ice. Their time hasn’t
been entirely without incident though when three sailors die and there are also suspicions about Captain
Crozier’s drinking. But spring finally arrives, and the clouds open up to reveal a clear route: the Passage
exists! Franklin has found a waterway that joins the Atlantic to the Pacific and the possible glory he
As they race to conquer the Passage, Crozier, a vastly experienced navigator, fears their window of
opportunity is closing and that they will run out of time. He urges the Commodore to quit while they are
ahead. But for Sir John and the equally ambitious James Fitzjames, the discovery of the Northwest
Passage isn’t enough—they want the irrefutable glory of conquering the Passage by sailing through her
and order the mission to press on regardless.
But they pay for this decision dearly when winter returns with a vengeance and the two ships are caught
deep in the cold heart of the Arctic. They are too far in for any hope of rescue.
When Sir John Franklin, thirteen officers and nine men of Erebus mysteriously drop dead, Crozier
discovers that their essential tinned stores are nothing but poisonous filth. They have been victims of an
unscrupulous supplier swindling the Admiralty.
Crozier sends parties out to hunt for food and reconnoitre possible escape routes for next season. During
one such foray, the marines mistake a group of Inuit to be marauders. They accidentally kill the Elder and
maim his daughter, Aguta. Corporal Firemark, the young marine responsible for shooting her, is
devastated and makes it his duty to nurse her back to health. The two fall in love but soon after, Aguta’s
people return for her. Firemark pleads to go with her but the Inuit refuse as they want nothing to do
with these giants and their wooden cities. Aguta tearfully kisses the port wine birthmark on her
corporal’s cheek for the last time.
Without food, the dreaded scurvy begins to take its toll on Crozier and his men. He has no choice but to
abandon ships and set out on a 500-mile death march across the relentless high Arctic.
What follows is a story of unimaginable hardship and heroism, mutiny, starvation and cannibalism, as the
lost crews turn to any means necessary to survive.
In England, Lady Franklin has done everything within her considerable power to chivvy the Admiralty into
action and get her husband back. The biggest search and rescue mission in maritime history is launched
with Crozier’s dearest friend, Sir James Clark Ross, spearheading the charge. After many privations, Ross
gets to within a few hundred miles but on seeing the impossibility of the ice, assumes that he is in the
wrong position. He bitterly gives up and heads for England.
Some years later, a Scottish doctor believes he has the answer.
Dr John Rae, whilst working for the Hudson’s Bay Company, who has learned the ways of the Inuit, sets
out with a pack of dogs and a sleigh, to see if he can discover the secrets of the lost voyage and what he
finds, will appal and fascinate Victorian England in equal measure.