Burial of John Franklin. Author: me


Kabloonas is the way in which the Inuit who live in the north part of Canada call those who haven´t their same ascendency.

The first time i read this word was in the book "Fatal Passage" by Ken McGoogan, when, as the result of the conversations between John Rae and some inuit, and trying to find any evidence of the ill-fated Sir John Franklin Expedition, some of then mentioned that they watched how some kabloonas walked to die in the proximities of the river Great Fish.

I wish to publish this blog to order and share all those anecdotes that I´ve been finding in the arctic literature about arctic expeditions. My interest began more than 15 years ago reading a little book of my brother about north and south pole expeditions. I began reading almost all the bibliography about Antarctic expeditions and the superknown expeditions of Scott, Amundsen, Shackleton, etc. After I was captured by the Nansen, Nobile and Engineer Andree. But the most disturbing thing in that little book, full of pictures, was the two pages dedicated to the last Franklin expedition of the S.XIX, on that moment I thought that given the time on which this and others expeditions happened, few or any additional information could be obtained about it. I couldn´t imagine that after those two pages It would be a huge iceberg full of stories, unresolved misteries, anecdotes, etc. I believe that this iceberg, on the contrary than others, would continue growing instead melting.

martes, 8 de junio de 2021


Maybe the less glamurous story related with the legend of the Open Polar Sea is that one which tells the story about how Joseph Moxon, the expert engraver of plates for terrestrial globes, who became later hydrogapher of the king Charles II, overheard in 1656 some dutch sailors talking in a tavern about how they had managed not only to reach the North Pole but to even surpassed it by 2 degrees of latitude.

Joseph Moxon From Wikipedia

Of course, as it uses to happen in these cases, when one starts digging and getting deeper into an anecdote like this, alternative stories show up. Some of these deviations from the original account transports you far from the appealing vision I had in mind of a heavily drunk Joseph Noxon being cheated by a bunch of no less drunk sailors sculpting a fascinating view of an open polar sea right on the top of the world  in the mind of the hidrographer while singing some Sea shanties.

The first version of the facts I have read said that a dutch whaler ship, which load wasn´t enough to return home, having noticed that the sea north of Spitzbergen was clear of ice, decided to take the risk and sail northwards (to search for more whales I guess) and "at the distance of two degrees went twice round it". Apparently the captain of the ship didn´t conceal this fact, more the opposite, and asked anyone suspicious to look for contrasting the information among his crew members. According to this account, Moxon had heard a "respectable ducht whaler" (no mention to any sort of party nor drunkenness), saying that he had sailed under the very pole (that means the ship didn´t reach the North Pole but apparently only 88 ºN) in a weather as warm as it could be found in Amsterdan in summer. Apparently, "athenticated" testimonies of that time revealed that some ships could have actually reached even 85 ºN. 

There were other dutch whalers who told similar stories, this time they assured to have reached 89 ºN.  This version of the facts, is presented in a more "sober" manner in The critical review, or annals of literature, Volumen 62, and differs slightly from those other I have found , like that presented in the fantastic article "Reconsidering the Theory of the Open Polar Sea" by the historian Michael F. Robinson author of an inmense list of awesome articles. In this article is said that Moxon was actually drinking beer with those Dutch sailors, what else could have he been doing in a tavern, for ... sake? Don´t blame him for that.

Merry Party In A Tavern by Dirck Hals

I can´t hardly doubt that the result of the digressions which surely followed the third round of ale (paid almost with totally certainty by Moxon himself) ended taking shape carved with a knive in the wood of the tavern table, painted with improvised ink in the rough tablecloth (if there was any) or, more likely, drawn with any sticky substance at hand, in a napkin (if such a thing existed by that time). I have witnessed, along my experience as an ingeneer, how many problems have been solved or great ideas have born during lunchtime while eating with some work mates, I have seen many paper napkins being folded with extreme care and put in the shirt pockets of many respectable technicians like a treasure, so I can easily imagine that this imaginary, but at the same time quite probable, Quixotic map could have existed and changed hands many times till it ended in John Barrow´s desktop. I know this it is mainly and only the product of my sick imagination but it is also a fascinating possibility. Let´s think for a moment this napkin actually existed and let´s come back quickly to our story.

    Map of the unknown areas around the north pole from:
             "A Brief Discourse of a Passage by the North-Pole to Japan, China, etc in 1674"

That encounter left in Moxon a deep footprint, he was so impressed that years after he dare to write a short essay about the matter "essay A Brief Discourse of a Passage by the North-Pole to Japan, China, etc in 1674."

With this paper at hand... what better manner to learn the truth than drinking from the original source? This is a fascinating panphlet where Moxon indulges himself in a description which looks more like a guilty declaration and confirms that he actually drank beer in that tavern, his casual mentions to his thirst and the use of the adjective 'sober' when referring to those  "ingenious man" who could have heard that story seems a clear case of "Excusatio non petita, accusatio manifesta". The whole text is not long and very interesting by itself, I have rescued here the more relevant passages describing the encounter in the third round: 

"I have credibly been informed by a Steer-man of a Dutch Greenland Ship, that there is a free and open Sea under the very Pole, and somewhat beyond it. And I for my own part give credit to his Relation, and do conceive that any sober ingenious Man would do the like,... Being about  22 years ago in Amsterdam, I went into a Drinking-house to drink a cup of Beer for my thirst, and sitting by the  publick Fire, among several People there happened a Seaman  to come in, who seeing a Friend of his there, who he knew went in the Greenland Voyage, wondered to see him, because it was not yet time for the Greenland Fleet to come home, and asked him what accident brought him home so soon: His Friend (who was the Steer-man aforesaid  in a Greenland Ship that Summer) told him that their Ship went not out to Fish that Summer, but only to take in  the Lading of the whole Fleet, to bring it to an early Market,  &c. But, said he, before the Fleet had caught Fish enough to lade us, we, by order of the Greenland Company, Sailed into the North-Pole, and came back again."

As if that was an easy thing to do. Moxon follows:

"I entered discourse  with him, and seemed to question the truth of what he said. But he did ensure me it was true, and that the Ship was then in Amsterdam, and many of the Seamen belonging to her  to justifie the truth of it: And told me moreover, that they sailed 2 degrees beyond the Pole. I askt him, if they found no Land or Islands about the Pole? He told me No, there was a free and open Sea; I askt him if they did not meet with a great deal of Ice? He told me No, they saw no Ice.

I askt him what Weather they had there? He told me fine warm Weather, such as was at Amsterdam in the Summer time, and as hot. I should have askt him more questions, but that he was ingaged in discourse with his Friend, and I could not in modesty interrupt them longer. But I be∣lieve the Steer-man spoke matter of fact and truth, for he seem'd a plain honest and unaffectatious Person, and one who could have no design upon me."

But however convincing the sailor was, or thick was the fog originated by the alcohol , both things couldn´t avoid arising certain questions in Moxon´s mind, at the end of the day he had his own red lines. Doubts about how could possibly be so warm up there in the North pole when at other lower latitudes was so cold or how could those sailors have managed to return home if the needle of their compass should have been unable to point north. He quickly found answers to those objections and found plausible explanations for them in the number of hours the sun stays above the horizon in summer at that latitude added to the fact that oceans were warmer than coasts and land, etc.

The truth is that this "Open polar sea theory", which we know had been originated much before by Nycholas of Lynn, lasted longer than what any reasonable mind could have imagined and was the cause of the constant delivery of so many audacious polar explorers to icy traps, which sometimes claimed an expensive price. Were all those "believers" as affected by their boundless imagination and optimism as Moxon was when he was drinking beer in Amsterdan?

If the open Polar sea ever existed  will be always unknown but these testimonies clearly matches Scoresby's ones produced much later. That was the match which ignitiated Barrow´s first expedition towards the North Pole in 1818 under the command of John Buchan and the sadly famous Sir John Franklin.  Do whalers of that time or those centuries before like Scoresby wanted the governments of the most powerful nations to send expeditions to open new whale fisheries for them?

Our imaginary napkin with an open polar sea drawn on it among stains of tomatoe and beer, kept changing hands from Barrow to Kane, from Kane to Isaac Hayes, Hall and others, who burnt some extra logs adding haunting testimonies wich talked about waters free of ice north of Smith sound. The very same Franklin could have formed part of an iceberg, as Richard King so accuratelly foretold, when he sailed north as high as 77 ºN east of Cornwallis island and then further north of its tip. Paradoxically, he then found his death a year after in the south. 

Nobody apparently paid attention to the frustrating attempt to reach the North pole by foot, walking on the surface of the capricious ice cap (the first of this class), performed by Parry in 1827 who dragged two inmensily heavy sledges loaded with boats on their top to sail in the warm open Polar sea. He was the first on experiencing that walking a mile north meant to go backwards two. 

The napkin, meanwhile, started to metamorphose into a  much more complex formula which included new ingredients like the gulf current, visits of whales from one part of the world to the other, etc. As Robinson clearly tells in his article, the subsequent and more modern expeditions  like USS Jeannette, Nares, Peary, Andree, and ultimately and definitely the bold Nansen attempt, whased with strong detergent pitilessly the misleading napkin leaving after a thorough and heavy centrifugation a completely white piece of cloth more similar to a continuous and unbroken frozen ice cap than to any warm and boreal ocean.

We may never know.

Further reading here:



miércoles, 10 de febrero de 2021


History of film have been riddle with polar related movies almost since the very moment it was conceived.

Some years ago I started to compile all those polar related movies in a Xcel file which you can find below available to be downloaded. My intention was to bring them to light orderly decade by decade explaining my opinion about those which I had watched and trying to rescue some of the anecdotes related to them, some quite tragic, by the way. I even wrote a first post in an abandoned blog project where I started to talk about the polar movies released in the 1920s and which I will rescue now and will  translate into english for continuing with the rest.

As a sort of a preview of the posts which are to come, I will tell you that I was very pleased when found that in one of  the firsts films set in the polar regions "A la conquéte du Pôle" of 1912  by George Méliès, the director of the more known movie "Le Voyage dans le lune", the spanish participant in the race to reach the North pole, which is the theme of the film, is called with the appropiated name of "Cerveza" which means beer.

NOTE: Thanks to Kenn Harper, the renownedd Canadian historian specialised in Inuit history, culture and traditions, I have just added two new films to the list which now are in first position in the list, are they the first polar movies of the history? These are "The way of the Eskimo" and " Lost in the Arctic" both shot in 1911.

The film is available in Youtube here, it actually deserves to be watched:

The list of polar movies is not too long, I still have to update it though, so don´t become disappointed if you can´t find the very recent "Amundsen" or "Arctic" movies. The list will surely grow much more in the coming years since the poles and their exploration history looks to be fashionable again and besides, there must be much more polar movies out there which I have still to find. 


Enjoy them!:

1The way of the Eskimo1911Nancy Columbia
2Lost in the Arctic1911Nancy Columbia
Roald Amundsens sydpolsferd1912
3The Conquest of the Pole1912FranciaGeorge MelliesMusical, comedia
4The Alaska Siberian expedition1912USA
5The call of the north (1914)1914
6The Eskimo Baby1918
7South (In the grip of Polar Ice)1919Documental
8The Romance of the Far Fur Country1920CanadaDocumental
9Nanook of the North (1922)1922CanadaAccion
10The man from beyond1922
11Die weiße Wüste1922
12North of Hudson Bay1923Documental
13The Great White Silence1924InglaterraHerbert PointingDocumental
14Searching For Santa!1925AmericaAnimación
15Primitive love1927USA
17Milak, the Greenland Hunter1928Germany
18The Viking (1931 film)1928
19The lost Zeppelin1929
20The Call of the North (1929 film)1929AlemaniaDrama
21Arctic Antics (Walt Disney Silly simphonies)1930AmericaAnimación
22With Byrd at the South Pole1930AmericaDocumental
23The silver horde1930
25The Viking (1931)1931Drama
26Dirigible (1931)1931AmericaDrama
27The White God/ Eskimo1932
28Igloo (film)1932Documental
29Hot and Cold (film)1933Animación
30I've Got to Sing a Torch Song1933Animación
31S.O.S. Eisberg1933Alemania-AmericaDrama
3290 degrees south1933InglaterraDocumental
33North Pole Ahoy1934
34The Wedding of Palo1934Danish GreenlandicMovie
35The Call of the Wild (1935 film)1935AmericaDrama
36She (1935 film)1935AmericaDrama
37INto little america1935AmericaDocumental
38The Phantom Ship (film)1936AmericaAnimación
39Skunked Again1936AmericaAnimación
40Polar Trappers1938AmericaAnimación
41The Arctic Giant1943
42The Three Caballeros1944
43Payday (1944 film)1944
44We live in the arctic1947
45Scott of the Antarctic (film)1948
46The Secret Land1948Documental
47Arctic Fury1949
48Frigid Hare1949
498 Ball Bunny1950
50The Thing from Another World1951
51Island in the Sky (1953 film)1953
52Operation Blue Jay1953Documental
53Hell Below Zero1954
54Men Against the Arctic1955Documental
55Antarctic Crossing1958Documental
56The Living Stone1958
57The Atomic Submarine1959
58The Savage Innocents1960
59The Savage Innocents (1960)1960Documental
60Qimmit, a Clash of Two Truths1960Documental
62Georgy Sedov1962Rusia
63The Law of Antarctica1962RusiaMovie
64Antarctic Pioneers1963Documental
65Dr. Strangelove1964Animación
66140 Days Under the World1964Documental
67Eskimo Artist: Kenojuak1964
68The Last Voyage of Henry Hudson1964Movie
69Ice Station Zebra1968
70The Red Tent (film)1969Animación
71Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town (film)1970
72The Call of the Wild (1972 film)1972
73Ape and Super-Ape1972Documental
74Frankenstein: The True Story1973
75The Aviators of Hudson Strait1973Documental
76The Island at the Top of the World1974Animación
77The Sannikov Land (film)1974
78The White Dawn1974
79The First Easter Rabbit1976Rusia
8072 Degrees Below Zero1976Rusia
81Rudolph's Shiny New Year1976
82Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger1977
83Bear Island1979
84Virus (1980 film)1980Animación
85Firefox (film)1982
86Flight of the Eagle1982
87The Thing (1982 film)1982
88Antarctica (1983 film)1983
89Iceman (1984 film)1984
90Orion's Belt (film)1985
91Laughter and Grief by the White Sea1987Animación
92The Chipmunk Adventure1987Animación
93Buried in ice1988Documental
94Between Two Worlds (1990 film)1990
95Nilus the Sandman: The Boy Who Dreamed Christmas1991
96White Fang (1991 film)1991
97The shadow of the wolf1992
98Arctic Blue1993
99Ordeal in the Arctic1993
100Der Kongress der Pinguine1993Documental
101Life in the Freezer1993Documental
102White Fang 2: Myth of the White Wolf1994
103The Pebble and the Penguin1995
104The Snow Queen's Revenge1996
105Insomnia (1997 film)1997
106Smilla's Sense of Snow (film)1997Animación
107A Frozen Dream1997Documental
108The deadly arctic expedition1997
109Sometimes They Come Back... for More1998Animación
110The X-Files (film)1998
111Lovers of the Arctic Circle1998
112Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Movie1998Animación
113When the Light Comes1998Animación
114Glory and Honor1998
115Olive, the Other Reindeer1999
116People of the Seal2009Documental
117The Endurance: Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition2000Documental
118Race to the south pole2000
119Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner2001
120The Little Polar Bear2001
121Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and the Island of Misfit Toys2001
122Shackleton's Antarctic Adventure2001Documental
123Arctic Tomb2001
124Shackleton (TV show)2002
12530 days of darkness2002Terror
126Arctic Dreamer - The lonely quest of Vilhjalmur Stefansson2003Documentary
127Ice Bound: A Woman's Survival at the South Pole2003
128The Snow Walker2003
129Alien Hunter2003
130Deep Freeze (film)2003Animación
131If the Weather Permits2003
132Godzilla: Final Wars2004Animación
133Voices from the Tundra2004Documental
134In Search of Santa2004Animación
135The Polar Express (film)2004
136Alien vs. Predator (film)2004
137The Day After Tomorrow2004Animación
138Inuuvunga: I Am Inuk, I Am Alive2004Documental
139Tom and Jerry: The Fast and the Furry2005
140The Little Polar Bear 2 – The Mysterious Island2005
141Antarctic Journal2005
142March of the Penguins2005Documental
143Arctic Passage2005Documental
144Being Caribou2005Documental
145Finding Franklin2005
146Happy Feet2006
147The Last Winter (2006 film)2006Animación
148Solar Attack2006
149Eight Below2006
150Arctic Son2006Documental
151The White Planet2006Documental
153Far North (2007 film)2007
154Transformers (film)2007
155Earth (2007 film)2007
156Encounters at the End of the World2007Documental
157Arctic Tale2007Documental
158The worst journey of the world2007
159Ice People2008
160Stargate: Continuum2008
161The los st Eskimo, Minik2008Documental
162Passage (2008 film)2008Documental
163G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra2009
164Monsters vs. Aliens2009
165Watchmen (film)2009
166Whiteout (2009 film)2009
167Mawson: Science and Survival (2012)2012Documental
168A Turtle's Tale: Sammy's Adventures2010
169Inuk (film)2010Animación
170Into the Cold: A Journey of the Soul2010Documental
171How I Ended This Summer (2010)2010
172Qimmit, a Clash of Two Truths2010
173Arctic (TV serie)2011
174Arthur Christmas2011
175The Thing (2011 film)2011
176The Grey (film)2011
177On the Ice2011
178Eco-Pirate: The Story of Paul Watson2011Documental
179Unikkausivut: Sharing Our Stories2011
180The greely expedition2011
181Big Miracle2012
182Nazis at the Center of the Earth2012
183South of Sanity2012
184The Polar Bears2012
185To the Arctic 3D2012Documental
186Vanishing Point (2012 film)2012Documental
187Transformers: Age of Extinction2014
188Antarctica: A Year on Ice2014Documental
189Sol (film)2014
190Ice and the Sky2015Documental
191The Hand of Franklin2015Documental
192Hunt For The Arctic Ghost Ship2015Documental
193Okpik's Dream2015
194The Icebreaker (film)2016
195Norm of the North2016
196Angry Inuk2016Documental
197Call of the Ice2016Documental
198Two Soft Things, Two Hard Things2016
200The Fate of the Furious2017
201Draft:March of the Penguins 22017Documental
202There Is a House Here2017
203Iron Sky: The Coming Race2018
204The story of tom crean2018Documental
205Antarctica: A message from another planet2018Mario CuestaDocumental
Explorations of the arctic unknown (Vilhalmur Steffanson)