KABLOONAS

KABLOONAS
Burial of John Franklin. Author: me

KABLOONAS

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.



sábado, 6 de octubre de 2018

REVIEW OF JOURNAL OF A VOYAGE FOR THE DISCOVERY OF A NORTH-WEST PASSAGE FROM THE ATLANTIC TO THE PACIFIC: PERFORMED IN THE YEARS 1819-20

I may be committing a sacrilege for reviewing a "incunabulum", so, just forgive me those who disagree with my view.

The narrative of the first Parry´s voyage in search of the northwest passage  is not an adventure novel nor the appasionate story told by an ardent adventurer which one could  initially expect, at least it hasn´t been that much for me. Some times, you have to deal with boring paragraphs full of details about how they collected temperature data, how they managed to extricate themselves from the grip of ice, how they measured the depht of the channels through which they sailed, how kind or evil was the weather in the area, which were their coordinates, and a long "so on" of important and unimportant details. Maybe an accurate radiography of the enviroment they went through but somehow of little interest for the average reader.

Navy officers weren´t precisely skilled writers, though many learned to get along with writing quite satisfactorily and published decent narratives of their voyages, in some occasions they were even funny, as it is the case of the infamous Edward Belcher, who abandoned the four ships of his squadron in the Arctic, that wouldn´t be the case of Parry from my point of view. Captains were not supposed to be erudite and witty writers, but sailors, men of action with few or nothing of interest in the arts of writting, so they all must be regarded as winners of that particular battles.

However, and I hope this will redeem me from what I have just said above, at the end, the Journal of a voyage for the discovery of a north-west passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific performed in the years 1819-20 represents the first book which tells the story of a two year voyage in this Barrow´s new age of exploration, and though it lacks sometimes, always from my humble point of view, of some of the necessary pepper which must be present in a narrative of the sort to  keep the reader glued to its pages, there are many chapters present on it which, independently of the quality of the style, undoubtedly sculpted with its words an important part of the polar history.


Sometimes, Parry addresses the subject of how the men behaved in those harsh conditions. In the book there are satisfactory and vivid descriptions about how were conditions inside the ship during the long cold and dark winter which they had to spent in Winter Harbour in Melville island. To me, this is by far, the most interesting part of the book together with their encounter with the natives  who lived in the east coast of Baffin island. Your heart will shrink when you read how he describes the moment the sun said goodbye to them before an absence of two months.


Parry describes, coldly I would say, how he struggled untiringly at the beginning of the winter to keep the sides of the ship free of ice, a sample of how ignorant he was about the conditions which would be waiting for him ahead weeks after. Of course he didn´t accomplished such a thing, temperatures were so extreme that the ice couldn´t be kept at bay. Sea freezes and embraces the ships in those latitudes mercilessly and nobody and nothing can stop that even nowadays. Sometimes,  the Arctic sea hug their visitors with such intensity and love that ships collapses and sink to the bottom of the ocean.


In spite of the awful cold atmosphere described, things on board got a little bit warmer when Parry tells how they enjoyed the theater plays and the newspaper "North Georgia Gazzette" published to entertain the bored crews during those hard days.

Condensation, an evil difficult to erradicate, damped mattresses, blankets  and berths making the life on board miserable for those who had the misfortune to sleep close to the interior side of the hull. The extremely low outer temperatures combined with a defficient ventilation provoked an actual rainfall below decks. Parry describes how they dealt with that inoportune enemy, a lesson which surely made the life of those who followed him in the Arctic would thank him for sure. Parry is not ashamed to demonstrate the world they were learners in a new enviroment:

It was my intention to have caused the bedding of the ships' companies to be brought on deck, for the purpose of airing, at least once a week during the winter; but here, also, a difficulty occurred, which, without previous experience, could not perhaps have been easily anticipated. Whenever a blanket was brought on deck, and suffered to remain there for a short time it acquired the temperature of the atmosphere. When this happened to be rather low, under zero of Fahrenheit for instance, tlie immediate consequence, on taking the blanket again into the inliabited parts of the ship was, that the vapour settled and condensed upon it, rendering it almost instantly so wet, as to be unfit to sleep on, and requiring, therefore, after all, that it should be dried by artificial heat before it could be returned into the bed-place. We were, therefore, under the necessity of hanging the bedding upon lines between decks, as the only mode of airing it; and what was likely to prove still more prejudicial, we were obliged to have recourse to the same unhealthy measure in drying the washed clothes.

I learned in this part of the book that an affordable range of temperatures among 1 and 5 ºC above zero, when the heating system was working, could be expected inside the ship when outside temperatures reached -45 ºC. An extreme cold which you can feel in your skin when you read about how was the daily life inside those fragile wooden shells which protected them from the harsh outside conditions. Parry had the opportunity to disprove some urban legends regarding the effect of cold during his stay in Winter harbour:


He also experimented another curious  effect, terror of photographers, which I experimented myself in Finland two winters ago with my DSLR camera while I was at 28 ºC below cero:

Another effect, with regard to the use of instruments, began to appear about this time. Whenever any instrument, which had been some time exposed to the atmosphere, so as to be cooled down to the same temperature, was suddenly brought below into the cabins, the vapour was instantly condensed all around it, so as to give the instrument the appearance of smoking, and the glasses were covered almost instantaneously with a thin coating of ice, the removal of which required greatcaution to prevent the risk of injuring them, until it had gradually thawed, as they acquired the temperature of the cabin. When a candle was placed in a certain direction from the instrument, with respect to the observer, a number of very minute spiculae of snow Avere also seen sparkling around the instrument, at the distance of two or three inches from it, occasioned, as we supposed, by the cold atmosphere produced by the low temperature of the instrument almost instantaneously congealing into that form the vapour which floated in its immediate neighbourhood. 

The lessons learned during the voyage were very useful for subsequent expeditions and new techniques were developed by himself to erradicate the condensation which provoked those annoying rainfalls below decks and were the origin of more precautions for the coming voyages.  The lost of a hunting party which struggles for three days to find his way back to the ships, revives the feeling that the explorers were outsiders, extraterrestrials, in an hostile world which didn´t welcome them.

Parry fought the first appearance of their worst enemy, Scurvy, planting mustard seeds and collecting some other plants in the closest shores. Animals of all kinds were seen here and there, wolves, bears, foxes, etc. till the winter fell, when they simply disappeared not to come back till months after. Auroras and halos descriptions put also some colour to the narration from time to time and give the text a sense of beautiful reality, specially if you visualize the tough men looking at the sky open mouthed amazing themselves with the bright and boogie spectacle.

One cannot avoid smiling to yourself a bit when you realize how inadequate were the means they used to travel overland when Parry described that a party of twelve men, led by himself, took their backpacks, abandoned the ship the first of june of 1820 and crossed Melville island in a northward direction till they reached point Nias. They dragged themselves a cart equipped with wheels. An interesting sight, indeed, for all the arctic hares and foxes who likely saw them traveling like that during the trip. The cart broke during one of the last steps of the voyage and had to be abandoned there, wheels included. Some of its pieces most surely must still be  in that island waiting to be found. Those intrepid but inexperienced men, slept in a rough and simple tent made of blankets.

It is surprising that there was just a casualty during the whole voyage, the poor William Scott, who died victim of a combination of factors during the winter. His body was opened and his guts analysed carefully. A vivid description of the autopsy is included in one of the annexes of the book in annex called "Remarks on the state of health and disease on the board the Hecla and Griper"

Parry describes their stay with the Inuit of Clyde river, an event which brought to Britain more knowledge about how the inhabitants of those cold regions lived there and together with that, some Inuit items and even a Kayak, which I will track down to see if it still exists somewhere. 


As a conclusion, my reflection is that the multiyear ice west of Cape Dundas inMelville island may have detered and eventually stopped Parry from accomplishing a full crossing of the Northwest Passage, but didn´t prevent him of bringing home an unvaluable experience which would make easier the life of future participants in polar expeditions. He didn´t learn however the more essential of all lessons which could have helped to save many lives in the future, he didn´t learn to live off the land from the natives he met, nor did it many of the expeditions who followed him.

miércoles, 26 de septiembre de 2018

BROWNE BAY, A GOOD PLACE TO LOOK FOR ANOTHER PAPER COMING FROM THE FRANKLIN EXPEDITION

This is how exploration looks like:


When one thinks on how exploration ships sailed in search of a Northwest passage, barely can imagine the amount of changes of direction they had to take in order to examine every inlet that could lead them to the west.

I am impressed by the route followed by the Fury and Hecla during the second Parry´s expedition of 1821-23. I knew more or less how explorers of that time conducted they researches, but it is my believe that this route is specially twisted. I focused on that I when I was trying to locate the exact place where James Pringle, the seaman who fell from one of the mast of the Hecla, was buried in Winter Island in order to place the grave in my "Arctic graveyard" map.

It is not rare to find in the narratives of many expeditions that officers and men landed from time to time to make observations, hunting, etc. Often, during those incursions, cairns were built and documents buried.

This erratic course has made me think what could have been the route followed by the Erebus and Terror in 1846 while descending by Peel sound. I wouldn´t be surprised to find a forgotten cairn, maybe with a copper cilinder still intact inside, in the barely frequented shores of Browne bay, a big inlet which runs in southwest direction starting from the west side of Peel sound, waters which follows with precision the direction of Franklin orders. If this region has been searched before, I would be happy to know if something was found. Maybe some sledge parties from the 1850´s searching fleet of Horatio Austin, I should check out my notes.


viernes, 7 de septiembre de 2018

POLAR MEMORIALS MAP

I introduce you another of my unfinished projects, the POLAR MEMORIALS MAP. This new distraction is keeping me away from writting about the Franklin expedition, which is the thing I should be dedicating my spare time right now, but ...this is so fascinating that I can´t hardly stop pinning in the mapevery new plaque, statue, bust, grave and so on which I am continuing finding here and there. Will this have this project an end? I am beginning to think it will not.

This map aims to be an useful tool for those who are visiting any country to find lost pieces of the Polar history, it will also help you to take long detours from your programmed route to visit the grave of your favourite explorer while on holidays, no matter how loud could be the complains of your companions, or even to realize that when you were visiting St Nicholas church in Copenhagen during your summer trip of two years ago, you missed to take a look to Jens Munk grave, which was exactly my case.

I have found digging into internet in websites, blogs and genealogical forums tens of items in museums, forgotten graves, memorials, statues, etc. and will keep on doing it for the coming years but, I have also to say here, that the actual satisfactory side of all this work, is the help I am receiving from many friends, some real and some virtual, and from many strangers who willingly are sending me specific locations of polar related places they found during their trips or visits.  I would like to underline the collaboration of Logan Zachary and Nick Aglitki, who have supplied me with many very useful information. As this is just an amateur project I am doing by my own, the only way I have to thank them properly is to give the collaborators credit of their findings in every pin they provide me. With time I will be able to add in the description box of every place a short description of what is there. For now I am only adding some useful links to the above refered websites or blogs where further information can be found.

Here is what I have so far:




Thanks to all those who are collaborating:
Logan Zachary, Nick Aglitki, Jonahtahn Dore, Russell Potter, Mechtild Opel, Narda Elvidge, Peter Carney, Jessica Forde, Silvia Wright, Javi LG, David Legrand, Ken McGoogan, Gisle uren, Regina Koelner, Dave Brook, etc. for their direct and some times indirect contributions.

martes, 14 de agosto de 2018

MUFF´s ODISSEY AND THE ARCTIC NEWSPAPERS


It was common during polar expeditions of the nineteenth century to start writting newspapers by both, officers and sometimes also by men, in order to fight the boredom of the three long months which lasted the winters at those latitudes. William Edward Parry was apparently the first on doing so during his expedition of 1819-20, maybe because he was the first navy ship of a relatively "modern age" on wintering in the Arctic.

They published weekly The North Georgia Gazette and Winter Cronicle of which Edward Sabine acted as editor. Such was the success of those initiatives that the habit was soon closely followed by his successors and some of those outburst of ideas and imagination ended eventually published formarly under the format of books. In words of Parry:

I can safely say, that the weekly contributions had the happy effect of employing the leisure hours of those who furnished them, and of diverting the mind from the gloomy prospect which would sometimes obtrude itself on the stoutest heart.


One only needs to read some of those articles to realise that we are not in front of the result of naive or boring texts, obligatorily exercises ordered by the commanders, but before of elaborated and witty ideas developed into hilarious pieces of news.

In 1850 below decks of the ship Assistance, belonging Horatio Austin´s squadron in search for Franklin, it was published "Aurora Borealis", every fortnight, this newspaper provoked the delight of those who read it. They even counted with a print press which initial purpose was to print message for the balloons addressed to meet the Franklin men, it is not necessarily to mention that the press ended being used to print the newspaper, songs and so on. So much was it used that the men ended printing in leather and even in blankets.

To understand better and endorse what was the result of this spontaneous camaraderie, I have copied here what the Preface of the publication of Aurora Borealis wrote about the authors of the newspaper:

"The popular opinion seems to be, that the literary attainments of British sailors seldom exceed the acquisition of some boisterous song, and that only the very erudite amongst them can succeed in scrawling a letter to their friends at home.


In the " Aurora Borealis," however, we find articles written by veteran tars, whose home since boyhood has been upon the sea, that would not disgrace the pages of some our magazines. These men with frames of iron, with a courage and a stem
endurance that nothing can subdue, show themselves possessed of a delicacy of imagination and a power of perception that one has great difficulty in reconciling with the honest roughness of their appearance. Some years ago an officer, high in command, gave it as his opinion, that men entirely uneducated
made the host soldiers and sailors. Here, however, we find, that the men from before the mast, who contributed to the " Aurora Borealis," are amongst the most exemplary in Her Majesty's service."

Wise words, not written by Erasmus Ommaney, commander of the Assistance, Sherard Osborn or John Ross (who wintered close by and apparently participated in the project) are refered to in third person, but, judging from the depth of them, were maybe written by the very same and legendary McClintock. In the other ships of the Squadron, Resolute and Pioner a similar initiative was carried out under the maybe more known name of "The illustrated Arctic news". In the subsequent wave send by the Admiralty in search of Franklin in 1852, the Belcher squadron, similar newspapers were also edited and published.

Here I post a couple of those pieces of news I have rescued from the book "Arctic Miscellanies: A Souvenir of the Late Polar Search and which surely will make you smile if not laugh. I considered particularly interesting the Muff´s adventure which inspired the title of this post:







THE MAKING OF A MAP: THE RELICS, CAIRNS, BONES AND ORAL TESTIMONIES OF THE FRANKLIN EXPEDITION

It´was some years ago, surely in 2012 after discovering Thomas Gould´s map had been digitalized in the Internet, when I decided to put some order to all the information I was acquiring while reading dozens of books related with the Franklin expedition. 

The idea of making a map for my personal use had then much more sense after I read Unravelling the Franklin Mistery and Strangers among us both of Dave Woodman. Two superb books which tried to understand and guess what happened to the crews of HMS Erebus and Terror once they "deserted" the ships. The books compile, describe and try to interpret a good number of objects found in the desolated ground of King William island and also deals with the wide variety of Inuit testimonies  told to the Franklin searchers of all times and which have demonstrated in time they were very accurate.

I have to recognise that after reading those two master pieces, the original narratives of Charles Francis Hall, Schwatcka, Russell´s Potter book "Finding Franklin" and a good number of articles and many other books, I was still lost in the apparently simple geography of King William Island and surroundings and have sometimes problems to understand that a particular cairn was different to other, and where were located all those places that Woodman was speaking about. I had to do something not to get lost together with the Franklin men.

Well, I am not a researcher nor a historian, just an amateur enthusiast of Polar exploration, but I consider myself good at gathering things, and that´s exactly what I did here.  

Logically, my starting point was the map of King William island made by Commander Thomas Gould.  As I mentioned above, The Library and archives of Canada started a project on which they digitalized Admiralty charts of Canadian waters. Among the digitalized maps was Gould´s map of King William Island. 



That map published in 1927, showed everything which had been found in the area till the moment by the searching expeditions of McClintock, Charles Francis Hall, Schwatcka, Rasmussen, Burwash etc. Gould painted in blue the Inuit testimonies and in red the actual relics found. According to Russell, Gould´s map apparently was made at the request of Burwash.


There were other maps like the one which shows Klutschak findings made in 1880, but any had ever put together all the information available at the moment. Burwash had a very good idea. Soon I realised we, Franklinites, needed a more practical tool than a single and static map, no matter how useful and amazing this can be, as Gould map is. A map which could allow us to identify places, edit wrong coordinates, add descriptions and links and add new findings, etc, etc. Don´t forget that searching parties are still visiting King William island and every year it passes, more sophisticated and accurate are the devices used in the search and research. It is foreseable that new items will appear, this time precisely located by GPSs, which modern researchers are currently carrying with them and not roughly and approximately as the former searchers did with the means of their time.

I needed as water in the desert a tool which could be updated instantly and which could place with  precission of seconds of latitude and longitude every item found in that barren ground. 

The more accurate tha map was evolving the more I realised how useful it could be for others apart of me. So, the past year, when I learnt how to share Google maps in my blog, (before I just shared a .kml file with those who had shown some interest or in facebook groups) I decided to make it public for everybody. Since then, many people have contributed to make it more precise and accurate, however, I am sure there are still mistakes which must be mended. Unfortunately, many of the places are not precisely located, it will take time to correct all those wrong points one by one, and to remove repeated cairns, etc, etc. Olivier Benoit and me know well the mess of Cairns I had in Cape Felix.

The map has evolved since its beginning of a single mass of yellow pins, which are the ones used by default by Google Earth, to a more friendly look on which I have used the wider range of pins available in Google maps. The map, of course includes a layer with the names of the geographical places, without which I at least would be lost, and a layer of Inuit Testimonies, like those blue points marked by Gould, which is still at work.

I made the map after reading many Franklin related books. I think  it is time to reread many of  those jewells, specially Woodman´s ones and to fill the gaps which still does exist.  There must be dozens of relics still to place and cairns to locate, not necessarily built by the Franklin expedition but by the searchers and by the Inuit. I hope that with time the map will be properly finished and that it could be an useful tool for researches and not a mere curiosity made by an enthusiast. To this day the map has been visited 2.250 visits, I am more than proud of that number, that is enough reward for me.

I couldn´t end this post without giving thanks specially to Randall  Oxczevski, who is scanning with zeal from his armchair every single dot and pixel of King William island and vecinity through sattellite images. His contribution to make this map more perfect is unvaluable. I would like also to thank to Russell Potter, whose posts of Visions of the North put essential context and color to many of the pins you will find in the map. Also thanks to Russ Taichman, Peter Carney, Olivier Hubert-Benoit who have made valuable contributions and has made me add some relics and graves which I had missed or didn´t know. 

I hope you will enjoy it my amigas y amigos !


miércoles, 1 de agosto de 2018

SAILING SLEDGES AND KITES - WE WERE THEREFORE "SHIPSHAPE"!!

It is not completely absurd to think that as sailors were the first on becoming explorers these would make the most of the use of their particular knowledges in every task they would have to develop.

So it not surprising they started to use sails to impulse their heavy loaden sledges almost from the beginning of polar exploration when long journeys, sometimes of thousands of miles, across snowy and icy landscapes started to be performed.

Maybe one of the most known examples of this practice may be Nansen´s expedition to cross Greenland. During that voyage pictures were taken which rapidly become worldwide known after their arrival to the civilized world.

Nansen´s crossing of Greenland
They showed the men walking across rugged ground dragging their sledges, but also discrete squared sails which were suppossed to help them. But of course, it wasn´t Nansen the first of using this advantageous technique. 

In march of 1853 a huge party, commanded by G.N. Richards and Sherard Osborn, and composed by six sledges and about sixty men of the Edward Belcher´s rescue squadron composed of five ships departed from their winter quarters in their attempt to built cairns and leave depots of supplies and boats for Franklin and his men. In doing so, they used improvised sails for their sledges, in the same way that Nansen did more than forty years after. The sledges, which used to hoist the red ensign on them, were beautifully depicted in some of the drawings of that expedition. The sails  were in fact actually the bottom of the tents of 3,5 x 2,7 m approximately. 

From: The last of the Arctic Voyages

Belcher  described his sledge as follows:

"Our Craft was rigged in the most approved Sooloo pirate style, sheer masts stepped into a specially fitted batton, forming an isosceles triangle, with the means of support by shrouds from its extremity, greater by two feet than the width of the sledge, which have also been increased for carrying the ice.boat and out tent bottom was now formed into a well made sail. We were therefore "Shipshape".

The preparations of that early travel should compose an impressive scene. The sight of eight sledges and more than sixty men preparing these sledges at the side of the ships, working excitedly in the midst of a strong cold.
Departure of sledges: From The last of Arctic Voyages

As Edward Belcher described the scene as follows after he accompanied them during the first miles of the trip. The sight had to be, to say the least, a curious one:

The system worked reasonably well, the men could run besides the sledge, sometimes it went so well that the increasing speed provoked small accidents as the one Belcher starred. With his light and  sarcastically usual tone describes in this way:

We left with a gentle breeze, under all sail, going at a very pleasant trot beside the  sledge, until we came upon this rough sea. The velocity of the sledge, caused by the sudden increase of wind under Cape Sicic, tripped all hands up and dragged them astern, face downwards. I was on the sledge, and dropped myself in time to avoid the consequences of the capsize which one of these waves caused. We escaped with one damaged spar ; replaced it, and moved forward more cautiously. This time our engine ran away ; again all hands let go. I was perched, for ballast, on the weather-quarter, across which a long gun-case, three feet six inches, was lashed ;but, as if my neck was destined to be continually in jeopardy, I experienced a gentle summerset, driven at a radius of four feet, with sufficient impetus to derange it; however, I escaped with slight damage, and the sledge upsetting on a lee shore, enabled our crew to regain it.  We now reduced our sail to a latteen until we cleared this frozen ocean, and eventually pitched our tent for the night on a fine gravel beach. 




But even before Belcher´s expedition began to use sails in their sledges, years before in 1851, during the second rescue offensive to save Franklin, McClintock, which was part of the team of Horatio Austin, used the kites supplied by Benjamin Smith as tractile power to be added to the sails already mentioned. The following pictures were painted by Admiral William Smith and are present in the cover of the fabulous book "The Fate of Franklin" by Roderick Owen.



See how the artist properly placed the flag waving in the proper direction.

Sherard Osborn, in Stray leaves described these new devices called kites as follows, though judging from his words, the experience seemed not to be too pleasant:

Kites, which the kind Mr. Benjamin Smith had supplied me with, both as a tractile power to assist us in dragging sledges, as well as a means of signalizing between parties, 
afforded much interest, and the success of our experiments in applying them to dragging weights was so great, that all those I was able to supply gladly provided themselves with so useful an auxiliary to foot-travellers. Experience, however, taught us how impossible it was to command a fair wind, without which they were useless weight, and in severe weather there was some danger, when handling or coiling up the lines, of having to expose the hands and being frost bitten. 
























But if we dig a bit further in the history of exploration we will find that Thomas Simpson during his succesful expedition of 1836-39 together with Warren Dease, also used sails for the sledges. I couldn´t find a explicit reference to this in the account of his journey but this picture posted below, apparently corresponds to it. Though they were supposed to be formed by twelve men and three sledges  and not sixteen and two sledges as the picture shows.


EDITED (5/08/2018):
Sails were not only used for sledges. When Parry launched his land trip from the Hecla and the Griper to explore the north part of Melville Island in june of 1820, he used a cart fitted with wheels to carry their baggages and the tents. Why he used a cart instead of a sledge in a ground which at that time of the year was almost completely covered by snow, I guess must be explained by his lack of experience still to come.At the end of the day that was the first winter the Royal Navy men spent in the Arctic. The men also carried backpacks of 12 or 14 kg each, a quite unusual practice not only in the high north, but in other more temperated northern countries. Parry described what his men did as follows:

The breeze freshened up to a gale from the S.S.E. as we proceeded, and the men, as if determined not to forget that they were sailors, set a large blanket upon the cart as a sail, which, upon the present level ground, was found to be of material assistance.  
.../... The men had hoisted one sail upon the cart at first setting off; but the wind being now, as they expressed it, " on the larboard quarter ;" a second blanket was rigged as a main-sail, to their great amusement as well as relief. 
But as it is logical to suppose, the use of this type of propulsion wasn´t exclusive of the Canadian arctic, I could find some engravings which shows a slightly different way of doing it but essentialy the same concept in Siberia and Amsterdam:

Siberian sledges

Sledge sailing in AMsterdam

And if we travel in time this towards our time, we see Klondike miners using sails to push their boats over frozen rivers and lakes:



And finally, when we reach our present time, we must amaze ourselves when we behold how this apparently ancient technique have been wonderfully developed to at an extreme degree. It is a spaniard who have made evolve the concept of using the wind to power a sledge i such way that it looks Sci-fi. His system not only serves the purpose of carrying supplies, clothes, provisions and so on, but also the explorers comfortably seated in the sledge while driving this astonishing device. The tents are placed over it, so some of the expeditionaries can even sleep while others are guiding the sledge. I am talking of Ramon Larramendi, pioneer in the use of this marvel, state of the art of wind sledges! What he calls: El Trineo de viento. has allowed him to reach even  the south pole.


What is awaiting ahead us regarding the use of the wind in sledge traveling? Time will say.


martes, 29 de mayo de 2018

TRAGEDIES OF THE ARCTIC SEAS

It may be not your case, surely isn´t mine either, but somehow, part of the glamour we find in the polar expeditions lies precisely in the fact that in many of them  their protagonists were drove to their limits, the limit of their gear, the limit of their provisions and to the limit of their physical and psychological strength which  ultimately cost their lives. 

I have to recognise that sometimes I have felt like those ones in the audience, represented in the picture below, comfortably seated at the other side of the barrier.

But though not everything in the polar regions have been dramas, there have also been stories of incredible success or miracolous survival, the fact is that even in some of those cases, these feats have been stained with tragedies which happened at the same time and which diverted the attention far from the merit of their brave main characters towards others who lost their lifes. That could be the case of Roald Amundsen and his antagonistic Scott, or the case of Nobile´s attempt to reach the north pola and the subsequent rescue, which was darkened by Amundsen disappearance, happened while trying to locate him. So it looks that in some way or another, death has been always present in these kind of stories and, no matter if we like it or not, we must  get along with it.

Returning to the picture, it shows a group of polar explorers floating in an ice floe confronting surely, as it can be judged for their poor state, their coming death. In a pulpit in front of them, there are several crowned men. The one seated right over the poster which reads:

 "Reserved for J.G. Bennet" 

Must be James Gordon Bennet himself, the director of the New York Herald who was behind Stanley´s expedition in search of Dr Livingstone and of the disastrous Jeannette expedition. He, his men a woman who may be Queen Victoria, are  observing unaffectedly the dying men. 

In the adjacent pulpit, you can see a number of men (shall we call them "Scientist?") which look visibly anxious, standing over a poster which reads sinisterly:

 "In the name of science, MORE! MORE!".

In the walls around the stage where the explorers are lying, who almost all certainty are DeLong and his men, are  some other posters where the names of Hall, Kane and Franklin are clearly readible. De Long´s poster is the only which isvisible at the right in the wall, is the only one which hasn´t been torn apart, supporting the idea of its recent setting.

This image, published in the magazine Puck in may of 1882, may be the graphic representation that the times were finally changing and that the world was getting into a totally different and modern age. 

The horrible ordeal of De Long and his men, who perished the autumn of 1881 in the barren lands of the Lena Delta after having tried to reach the North Pole, may have trigged the reasoning that not everything was valid, at least not for the public opinion. So, in a similar way as George Cruikshank satirized John Ross when he returned from the polar regions, Joseph Keppler, author of this and other drawings, decided to show the world  through his powerful cartoons that it was time to end with an age on which the phrase "the end justify the means" was a fundamental rule, an axiom which had dragged many gallant men to a cold grave. 

After De Long expedition, came new modern techniques and a new concept of Polar explorers, like Nansen, Andree, Amundsen, Peary, etc,  who will shake up the existing scenario. It was clear that something was changing and that an inflection point have been passed. Definitely a new age of polar explorers, was calling at the gates of the North Pole, sieging it.