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.



miércoles, 19 de agosto de 2015

LEAVE HIS BODY REST IN PEACE AND UNDISTURBED - PORT LEOPOLD'S GRAVES

Several have been the expeditions which reached the shores of Port Leopold during the nineteenth century, time before and after the last Franklin expedition had departed. But only one of them left an indelible print on it. There, one of the biggest graveyards was deployed during the long winter of 1848-49.

The Arctic again shows us what kind of toll he charges to those who dare to get into him. Not for nothing Barry Lopez describes in his book "Arctic Dreams" the northern American Arctic of 1823 in this way:

"...as distant as fable, inhabited by remarkable animals and uncontacted people,... A landscape of numinuous events, of a forgiving benediction of light, and a darkness so dunning it precipitated madness, of a cold that froze vinegar, that fractured whatever it penetrated, including the stones. 

It was uncharted, unclaimed territory, and Europeans had perished miserably in it ...gangrenous with frostbite, poisoned by polar bear liver, rotted by scurvy, dead of exposure on the ice beside the wreckage of a ship burned to the water line for the last bit of its warmth" 

Port Leopold is a perfect natural harbour which mouth faces south. It is located at the mouth of Prince Regent inlet in its west shores. Together with its simetrical brother located northward, Rodd´s bay, they form an istmus which leads to a small peninsula called Cape Clarence. On it there is a flat hill whose steep slopes dominate the bay. McClintock describes it as a  astonishing bare land more barren than Beechey island.

There is no better way to find detailed information about the geography of these remote locations than consultating the "Canmaps" website:
Clarence Peninsula, Port Leopold, Rodd´s bay. http://www.canmaps.com/topo/buy-topo-maps/waterproof-paper/50k/058d14.htm
The hill forms an excellent viewpoint over Barrow strait. According to some accounts of the time, Beechey Island, located 100 km northwest, could have been even visible in clear days. Randall Osczevsky, suggests that big cairns built over the hill on Beechey Island could have served for mapping and triangulation from Port Leopold. This has sense since Ross sent sledges parties to the north shore of Barrow strait, if they reached it or if they didn't itis not clear to me . It could be. Anyway, lots of cairns were built over the hill on Cape Clarence. Some of them carried messages inside, the content of a particular one was quite surprising as we soon will see.

A distinct geographical feature makes of Por Leopold an unusual propicious harbour for wintering. At its entrance a strip of land called Whaler point closes part of the mouth of the harbour protecting it from the fury of the sea ice, but, it is this same particular distinction which makes of Port Leopold a capricious harbour which offers its gates some times open some times closed. Through its doors some expeditions found a providential place to winter, others were simply forced to do it.

Whaler's point - Picture by Wolfgang Opel
From Trimaris blog post: Retreat at Whaler's point.
During the second voyage of John Ross from 1829 to 1833, the crew of the abandoned Victory waited here unsuccessfully to be rescued the summer of 1832 and again, this time succesfully, a year after in 1833. John Ross called this place South Leopold Island, surely unaware that the port and cape Clarence were part of the big Sommerset island, in fact for Ross it should have formed part of the mainland, given that he had missed Bellot strait during the expedition. John Ross describes what was seen from the top of the hill:

"From the summit of the lofty mountain on the promontory we could see Prince Regent´s inlet, Barrow´s strait and Lancaster sound which presented an impenetrable mass of ice just as I had seen in 1818"

What John Ross doesn´t mention in his narrative is that he left on the top of the hill a tin case under a pile of stones with a poem on it. The poem was never found so it may perfectly be still there. A transcription of it was forwarded by him to Barrow. The poem reads as follows:

"Far as the eye can reach and all around
Is one vast icy solitude profound
On snow-clad ground in silent stillness, sleep
The weary crew, no shooting vapours steep
The rocks with freshness, not an herb is there,
Nor shrub, nor bush, but, desolate and bare,
It seems as if these regions, by the will
Of Heaven transfix´d, had all at once stood still;
And the proud waves, beneath the fatal blow,
Had spread into a field of lifeless snow".

John Ross sept 1832

John Ross, the man who survived four winters in the Arctic, the man who amputated the arm of his engineer, was a poet too. The eventful journey of John Ross during all those years didn´t leave any grave on that place, the only thing he buried there was some poetry. However, James Ross's expedition of 1848-49 in the ships HMS Enterprise and HMS Investigator, which reached this place fifteen years after and which counted with the presence of famous explorers like Leopold McClintock and Robert McLure, left a very different mark on those remote grounds. No less than six graves, one belonging to an officer and the others to five men. 


Remarkable Appearance in the Sky Always Opposite the Sun during the Arctic Expedition of Her Majesty's Ships Enterprise and Investigator

By: William Henry Browne
Who could have told Ross´s nephew he was going to beat all the records regarding  of Arctic expedition's casualties. James C. Ross have been praised here and there specially when compared with his uncle. James C. Ross was more able, cleverer, stronger and of course more handsome, thaat could be true but James lost seven men in a single winter (six of them buried in Leopold Island, another during the homeward journey) while John Ross lost only three men in four winters. To me mathematics wins. This was not his only indeleble mark in the place, he also left a permanent signature which still last:

h
Picture taken by Roger B. Swanson http://www.sailingbreezes.com/sailing_breezes_current/articles/July06/intoice4.htm

 Again arctic exploration history reminds us how fragile is the balance between death and life. I have read and listen in books and documentaries how some historians amaze about the high rate of casualties of the Franklin expedition during its first winter. It has been demonstrated that those who assert this have not taking into account the whole picture. The four graves from James Saunder´s expedition dug during the 1849-50 winter in North Star Bay is enough proof by itself, but if even so, someone is still exceptic, the six graves of Port Leopold should make the things clearer.

It is from the book "A whaling cruise to Baffin´s bay and the gulf of Boothia" by A.H. Markham, (thanks Peter Carney for this reference), where we can find a description and some detail about this, not so tiny, graveyard. On it are described the six graves at the head of the harbour. The precise location is not mentioned but we could assume they must be located not too far from the cabin which James Ross built during that winter. The graves likely must be located at the foot of the steep slopes of the hill in Cape Clarence, in the east side of the bay.

The officer buried there was Henry Mathias, assistant surgeon of the Enterprise, he died the 15th of june of 1849, aged 27. According with the official accounts he died from consumption combined with some other disease that had deeply rooted his constitution even before leaving England. Always the same tale and that could be all for explaining his death  but, in this case, from another source, the life of Admiral Sir Leopold McCLintock, I could gather some extra information which put some more light to the event of his death.

Henry Mathias participated in an apparent inoffensive race organised to see the returning sun the day 27th of february. A short but steep ascent of 800 ft (234 m)  to the summit of the hill in Cape Clarence.

Terraces in Port Leopold - Picture by Mechtild Opel
From Trimaris blog post: Retreat at Whaler's point.
The race was won by Mr. Court who carried a scraper in each hand, so imagine how steep was the slope, the temperature was -49 F. According with the reference, that was a cheering event which was soon shadowed by the fact that Mathias began to split blood and to lose strength. Though there was no official published account about this expedition, from McClintock´s journals some last words dedicated to this poor man have survived:

"In him, I have lost such an excellent friend as I can hardly hope to meet with again. He possesed a very rare combination of ability of the highest order, with sound practical sense and knowledge of the world. He was well read on many subjects, and he was so full of good nature that he was at all times ready to assist, explain, or impart knowledge to those who sought his aid. As a companion he was most animated and agreeable, and he was ageneral favourite on board."

McClintock words rescue a character from the expedition who would have been otherwise forgotten forever, as it usually happens with the tens of men who participated in such expeditions but survived to tell their story. Death is the common price you have to pay for being remembered with kind words as some sort of martyr, though this is not an infallible rule.

Though likely these two mentioned diseases were the actual reason which killed Henry, it surely was the effort made during the race which provoked the final and fatal collapse. Knowing as they knew he was a sick man, Why did Henry participate on that race?, the possible answer is beyond my understanding. Being ill as he was, and being assistant surgeon as he was does even more difficult to understand why he took such decission and what is more why the rest of the officer staff let him run. I guess that this will be one mistery more to add to our pile of Arctic expedition's related mysteries.

The graves of the rest of the men buried in Leopold Harbour belong to: James Grey, David Jenkins and Erward Binskin, all of them seamen from the Enterprise. The two remaining belong to William Grundy (or Cundy) and Thomas Coombs from the Investigator. Only the death of David Jenkins must be attributted to an accident, a fall, the rest were provoked both for consumption or for scurvy. The inscriptions were engraved on brass plates nailed to their head boards, but it is the grave of Thomas Coombs, who belonged the carpenter´s crew, which will attrack our attention over the rest and which will make us shiver a bit. At the foot of his grave, there was a bottle with a paper inside with these words on it:

"Near this spot lay the remains of Thomas Coombs, ..., who died on board that ship (Investigator) on the 27 th day of October, 1848, after a lingering illness of three months, which he bore with Christian fortitude. And I sincerely hope, should any Christian dall in with this, that he will leave his body rest in peace and undisturbed, and oblige his late chum and messmate Charles Harris, A.B."

Leave his body rest in peace and undisturbed, curious selection of words for a final farewell. Why mentioning particularly this? Was a general practice of the participants on Arctic expeditions violating or spoiling graves, I seriously doubt it. Was a general practice digging graves to practice authopsies in corpses of other expeditions? With what purpose? The only case I know, and which has sense, was that one performed concealed during the night by one of the surgeons of one of the 1850's rescue expeditions after Franklin in one of the graves of Beechey island.

Why then remarking such obscure point in that note? Was it a warning for what could happen in a far future?. This warning is especially distressing taking into account that men were buried wearing only a shirt and perhaps with some luck a pair of trousers, (as was demonstrated by the possesions found together with the three men buried in Beechey Island). Besides, according with one of the crew member´s,  (W. Brett), journal, Thomas Coombs belongings were sold after his death as it was common practice:

"October 27th Thomas Coombs, a Young Man belonging to the Carpenters Crew died after a long Illness.

Novr 6th
 Employed as on Saturday fetching Gravel and in afternoon Sold by auction the Effects of Tho Coombs Issued Soft bread for the first time which will continue during... "


William Kennedy´s account of his voyage in the Prince Albert during the years 1851 and 1852 , doesn´t offer further details about these six men, he only describes the state of Ross´s cabin and the contents of the cilinders left there. As there is not official account from Saunders from the North Star expedition of 1850, we can't know if they stumbled upon these six graves. Lady Franklin and Sophia ships arrived here too but the same happens. McClintock returned ten years after in 1858, but, despite his kind words produced during the 1848 expedition, this time, he didn't waste a single phrase in his account "The voyage of the Fox in the Arctic seas"about neither Mathias nor about the graves.

As I said before, there are no official accounts about this journey, only a couple of articles, this piece of news from Geelong Advertisement and the references you can find in other narratives of the time. Interestingly in "The English at the North Pole" Jules verne review quickly which expeditions stopped in the desolated beaches of Port Leopold, a privileged index to follow in case of needing further information.

There are graves in Port Leopold but surely they belong to whalers, trappers or trade men from the Hudson Bay Company. I want to think that graves usually call other graves, so perhaps not far from the buried men who appears in the picture below, are buried the remains of the main characters of this blog post, so, therefore, perhaps, they wouldn't be lost forever.

 http://www.umanitoba.ca/libraries/archives/exhibits/taylor/graves.html


Trappers graves at Port Leopold, Somerset Island


If you Google Port Leopold or Whaler's point you don't find hundreds of pictures. I am grateful on counting with a couple of friends who not only were there but they took very nice pictures of the place too. They have allowed me to share them here to dress a bit my post. You, reader, shouldn't miss their blog. Thanks Wolfgang and Mechtild.

Acknowledgement: Jonhathan Dore, Peter Carney, Mechtild and Wolfgang Opel, Randall Osczevsky.


miércoles, 12 de agosto de 2015

FUTURE VOYAGES MAY FIND THE LONELY GRAVE OF MALCOM

There is in the Arctic archipielago another island which wears mournfully another grave. How many more do I have to find? 

In the process of making my inventory of deaths happened in the Arctic in the nineteenth century I have stumbled upon a new one which occurred during an expedition which I had missed while searching in the numerous narratives about arctic expeditions of the time. This time the turn corresponds to the Horatio Austin expedition of 1850-51. An able seaman, George S. Malcom, died because he suffered from severe frostbites in his feet during a sledge trip during the spring of the year 1851. He belonged HMS Resolute and was buried in Griffith Island, south of Cornwallis land, not too far from Beechey Island.

Griffith Island is a barren land closely related with Horatio Austin´s expedition because they spent many months close to it while trapped in the ice. During that time the island was festooned with numerous cairns, it seems that men found little thing to do there but to pile stones and building snow walls. A particular big one was placed over a prominence which it is said could be seen from many leagues, I wonder if that cairn still exists. 

Griffith Island
http://www.canmaps.com/topo/nts50/orthoimage/058f12.htm
In the narrative of the HMS Resolute and HMS Intrepid journey during the years 1852 to 1854, two years after Horatio Austin expedition, George Frederick McDougall, then master of the Resolute but who was second master in the same ship during the 1850-51 expedition, reflects about this small piece of land which he knows well: 

"The sight of Griffith Island afforded a peculiar interest to those who, forming a part of the expedition under Captain Austin, had spent eleven months frozen up in its inmediate neighbourhood. Every point, hill, and ravine was connected with some little incident, during our rambles over its desolate and uniteresting surface." 

But what island of that archipielago is not desolate and which don´t have an uninteresting surface? We have already analyised some of them and all those small points of the Canadian arctic shows few, if any, geographical interesting features: Dealy Island, Beechey Island, King William Island, and so on. All of them are horrid places to lie dead but all of them have dead men lying men under their surface.

McDougall continues with a little homage to his old companion:

"Nor did we fail to remember with kindly feelings the sad fate of that brave seaman of the Resolute, George Malcom, who fell victim to the intense cold, and extreme hardships, he had to encounter in the cause of humanity. His remains are interred on the east side og the island. May he rest in peace!"

The source of this last new finding has been this interesting web site where I have found not only a drawing of the grave of the able seaman but also a letter which talks about its death, both performed by Charles Ede, assistant surgeon of HMS Assistance, ship which accompanied HMS Resolute during the expedition of 1850-51.

Grave of George S. Malcom
http://labs.eeb.utoronto.ca/dickinson/EEB299Y_2004/Collectors/collector-%20Charles%20Ede.html

The text under the picture says the painting was addressed from Charles Ede to Adam White and that the cause of the death of Malcom was frostbite in the feet. There were at least eighteen cases of frostbite among the men who participated in the spring and summer sledge parties. According to Sherard Osborn´s account of that journey John Malcom (John?) had been "delicate from the outset, having fainted on his road to the place of inspection and depature in april 1851".

Sherard Osborn from the HMS Pioneer hardly writes some words about the death of this man, he even mention his name wrongly. Perhaps he hardly knew him, after all that expedition was formed by four ships.  

But who was Charles Ede? It would be unfair to jump over him after having found this letter and drawing without dedicating him some lines. Charles Ede, as we have seen, was the Assistant surgeon in the Assistance during the expedition of 1850-51. He was the statuary and sculptor of the expedition...sculptor?. He was the author of an arctic theatrical play called "Zero, or Harlequin Light" and acted in several plays as Mr Crank in Did you ever send your wife to Camberwell, Mrs Wiffles in Done on both sides and Adam Brock in Charles XII. As an explorer, he led a sledge party to Cape Walker and finally retired from the Navy in 1852 to open his own private consultation.

There is no mention to his burial nor to his precise date of death, we only know he died during the spring of 1851, likely in april after his sledge trip. I am tempted to think that, as it is said the grave is located in the east part of the island and facing N.N.E. his remains could be located at any place in Dobel point, the only significant geographical feature of that part of the rock and where the steep slopes of the east coast seems to be flatter.  More details however can be found about the death of this man  in the letter here linked and in the Narrative of the subsequent journey of the HMS Resolute. 

Griffith Island, topographic map
http://www.canmaps.com/topo/buy-topo-maps/waterproof-paper/50k/058f12.htm
Anyway, I wanted to copy here some of the lines from the Charles´s letter which could show the atmosphere breathable on such sad days. Atmosphere of sadness, of course, but also of recognition and love from his mates:

"Situated on the ice bound and desolate shore of Griffiths .../... future voyages may find the lonely grave of G.S. Malcolm. 

Here where the unbroken stillness give a sacredness to the spot, his journying companions erected a tablet to the memory of one who too jealously expressed himself in the great cause of humanity.

While travelling along the southern shores of Parry Gulf at about fifty miles from the ships he was severely frostbitten in both feet and recklessly jepordizing his own saftey in a noble fear of hindering the search became at last unable of proceeding further. Placed upon the sledge protected from the cold by buffalo robes he was born back to the ships but after the first or second day became delirious. 

The officers and men cheerfully sacrificed their own comfort to the wants of their brave and unfortunate comrade. after seven days hard travelling they reachesd the Resolute to which he belonged. He then became sensible and expressed his satisfaction at being on board. Too soon however he collapsed and died without much suffering." 

Some of the words of this letter will sound us familiar to those wriotten by McDougall in the narrative. Surely they were taken from Ede´s letter. As we don´t know, and perhaps ever will know , what was carved in his lonely tombstone, we could assume that this kind words could shape his non written epitaph from now on.

Apart of what I have just posted above, I am happy to announce here and now that further researching to complete the Arctic Graveyard will be based on the Clements Markham´s book "The Arctic Navy list" where a thorough list of officers and ships related with Arctic missions is presented. 

The ship´s list shows on which expeditions each ship participated and how many men died on any of them. I wish I had find this jewell before, it would have save me some precious time. On it, I am sure, you will find too valuable information for your own investigations. On the copy linked below have been scanned pieces of news from the time which, though they hide part of the original texts, offer an added value because they give you further information about some of these men.

Clements Markham´s book" The Arctic Navy list"

If Markham is right, there only remain ten men to be identified:

- Three men who died in the Fox in the McClintock expedition of 1857-59
- Three men who died in the James C. Ross expedition of  1848-49 (the fourth has been already identified).
- Three men who died in the Collinson expedition of 1850-54
- One man who died during the Belcher expedition of 1852-54 from the Resolute.

There are, however, some little inconsistencies on Markham´s list which I have to investigate deeper.

If this inventory is correct the Northwest Passage had taken the life of 61 men besides the lives of the 129 men from the Franklin expedition. I will prepare a dedicated blog post when I finish the inventory. There are still lot of blanks to fill in the data base and some work to do.   But, if you are so eager than you can´t wait, here you can consult the list as it is right now.



martes, 11 de agosto de 2015

SAMUEL HEARNE, A NECESSARY STOP IN THE WORMHOLE OF POLAR EXPLORATION

Like many others my interest in the Polar regions comes first from the south. Everybody knows the sad story of Scott and the amazing feat achieved by Shackleton. But those stories are not more than the tip of the iceberg. Once you begin to dig around them you realised you can´t stop digging, because each thing you find carries you to get deeper  and deeper into the black hole which is the polar exploration. This is so serious than I have been even accused of having read more books about polar exploration than about Spanish history. Shame of me, but it is fairly true and yet I am an ignorant who is only scratching the surface of this massive mountain of ice.

Well, let´s continue. It was the Antarctic duel between Scott and Amundsen which took me investigate to further on Amundsen. Amundsen led me to the North Pole, to Nobile and Nansen and to the Northwest Passage too.  Amundsen was to me a sort of Caronte who linked with his life two very different worlds, the North and the South Poles.

Nobile made me take a look to the tragic Andree´s expedition, to the north duel among Peary and Cook and to other explorers of that time. The Northwest Passage, yes, that poisoned yellow brick road, showed me that there was a third Pole to conquer, one which I was unaware of. A death trap which would produce hundreds of books and the death of many people and which still has a story to tell, we will see. It was then that I found myself right on the other side of the gates of the nineteenth century after having crossed the frozen desert of the beginning of the twentieth, 

By then I though I was reading stories old enough, but, ...how wrong I was. Through that door I could see a maremagno of expeditions full not only of tragedy, love and death but of determination and courage too. I looked at the right and to the left and I saw the Franklin expedition getting lost forever, the Rosses reaching the Antartida. I saw Barrow leading his herds from one place to another failing here and there. I saw how an incredible battle was taking place and I saw how the siege to the Northwest Passage was closing its circle. 

Digging and digging and digging a bit more I reached the Franklin expedition to the mouth of the  Coppermine river, and then, accompanying him, I reached the tragic place of Bloody Falls

Bloody Falls by The Bug Geek
http://thebuggeek.com/2010/07/11/bloody-falls/

That place is not only the old stage of a massacre, it is also a window, a time gate which transports you 50 years before, from 1821 to 1771. There, between broken skulls and a terrible story of death and blood I discovered Samuel Hearne. An English officer who left the Navy to join the Hudson Bay Company and who was the first european on reaching the shores of the Polar sea. A man who did it in a time where those areas where only populated for a combination of Indian tribes and wild animals.

Samuel Hearne is, like Amundsen and Franklin, a bridge between two times, two different centuries. 
You only have to take a look into his  portrait and the portrait of those men contemporary of him, to realise you are reaching the bottom of the time tunnel. 


Samuel Hearne
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samuel_Hearne
We are speaking of a time when the American colonies where struggling to get their independence, when the French took the Bastille and began to behead people all over the place. Is that a time past enough? It is not. Samuel Hearne is going to be the guide who will lead you  another 50 years further back in time to the tragic story of James Knight and we could continue so for a while till reaching Henry Hudson and Barents...and who knows who more!

But I came here to speak of Samuel. Few times during these last years my wife has told me that I was so enthralled with the reading of a book  that I looked as if I was going to get into it. Eyes wide open, body rigid, nervous movement of a foot, scratching my bald and failing breath at some points. That´s the effect Ken McGoogan book about Hearne provoked me this last week. Samuel Hearne accompanies you through the life in the Royal Navy of the eighteen century and lodges you in the remote forts propierty of the Hudson Bay Company when they were stone walls with no more than a handful of cabins with only tens of Europeans living inside. 

Prince of Wales Fort
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prince_of_Wales_Fort
One of the other books which haunted me that much was the expedition to the mouth of the Coppermine river performed by Franklin. There is something on that Barren Lands which makes me shiver.  The 1819-22 Franklin expedition is a tragic story which you can´t stop reading because you are not certain how it is going to end, but Samuel Hearne story and life gives you a much more complete picture and his tale, through Ken and Hearne´s own words you enjoy and suffer equally because his story it is a a story of success but also of overcoming hardships and tragedy. 

Samuel made a radiography of the land, people, customs and wild life of the region, his curious nature left an essential legacy for others which came after.

Samuel died young, too young indeed. He died even too soon to witness how his own narrative of the journey was  published, the narrative which carried him to the fame. His love story is the kind of you want to see in the cinema with your girlfriend, the kind of story which would make your mother cry. Through Ken´s steps you can follow easily, very easily, the track of this man. In "Ancient Mariner" you will find the gate you need to go down to the next floor in the basement to keep digging into its ground and to get inmersed in the shadows of the time where the days were colder, the life harder and the northern world was just a black stain on maps which swalloved explorers untiringly.

When I read "Fatal passage", a book which tells the story of John Rae, also by McGoogan, I said to my myself:

 -John Rae deserves a movie

After reading Ancient Mariner I said: 

- Samuel Hearne deserves a movie

This time, thankfully Virginia Barter, the historical writer and filmmaker, thought like me and took some steps forward making a short movie of nine minutes telling part of his story:


A whole TV serie could be made to tell it and still surely there would be details about his life which would stay out of the script. 

Surely Ken´s writting style has a lot to do with this feeling. His books are like movie scripts and he adds the necessary dramatic climax to keep you engaged to the reading till the point that words become people and pages become scenes.


miércoles, 5 de agosto de 2015

FRANKLIN EXPEDITION PLAYMOBILIZED

It was a matter of time that the Franklin expedition ended in the Playmobil world. It has been by chance that I have found this shipwreck diorama in internet which, without no doubt at all, apparently resembles the Erebus shipwreck almost perfectly, including the cannon and the bell which were actually found in the Erebus and also the skeleton of the man who is supposed will be found on board, the big man with long teeth.

Author Retroplaymo
http://retroplaymo.blogspot.gr/2014/02/the-shipwreck.html
And how I stumbled upon this? You may be asking to yourself...well it was after Regina Koellner, a Franklin friend, were speaking about how transforming a playmobil into Francis Moira Rawdon Crozier that we began to discuss about what would we need to make a proper diorama about the Franklin expedition.

Daguerrotype of Crozier by Richard Beard.
 I began to wander in internet looking for a Playmobil ship with three masts to use as Erebus, then, I found this picture which amazed me. I linked it into our beloved facebook group and it was such a success that I think it was even sent to Ryan Harris, the chief diver who is directing operations in the actual shipwreck in the Arctic Archipielago.

Someone even suggested that the diver over the deck could be him, not in this case because that particular one is in fact a playmobil woman. Perhaps he could be the other diver who is wearing the dry diving suit.

I will try to contact the author of this shipwreck diorama and warn him about the effect his work has caused in the Franklin world, I thought at the beginning that his intention was to recreate the Erebus shipwreck but after identifying the source of this picture, a wonderful blog called Retroplaymoland, I have learnt that his intention was to recreate Greek´s shipwrecks.

These are the pictures of the actual shipwreck, judge by yourself:

http://www.charts.gc.ca/announcements-annonces/2014/serendipity-sonars-surveys/img/CMOS-Trifold%202-1.jpg
Erebus divings- The cannon
Erebus Divings- The Bell
Of course, soon my imagination combined with these long summer afternoons made me put all hands on deck. I inmediately stole Regina´s idea, for which I am really and sincerely sorry Regina, but you know I couldn´t help it, I had all the ingredients at hand!! and this was the result:

Crozier, last man standing carries his sword and gun and is prepare to his last death march. (Author: Me)

 I cut some yellow pieces of cloth to make the golden band of the cap and the epaulettes, made the scarf with a narrow black ribbon and made the white shirt collar with the corners of a paper. This playmobil who was a policeman in his other life looks now as if he were going to begin to walk in deep snow at any moment! 

 What is coming next? Only the future will say, I positively know that Regina is at work and surely she will be able to do a much better job that I have done, but what is certain is, that with this little Crozier, I  will have encouraged the imagination of others and I hope to see soon another scenes of the Franklin expedition reenacted in the Playmobil world.

This,unfortunately for my Peter Pan syndrome, hasn´t been my first approach relating Playmobil with the Franklin expedition, I did some quick dioramas once on which you can see a blonde Franklin with a map, James Fitzjames in his winter blue outfit and some other sailors on board a boat accompanied by Neptune the expedition´s dog. I know I should have used a white surface for this but ...next time, friends.






martes, 4 de agosto de 2015

DAYS BEFORE THE DISASTER - ANOTHER FRANKLIN´S BOAT DEPICTION FOR THE COLLECTION

From time to time I go fishing into Google and I almost always come back home satisfied and pleasently surprised when I find something which at least is new for me. This time the deep ocean of internet has let me catch this little prey. An interesting sketch which shows several crew members of the Franklin expedition dragging two boats with sails.

http://www.postcardgallery.net/explorers.html

Judging by their outfit it is clear that this post card was based on the famous painting by Thomas Smith. From the determination of their countenances and from their apparently strong attitude one would say these men were days if not weeks far from the moment on which Thomas Smith depicted a very different scene:

They forged the last links with their lives': Sir John Franklin's Men Dying by Their Boat During the North-West Passage Expedition by W. Thomas Smith

I have found this little jewel in a Post Card dedicated web site. The author, P. Pavlinov from Moscow drew in 1979 a collection of 35 post cards representing 35 different explorers. Hidden under a blue nice cover the author´s choice includes some well known polar explorers like Salomon Andree, Nansen, Robert Falcon Scott, Amundsen, Nobile, etc.

Geographical discoveries
http://www.postcardgallery.net/explorers.html
I don´t know nothing about the author, those are the paradoxes of Google, sometimes it allows you to catch rare items like this but it shows itself hermetic to let you know nothing about the people who are behind the scenes. Perhaps any Russian visitor of the blog could put some light about the author´s career.

I don´t know nothing about the author, those are the paradoxes of Google, sometimes it allows you to catch rare items like this but it shows itself hermetic to let you know nothing about the people who are behind the scenes. Perhaps any Russian visitor of the blog could put some light about the author´s career.

For those who love to collect Franklin related stuff, following the link under the next picture they could buy the 35 post card set for a very decent price:

https://www.etsy.com/listing/213863965/geographical-discoveries-artist-p

miércoles, 1 de julio de 2015

LET´S DO IT! HMS TERROR GIVEAWAY: Building HMS Terror: HAPPY BIRTHDAY HMS TERROR - WHEREVER YOU ARE

Following the stream of sharings provoked and estimulated by the blogger "Ship Modeler", and in order to get a chance to obtain the juicy prize offered through his proposal, this is my sharing, the blog post I use to link Ship Modeler´s blog to my favourite bar in Google Chrome, which interestingly, corresponds with the HMS Terror last birthday:

http://buildingterror.blogspot.com.es/2015/06/building-hms-terror-giveaway.html


Building HMS Terror: HAPPY BIRTHDAY HMS TERROR - WHEREVER YOU ARE: Today marks the 201 st anniversary of the launch of HMS Terror in Topsham, Devon.  It also marks the first anniversary of Building Ter...


viernes, 26 de junio de 2015

THOMAS BLANKY: A LIVE IN THE HELL

Rivers of ink have been written about John Franklin, Fancis Crozier, James Fitzjames and other members of the Franklin last and lost expedition. But not too much have been said about the Ice Master of the HMS Terror, Thomas Blanky. Only few references exist here and there in some books and articles., enough to realize that the poor man spent a long part of his live in Hell.

Thomas Blanky was by then a battered veteran of several Arctic expeditions when he joined the Franklin expedition as Ice Master of the Terror with 45 years.  From the William Battersby´s book, about the life of James Fitzjames, I have learnt that Thomas was a Yorkshire man who hid a little mistery which endarkened a bit his own origins. Apparently he concealed his Jewish origins and borne a false surname.

But It is again the almost magical book written by Richard Cyriax which put some light about forgotten details of the Franklin expedition. From his book I have found not only the details of his birth place and date of birth but also data about the Arctic expeditions on which he participated.

He was born in Whitby in 1800 and worked as an able seaman in merchant ships, whalers and in ships of exploration for three Arctic expeditions before getting involved in his last adventure in 1845. His Arctic Curriculum, in chronological order, is the following: he was able seaman in the George Lyon expedition aboard the HMS Griper in 1824, able seaman during the fourth and last Parry expedition to the North Pole in the HMS Hecla in 1827 and as mate during the ardous and hazardous long voyage of John Ross  aboard the Victory during the years 1829 to 1833.

John Ross, unfinished sketch of shelter and boats (1829-1833)
http://metaincognita.tumblr.com/post/18773476763/john-ross-unfinished-sketch-of-shelter-and-boats

He addressed a letter from Whalefish island to his wife. Part of those last words  were published in the Quarterly Review. Its content said:

" Should we not be at home in the fall of 1848, or early in the spring of 1849 you may anticipate that we had made the passage, or are likely to do so, and if so, it may be form five to six years it might be into the seventh were we return; and should it be so, do not allow any person to dishearten you on the length of our absence, but look forward with hope, that Providence will at length restore us safely to you."

Encouraging words, indeed, which couldn´t be further from the cruel reality which would fall over their heads.

The expectations of Thomas Blanky about the duration and end of the journey cast a weird contrast if you compare them with those last words written by James Reid, his counterpart in the HMS Erebus. Reid  told his wife the following:

"It may be two years, it may be three or four, but I am quite willing to go"
"Mr Enderby has been a good friend to me. He will look after you if I should never return"


Thomas Blanky clearly weighed rightly that the expedition could last much more than the time the organizers had imagined. Clearly his previous experience during the four years  of the John Ross´s voyage to the Arctic in the Victory had left a deep print in his mind and his point of view was much  closer to reality than the one of any other member of the expedition. Despite of that, the fact of having survived the odyssey of struggling for four winters in the Arctic, could have led him to believe that everything was possible and that being captured in the jaws of the Arctic archipielago not necessarilly had to mean death. That could possibily be the reasons wich made his last words look much more optimistic than the Reid´s ones.

Blanky performed the role of a main character during several situations in the John Ross exedition. He participated in several important and long sledge trips during the Victory expedition. He was with James C. Ross when they reached the North Magnetic Pole and he risked his credibility before Ross´s eyes when he spoke on behalf of the men of the expedition after they had abandoned the Victory. While dragging the boats towards Fury Beach the men wanted to propose their Captain to abandon the boats and keep on walking to the Fury Beach food caché only dragging the sledges. John Ross from his side, perceived this as an act of mutiny, and if it not were because Thomas Blanky had deserved the unconditional admiration of the Captain Ross during the whole journey, he could have seen truncated his career, but that not happened, quite the contrary. When they reached England in 1833 he obtained a good recommendation from John Ross which led him to command his own merchant ship. After that, and for some reason, surely his veteran background, he gained a vacancy as ice master in the HMS Terror, which, sadly in his turn led him to his irremisible death.

If we consider and imagine that Thomas could have survived at least five years during the last Franklin expedition, as certain relics could seem to demonstrate, and that he could have participated in the death march which had taken place from the year 1848 to 1850(?), then he would have spent nine years of his live confronting the hardest conditions of his live, (not counting the three years of his previous Arctic expeditions). Strangely, after having suffered the hard experience of the Victory expedition he accepted joining this second and dangerous feat. If I were had asked to do that, I  would surely have rejected gently the offer, but he didn´t not. As it uses to happen to old and experienced mountaniers. The call of the Arctic or the mountains is a tantalizing voice which one can hardly ignore. 

Paradoxically, the men of the Franklin expedition thought on Blanky as a living talisman who could only bring them good luck.

It has become for me a kind of obsession during these last three years looking for paintings, drawings and sketches which could help me to put a face to those men who participated, perished or were related with the nineteenth century Arctic expeditions. Lots of those men haven´t left any portrait,. Only with some luck we could find an errant silhoutte after hours fishing in the Google ocean, I sometimes feel as if I were an Inuit trying to catch a seal in an ice hole. But it happens that sometimes the solution is right under our noses, and one only can find them if one knows where to look for. I thought that this could be the case of Thomas Blanky who could be one of the three happy men who are dancing in the left corner of this not very well known sketch, or perhaps is he the man who is waving the hat close to the boat?

"Commander Ross planting the British standard on the true position of the magnetic pole"
Toronto library 
https://www.flickr.com/photos/43021516@N06/5448071669/

Six men participated on that sledge trip, Commander James Ross, Thomas Blanky, Thomas Abernethy and three other men who were the lucky ones on reaching the mystic place. The sketch represents seven men, an extra one and a boat which definitely wasn´t carried with them to the North Magnetic Pole. For that reason, and because those other seven men who are painted in the background climbing a nonexistent hill, I harbour serious doubts about the accuracy of this representation, but it is a nice feeling thinking that he could have been inmortalised for ever though  in this inexact way.