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, 26 de noviembre de 2014

LOVE YE THE STRANGERS

 ERASMUS YORK THE MAN WHO WAS ALSO PORTRAYED BY RICHARD BEARD  OR ALSO THE CANTERBURY CONNECTION WITH THE FRANKLIN EXPEDITION

Not few of us have felt frustrated at some point for the lack of daguerrotypes available about the Franklin expedition itself and about other expeditions of that time. It is true that photography was beginning to walk its first steps, but by the time of the Franklin expedition some photographers were quite active and thanks to them we have a handful of Dags where we can admire part of the participants of that expedition. Sometimes we only have had access to engravings published on the newspapers of the time which were in turn based on actual daguerrotypes. Likely, those original pictures are not longer available, and this is even more frustrating, because you can scratch the image with your fingers, get a general idea about how those men really were, but at the same time, you are also conscious that there will never be chances to contemplate the actual countenances of the men who made possible the discovery of the Northwest Passage. 

This is the case of Kalli or Caloosa or Qualasirssuaq or of the also called Erasmus York. He was one of the Inuit guides who accompanied the Horatio Austin expedition from 1850 to 1851. He was photographed at some point, surely the same day he reached British shores, by the famous photographer Richard Beard. His portrait appeared in the cover of the Ilustrated London News the 25th of october of 1851. Much have been written about him, specially here on its Memoirs. Through the reading of this document written by the Rev. T.B. Murray, you will get closer to this poor man. You will cry with him the death of his father, will breath the cold air of the arctic during his days in the Penny and Ommanney expedition, will live with him during his stay at Canterbury, will visit London and will learn other astounding things about his life, like for example that Kalli had a twin brother.

But his life, though interesting is not the subject of this post. Summarizing, Qualasirssuaq was picked up in Cape York  to guided the Captain Erasmus Ommanney on board the HMS Assistance. His main task was contrasting the information supplied by Adam Beck, an Inuit interpreter, which had asserted that the crews of the Franklin ships have been massacred while they still were on their ships. He could not be returned to his land during the return trip and ended studying in St Agustine´s College in Canterbury. There he helped to finish a dictionary Inuit - British and was baptized in St. Martin´s Church near Canterbury in 1853 in the presence of the John Franklin´s daughter, Eleanor, while the sermon was performed by her husband Joseph Phillip Gell.

NOTE: It deserves to make a short stop here, and extract from the book refered above an anecdote which happened during his time with Erasmus Ommaney during the 1850-51 expedition. It is about when his tribe was invited to see how the steam engines of the ships worked :

"As no steamer had ever before found its way to these seas, it was interesting to watch the impression upon the singular beings now visited, when they descended into the engine-room. The large furnaces and machinery astonished them. The latter, on being put in motion, made them take to their heels with fright, and they ran out of the engine-room on deck as fast as they could."

One can´t help thinking on if a visit could have been performed by the Inuit to the ships of the Franklin expedition when they met near King William Island.

It seems that during his stay there he made some sketches about Inuit life which are still preserved in the Canterbury Cathedral and it seems that he even made a chair which still exists in the St Martin´s church gardens.


The Esquimaux Erasmus York

http://www.lookandlearn.com/history-images/U254436/The-Esquimaux-Erasmus-York?img=10&search=Franklin+Expedition&bool=phrase
The posture of Kalli in the picture is strikingly similar to the pose of the officers of the Franklin Expedition who were photographed by Richard Beard. Does that mean that Beard, after taking those pictures of Franklin and Co. was somehow captivated  about their fate? I would say, judging for this picture and others allegedly taken by him of McClinctock and others, that he closely followed the steps of all of the men who went to the arctic after Franklin till the point that I would swear that he could have been waiting for them in the docks.

Illustrated London News 25th October 1851
http://www.iln.org.uk/iln_years/year/150yearsagooct18.html

Qualasirssuaq was also portraited in several paintings. The first portrait (below), dated in 1851, surely was made while studying in Canterbury or perhaps after recently arrived (notice his smiling face): 

Qalasirssuaq (Erasmus Augustine Kallihirua), circa 1832/5-1856

http://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/14286.html


This second portrait dated in 1855 is quite different, surely done back in Labrador, his posture makes him resembling older and you can notice his sick-like countenance:


http://collectionscanada.gc.ca/pam_archives/index.php?fuseaction=genitem.displayEcopies&lang=eng&rec_nbr=3029962&title=Kallihirua.+&ecopy=e002291387

His end, unfortunately, was not very different to that of some of the men of the Franklin expedition, he acquired a mortal sickness during the winter 1855-56  which ended fatally after he had a bath in the cold waters of a lake close to the place were he was continuing his studies in Labrador. The surgeon report said: "Melanosis. The whole sustance of his lungs was black". This is in fact an early and sad end for a man who had been loved for all the people who had surrounded him all his time since he was picked up in the HMS Assistance and for a man who had been dramatically separated from his family.

Kalli´s Memorial in Newfoundland
http://www.canterburytimes.co.uk/David-LewisCanterbury-History-Archaeological/story-20084840-detail/story.html
The case of Kalli was nor the first nor the last of others on which Inuit people were brought to Europe. Thank Goodness, this time he was not exhibited as a part of a show like Francis Hall did time after with Tookolito and his family, but more the contrary, he was taken to London by Erasmus Ommanney to visit its most beautiful monuments, exhibitions and museums and taken to Canterbury to visit the Cathedral.

Legacy:  It seems that in the Caird Library of the National Maritime Museum exists a copy of the book "Arctic Miscellanies" based on the articles writen by the men in a newspaper called: "Aurora Borealis" during the Ommanney´s expedition of 1850-1851. The book has been, or currently is, available here. In this book there are present some of the Kalli´s thoughts or quotes during his days on board. The one I have read in this link which I have consulted (posted by K. Martin) could perfectly have been used as his epitaph and sounds ironic considering his story and final fate:

"If England is so great, why did you leave?"


Note about the origin of the title of the post: From the memoirs of Erasmus York 

"Compliance with the precept in the Old Testament, "Love ye the stranger," becomes a delight as well as a duty in such an instance as that about to be recorded, especially when we consider the affecting injunction conveyed in the Epistle to the Hebrews, "Be not forgetful to entertain strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares."

domingo, 19 de octubre de 2014

CABIN GIRLS IN ARCTIC EXPEDITIONS

How many times have we heard or read this sentence or similar others like this?: 

"In 1845 the one hundred and twenty nine men of the Franklin expedition dissapeared in the Arctic and were never seen again".

Could we assert this fact and be one hundred percent sure we are right? or perhaps should we consider the possibility that the composition of the expedition was in fact one hundred and twenty eight men and a woman? Could we say that each one of the  components of the Franklin expedition was a man?

Why should I suggest that there could be women or girls on board one of the ships, Erebus or Terror, or perhaps in both of them?. Unfortunately, I haven´t any clue which could suggest such thing, any at all, but agree with me that this is a tempting thought and besides, they wouldn´t be the first ships on doing it. There were precedents.

The Royal Navy didn´t accept women on board their ships in the nineteenth century and before, they were considered a bad omen but, however, it happened, and it happened with some frequency. Who could distinguish a girl from a boy of around ten years old dressed with the clothes of a cabin boy.

There are a few number of documented cases of women who went on board ships. Sometimes they boarded voluntarily looking for earning more money, looking for freedom or only to accompany their lovers. In other cases, the less glamurous ones, they were forced by their partners to go on board. In both cases they had to conceal their gender having to dress up like men. 

Cabin Boy (*)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cabin_boy
(*) If I had to bet, I would bet that this particular Cabin boy appearing in Wikipedia was in fact a girl. Were all the cabin boys of that time disguised women?

If we study the particular case of the nineteenth century polar expeditions..., What could be more tempting for a sailor in love than bringing her beloved girlfriend on board his ship when this was destined to stay at least three years far from her? What could be more tempting for a girl or woman than participating in the longest and more isolated expeditions of that time?. In case of being discovered they couldn´t be dismissed in the middle of the arctic archipielago, and the layers and layers of thick clothing will help them to protect their hidden secret. What better chances could have a woman than in an enviroment of a relaxed discipline and of not much corporal higiene where flogging was scarce and bathing was even more scarce?.

http://www.thedearsurprise.com/naval-punishment-for-boys-kissing-the-gunners-daughter/
There are a number of known cases. At least three happened as early as the eighteen century: Hannah Snell, Mary Anne Talbot  and Anna Maria Real others  were reported in the mid nineteenth century like the one of Anne Jane Thornton who travelled from England to America after her love.

Mary Ann Talbot
http://www.lindacollison.com/tag/crossdressing-sailors/

The stories of some of the women mentioned above are described with some detail in the blog "Sailors in disguise" and also here in the section "Crossdressing sailors" of this blog. Of special interest is the case of Mary Anne. The story of a young girl of about ten years old which enroled the Royal Navy as a consecuence of a dramatic family situation. The story is told here by one of the officers who discovered the issue and who, through his words, reveals the crew´s fondness toward this girl:

Though perhaps it could be considered strange, women caught while acting as men were simply dismissed from the Navy without retaliation, however, those caught practicing sodomy, were not so lucky. There is a particular case where in the same ship were caught a girl who pretended being a boy and also a Lieutenant who was reported for abusing of a boy. The Lieutenant was condemned to gallows and a testimony of the girl against the lieutenant was taken into consideration during the trial even after having revealed her identity,

The astonishing case of William Cavendish (Mary Lacy) who was carpenter of a war ship during the seven years war, reveals that, at least for my understanding, somehow, the Admiralty was aware of these kinds of practices. She was not only not punished  but she even received her deserved pension  when she retired after revealing the authorities she was actually a woman. Her case was famous later after she published her own experiences in the book: "The History of the Female Shipwright".

Other tales are more tragic, sometimes sailors were found out to be women when their bodies were recovered from the sea. I wonder if we still could be surprised if the forensic analisys of some of the skulls found in King William Island reveals some day that one of the men of the Franklin expedition was in fact a woman.
Hanna Snell
http://www.lindacollison.com/tag/crossdressing-sailors/

There are several subjects related with the Royal Navy about which is hard to find enough literature, I talked about one of them when I dug about sexuals aspects of  polar expeditions. The other subject is this one, the presence of women at sea in the Royal Navy during the age of sailing. The National Maritime Museum has made a guide which compiles several sources of information which address directly this issue:




In the National Maritime Museum link you can find interesting titles which one can´t avoid feeling tempted to read:

Iron Men and Wooden Women: Gender and seafaring in the Atlantic World 1700–1920

Women Under Sail: Letters and Journals concerning eight women travelling or working in sailing Vessels between 1829 & 1949
Sailors in Skirts : a Serendipity of Sea-faring Incidents


One thing is certain, it was a common fact that those women who enroled in Navy ships outstanded by their bravery and sense of duty. Some of them even climbed ranks to the point of becoming captains of the foretop and they  always were very well considered by their mates.

However, I believe we have little chances this fact could have happened in, for example, the Franklin expedition. The boys on board Erebus and Terror were not so young to allow a girl could be confused for a boy. Robert Golding, Thomas Evans, George Chambers and David Young were all of around eighteen years old.



martes, 30 de septiembre de 2014

JOHN RAE´S REVENGE

Today, it has been unveiled a plaque honouring Dr John Rae, the explorer, "The greatest Arctic explorer of them all", said some people, the "Peerless Rae" said others, "The forgotten", "The vilifed" think others.

Dr. John Rae
By Beatriz Garrido Ponce
And yes, it is true, he was forgotten, he was criticized and he was never forgiven by some people, and the things remained in that way for ages. But, like the history of the discovering of the Northwest Passage continues demonstrating us, recent chains of unexpected events will shift the course of the waters and this "status quo" could be changed after all. 

The waters would be again in movement after the melting of the ice of the frozen waters of the merits and credits deserved for this great man. It wasn´t till "Fatal Passage" by Ken McGoogan was published that a truly movement to recover the image of Rae began to fill the minds of those who have been always interested in some way or other in the fate of the Franklin expedition. A movement which even has been given form of a Society, The John Rae Society.  

John Rae is being now, surely while I am writing, forgiven for something that he did not do. Rae, had the dubious pleasure of being the first on discovering the fate of the Franklin expedition during his expedition of 1854. His sin was discovering something that anybody in Britain actually wanted to know and he bore news the world was not prepared to understand. He was criticized for telling the world that the men of the Franklin expedition had resorted to Canibalism to prolong their existence, he was blamed for believing the Inuit, who told him all those incredible and awful stories, and he was pursued for not having gone to King William Island when he had the chance to corroborate all that madness.

http://www.pwnhc.ca/exhibits/nv/fthope.htm

He was blamed in the same way that Apsley Cherry-Garrard would be attacked after the last Scott´s expedition. Thousands of voices cried and never forgave Cherry-Garrard for not pressing harder, for not reaching the place where Scott was staying inside his tent, thousands of voices cried and  never forgave Rae for not reaching King William Island and not verifying the stories which were told him by the Inuit in 1854. 

The sad truth and real pity, though he was never criticised for it, was that he was really close to find some decisive clues during his expedition of 1851, if not eventually a member of the Franklin expedition still alive,  when he repeatedly tried to cross Victoria Strait towards King William Island, thing that unfortunately never happened. 

King William Island and Surroundings

Now that one of the ships of the Franklin expedition has been found, exactly where the Inuit said it would be found, it is clearer than anytime, that the Rae´s sources were highly reliable, that it wasn´t necessary to travel to King William Island to check all those testimonies, that he took the good decisions and did the correct thing. 

It is almost ironic than within the same month these two events have taken place. Three if we consider that Scotland had a Referendum and voted No to the independece. The world should recognise this, the Inuit, were right, the ship was where it was supposed to be, and that Rae, was right too, the Franklin expedition ended as the Inuit told him, as forensic analisys of the bones found, revealed time after. And one have to wonder (thinking bad) if this homage would have been canceled if Scotland would have said yes.

But, the truth, is that Rae is going to be forgiven for something he  didn´t actually do. He discovered the sad end of Franklin and his men but he never pretended to unveil the darkest details of what was told him. His news traveled fastest than him and reached the newspapers in Britain before he could do anything against it. Even Dickens conceded him that it was the Admiralty´s fault.

Charles Dickens circa 1860
It is tempting to think that Rae could have intentionally delivered  this information to spread the image of how futile were the old fashioned ways of the Royal Navy of performing Arctic expeditions, though this I find this very unlikely, and the history says that it was the Admiralty which finally delivered those news to the general public. Who knows, perhaps there was a mole in that hole...

The mortal duel performed by  Rae and his archenemy Dickens, the armed wing of Lady Franklin, lasted years and there were no winners, but there was a loser. Rae´s image received damaged to the core and he spent the rest of his life trying to justify his actions. Interestingly, Rae, applied a similar treatment to Charles Francis Hall, this is a fact not very well known which I have learnt reading "Strangers Among us" by Woodman. Rae tried to discredit all the Inuit´s stories told to Hall.

But that duel was condemned to last from his death to these days. The credit for the discovery of the last link for the Northwest Passage has been discussed, is being discussed now and will be discussed perhaps forever. Rae discovered one of the last pieces of the puzzle, Rae´s strait, a detour which Amundsen took during the first sailed crossing of the passage, a key piece.

Rae not only played the role of Cherry-Garrard in the sense of being the target of the wrath of the media but also acted as a sort of Amundsen. To me, Rae was one of the first man on practicing a modern way to explore, a sportive way of exploration. He performed astonishing trecks alone in the coldest months of the winter in a way that now only the best prepared sportsman can do. He learned the way to live off the land frome the Inuit and knew well how to travel fast on the snow as Amundsen knew too.

Roald Amundsen
By Beatriz Garrido Ponce
John Rae´s revenge is not that he could be proclaimed as the first on discovering the last link of the Northwest Passage, to me his revenge is that he can be proclaimed an authentic and modern explorer, revolutionary for his time, a resortful man who really had chances to survive in that enviroment. The comparison betwen Amundsen and Scott at this point is inevitably. That is to me his real revenge that he should be considered as a real explorer even compared with the current standards.

Acnowledgements: Special thanks to my friend Beatriz Garrido Ponce for giving me this wonderful portraits of John Rae and Roald Amundsen which were painted by her. My interest about the Franklin Expedition has present me with a lot of friends all over the world, some of who I have the inmense pleasure to meet in person. She is one of them, Thanks Bea!.

Thanks also to Ken McGoogan for serving me as inspiration as the title of this post.

sábado, 27 de septiembre de 2014

A MEMBER OF THE FRANKLIN EXPEDITION HAS BEEN FOUND, ALIVE!!

That would be a dream, wouldn´t it? or perhaps a nightmare,  depends on the point of view.

Many of us would consider it a miracle, and we would have, for sure, thousands of questions to ask him, but, no, I am not a post modern version of Charles Francis Hall. Too much time has passed and no matter how naive we could be, there are no chances to find any of the members of the Franklin expedition wandering in the cold air of that flat piece of ground called Hat Island.

No, we are never going to find them alive, but we have been pretty close to do it. The three men buried in Beechey Island, who will be forever sadly remembered for having those sinister grins, were so wonderfully preserved, that some people have dared to say that one even could expect them to speak. Not so well preserved, though, as Walt Disney, of course, who is waiting in his frozen throne and will wait forever to be woken up in the future, but quite well, indeed. 

The rest of the men of the Franklin expedition, found in King William Island, Todd Island, Starvation Cove and Montreal Island, were far to be considered alive. Skulls and bones spread all over the ground. The identification of almost all of them has been impossible. Most of them have been gathered, buried and put under cairns or into boxes. 


Skulls and bones of the men of the Franklin expedition
http://erebusandterrorfiles.blogspot.com.es/2012/08/the-disappearing-dead.html
Two lucky men were buried back in Britain, one in Edinburgh (allegedly identified as Irving) and other under the Franklin Memorial in Greenwich, (Identificated at first as Le Vesconte and more recently as Harry Goodsir).

Grave of Lieut. John Irving, RN, who died on Franklin's expedition


But, don´t desperate, there are still chances to find well preserved bodies of the Franklin expedition, though this time I hope they won´t be shown  naked and emaciated so publicly, as if they were the poor and old Ötzi the iceman. 

Some of us are still dreaming with finding a well constructed grave with an undisturbed Franklin buried inside. A Franklin with a calmed countenance, as if he were sleeping. But now a new field of hope has appeared in our frustrated horizons, now we have the chance of finding bodies or parts of them under the sea. The recent discovery of one of the ships, (The Erebus or the Terror) in the vecinity of O´Reilly Island, and above all, its wonderful state of preservation, make us to think that some human remains could be found on board.

As far as I know, it is extremely rare to find human remains in such old shipwrecks, but it is not  completely impossible. In fact there are more cases than I thought at first, and some of them have revealed  astonishing findings to the world.

I am going to review, cursorily, some of the most impressive cases which I have found:

1.- Royal ship Kronan sank in 1676 during the battle on Öland in front of the shores of Sweden with 800 people on board .

Photo by Lars Einarsson/Kalmar Läns Museum
http://nordic-drifter.tumblr.com/post/29973929494/archaeologists-excavating-a-shipwreck-off-the

The bad news are that of the total of losses, only the rests of two men were found. The good news are that these remains were found after 340 years lying under the sea. They were so well preserved that even one of the skulls had traces of brain tissues. This happened because the men remained enclosed in an air bubble in one of the decks. That fact, which was a blessing for the archaeologist and scientists, surely meant a nightmare for the poor two men who were carried to the bottom of the sea while they were still able  to breath, condemned to a slow and tragic death. 

2.- HMS Victory, not the one which is still floating in Portsmouth, but one of its predecessors which sank in 1744 in the English channel.

Canon of the HMS VIctory
NOTE: That rounded thing under thoses fishes is not the skull though it looks like one.
The human remains, a skull and few bones were found under one of the cannons. There is an article about them, a very interesting one, where you can see the skull and bones. The bones under the cannon shows still a pale yellow colour, while the skull and others, exposed directly to the water were black as coal.

3.- La Belle sank in Matagorda in the Texas´s coast in 1686 after a dramatic struggle of the crew to  stay alive. 



The French sailor of La Belle had a wallet with him with two combs. The amazing fact, is that this skeleton was still articulated, it had tendons and soft tissues which  kept joined the bones. The skull still had part of the brain intact inside.  It is encouraging the thinking of that if any body is found in the Franklin ship, it could still have some documents with him or some belonging which could help to identify him.

These three cases are the most significant which I have found but there were other cases: The Vassa, HMS Pandora, Orient, Fitzgerald, etc..


AND NOW, WHAT WE CAN HOPE TO FIND

As the article mentioned above reads, the searching of human bones in shipwrecks is an undeveloped area, which is a pity. This, must be a frustrating discipline. Each one of those old shipwrecks was usually accompanied by hundreds if not thousands of deaths, so, why is commonly so little found bones?. 

With some luck, divers have been able to find only two or three skulls and a small number of bones in a shipwreck on which hundreds of people have drowned. The chances of finding human remains in shallow waters increases. A human body decompose in water much more quickly than when it is buried in the ground, In less than three weeks only the bones remain. The probabilities increases when the bodies have been caught under the decks or when they have been caught under some sort of load. The main enemy of the recovery of human remains are the exposure to underwater currents. Lying under some sort of cover or buried in sand can prevent the corpses of being exposed to aerobic enviroments. When this happen, then, there are even hopes of obtaining DNA from those bones. 

Nothing is mentioned in the article or in the news which I have read about the effect of cold waters on these stages of preservation, but it would be interesting to know what effect could have this parameter in the formula.

You can find the examples exposed here and others in this interesting article:






martes, 9 de septiembre de 2014

AND IN THE END THEY FOUND THEM! ...WELL THEY FIND ONE OF THEM...FOR NOW...

Yes, the Franklinite world is in the middle of a conmotion, a revolution, it is in the middle of a complete shock!!

One of the ships have been found, its name it is still unknown but they have found one of them and it is in excellent conditions. I don´t like to bet but I will do this time. In the end, I have 50 % of chances to hit the target...so...I bet this is the Terror. That it is not exactly an idea of my own, it has been inspired from the Thomas Gould´s map . 

If this ship is in fact the HMS Terror, then this would be the ship which drifted westward in front of the shores of Adelaide Peninsula, and then the other ship, the HMS Erebus, would be sunken in the surroundings of O´Reilly island. The time will tell us.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/lost-franklin-expedition-ship-found-in-the-arctic-1.2760311
Well, friends, the news are fresh, you can find now lots of details about it in Internet but still, and quoting X-files, "The truth is-still- out there!!" 

I hope that soon, perhaps even today, we will have more fresh news, and perhaps in some days, we could see the first items rescued from this ship at the bottom of the sea near Hat Island. Who knows, they could recover even the camera which the Franklin Expedition carried with them....

Congratulations to all those who have been waiting dozens of years for this very moment. I have to say that this day is being very special and that me, a recently arrived to this world, am really touched. 

I was hooked years ago by the mystery of the disappearance of George Mallory during his ascension in the north ridge of the Everest when suddenly his body was found. Now, for second time in my life I am glad to say that the history has invited me to attend another fascinating event. When you are following closely these kind of stories and something like this happens, one, can´t avoid feeling as a part of it, as if it was you who had phisically find it. It is like finishing an excellent novel.

I sincerely hope that this is going to be only the beginning of a much more astonishing chains of facts and stories to be told and I hope too that these few things that Parks Canada have found in the ground in Hat Island will be only the top of an iceberg of lots of things still to be discovered.

I wish the best luck to the searching team and I reiterate my congratulations to those historians, archaeologists, journalists, descendants, writers, painters, cartoonist, enthusiasts and freakies like me which have suffered and enjoyed being hooked for the fascinating mistery of the Franklin expedition (and who will forever be).

domingo, 24 de agosto de 2014

ON FROZEN POND

The combination of my recent reading of "Captain Francis Crozier, last man standing" by Michael Smith and my brand new fourties, have made me reflect about what was the limit age to participate or even to command an arctic expedition.

It is well known that the Royal Navy recruited men since the early age of eleven or twelve. but, what was the maximum age to participate in an arduous and hazardous arctic expedition?

It has been widely discussed the suitability of the Franklin´s age of 59  to command the expedition which carried him to his death, but it has not been so widely discussed how ideal or not was the age of other explorers which formed part of other expeditions of the kind. I am speaking about people like Dr Richardson., John Ross, John Hepburn, and surely about others.

Doctor Richardson, with 61 years old, accompanied John Rae in the overland rescue expedition of 1848-49. He turned back in the spring of 1849 and arrived at Liverpool a day after his 62 birthday, the 6th november of 1849 while Rae, twenty six years younger than Richardson pressed further north. As Michael Smith describe it, this was one of those mamooth expeditions towards the north shores of Canada which tipically involved walking thousands of miles across the wilderness and descending wild rivers.

Dr. Richardson.
http://research.syncrude.ca/History
John Hepburn, the hero of the Coppermine expedition of 1819 signed, with 57 years old, in the rescue mission commanded by Kennedy in 1851 . The hardships which he endured cost him, with almost all certainty, a slow death during the subsequent years. 

National Portrait Gallery
http://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/portraitLarge/mw37455/John-Hepburn

As in the case of Richardson, what drove Hepburn to go on board an expedition ,which aim was finding Franklin, was love and the friendship he devoted to him. 

But, by far, the most outstanding and astonishing case is that of John Ross. It was the most extreme. The man, a revolutionary and clever mind for his time, broke all the non written rules and, at the age of 73, organised his own expedition and, faithfull to a promise he did to Franklin before departing, sailed to the arctic in 1850 to rescue him.

Tips images
John Ross from tipsimages


Ross senior, not only set a record marching towards the arctic as such age, but he also surely beat other record at joining the navy at the early age of nine years old.

To me, after reading a relative amount of books about the discovery of the Northwest passage, John Ross and his stubborn mind occupies in my opinion a privileged place in the podium of the best arctic explorers. Apart of the incident of the Croker mountains, which I believe was a hidden plan to book tickets for a future opening of the Northwest Passage for himself, Ross Sr. was correct when using a small ship and a tiny crew for the exploration of such shallow straits and he was also a pioneer and a visionary in using a steam boat to attempt to cross it. His fight against cold and scurvy during the expedition of 1829 to 1833 could be compared in merits with the worldwide known Shackleton's feat of survival in the antarctic. 

The strong will of Ross drove him to the arctic even at a age when most of his contemporary mates have already dead, that is what I call a true polar explorer.


lunes, 4 de agosto de 2014

EXTREME MEASURES, INUIT LAWS AND THE FRANKLIN EXPEDITION

With the change of the decade, the mine, some reflections have arisen about how the elders are treated in the modern society. Speaking about this I have remembered something I read, not long time ago, about that incident of which Charles Francis Hall was witness during his years in the arctic while searching for the Franklin expedition.  
From: http://www.athropolis.com/arctic-facts/fact-hall.htm
This incident was no other than a case of senilicide. Particularly, an old woman was locked into an igloo in order to be left there to die from cold and starvation. Hall was so shocked and touched about this action that he re-opened the igloo and tried during long hours, if not days, to save the life of that poor old woman. It seems however that this concrete measure was a very rare practice, being prefered by the people quicker methods which were usually applied with great regret and pain and almost always under request of the elder. 

All the things I have learnt about this practice are in this paper written in 1941. It is an interesting analysis about the most shocking habits and costumes of the Inuit people:

Regents Professor Emeritus of anthropology at the University of Minnesota

E. Adamson Hoebel, Law-Ways of the Primitive Eskimos, 31 Am. Inst. Crim. L. & Criminology 663 (1940-1941)

This subject will surely resurrect among the readers the issue of the consideration as barbarism or not of some of the Inuit costumes followed by the time of the Franklin expedition, and from the reading of the lines which follow, it will resurrect the famous debate and discussions between the recently post humously awarded John Rae and the big Charles Dickens. Both, spokesmen of two antagonistict worlds. 

If you want to know my opinion, which you surely won´t, I think that those unfairly called barbarian costumes are not more than the result of long ages of evolution and survival practicing in extreme environments. We are speaking here about infanticide, senicilide, cannibalism, and others alleged monstruosities. Not the most pleasent things to speak about  during the tea time, but the things which can make the difference between living or dying during the long arctic winters at 50 or less degrees Celsius below zero and after a week or more without eating NOTHING. The same C.F.Hall was trapped in an igloo for several days with a couple of Inuit through of which they were unable to hunt or fish anything. He suffered and shared then on his own skin and bones the risks these people were assuming in their daily life. One should not judge if have not lived in that conditions and time ever.

But, it is not the senicilide which has brought me here to write this post, but the always polemic and morbid cannibalism. In the pg. 11 of this article is discussed how was legally treated this particular issue by the Inuit people. It is surely a coincidence that part of the information we can read in the article about this comes from a man from King William Island. Please, read his whole assessment in the article to understand his point of view, but his conclusion matches, I believe, the same conclusion that the great part of the people could adopt  under the necessary circunstances simply applying their common sense:

 "How can one who is in good health and well fed expect to understand the madness of starvation? We only know that every one of us has the same desire to live"

Interestingly, cannibalism, is considered, and according with the article, by the Inuit law as:

"an emergency measure, socially recognized, acceptable and regrettable"

It is socially recognized till the point you could legally kill and eat members of your own family, and that apparent horrid fact, wouldn´t be considered an homicide and it would be accepted by their law. It was, however, considered an homicide the killing of people which didn´t belong your own family.

Returning to our beloved Franklin expedition, I would like to highlight another point mentioned in the article and which is related to cannibalism. It is mentioned a case of:

" A voracious Baffin Islander who killed and ate twelve persons in time of famine, without indicating any legal consequences".

This is astonishing. I have no idea about the year on which this happened and I am pretty sure that these cases of multi-homicide were extremely rare even under the worst environmental circunstances, but, our Hollywood-affected and distorted mind could get relaxed for a while and easily imagine, as Dickens did more than a hundred of years ago, that "voracious islander" getting into the camp in Erebus bay in 1848 and killing all the men lying there. It is tempting to fall again in the mistake of accepting that theory which pointed the Inuit tribes as the perpetrators of the disappearance of the men the Franklin´s expedition

Surely the end of the men camped in King William Island was a very different one. According with the Inuit hearsay, those men in Erebus Bay were found frozen and intact inside their tents. But, with the ammount of information available by the time of Dickens, and far from having the current valuable statistics and contrasted technical and anthropological information about the costumes and habits of the Inuit societies we have now, one cannot blame Charles Dickens of reaching certain conclusions.