Burial of John Franklin. Author: me


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

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

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

viernes, 7 de septiembre de 2018


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


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:


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


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


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. 

viernes, 25 de mayo de 2018


Singe I got hooked to the story of the lost Franklin expedition  in serch of the northwest passage I inmediately though it would be worth making a movie or a TV show.

The expedition wasn´t just another polar trip, in fact it was and still is, the biggest and more misterious tragedy which happened at those latitudes. For that reason, it seemed impossible to me it wasn´t ever put on a screen.

The story

It is true that making a movie or a serie about the Franklin expedition is not an easy task, not only because the difficulty of simulating a polar enviroment on which it happened, but because telling just the story of what directly related with it, we would have a very limited idea of what realy happened there. It would be necessary to go back on time towards its protagonist´s past, John Franklin to contextualize properly the expedition and to understand well who was that character. Same applies to his wife, we would be missing a very important aspect of the story if Lady Franklin´s intervention before and after the expedition sailed to the north.

Lady Franklin played a notorious role in the process on which her husband was chosen to command that ultimate attempt to locate the northwest passage, though maybe, the reason for what is more known, was for the impressive media campaign which she launched to press the Admiralty to organize the rescue missions after John.

The searching for the whereabaouts of John Franklin, which was carried out by tenths of expeditions, there would give lots of material to talk about, in part because they were essential to finally discover and cross the passage.

I guess that it was necessary to put limits, otherwise, gathering all these elements and those not directly related with the "polar issues" would likely  imply a task impossible to execute, if done, there would be needed ten seasons or more.

But  there are precisely those indirect elements which really add the needed salt and pepper to make a success of a TV show based on the Franklin expedition, and not a boring melodrama where at the end of the day we will end tired of seeing exhausted men starving, cold and dragging huge sledges episode after episode.

We find, for instance, in this dressing so fundamental, love stories condemned to a fail, like Crozier´s relationship with Franklin niece, Sophie Cracroft, fact which fortunately finds a prominent place in the show.

However, in my opinion, it shouldn´t have been left apart other ingredients like for  instance, the likely love triangle among Lady Franklin, John Franklin y James Clark Ross.  Something which could have perfectly have had place during the Ross´s visit to Van Diemen´s land in the voyage of discovery of the Antarctic continent while the Franklins were governors of the prison island.

It could have been introduced in the script, as flash backs the also likely flirtations of Lady Franklin when traveling all along the Mediterranean sea while Franklin was appointed to serve in Malta before departing to the Arctic.

It would have been a nice surprise if it would have appeared the spectral revelations of the deceased Weasy Coppin who reveal to her sisters and father in a mysterious way, through letters proyected in a wall, the whereabouts of the lost ships.

Revelación espectral
It would have been almost unbelievable for the spectators the fact that a small balloon  would make its appearance in England, after crossing the Atlantic ocean, reporting in an attached message about the exact location of the ships. That was such an incredible feat that everyone who studied the case reached the conclusion that it was not more than an hoax, very well fabricated, but an hoax.

The appearing of two mysterious ships frozen in a drifting iceberg in Baffin bay, which for long time was thought could be the Erebus and Terror, would have left us open-mouthed.

Surely, the dialectical conflict between the lquacious Charles Dickens and John Rae, bearer of the first bad news which came from the north regarding the ultimate end of the lost explorers, will entertain us because the controversy arised by the reception of those scandalous news about the practice of cannibalism which he brought to the VIctorian ENgland of the time.

From the paper to the screens

In time, I was conscious that a movie with a duration of an hour and a half or two hours wouldn´t have been enough to tell not even the prologue of the story. There was a first failed attempt by the hand of the canadian director Jean Marc-Vallé who, after the discovery of the Erebus in 2014, made public his intention to direct a film based on the book "On the proper use of the stars" by Dominique Fortier. Never again was heard about this project till Ridley Scott came to rescue, this time not to say it was going to be made a film but a TV show, something with much more sense. With the back up of Ridley one could already anticipate that the lack of means were not going to be an issue to develop the show. Now, the question was, which story would be put into the screen?

Some "Franklinite", felt disappointed somehow when it was knew that the script of the show would be based in the fiction novel "The Terror" written by Dan Simmons which was published in 2007, but, what the heck? after all I had always thought that Simmon´s novel had been the passport which had carried the not very well known Franklin expedition to an international scale, and I wasn´t wrong. The upside of chosing The Terror and not the actual story is that, as the novel it was, it had a beginning and an end which one could easily fit in into a limited number of hours.

Once known the project, my initioal disappointment turned into illusion. It didn´t matter what was brought to the screen were the actual story or the fictional one, what I really wanted to see was my beloved ships, the Erebus and Terror sailing again among icebergs in the canadian Arctic and also, all their occupants alive again wandering by the decks or dragging the heavy sledges. All that, I had no doubt about it, would be feasible thanks to the realism which new FX are now being used in the cinematographic world.

But the success the serie is achieving is not only attributable to those FX, the casting has been exceptional, the script has been remarkably donde and the historical researching which has been performed has been really praiseworthy. It is obvious that Ridley Scott team has done its homework and they been well advised.

The show

I was lucky enough to attend the Premiere in Madrid of the first episode and see how Jared Harris (Crozier) and Tobias Menzies (Fitzjames) were interviewed. There were numerous anecdotes whoch made laugh loudly all the audience.

Me at the right and my childhood friend Daniel at the left.
John Franklin is brilliantly performed by CIaran Hinds, an excellent actor who many will know for having worked in several TV shows, among others Rome and Game of Thrones, and also in many other movies and series. Ciaran does it very well, though he wouldn´t have been my choice to interpret the affable and kind John Franklin only for the fact that he is not bald, and Franklin was. THat was one of his more visible physical features.

The most beautiful Gretta Scacchi, also regular of TV shows, some years older than in the picture below, perform Lady Franklin  in a very credible way. She in the few scenes on which appears, shows, like in the actual facts, how she was the engine after Franklin, the one who pushed him to get the position of command in the expedition which eventually will cost his life, and also, how she was the one who shaked the world to find her husband after his disappearance.

Gretta Scacchi
After the premiere I not only got out fascinated after the interview to the two main actors but, after watching the first episode, I ended absolutely captivated by the realistic atmosphere which the creators have achieved to reenact. The setting, the ships, the characters, all was very real, in less than an hout the script team had made me to connect with the story. The sense of immersion was complete. I had an enormous desire to watch the next chapter, it was so huge the hunger that the waiting was almost unbearable.

Now, at last, after watching all the episodes, I can tell that in general it has been done a very good job. It is difficult, as Roderick Owen, one of the authors of one of the best biographies about John Franklin, to make a work valid for a few but at the same time, adecquate for many. Meaning that his work should satisfy the specialists in the topic and the big public as well. It is my believing that the serie has reached that goal.

Dan Simmon´s novel, when saw the light, and the Terror show now, have given an interntational projection to the Franklin expedition. As it was expected, the latter has rised the curiosity of thousands of people who are now haunted and now want to knoiw more about the actual story and its protagonists.  The truth is that there is much more to know and all the information available is simply fascinating. Even today, new things are being known about the men and the story. The shipwrecks recently found in the Arctic are still practically untouched, who knows what wonders and information can keep their holds and cabins the Erebus and Terror?
Restos del HMS Erebus
There is no lack in the ten episodes, of which the serie is composed , a wide spectrum of scenes which bring to our houses in a vivid way the same emotions that the actual story of the Franklin expedition made us felt to every people who read about it. We will taste realistically the brutal cold with which these men had to deal, we will feel the sense of abandonment experienced by the crews when with the pass of the months it was evident they won´t be able to escape from their icy prison. We will feel the tension arise among their captains and also among the sailors.

The details

In spite of the serie is offering us almost ten hour to develop the script, unluckily, this starts short time before the ships were trapped in the ice north of King William Island where finally almost all the men died, skipping the first winter which the expedition spent in Beechey island. It was there were three men died and were buried who will remain frozen under exceptional conditions of preservations as if they had been put in hybernation chambers.

Owen Beattie and John Geiger brought them to light in the 80´s to perform autopsies respectively on them to try to elucidate the causes of the disaster , or at least one of them. One of the theories their studies supported was that the crews were poisoned by the lead of the welding of the food cans which they carried. That investigation made of their book "Frozen in Time" a best seller and one of the most significant works about the subject.

The picture of John Torrington´s corpse, one of the men buried in Beechey island and subsequently exhumed by Geiger and Beattie, has become an iconic picture of the expedition. It appears in the cover of almost all the editions of the book Frozen in time, however, this character does not appear as such in the show. In his place, the death of David Young and his burial, make a wink to Torrington´s death and the other tow happened in Beechey island.

The actor who plays Young, has an outstanding likeness with John Torrington, so it happens with the coffin and the corpse disposal used in the sailor´s entombment. This way, it is perfectly well simulated the actual event.

About what really happened during the expedition little is known, so in reality, at the time to write the final script, besides of following the content provided by Simmons´s novel, there is plenty of room for imagination. It is known that the expedition spent a first winter in 1845-46 in Beechey island where there were buried the three men mentioned above, it is also known that Francis Crozier and James Fitzjames left the only written record in the northwest coast of king William Island. On it, it was said among other things that Franklin had died in june of 1847 and that 9 officers and 15 men had been lost. It was also said that the expedition had circunvalated Cornwallis island northwest of Beechey island and that they had spent two consecutive winters trapped in the ice off the north tip of King William island. A last annotation said that the ships were abandoned and that the remaining men will depart towards Back river, ocated in the north shore of the continent. A dramatic final note, which didn´t presage anything good because it indicated the carry out of a long and harsh hiking through horrid barren lands almost empty of game.

Note left in King William island
The record was signed in april of 1848 and it was found in 1859 by the expedition of Leopold McClintock. Their mortal remains, found in boats, abandoned campments, or scattered on the ground, will end telling their tale. Besides physical evidences, there were Inuit testimonies on which it was told how the natives came across some of the survivors, stumbled upon their death bodies or got into the abandoned ships while they were still beset in the ice. These stories were told by the Inuit to the explorers which come to the north searching for Franklin and allowed that part of the story could be reconstructed through the haunting, tragic and horrific tales they told.

 Facts or fiction

The Terror TV show reenacts numerous events which are considered as true which appear like cornerstones through the script, and also many which are pure speculation and are food for debate, or are just  based on events of other expeditions which happened before or after the Franklin´s one.

One of the actual facts of more relevance set in the show may be the moment the note mentioned above was signed and put into the cairn in King William Island, a scene which has been performed with such faithfulness till the point that the writting of both captains imitate perfectly the actual ones.

As it was expected, the poisoning coming from the welding of the cans occupy a visible place, but not critical, to justify the tragedy as it was indicated in the book. Scurvy also has a place, a serial killer common in this kind of expeditions which used to leave a trail of loose teeth, old wounds which started to bleed again,  stiff articulations and then the death.

It happens a mutiny, about which many historians and scholars have especulated, there are also situations on which disabled or sick men are abandoned in the camps. It is setting out, though it is never seen in the serie, the possibility that some men could have come back to the ships to reman them. Even the pets have a place of honour, specially the monkey Jacko, about who I developed some time ago a theory on which I gave him certain protagonism in the final, and yet unsolved, outcome of the expedition.

For all who are well immerse in the actual facts, it has been a pleasant surprise to see characters who one didn´t think he would find in the show, as it is the case of the controversial John Ross, who in the fiction ask Franklin visibly worried with a deep voice if he has a escape plan. What in fact Ross told Franklin is that he would go to search for him if he doesn´t shown up after a second winter, and that was precisely what he did though some time after what he promosed and in spite of his advanced age to participate in those kind of voyages. Ross knew well the dangers Franklin was facing because he himselg had barely survived four winters trapped in the northwest passage years before.

Thomas Blanky, one of the ice masters of the expedition, whose role together with the surgeon assistant Harry Goodsir are key in the show, tells a overwhelming description of that expedition happened along the years 1829 to 1833, on which in my opinion John Ross escapes unfairly mistreated. 

Ian Hart (Thomas Blanky) becomes one of the most charismatic characters of the whole plot. He performes the role of a so weather beaten sailor who doesn´t care to die neither in the jaws of hunger nor of the monster. His attitude in the show towards life or death, to which he faces with good humour , is enviable.

We can also see the renowned Arctic council, a comittee superbly painted by Stephen Pearce in 1850 and which actually existed. It was formed by the most important explorers of the time. In the show, this scene which cannot be missed, the members of the council, exceptical and ironicly confront at an outraged Lady Franklin who resort to it to ask for help to rescue her husband. Lady Franklin is not deterred by the funny comments of some of the members of the council and finally,  shows her strong will and put them in their place.

But maybe, the most satisfying thing of all for me, have been the inphograpic modelling  of the ships Erebus and Terror. It is amazingly realistic. The support of Mathew Betts in that task has been decisive. Through his blog Building HMS Terror, Mathew started some years ago to share publicly the evolution of the building of his model ship of the Terror. An accurate model which incorporates all the modifications and improvements made before the ships departed in 1845. Those modifications included the incorporation of a locomotive steam engine which powered a screw propeller, becoming the ships the firsts on using that system in the northwest passage.

There are other minor details which are delightful for those crazy "Franklinites" among which I consider myself included. We can see how are used with naturalness objects which appear here and there and which are known for us for being part of the unique relics from the Franklin expedition  which were brought to England by searching parties. Almost all of them are under the custody of the National Maritime Museum of Greenwich. Objects like the medicine chest, cuttlery, dishes, chronometers, oars, spikes, glasses, shoes, etc.

We should also thank that the Daguerrotype camera of the expedition appears in a scene, a detail not well known but which make us hope that there could be obtained some images coming from the expedition. It is not completely crazy think they could be still in good shape inside any of the shipwrecks.

There are other scenes which help us to be trasported to the life inside a polar expedition, like the sound of the ice which so many times can be heard during the show, the scene when the sun is saw for last time and when it appears again the next summer, explicit images of amputations of fingers, etc. but also the daily life and routine on board Royal Navy ships of that time, like disciplinary punishments carried out with brutal indifference, funerals performed in the upper deck, and so on.

Finally, in some other scenes, we can recognize with accuracy how are reenact some of the encounters among the Inuit and the survivors described above. Those foggy stories are related and studied in the fascinating books "Unraveling the Franklin Mistery" and "Strangers among us" de David Woodman.

But not all these pieces  fit perfectly well in my expectations, I think I will have omitted without  a trembling hand the presence of certain elements which haven´t been specially of my taste. For instance, the attitude of the villain Hickey, whose performance in my opinion is slightly overacted.  I didn´t like the megalomaniac and bizarre dramatization which makes the character little understandable. His evilness contrasts like the sun and the moon with the totally opposite character of Harry Goodsir, whose surname fits nicely with his angelical attitude.

It is neither convincing for me the creature of antropomorphic countenance who compulsary must appear as it is written the fiction novel which inspires the show. I have had the feeling that the appearance of the monster  made not more than bothering and distracting the attention of the spectator from an excellent  polar survival thriller. I think that if the monster scenes could be omitted with surgical precission, we would obtain a much more compact product.

But despite all these tiny  slip-ups, which surely many have appreciated, in conclusion, the result of this fine job has been a serie which is worth watching because it has reached the fundamental target which I was looking for, it is a serie which conveys an accurate picture, monster apart, of what happened, or may have happened during the Franklin expedition in searching of the northwest passage. So in short, it only remains to say:

Bravo team!

lunes, 21 de mayo de 2018


Desde que me enganché a la historia de la expedición perdida de Franklin en busca del paso del noroeste, inmediatamente pensé que ésta merecía la pena ser contada en el cine o en televisión.

No se trata de una historia de exploración polar más, en realidad fue, y sigue siendo, la mayor y más misteriosa tragedia acontecida hasta la fecha en aquellas latitudes. Por ello, en su momento, me pareció increíble que no se le hubiera ocurrido a nadie trasladarla a las pantallas.

La historia 

Es cierto que llevar al cine o a la televisión la expedición de Franklin no es tarea fácil, no solo por la dificultad que entraña simular el entorno polar en la que se desarrolló, sino porque contando solo aquello directamente relacionado con ella, se estaría dando una visión muy limitada de todo lo que ocurrió  realmente allí. Habría que remontarse en el tiempo hacia al pasado de su protagonista, John Franklin para contextualizar correctamente la expedición y entender bien quien era este personaje. Lo mismo aplica a su mujer, nos faltaría un aspecto muy importante de la historia si no se tuviese en cuenta la vida de Lady Franklin antes y después de que partiera la expedición.

Lady Franklin, jugó un papel primordial para que su marido fuera elegido para liderar aquel intento definitivo para localizar el pasaje del noroeste, aunque quizás la razón por la que es más conocida, es por la impresionante campaña mediática que lanzó para presionar al Almirantazgo para que organizara las correspondientes misiones de rescate en busca de John.

La búsqueda del paradero de John Franklin, que fue llevada a cabo por decenas de expediciones, también darían mucho de que hablar ya que muchas de ellas fueron cruciales para que finalmente se pudiera descubrir y atravesar el paso del noroeste.

Pero en algún punto había que poner el límite, supongo, de otra manera recoger todos estos elementos y aquellos no directamente relacionados con la propios "asuntos polares" supondría una tarea probablemente imposible de ejecutar que daría lugar a una serie de más de diez temporadas. Pero son precisamente estos elementos indirectos los que realmente añadirían la sal y la pimienta necesarias para que la serie se convirtiese en un éxito y no en un aburrido melodrama donde al final nos cansaríamos de ver a hombres agotados y hambrientos pasando frío y tirando de trineos episodio tras episodio.

Encontramos por ejemplo en este aderezo tan necesario, historias de amor condenadas al desencuentro, como la del capitán Crozier y la sobrina de Franklin, Sophie Cracroft, hecho, que afortunadamente sí encuentra un lugar prominente en la serie.

Pero en mi opinión, no deberían haber faltado otros ingredientes como por ejemplo, el posible triangulo amoroso entre Lady Franklin, John Franklin y James Clark Ross. Algo que al parecer pudo haber acontecido durante la visita de Ross a Tasmania en su viaje de descubrimiento a la Antártida cuando los Franklin eran gobernadores en la isla prisión.

Podrían introducirse también en el guión los posibles devaneos extramatrimoniales de Lady Franklin cuando se dedicó a viajar por el mediterráneo mientras John Franklin servía en Malta antes de partir hacia el Ártico.

Sorprenderían sin duda, si hubiesen aparecido en la serie, las revelaciones espectrales de la difunta Weasy Coppin que desveló a sus hermanas y a su padre de forma misteriosa con letras proyectadas en una pared, el paradero de los barcos perdidos.

Revelación espectral
Resultaría casi imposible creer por los espectadores el hecho de que un pequeño globo misterioso apareciera en Inglaterra informando sobre la posición exacta de los barcos perdidos  después de haber cruzado todo el océano Atlántico. Es un hecho tan increíble que todos los que lo han analizado han llegado a la conclusión, por diversos motivos, de que se trató de una broma de mal gusto, muy elaborada, eso sí.

La aparición de dos misteriosos barcos avistados sobre un iceberg en la bahía de Baffin, y que durante un tiempo se pensó pudieran ser el Erebus y el Terror, nos dejaría probablemente boquiabiertos.

Seguramente, el conflicto dialéctico entre el locuaz Charles Dickens y John Rae, el portador de las primeras malas noticias que vinieron del norte al respecto del destino final de los expedicionarios, nos entretendría con la contraversia suscitada por la acogida de las escandalosas noticias sobre la práctica de canibalismo que trajo a la Inglaterra Victoriana del momento.

Del papel a las pantallas

Ya en su momento fui consciente de que una película de cine, con una duración de entre una hora y media y dos horas, apenas podría haber dado tiempo a contar ni tan siquiera el prólogo de la historia.

Hubo un primer anuncio fallido por parte del director Canadiense Jean Marc-Vallé que, después del descubrimiento del Erebus en 2014, anunció su intención de dirigir una película al respecto basada en el libro "On the proper use of the stars" de Dominique Fortier. Nunca más se supo no obstante sobre este proyecto hasta que vino al rescate Ridley Scott, ésta vez no para anunciar que iban a  producir una película, sino una serie de televisión, algo que tenía mucho más sentido. Con el respaldo de Ridley Scott uno ya podía anticipar que la falta de medios no iba a ser un obstáculo para desarrollar la serie, ¿pero que historia se llevaría a la pantalla? 

Algunos "Franklinitas", nos sentimos algo decepcionados cuando se supo que el guión se basaría en la novela  de ficción "El Terror" escrita por Dan Simmons y que fue publicada en 2007, pero, ¿que diablos? al fin y a al cabo siempre he pensado que la novela de Simmons había sido el pasaporte que había  llevado la no muy conocida  expedición de Franklin a ser proyectada a escala internacional, y no me equivocaba. La ventaja de elegir "El Terror" y no la historia real, era que, como novela que era, tenía un principio y un final que facilmente se podía encajar en un número limitado de horas.

Una vez conocido el proyecto, mi inicial desencanto se tornó en ilusión. Poco importaba que lo que se llevara a la pantalla fuera la historia real o una de ficción, lo que realmente quería era ver a mis queridos barcos, el Erebus y el Terror en movimiento, navegando entre los hielos del Ártico Canadiense y también a todos sus participantes con vida de nuevo deambulando por sus cubiertas o arrastrando los pesados trineos. Todo aquello, no me cabía ninguna duda, sería posible gracias al realismo que proporcionan ahora los efectos especiales que se utilizan en el mundo cinematográfico.

Pero el éxito que está teniendo la serie no es solo atribuible a los efectos especiales, la selección de actores ha sido excepcional, el guión está muy bien definido y el trabajo de documentación histórica que se ha llevado a cabo ha sido realmente encomiable. Es evidente que el equipo de Ridley Scott ha hecho los deberes y se ha asesorado muy bien.

La serie

Tuve la suerte de poder asistir a la Premiere en Madrid del primer episodio y ver cómo Jared Harris (Crozier), Tobias Menzies (Fitzjames) eran entrevistados en directo. Se contaron infinidad de pequeñas anécdotas que hicieron reír con fuerza al público presente.

Yo, a la derecha y mi amigo de la infancia, Daniel Mateos, a la izquierda (amigo que por cierto es actor y muy bueno).
John Franklin es interpretado excelentemente por Ciaran Hinds, un excelente actor que algunos conoceréis por haber trabajado en diversas series, entre otras Roma y Juego de Tronos, y también en otras muchas series y películas. Ciaran lo hace muy bien, aunque no hubiera sido mi elección para interpretar al afable y bondadoso John Franklin por el mero hecho de que no es calvo, uno de los rasgos físicos más característicos de Franklin.

La guapísima Gretta Scacchi, también asidua a trabajar en series de televisión, con algunos años más  de los que tenía en la foto que comparto más abajo interpreta de forma muy creíble a una Lady Franklin que en las pocas escenas en las que aparece muestra, como ocurrió en la realidad, como fue el motor que realmente empujó a su timorato marido a participar en la expedición que le llevaría a su muerte y como fue también una pieza fundamental del mecanismo que movió Roma con Santiago para encontrar a John Franklin o lo que quedara de él tras su desaparición.

Gretta Scacchi
De la Premiere no solo salí encantado por la entrevista con dos de los principales actores, sino que, cuando acabó la proyección del primer episodio, acabé absolutamente cautivado por la verosímil atmósfera que los creadores habían conseguido recrear. El escenario, los barcos y los caracteres eran muy reales, en menos de una hora los guionistas habían conseguido que conectara con los personajes y me introdujera de lleno en la historia. Salí con unas ganas enormes de ver el siguiente episodio, tantas que la espera hasta poder verlo se hizo insoportable.

Ahora por fin, después de haber visto todos los episodios puedo decir que en general se ha hecho un buen trabajo. Es difícil, como dijo Roderick Owen, uno de los autores de una de las mejores biografías sobre John Franklin, hacer una obra que fuera válida para unos pocos a la par que para muchos, refiriéndose a que su trabajo debía de satisfacer por un lado a los especialistas en la materia y por otro, también al gran público. Creo que en la serie de El Terror se ha conseguido este reto. 

La novela de Dan Simmons cuando vio la luz, y la serie de el Terror ahora, han dado una proyección internacional a la expedición de Franklin. Como era de esperar, ésta última ha despertado la curiosidad de miles de personas que han quedado hechizados y ahora quieren saber más sobre la historia real y sus protagonistas. Lo cierto, es que hay mucho, muchísimo más que saber y todo la información existente es fascinante. A día de hoy se siguen averiguando cosas nuevas sobre sus participantes y sobre lo que pasó allí. Sin ir más lejos, el contenido de los dos barcos naufragados, está prácticamente sin tocar, ¿quien sabe que información pueden contener en sus camarotes y bodegas el Erebus y el Terror?.

Restos del HMS Erebus
No faltan en los diez episodios de los que se compone la serie un espectro amplio de escenas que traen a nuestras casas de forma vívida las mismas sensaciones que la historia de real de la expedición de Franklin nos ha hecho sentir a todos los que hemos leído sobre ella. Sentiremos con realismo como ellos el frío brutal con el cual estos hombres tuvieron que lidiar y percibiremos también el aislamiento sentido por las tripulaciones cuando con el pasar de los meses se hizo obvio que los barcos no se van a ver liberados por el hielo. Sentiremos crecer la tensión entre sus capitanes y también entre los marineros. 

Los detalles

A pesar de que la serie nos ofrece casi diez horas para poder desarrollar la historia, desafortunadamente, ésta comienza poco antes de que los barcos queden atrapados en el hielo al norte de la isla del rey Guillermo, donde finalmente murieron casi todos sus tripulantes, saltándose por tanto el primer invierno que la expedición pasó en la isla de Beechey. Fue allí, donde murieron y fueron enterrados los tres hombres que quedarían congelados en excepcionales condiciones de preservación como si los hubieran introducido en cámaras de hibernación, hasta el presente. 

Owen Beattie y John Geiger los sacaron a la luz en los años 80 para practicarles respectivas autopsias y tratar de dilucidar las causas del desastre, o al menos algunas de ellas. El envenenamiento de la tripulación por el plomo de las soldaduras de las latas de comida que transportaban era una de las hipótesis que se trabajaban. Aquella investigación convirtió su libro "Frozen in Time" en una de las mas importantes obras sobre el tema. 

La fotografía del cadáver de John Torrington, uno de los hombres enterrados en la isla de Beechey y posteriormente exhumado por Geiger y Beattie, es una imagen icónica de la expedición. Aparece en la portada de casi todas las ediciones de Frozen in Time, sin embargo este personaje no aparece como tal en la serie. En su lugar, figura la muerte del joven David Young y su posterior entierro, como un guiño a la muerte de Torrington y a las otras dos acontecidas en aquel primer invierno en la isla de Beechey. 

El actor que caracteriza a Young tiene un parecido sorprendente con John Torrington, así como el ataúd y la disposición del cadáver del marinero utilizados en la escena del entierro. De esta manera se simula perfectamente el  acontecimiento original que queda representado perfectamente en la serie.

De lo que pasó en realidad durante la expedición poco se sabe, por lo que en realidad, a la hora de redactar el guión final, además de seguir el contenido proporcionado por la novela de Dan Simmons, hay mucho lugar para la imaginación. Se sabe que la expedición pasó el invierno de 1845-46 en la isla de Beechey donde enterraron a tres hombres, se sabe también que Francis Crozier y James Fitzjames dejaron el único documento escrito del que se dispone en la costa noroeste de la isla del rey Guillermo. En ella se decía entre otras cosas que Franklin había muerto en junio de 1847, y que se habían perdido 9 oficiales y 15 hombres. Se decía también que la expedición  había circunvalado la isla de Cornwallis al noroeste de la isla de Beechey y que llevaban dos inviernos consecutivos atrapados en el hielo sin apenas moverse en la vecindad de la isla del rey Guillermo. Una última anotación decía que se abandonaban los barcos y que los hombres restantes partían en dirección al río Back, ubicado en la costa norte del continente Canadiense. Un dramático apunte final que no presagiaba nada bueno porque suponía la realización de una largísima travesía a pie por terreno inhóspito y casi carente de caza.

Nota dejada en Victory point en la isla del rey Guillermo

El escrito se firmaba en abril de 1848 y fue encontrado en 1859 por la expedición de Leopold McClintock. Sus restos mortales, encontrados en botes o campamentos abandonados, terminarían de contar su historia. Además de las evidencias físicas, se contó con los inestimables testimonios de los Inuit con los que los supervivientes se cruzaron en su camino cuando viajaban hacia el sur. Éstos contaron historias a los exploradores que acudieron en busca de Franklin que permitieron reconstruir parte de la tragedia a través de las horribles y trágicas escenas que narraban.

Hechos o ficción

La serie de "El Terror" recrea numerosos eventos que se consideran como ciertos y que aparecen como piedras angulares en el guión, y también algunos que son pura especulación y que todavía son materia de debate. Uno de los más relevantes quizás sea el momento en el que la nota es rellena, firmada y depositada bajo el hito de piedras de Victory Point, imagen llevada con tal fidelidad a las pantallas que hasta la letra de ambos capitanes imita a la real.

Cómo era de esperar, el envenenamiento por el plomo de las soldaduras de las latas utilizadas ocupa un papel visible pero no definitivo que justifique la tragedia acontecida como se anticipaba en el libro mencionado anteriormente "Frozen in Time". También hace acto de presencia el tan temido escorbuto, asesino en serie en este tipo de expediciones que dejaba un rastro de dientes sueltos, viejas heridas que volvían a sangrar, rigidez en las articulaciones y finalmente, la muerte.

Se produce un motín sobre el que mucho se ha especulado entre historiadores y estudiosos sobre el tema, también se producen situaciones en las que se abandona a los incapacitados o enfermos en los campamentos. Se plantea, aunque nunca llega a suceder en la serie, la posibilidad de un eventual regreso a los buques (algo sobre lo que sobre los especialistas no se ponen de acuerdo pero que podría ser muy probable que ocurriera). Hasta las mascotas de los barcos encuentran su lugar de honor en la serie, especialmente el mono Jacko, sobre que hace algún tiempo desarrollé una teoría que le daba cierto protagonismo en el todavía sin resolver desenlace final de la expedición. 

Para los que estamos más metidos en la historia real, ha sido una sorpresa ver aparecer caracteres a los que uno no contaba con ver hacer acto de presencia en un principio, como es el caso del polémico John Ross, que en la serie lugubremente pregunta a Franklin con preocupación si tiene algún plan de escape. Lo que John Ross en realidad le dijo a Franklin fue que iría a buscarle si éste no aparecía después del segundo invierno, y fue eso lo que efectivamente hizo aunque algún tiempo más tarde de lo prometido y a pesar de su avanzada edad para acometer esa clase de viajes. Ross sabía bien a los peligros a los que Franklin se exponía, porque el mismo había sobrevivido a duras penas a cuatro inviernos atrapado en el pasaje del Noroeste años antes.

Thomas Blanky, uno de los pilotos (Ice master) de la expedición,  cuyo papel, junto con el del asistente de cirujano, Harry Goodsir son claves en el transcurso de la serie, hace una espeluznante descripción de esa expedición, ocurrida entre 1829 y 1833, en la que John Ross no sale muy bien parado, injustamente en mi opinión. Ian Hart (Thomas Blanky) se convierte en uno de los personajes mas carismáticos de toda la trama. Representa a un viejo marinero tan curtido que parece que lo mismo le da morir a manos del hambre que devorado por un oso polar gigante. Su actitud en la serie hacia la vida y la muerte, a la que le planta cara con humor y socarronería, es envidiable.  

Aparece también en escena el afamado consejo Ártico, un comité pintado magistralmente por Stephen Pearce en 1850 y que realmente existió. Estaba formado por los exploradores mas importantes de la época. En la serie, en esta escena que no podía faltar, los componentes del comité, escépticos e irónicos se enfrentan a una furiosa Lady Franklin que acude a él para pedir ayuda para rescatar a su marido. Lady Franklin no se deja amedrentar por los comentarios jocosos de algunos de los estirados miembros del comité y finalmente, haciendo gala de su fuerte carácter, los pone en su lugar.

Quizás lo más satisfactorio para mí, haya sido que la modelización infográfica de los barcos HMS Erebus y HMS Terror haya sido tan sumamente realista.  El apoyo de Mathew Betts en esta tarea ha sido decisivo. A través de su blog Building HMS Terror, Mathew, comenzó hace unos años a compartir públicamente la evolución de la construcción de una maqueta exacta del Terror. Realizó una maqueta que incorporaba todas las modificaciones y mejoras que se hicieron en su momento previas a la partida de los buques en 1845. Estas modificaciones incluían la incorporación de una locomotora de vapor que propulsaba una hélice, convirtiendo al barco en uno de los primeros en estar dotado con este tipo de propulsión en el pasaje del noroeste.

Hay otros pequeños detalles hacen las delicias de estos locos "Franklinitas", entre los que me incluyo. Vemos como se utilizan con naturalidad y aparecen aquí y allá objetos que son conocidos por ser las únicas reliquias de la expedición que pudieron volver a Inglaterra y que se encuentran mayoritariamente bajo la custodia del National Maritime Museum de Greenwich. Objetos como un cajón medicinal, cubiertos, platos de porcelana, etc.

Es de agradecer que la cámara daguerrotipo que la expedición llevaba haga también su aparición en escena, un detalle que no es muy conocido pero que mantiene la esperanza de que en caso de ser encontradas las placas donde las imágenes eran grabadas podrían traer a la luz las "fotografías" tomadas durante la expedición. No es del todo descabellado que estas imágenes se puedan encontrar todavía en un estado decente de conservación dentro de alguno de los barcos hundidos.

Hay otras escenas que nos ayudan a transportarnos a la vida, no solo dentro de un viaje de exploración polar, como el ruido del hielo crujiendo y estrujando las paredes del casco de los barcos que se oye en varios momentos de la serie, la escena en la que se ve ponerse el sol por última vez antes de comenzar un largo invierno de meses de duración, explícitas imágenes de amputaciones de dedos, etc., sino también a la rutina diaria en la marina de aquella época como castigos disciplinarios ejemplarizantes llevados a cabo con brutal frialdad, funerales llevados a cabo en cubierta, etc.

Y por último, en algunas otras escenas, podemos reconocer como se recrean con fidelidad asombrosa algunos de los encuentros con los supervivientes que los Inuit describieron a los exploradores que acudieron en busca de Franklin y que son relatadas en los libros "Unraveling the Franklin Mistery" y "Strangers among us" de David Woodman.

Pero no todas las piezas han encajado a la perfección en mis expectativas, creo que habría omitido sin que me temblase la mano la presencia de algunos elementos que no han sido especialmente de mi agrado. Por ejemplo, la actitud del villano Hickey, para mi gusto, tiene un punto de sobreactuación teatralizada megalómana y  bizarresca que la hace poco entendible que contrasta mucho con la actitud totalmente opuesta del buenazo de Goodsir (Buen señor en castellano). Tampoco convence demasiado la criatura de rostro antropomorfo que obligadamente debía hacer acto de presencia, ya que así lo exige el guión basado en la novela de ficción que la inspira. A veces he tenido la sensación de que la aparición del monstruo no hacía más que distraer al espectador de una excelente trama de supervivencia e intriga. Creo que una segunda versión de ésta serie donde se omitieran las escenas en las que aparece el personaje "sobrenatural" con precisión de cirujano, el conjunto quedaría mucho más compacto.

Pero a pesar de estos pequeños deslices que seguro que muchos han apreciado, en definitiva, el resultado de todo este trabajo ha sido una serie que merece mucho la pena ver, ya que ha conseguido el objetivo primordial que yo andaba buscando, se trata de una serie que transmite una idea bastante fiel, monstruo aparte, de como se desarrolló o pudo haber desarrollado la expedición pérdida de Franklin en busca del paso del noroeste. Por lo que como conclusión, solo queda decir:

¡Bravo equipo!