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, 25 de julio de 2014


Inspired by a recent discussion about if a picture which has appeared in an article the Daily Mirror on which appears a sledge with a skeleton inside is actually related or not with the Franklin expedition, I decided to offer to the public a compilation of those illustrations and paintings which I currently know which show the boat found by the McClinctock in his searching expedition and which was revisited in the subsequents ones. 

A detailed description of the boat and its content discovered by Hobson is described here and contemporary pictures of the place where it was found ade available here.

If you stop on the following pictures for a while and then you analyse all of them closely, you begin to amaze yourself finding slight differences and details among drawings which at first sight looks pretty similar.

1.- This, is the particular case of the engraving which illustrates the finding of one of the boats by the Lieutenant Hobson during the expedition of the Fox in 1857.
This illustration, from Harper's Weekly, depicts Lt. Hobson as he discovers a boat used by members of the missing Franklin Expedition. 
From the Russell Potter scan of the original: www.ric.edu/faculty/rpotter/deathfull_sm.jpg
I read in this article that this particular sketch was published in "Harper Weekly" in the 20th of october of 1850. That, of course is impossible for two main reasons, the McClintock expedition discovered the boat in his expedition of 1857 and on the other hand the newspaper "Harper´s Weekly" began its activity with that name precisely that same year, in 1857. So surely, the illustration belongs to some edition of 1859, year on which the Fox came back home.

2.- This second illustration shows the same event depicted almost identically, and surely by the same author, who by the way is unknown to me. It looks as if it were another frame of the same sequence:
“Discovery of the Franklin expedition boat.” New yorkFrom "Frozen Ocean"

In both of them you can see the same number of people, six explorers, six dogs, two sledges, two skeletons, a boat and two barrelled guns. But besides the fact that one is couloured and the other isn´t, you can notice that the postures of the men and the dogs are different. I have no idea about which newspaper was it published.

3.- Likely, based on these previous drawings, this next one was made. This time, again, six men are shown removing what could be a canvas, a coat or some clothes, to show a skeleton inside the boat. On the floor, close to the clothes are what seems to be a pair of boots. I haven´t been able to guess who was the author of this drawing, however the drawing has a name written at the bottom which seems to read "Bemable" or something like that. I leave this open to your own investigations.

4.- Here, we have another case, this one appears in the book "Finding the North Pole" published in 1909 inside the chapter"The fate of the Sir John Franklin Expedition" in the page number 310. The creepy illustration appears over the name: "McClinctock finding skeletons of Sir John Franklin´s men": 

The discovery of Franklin's party. Source: Morris, Charles: Finding the North Pole by Cook and Peary, W. E. Scull, 1909, 288.http://www.whoi.edu/beaufortgyre/history/franklin_en.html

5.- About the next one, few things I could say which wasn´t already known for those who are fond of these issues. This, is the famous painting by Thomas Smith, painted in 1895 which bears the presumptuous name: 

 "They forged the last links with their lives" 

and which is shown to the general public in the National Maritime Museum together with the disappointing scarce amount of Franklin expedition relics. 

The grey-blue faces of the men lying on the snow still tied to their ropes it is supposed to be an accurate representation of that story told by the Inuit which were witnesses of the final stages of the tragedy. That story which said that the men fell while walking. There is another detail which show us that the author was well informed, the fact that the boat is fitted with a sail which was also part of the Inuit story. 

Though I am far from being sure I have to wonder if the last man standing in this picture is carrying a Halkett boat across his shoulders. One has the temptation of thinking that he effectivley could be Crozier. If that was the intention of the painter, then this could be another wink to the Inuit accounts. 

An interesting and much richer description about this painting and about its author is available in the web page of the National Maritime Museum here".

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

6.- Another heavyweight and also well known painting related with the discovery of the boats of the Franklin expedition is that done by Julius Von Payer painted in 1897 which was named "Starvation Cove":

"Starvation Cove" by Julius Von Payer 1897

This time the boat is realistically shown full of dying men, wearing this time their blue naval uniforms, together with some of their possesions. Among other things, we can see a metal box tied with a rope and a sextant which lyes besides a book, (wich one has the temptation of thinking that could be one of the expedition´s log books). Again like in the Thomas´s painting, something which seems to be a mast with a sail rolled on it, appears in the middle of the boat as if the men had stopped in that place to die just lying over the snow. The polar bear, which threats the last man standing, adds an extra dramatic effect to the whole scene, showing the spectator that besides being beyond all possibility of rescue they had surely had to confront those tremendous and dangerous enemies.
7.- This last one is represented alone together with a window on its bottom which shows several of the Franklin expedition relics found. I have no trace about what could be the origin of this one, I guess that it could have been published in some newspaper of the time. It is signed with the initials: C.W. 

If someone have any clue about its origin, please feel free to enlight me!.
I began with great illusion this post till I realised that the number of illustrations and paintings about the Franklin expedition´s boats were further less than I had previously imagined. By the time this is all I can offer you.

martes, 22 de abril de 2014


I am feeling like a mad gold miner who has found an amazing and neverending vein of gold in the desert of the vast unknown zone which is the last and lost Franklin´s expedition.

Digging on this new source of information which is the scanned old newspapers available in the website of the National Library of Australia, I recently did  another interesting finding in an article published in the Bathurst Free Press and Mining Journal in 1902.

A mysterious relic from the Franklin expedition travelled a long way from the King William Island to Bathurst, Australia. I called it a mysterious relic because since I stumbled with it I have been searching for references among the pictures, engravings, narratives and so on aboutthe Franklin expedition relics and I have found nothing at all.

This, till now unknown for me, relic was no other than a small geographical globe of about three inches in diameter. It seems that it was found together with other Graham Gore´s belongings in the arctic, a sword and a telescope,  among the other relics of the Franklin expedition. There is not mentioned in the article who did this finding.

The article says that the globe was loaned to the Local Technology Museum (of Bathurst, I guess) in 1902. It belonged to the Captain John Gore, Grandfather of Graham Gore. John Gore was a well known sailor who circunnavigated the Earth three times, twice on board the HMS Dolphin and once together with Cook in the HMS Resolution during his third voyage. 

The origin of the little globe is a mistery by itself, surely it was a present addressed to John Gore done by the Admiralty after finishing the voyage for Cook as a sort of tribute to his endeavours.

Graham Gore (Royal Navy Lieutenant)
National Maritime Museum
John Gore (Royal Navy Captain) 

The globe of the picture above is a Geographycal globe of 1,5 inches in diameter made by Newton & Son with engraved hand-colored gores, set within a turned mahogany box. It represented the routes of Captain Cook's third voyage, and the route taken by the Captains Charles Clerke and John Gore who completed the voyage in 1779 after Cook was killed in Hawaii. The thought that a globe similar to this one could have been presented to the Captain John Gore came to me because on it was represented that particular voyage.

The size of the globe in the picture and the size of the globe described in the article don´t match. In fact it seems that commonly these also called pocket globes usually had 3 inches of diameter. However, there is still a chance of discovering the actual globe which could have belonged once to John Gore and to after to Graham Gore. The one of the picture has a twin, a bigger one of three inches size, which is now in the National Maritime Museum of Greenwich.  I have taken a look at it (below) and it looks quite new, not as if it would have spent years in the arctic, and there is no trace of another similar among the pictures of the Franklin expedition relics available in its web page neither.

One has to wonder if the one which is now in the NMM could be the same who was loaned to the Local Techonology Museum in 1902 in Bathurst, Australia. The globe which is in the NMM is described as it follows:

"An identical globe, without the mahogany box, is in the collection of the National Maritime Museum in Britain and pictured in Dekker, Globes at Greenwich.  Their example is part of an orrery published c. 1850.  In the book are illustrated two 3-inch Newton pocket globes, dated "after 1833" and c. 1860 respectively, shown with mahogany cases of the same design, but larger to accommodate the larger globes." 

Terrestrial and celestial pocket globe

National Maritime Museum


If our little piece of the puzzle, the original Graham Gore´s globe, is now in the National Maritime Museum, then it would have done the same long trip at least four times. It would have traveled from Britain to Australia with John Gore Jr. when he moved to there in 1831, from Australia to the Arctic with Graham Gore in 1845 when he joined the Franklin Expedition, it would have come back again to Australia when it was sent to his relatives after being found in King William Island and he would have done once more trip from Australia to London to repose in some box or shelf of the National Maritime Museum. 

There are other Pocket Globes of 3 inches made by Newton & son which are available in webshops of antiquities like this one, who knows if some of these could be the Gore´s one...:

3 inches geographycal globe.
The globe described in the article is said to be contained on a shark skin case, which is not mentioned in any of the descriptions I have read, so surely any of the globes I have found will be the Graham Gore´s one. 

I have even doubt about the existence of that globe, in this letter  are described certain arrangements for the sending of a sword and a telescope. The date of the title is wrong, the correct one is 14 january 1855. No globes are mentioned apparently on it. The description of this letter is this:

"A handwritten double sided letter on thin cream paper, relating to a sword and telescope and transport arrangements for them. The letter starts "Bournemouth, / 14 January 1855" My dear Sir, / Requested my agents / Messrs Clinch & Sons to ap- / ply to Mr Kelby..."

 Did this globe exist at all? or it is a ghost globe? 

Please help me to solve this mistery!!

miércoles, 16 de abril de 2014


"Willing to go" - These three words written the 11th july of 1845 show the spirit of a man, not a very well known man  indeed. These three words show actually the spirits of the whole companionship who went together with Sir John Franklin to the Arctic.

Time ago I published a short post here where I tried to draw him. On that time I couldn´t find any specific information about this man. I didn´t have even read the description of him made by james Fitzjames in one of his letters where he was described as a rough but affable man.

James Reid Ice Master of HMS Erebus - Franklin expedition of 1845
From: www.luminous-lint.com
It has been now that I have discovered this short article in The Register (or also called the South Australian Register)   where I have found much more valuable information on which this man is well described and what is even more curious, I have discovered on it that he had in his hands the opportunity to avoid the disaster.

James Reid was a man who kept an intense correpondence with his wife. On one of his letters written to her the spring of the fateful year of 1845 (22th of march 1845) he told his wife that he had been asked by a shipowner to go on board the ship Neptune to sail to Quebec in April. He told her spouse that he refused that offer because he was at this point committed with  Sir John to depart in the Franklin expedition to the North.

His fate was then sealed but his words show an involved man with high expectancies on this particular journey:

"It may be two years, it may be three or four, but I am quite willing to go"

This phrase not only is a demonstration of his mood but it is also the key which teach us that this man, at least on these previous stages of the preparation of the expedition, was more than concious that the expedition could last even four years. A point which has been sometimes questioned, however after, in a letter sent from Whalefish Islands, he mentions that they were carrying only provisions for three years. He continuous:

"Sir John told me that if I went the voyage with him  and landed safely in England again I would be looked after all my life"

In this case, another fact is revealed, the trust which the men of the Franklin expedition had laid on their Commander. A thing which one could easily believe if one analyses the treatment received after previous expeditions for other of his previous companions.

Reading forward he wrote this dark forecast:

"Mr Enderby has been a good friend to me. He will look after you if I should never return"

And follows:

"No doubt there will be a great talk about me going this voyage. . It will show that I am not frightened for my life like some men. It is for you and the family. Why should a man stop at home?"

Saying that "he wouldn´t show he wasn´t frightened" implies to me that he was scared to death about this adventure. Precisely because of his knowledge of the arctic regions and the dangers which the ice involves James Reid surely was one of the more aware about the hell through which they were going to sail .

Another curious thing mentioned in the article is that the officers "had to" buy their own silver spoons and forks. Reid complains about those expenses. Were they obliged to buy their own cutlery?, Was that a formal prescription for the officers?. 

I really don´t know, but if that thing is true, it could explain why so many of this items were found among the belongings of the bodies of the men scattered in King King William Island. If some officers incurred on heavy and disproportionate expenses to afford this purchase, perhaps some of them succumbed to the temptation of carrying those valuable spoons and forks till the end.

And now I have found an astonishing thing. James Reid says:

"Lady Franklin has ordered all the officers' likenesses to be taken, and mine among the rest, with my uniform on. She keeps them all by herself."

My knowledge of English is well known to be insufficient, but I believe this phrase means that it was Lady Franklin who ordered the famous pictures (daguerrotypes) of the officers to be taken by Richard Beard? I didn´t know that detail. I have always read and believed that the idea have come from John Franklin himself. Perhaps Reid was wrong, and was actually Sir John the promoter of such historical action.

The letter continues and then arises another remarkably assertion which hurts for the hidden true it contains and for the sincere love it shows to his beloved wife:

"Keep your heart up. We will both meet again. This voyage will be the last that I will never make."

The next letter was written 80 miles west from Stromness and it show us how this old lad was indeed loved by her employers:
"The first lieutenant calls me his Jolly Old Hero.' He is a good seaman, and so is Capt. Fitzjamcs. He is a fine man, and is next to Sir John Franklin."
Writing from Whalefish Islands in july 1845 he confirms the suggestions that Sir John was in a poor state of health when they departed from London, and that surely the fresh air of the sea had helped him to recover:
"I am glad to acquaint you that Sir John Frankin is quite well, and enjoying better health than when in London"
References to the unusual warmth of the present and the previous seasons are done a couple of times, one mentioning that the previous season the winter was defined by the locals of Greenland as "mild" and other is this:
"I have been a number of 'years in this country, but I never saw it so warm as it has been during the past three days."
I don´t know why but James Reid always had attracted my attention, there was something in his look and posture who inclined me to feel certain fondness to this man.
James Reid left a wife and three sons, who he demonstrated through his writting he loved more than anything else in the world. The apparently rough and veteran seaman had a story behind, a story which was shared by other members of the crews. He had a live, family and friends. He, and the other members of this expedition, abandoned them all forever in the pursuit of a dream.
Good journey "Jolly Old Hero" I sincerely hope we could meet each other someday.

jueves, 6 de marzo de 2014


I wonder what would have happened if Crozier and his men would have reached England after all.

After knowing that Ron Howard is making a film (*) about the Essex case, I have been searching for further information of others terrible manifestations of this one particular of those non-written rules which were then called "The customs of the sea".

"Custom of the sea" by Richard Lewer
(*) While reading about this new movie I have been asking myself why every movie´s Director and Producer of this planet is spending money in bad movies instead of spending it into a good movie or serie about the last Franklin expedition, or why not, about the life of Sir John Franklin. 

Whaleship Essex
Of course, I quickly remembered the case of the ship Mignonette which in 1884 was also a famous case of this sad and morbid custom. But this time, the case didn´t finished as another mere example of how cruel were the conditions which the castaways should afford. The trial and its verdict established certain jurisprudence about this subject. 

That ship, the Mignonette, shipwrecked in the surroundings of the Cape Good Hope. The crew, four men, managed themshelves to take the lifeboat, and with it they saved temporarily their lives. They were wandering by the sea for some time. The situation lasted too much and it enworsened quickly to the point that they finally resorted to kill the cabin boy to feed the others. According with some testimonies, the boy was by then in coma, though this point is not completely clear. The Cabin boy beared the name of Richard Parker which would become soon an eternal synonymus of martyrdom and inspiration for writers and film makers.

One curious detail is that the ship which found and saved the survivors from a certain dead was a German ship which was called Montezuma. In my opinion, this fact, could only be interpreted as a signal or as a forecast of the storm which was going to come after and as a forecast of the fear which the accused surely felt during the process: The Montezuma´s revenge.

Those men were judged and, yes, they were condemned after a long and controversial trial to the death penalty, in part to serve as an example for the future. However, their sentence was after all conmuted for only six months of imprissonment and the men saved their lifes. 

Searching a little more, and digging into the neverending source of information of Google, I have learned about the existence of this other, and apparently very interesting, book:

Is Eating People Wrong?
Great Legal Cases and How they Shaped the World

As if I were reached by an harpoon, a question has then suddenly raised  inside my mind. The question is clear, the title of the book says all:

                      "Is eating people wrong?" and what is more "Is eating people legal?

(of course, considering the above mentioned mitigating circunstances of being a survivor of a shipwreck and of being wandering for weeks helplessly in the sea).

My question or questions, which have to be necessarily matched to the Franklin Expedition in one or other way, goes even further:

"What would have happened in 1849 or 1850 if the crews of the ships HMS Erebus and HMS Terror would have managed to reach England? Would  have they been judged and condemned?"

Supposing, and this is the key assumption, that they applied the "Custom of the sea" while they were fighting for their lives in King William Island or in Starvation Cove, surely, the same justice which fourty years after condemned those survivors of the Mignonette to death surely would have condemned this others men to a similar fate if they would have find a way to return home.

I guess that this could be a good script for a fiction novel: 

The men of the Franklin expedition didn´t perished and they don´t dissapeared forever. Some of its members reached their homeland safe and sound, yes, but only to be severely judged and to be condemned to death!.

P.S.: If someone wants to write a novel using this idea, please feel free to do it... always that you mention me in the Acknowledgement section of your book. He he he!

miércoles, 26 de febrero de 2014


It was always been said that little ships were better suited to cross the shallow and treacherous waters of the Northwest Passage, there were several explorers who affirmed that thing (Hall, Hood, among others), but of course the Admiralty was thinking on a different way, because they persevered on sending to the NWP heavy expeditions. 

William Edward Parry: From: WahooArt.com
What have surprised me is that William Parry, a man already experimented in the arctic hazards, said this on the narrative about his first Voyage: 

"On the 5th, it was necesary to pass through some heavy streams of ice, in order to avoid the loss of time by going round to the eastward. On this, as many other occasions, the advantage possessed by a ship of considerable weight in the water, in separating the heavy masses of ice, was very apparent. 
In some of the streams, through which the Hecla passed, a vessel of a hundred tons less burthen must have been immoveably beset. The Griper was on this, and many other occasions, only enabled to follow the Hecla by taking advantage of the openings made by the latter. "

He thought, and likely correctly, that the weight of the ships could help them on saving time ,while sailing on a straight line breaking the ice, as the heavy ice breakers currently does, pushing the ice and climbing slightly over the borders of the floes to break it with their weight.  But Parry had been beset before by the ice, he should have known the dangers of sailing in icy waters with such heavy ships. He should have known by then that the seas on those latitudes are not always covered by thin ice but for thick ice which can trap easily a heavy ship. A more maneuverable ship could have helped him to sail closer to the shores when the waters would be impracticable and a smaller and lighter ship could take the advantage of using whatever lead opened in the ice, no matter the smaller the lead could have been. He should have known or deduced that.

Ivan Constantinovich Aivazovsky - Ships in a Storm From Wikimedia Commons

Wasn´t Parry wrong on their appreciations? Was he only refering to the kind ship which could be best suited for navigation on open waters or he meant what kind of ship could be suitable for the whole expedition? Did he change his mind?

 I have read several original narrations about arctic expeditions and I don´t remember that any of their commanders would propose the use of lighter ships. It is true, on the other hand, that previously to these expeditions of the nineteenth century, there were several cases of small  ships, which were accompanying others of a bigger size, which capsized during storms, sometimes even before reaching the shores of America.

miércoles, 19 de febrero de 2014


Time ago I wrote several posts about John Hepburn, the sailor who accompanied John Franklin on his expedition to the mouth of the Coppermine river and who played a very important role on their final survival. John Hepburn even took part together with Joseph René Bellot in one of the rescue expeditions after Sir John Franklin disappeared, but there is another man, another sailor whose behaviour and mood gain for him an outstanding place on the oficial journals of some of the first expeditions performed by John Franklin.

Robert Spinks is the actor of a funny, though dangerous, anecdote in the expedition towards the North Pole of 1818 commanded by David Buchan and described by Frederick William Beechey here

While some of the men of the crew were on shore in Spitzbergen, Robert Spinks trying to descend the first of all to the ships he tried to go down by a steep glacier. He slipped and fell thousands of feet in an apparently uncontrolled way. 

Fortunately for him, the fallen resulted in no hurt for him and the anecdote was such that it resulted worthy of being published on the oficial account when it was finally published. The funny thing was that, after being able of stopping the dangerous fallen, he had broken the pair of trousers he was wearing and, as Beechey describes, "something more". Spinks, stood up laughing heartily and the rest of the men who were attending the spectacle joined him. This scene could easily be part of an old adventure film. 

Beechey even tells on this book how Spinks also accompanied Franklin and Back on their second expedition towards the north shores of Canada, giving him a little homage. Spinks is described by George Back as a man of great zeal, fortitude and perseverance and as a man of an unusual degree of good humour and who was of the utmost use on keeping up the spirits of others. 

After reading this, one thinks that sometimes we focus our attention on the great names of the polar exploration and that sometimes we forget that those great men were surronded by humble sailors which acts were so heroic or even more heroic than those performed by his commanders and that without those men those expeditions simply couldn´t have been posible. 

 Robert Spinks must have been a man worth of knowing, a good friend and a good man. Unfortunately he died soon after having being promoted as a gunner on the ship HMS Philomel in Gibraltar, the cause of his dead is not told by Beechey.

lunes, 23 de diciembre de 2013


Today I have been doing some tests with my new "close up" camera lenses. As I am obsessed with the Franklin expedition, one of my first ideas has been to take pictures of the book "Sir John Franklin´s Last Arctic Expedition" by Richard Cyriax, surely one of the bests and more complete books which treats about this subject and which could be considered its encyclopedia.

Here we have the review about the book by William Battersby, done time ago, in Goodreads, here we have the review done in the Cambridge Journals and here an abstract of the book. Unfortunately, the book is not longer printed but you can still find the original, or more likely, its facsimile version of 1997 with prices which can vary between 20 to several thousand pounds.

The book itself had a turbulent life. It was published for first time in 1939 and most of their copies were destroyed while they were stored during a German bombing in the second World War. Long time after, in 1997, it was re-published again. However, even after this re-edition, the book is hard to find at a reasonable price. Perhaps, after this new and unexpected revival  of the interest about this matter provoked in my opinion mainly by the succes of the Dan Simmons´s novel "The Terror" and the project of making a film about it,  we could soon see a new edition of this magnific book which almost surely won´t be an accurate copy of the original as the edition of 1997 actually is.

Little is known about Richard Julius Cyriax, the author wasn´t an historian as many can think, he was a physician who was in his time, as many others still are , captivated by the fate of the last Franklin Expedition. I have not been able to find any picture of him, the man who wrote one of the books which perhaps could be a best-seller in the years to come is a mistery by himself or at least he is for me and for the general public.

While I was taking these photographs I would have liked to find through them some hidden secrets, perhaps something hidden among the paper fibers which at a short distance resembles me like ice crests. I would have liked to find some new clues in its pages and maps that could have given me some answers to the neverending questions, but the result has been the same as always: no answers.

Cover of  "Sir John Franklin Last Expedition" by Richard J. Cyriax.
My beloved copy find in England by my friend William Greenwell

The Arctic Press Logo.
To them we owe the privilege of having this copy in our hands.

The "King William Land" after known as "Island".
That tiny piece of Earth still hide secrets and generates long  and neverending discussions and it will keep doing it for many years or even forever.

Through the pages of  "Sir John Franklin Last Expedition" you will find the entrance to the mistery which wrap the fate of the last Franklin´s expedition but, like in an impossible labyrinth, you couldn´t find the exit.

Not only more than a hundred of men were lost in those remote lands but two big and well built ships. Perhaps they will be the only witnesses that we can aspire to find which, with some luck, could add some new information which could help to solve the mistery or which could only aid to generate new questions to the list.