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, 3 de agosto de 2012


Sometimes clues and facts have come to the light after years of a dense fog of mistery, not only through books or journals found on lonely skeletons or through lost papers enclosed on metal tins under big cairns placed on desolated shores. Other times they have come from oral testimonies which have lasted hundreds of years.

But sometimes the testimonies come into the light under the form of pictures. This is indeed very rare and even  rarer if you consider that the pictures come from the 19th century and that those were found after being thirty three years in the middle of the arctic.

There are other cameras or photographic records waiting for being found and for revealing two different tragedies, that of George Leigh Mallory who died trying to descend from the Everest and that camera that carried the John Franklin lost and last Expedition. Although in my opinion there isn´t any hope to found none of them.

This post is a tribute to three people who died 115 years ago. Tomorrow is the aniversary of the day when they make a wise decission. On the 4th august of 1897 three tired men, after being for 21 days on the ice pack since their Hydrogen filled Ballon landed after 2 and a half days of a hellish flight trying to reach the North Pole, decided their future over the 81 th parallel  and choose their path to scape from a certain death. It was indeed a wise decission, but not allways the fate is on our hands and this demonstrate that it isn´t enough to make the correct decissions to survive.

Nils Strindberg_from Wikipedia
Salomon August Andree from wiikipedia

Knut Fraenkel
These men had to decide between going to one of the depots left for them in case of emergency. One was located on  the ´Seven Islands´in Svalbard and the other was in Cape Flora in the Franz Josef Land. The distance from they were to the depots aren´t the same, but they were unaware of that point, and, of course they choose wrong, they began to walk to Cape Flora. It was on the 4th of august when they decided to change the course and they began to walk to Seven Islands but they were never going to reach it.

However, this fact perhaps had nothing to do with their deaths, one of the entries of the Salomon journal on the 4th of october said that the morale was good when they left the ice to transfer their winter quarters to the Kvitoya Island also known as the ´Innaccesible Island´ (it seems to me an ugly forecast).

It has no sense saying much more about the expedition in this post, the whole history is perfectly described here.

Besides this information there are several books, the one on which I discovered the story was on the book "Alas sobre el polo" or ´Wings over the pole´ by Umberto Nobile, which I read a lot of years ago.

There are of course more books that are focused only on the Andree Expedition (I´ve not read anyone of them),  though seeing some review I reccomend to make a previous analysis to make the right choice in order to make a good approach to this subject. There is even a good film nominated to the Oscars about this sad story, directed by Jan Troell and starring the very well known actor Max Von Sydow. I think that the movie is well done and well directed, I enjoyed when I saw it, it has even fun scenes.

I´ve choosed this strange title for the post thinking on one hand that these poor men, who came from the sky not following a star but on board of a strange kind of aircraft, were indeed wise, Salomon would be the forever known ´Ingeneer´ and his name as that of the king has been allways synonymus of wisdom, Nils was the photographer expert  and Knut was also an engineer like Salomon, and on the other hand, because they could be considerated wizards, no other thing can be said of the amazing fact that the photographic film survive the whopping amount of thirty three years with a lot of pictures intact inside.

The story has protagonists, a stage and a theme, and these are they:

The protagonists:  S. A. Andrée,   Nils Strindberg  and Knut Frænkel
The stage: Kvitøya
The theme: A tragedy.

This video (by Latlak) is really beautiful, though a little bit long (9 minutes), is a tribute to the men and to the expedition, the images are pretty (almost all of them taken from the film mentioned before) and the final scenes are chilling, the rests of these poor men whose were burned soon after being repatriated.

Likely, we never will known the real cause of their deaths because the rests of their corpses were burned and it will be a matter of conjecture even nowadays. The cause of the ´trichinosis´ was ever considered as the main reason. Now there are more theories, it seems that at least the reason for the death of one them was an alleged attack by a polar bear, for the others are theories which talks of a supposed poisoning after eating the liver of a bear or death by botulism.

The fact was that their corpses were found in an encampment with enough food and the rests of a polar bear nearby, so the starvation should not be considered as a reason to explain this tragedy, only remains illness or violence or perhaps the mixture of both.

To add more mistery the last and apparently meaningless phrases of the Salomon Journal are thrilling, the meaning is confusing, the message seems to be ... desperate.

The photos of the expedition are reproduced here:

And finally there is a museum in Sweden, the web site is this, it is only in Swedish.

If anybody has more recent information which wants to share will be wellcome to comment here.

2 comentarios:

  1. Great post & an excellent introduction to this unique expedition. !Y tu Ingles es buenisimo, como siempre!

  2. ¡Muchas gracias por los ánimos Jaeschylus!

    Thank you very much for the encouragement, Jaeschylus!

    If I can, this very same evening I will put more drawings of the lost Franklin expedition officers. But don´t hope so much, because It´s hard to draw well their faces, they are full of personality and of character, especially their eyes.