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.

jueves, 3 de noviembre de 2016


It usually takes me weeks if not months to read a book in English. It is still challenging even now that I have improved a good deal with the language (maybe you will end thinking otherwise after reading this post). But when I pick up a book written in Spanish, my eyes fly over its pages as a bird. That´s exactly what has happened to me while reading ´Finding Franklin´, it was written in English but I didn´t noticed it.

Finding Franklin and friends
I began with the book some days ago and everytime I arrived at home after work I couldn´t avoid grabbing it and read till I had to dine or to go to bed. 

Finding Franklin more than a book is surgery. If you are one of those who are well initiated in the "Franklin question" you  won´t like to lose a second  of your valuable time reading for the umpteenth time how John Ross missed the entrance of the Northwest Passage, how Parry got through it the year after, and bla, bla.bla. When you have a book like this in your hands what you want is to get to the point as soon as possible as if you had to be taken in a taxi to the center of an unknown city. Precedents of exploration in the Northwest Passage and subsequent  expeditions, are written in hundreds of books, more than I thought there could exist at first when I got lost in the Arctic labyrinth. Many of those books merely repeat exactly the same story only in different words.

I had foreseen that maybe Finding Franklin could be the sequel of the famous and, nowadays very difficult to find, Cyriax´s book titled "Sir John Franklin´s last expedition." but after reading it I would say much more about it. Unlike Cyriax, Russell Potter doesn´t lose time, if losing is the proper verb tp be used, in describing background stories. 

Russell´s purpose is a quite different one, and you soon realise after reading its Index, that you are in front of something different. You may have breathed in a similar atmosphere when you read, and you surely did if you have Finding Franklin in your hands, Unravelling the Franklin Mistery and Strangers among us

Then, like jumping over separated stones to cross a river, you begin to leap from one chapter to the following compelled for the inertia of your own reading in such a way that you can´t stop even if you want to. 

I have read many books about the Franklin expedition, maybe not as much as you, but from my amateur experience, it is only through the reading of Potter´s book, that I have now a complete view of the sequence of those, from very far in time to the more recent, events which took place in King William Island and surroundings.  Its content could lead you, book in hand, to retrace the steps of the poor men who were so unlucky to be forced to land there. You have the feeling that with such a good manual in your backpack, as if it was a Lonely Planet guide, you won´t miss any detail and you will have every important clue you could need to have at hand in just one single book. 

Jumping from skull to bone, from relic to searcher you could follow easily the path of annihilation. Such has been this feeling on me that when I reached the end of the book, I was expecting to find a CD attached to the backcover with an audioguide and a map containing the description of every single relic which was found in those barren island.

Even now that the Terror has been found, I don´t believe it should affect too much what has been told in Russell´s book. But what, however, I have missed in his book, and this is just to put a "but" in this reflection about a superb book, is that after reaching the climax which wrapped you in its last chapter, Russell  had risked to make a final exercise on which he had tried to reconstruct the story. Maybe, it is not fair calling it just an ´exercise´ but more an impossible task due to the infinite variants this reconstruction could offer. 

Unfortunately, unlike Nemo, Franklin didn´t arrive safely home. We know that for certain, but finding Franklin still resting quietly in his lost stony mausoleum in King William Island, could bring, at least to some of us, part of the peace which our hearts and brains so ravenously need. 

4 comentarios:

  1. Thanks, Andres, for all the commentary you have contributed.

    The words "stoney mausoleum" got me wondering. I just finished reading the book, "Fury Beach" by Ray Edinger, about the 1829-1833 John Ross saga. When burying a crewman, a one foot deep grave had to suffice, as the ground was so hard. Since the ground on KWI May well have been just as hard when Franklin died in June 1847 - do you think that the "stomey mausoleum" could have been an above ground cairn ?

  2. Hi Soloman

    Thanks for your comment. I made a little research time ago about all those who died in the expeditions of that time and in many cases, when those men weren't buried at sea and the shores weren't far from the ships or they were in their winter places, graves are described as being very deep despite the dificulty of digging in the permafrost. I guess that Ross's expedition of 1829-43 could be compared more with the Franklin expedition than with any other one. They spent four winters and their strength decreased after each of those hard winters. Of the three men who died, Dixon and Marslim perished in january of 1832 (that means they died during the 3rd winter and while there was very frozen ground) and Thomas Chimham, the carpenter who made the wooden leg for that lame inuit, died in february of the following winter
    Fourth winter and again during the coldests months. Franklin, however, died in june and very close to King William Island. I don't share the opinion that this 'Mausoleum, you can read Russell's post about that in the link below, is located near Erebus bay, but close to were he died in cape Felix.


  3. Thanks Andrés, for this generous and thoughtful response to my book! Part of me wishes that I had indeed carried forth with some speculation as to the significance of HMS "Erebus," though then the book might have been more dated, and of course the find of the "Terror" came too late. It's fine with me that the book isn't the last word on the story; it will take some time for Parks Canada's archaeologists to penetrate into the depths of the ships, and (I hope) recover written materials. Once that happens, all bets are off!

  4. You are right, Russell. Maybe that reconstruction should be carried out after the following summer and through articles, more than in the shape of a book. I think that it is something some of us would really appreciate, it would undoubtedly help us to memorize and understand better where are located and what significance could have all the pieces of the Franklin puzzle described in your book.

    Reconstructions could, however, lead us to important places, (likely landing areas, location of the Magnetic pole in 1846, etc.) where further searching could be conducted which could eventually lead to more written records apart of those which can be found inside the ships.

    Inuit names of some locations, together with the description of the events and things told and found to and by the different searchers, can be confusing sometimes. Putting all those pieces together and giving them shape would be like if after someone had taught you separatedly the meaning of some different words, finally had put all of them together to build a story. No matter if this exercise could lead us to wrong suppositions, at least we would have something to begin with and a place where we could begin to accept or discard options. Even Dan Simmons made it in his book, though he included some unexpected characters into his version of the story.

    The book is excellent. First time I read about the Franklin expedition I read just four or so pages in a small book full of illustrations called: "North Pole, South Pole: Journeys to the Ends of the Earth", then I read Barrow Boys where I was bitten by the Franklin bug. After, when I began to dig deeper, I was amazed by the uncountable number of existing Franklin related books, many of them telling the same thing without adding any new substantial ideas or facts. Then it appeared this new one which put order to all the clues in such way that you can´t help feeling able to solve the mistery. It places you right at the edge of a dark mental abyss. You feel as if you had all the necessary tools to do it but you are somehow blindfolded at the same time. I am eager to see what other coming books could offer but definitely, yours, will feed whatever is going to be written in all of them.