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.

miércoles, 12 de septiembre de 2012


Death of Willoughby by an unknown artist. From Wikipedia.
Of course a lot of you are aware of this sad piece of history which was related in part by their own main actors and in part by the rescuers.

I am refering to the Hugh Willoughby expedition. Close to three hundred years before the well known last Franklin Expedition, sixty three people died by unknown causes near the shores of New Zembla.

In the year 1553 three ships depart from London, in the middle of a big noise and in a cloud of best whises.

Their objective was crossing the Northeast passage in the name of a recently formed company. A company mainly by the same explorers which participated in the expedition. The company had the improbable name of "The Mystery, Company, and Fellowship of Merchant Adventurers for the Discovery of Regions, Dominions, Islands, and Places Unknown" (Adventurers in the sense of the people who did risky investments).

Hugh Willoughby was in the Bona Esperanza when a sudden whirlwind separated the ships and the destiny sent one of them to the success while the other two were sent to a strange disaster. Richard Chancellor, the pilot of the expedition and one of the shareholders of the company, reached the coastline of Russia with his ship, the lucky one, (Bona Confidentia of 90 tons) through the white sea. He traveled towards Moscow and negotiated there the first trade agreements with the Tsar. 

Unfortunately the other two ships (Bona Esperanza and the Edward Bonaventure of 120 and 160 tons respectively) compensated this blow of good luck. The ships were beset by the ice after having sailed over the parallel 72 in the Barents  sea. The next spring a Russian fisher found the ships. There were no noise, no words, no movement on board, nothing.

Everybody was dead inside them. The fishers found the Willoughby´s will. From it is known that in January of 1554 the crews were already alive. They were all on board and dead, some phrases writen on the edge of the pages of his journal have thrown few information.

The official explanation told that the whole crews have died because the cold. Actual theories talk about a possible intoxication because the carbon monoxide

The chilling fact was that the corpses of the sailors were found as if they were killed misteriously in seconds by an occult hand. Some of them were found dead seated while writing with the pen still in their hands, others even with the spoon into his mouth and also seated at the table.

My theory, I have always a theory, is that likely the crew died little by little, and that perhaps the only and last man standing began to go mad because the desperate situation.

Think about that, you, the only man alive in two ships trapped into the ice in the far north. All your  dead mates are surrounding you, extreme cold,... perhaps this man would become really crazy and tried to place all the things around him as if they were normal. He put at his own mates into natural positions just to be sinisterly accompanied.

I can´t avoid thinking in the film "Beau Geste", when the French soldiers remaining alive  put their dead mates into the portholes (or embrasures) of the castle to show the arabs that they were more in number.

I´ve read about this particular aspect of the expedition recently in a wonderful book that I am reading nowadays which is called "Arctic Labirynth".

Another curiosity about this expedition is found in the book by Jeanette Mirsky called "Mirsky, To the Arctic" is that the hull of the ships were covered by lead plates, they were in fact the first ships of having this kind of protection, (against the worms of the indian seas, not against the ice...) Another reason for the disaster? Who knows.

2 comentarios:

  1. What a chilling mystery. I have never heard of this expedition, so thanks for posting about it! I like your theory as well.

  2. Even, the picture which appears in WIkipedia was done by an unknown artist.

    Richard Chancellor died drowned few time after when he was accompanying at the Russian ambassador in his way to London. It seems that the mysterious whirlwind finally didn´t want to renounce to snatch also his life after all.