|Death of Willoughby by an unknown artist. From Wikipedia.|
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.
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
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.
What a chilling mystery. I have never heard of this expedition, so thanks for posting about it! I like your theory as well.ResponderEliminar
Even, the picture which appears in WIkipedia was done by an unknown artist.ResponderEliminar
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.