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.

sábado, 29 de diciembre de 2012


I´ve just finished one of the indispensables, the desired book "Unravelling the Franklin Mistery. Inuit Testimony". Of course, there is no need to say that the book is superb. This volume is a compilation of all the Inuit testimonies given by them to the explorers who came near the area of the disaster few years after their disappearance: John Rae, McClintok, Francis Hall, etc.

On this book you can find an elaborated justification about how real could be all the pieces of the story about the last years of the Franklin Expedition narrated between the succesive generations of Inuit families.

This is not an easy task, there is a large amount of Inuit people which were witnesses of different scenes of this tragedy. They were told one hundred and sixty years ago, some of them told into an igloo or into a tent pitched over the snow, in the middle of a complete darkness and in front of a fat burner while a snow gale was blowing with rage outside (this recreation is inorder to create the proper enviroment). The names of this Inuit men are indecipherable for us, the "kabloonas", at least for those who have never had a close relation ship with their culture and traditions, the same happens with the places which were the stages of the worst and more dreadful moments of this terror play.

The collection of testimonies have generated on my head the illusion of a dream, because all of them are told sequentally as separated parts of the same story or as unlinked pieces of different stories.

I imagine black and white scenes on which some hungry men were seen at certain distance walking on the snow dragging a boat with a sail. I can also see short conversations  held during several cold nights between this two so different worlds, the Inuit and the Navy men. In other occasions, I´ve seen desolated camps with tents full of frozen men lying as if they were asleep, really "frozen in time", still wearing their blue clothes, skins, hair and whiskers, I´ve seen isolated graves on lonely shores, boats surrounded of hundreds of strange artifacts. I´ve even seen the ships, ghost ships, trapped on the ice, and I´ve seen them being visited by some of the most bold Inuit men.

I woke up, sweating while the wind was blowing outside my window, knowing that some of these terrifying remains and that some of these narrations would later demonstrate, that in their last days, part of these men were reduced  to resort to drastic solutions to stay alive. These men did things that could prefectly feed a terror novel or movie if you think about them while sitting comfortably warm in your home with your stomach  full, but this things looks on a completely different way when you are seeing how your bones appear under your skin and nearly breaking it, when you have lost all your teeth and eating is a punishment for your gums, when you are at ten degrees celsius below zero and you have to walk on the snow till your knees and at one thousand miles far from any available help.

In my modest opinion, as an amateur on these issues, is that this book is a thorough analysis which tries to rescue and justify the reality of this testimonies before of throwing them to the recycle bin and store them there forever.

There are much more profesional reviews made by Richard Davis on the Arctic Institute of North America here and on the  Manitoba Historical Society  here.

And if finally you are interested on buying it you can find it at least here:


or here:


and in a lot of places more.

5 comentarios:

  1. A very rousing and dramatic post! Glad to hear that you had the chance to finish it (and that it has made such a strong impact). You are right; the testimonies are like vignettes strung together to form a bizarre, frightening, and deeply moving dream sequence. It is surreal in the extreme. Reading this book has made me appreciate the sufferings of these men like no other written work could, and I see it has done the same for you, too.

  2. Thank you Jaeschylous! You are very kind. It took me nearly a month. It is not a good strategy reading three books at the same time. I am thinking on re-reading it soon to fix some of the main facts on my brain. Woodman made an incredible work rescuing and despising information from all those sources, specially important on the labour of rescuing. However, I miss an ordered final reconstruction as an ending climax of the book. I know that this book is not suitable for beginners but a final, though imaginary in some sense, would have been like closing the circle.

  3. I'm still not sold on this book ;) books about the Greely Expedition are enough for me to imagine similar circumstances in which the last of Franklin's men found themselves in.

  4. Yes, there were some similar situations, though the members of the Greely expedition stayed on one camp waiting to be rescued instead of keep walking as the Franklin men did, that would increase their suffering. I am anxious to read "Ghosts in the Cape Sabine".

    Did you read this article: http://pubs.aina.ucalgary.ca/arctic/arctic55-4-373.pdf

    I have to read something more about the "De Long" expedition. This expedition wasn´t exactly also a walk on the garden.

    "Unravelling ..." is a good book, but I should have to begin with the book of Cyriax (which I ´ve just began), it is exactly what I was looking for, a complete description focused only on the last Franklin expedition and he doesn´t lose time with other expeditions, biographies or related stories. I think that it would have been better for me following the order given by Russell on his post to understand better some of the details given in the subsequent books, but I have already read some of them before he published it.

  5. No, I hadn't read that article. Thanks for the link :)

    Hmm, I looked for Cyriax's book but the price was even higher than 'Unraveling' and for it to be so old...gah! Oh my, out of 'history' books Ice-Blink and Barrow's Boys. I have yet to buy 'The man who ate his boots' that's the first book I read on the arctic, but I have plenty of explorers journals unread there ;B I was only halfway through Parry's journal of a third voyage. I've read mostly old blog posts and google search articles on the different expeditions.