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.

martes, 12 de febrero de 2013


Everybody likely knows this painting. It is in the cover of the book "Buried in Ice":

"Perilous position of H M S Terror Captain Back in the Arctic Regions in the summer of 1837"
Author William Smyth

But perhaps not everybody knows that its author was a veteran explorer and mariner. He is, at least he is for me, a kind of secondary character of a masterpiece film.

William Smyth was born in the year 1800 and passed away in the year 1877.  He entered in the Royal Navy only thirteen years old. In 1825 he was under the command of the Captain Frederick Beechey  in the HMS Blossom towards the Bering strait. Their mission, among other things was finding the MacKenzie expedition of John Franklin.

After, under the command of the Captain Charles Henry Paget, he accompanied at William Bunbury McClintock (cousin of the later famous Leopold McClinctock) in the ship HMS Samarang towards the waters of South America with the "hide" objective of chasing and destroying slave ships. Leopold was also on board with only 11 years old, it seems that later he would define himself as having then a weight no more than the "1st Lieutenant Newfoundland dog". They were traveling since july 1831 to january of 1835. During this journey it seems that their ship cross its way several times with the "Beagle", and it seems likely that W.Smyth could be on board of it.

In june 1834 he made a boat and land trip while staying at Perú from Lima to Belem. The journey (it has to be a hard one which lasted eight months) is narrated in this book writen by him: Narrative of a Journey from Lima to Para, across the Andes and down the Amazon: undertaken with a view of ascertaining the practicability of a navigable communication with the Atlantic, by the rivers Pachitea,Ucayali, and Amazon, published in London by John Murray, in 1836.

In may of 1836 under the command of George Back he went on board of the HMS Terror on his journey towards the Hudson Bay in order to try to cross the Melville peninsula. It was here, while the HMS Terror was besset on ice, where W.Smyth was inspired to paint after the expedition, the magnificient and well known painting above showed "Perilous position of H M S Terror Captain Back in the Arctic Regions in the summer of 1837"

William Smyth painted several South American ports during his years in the Paget´s mission, and he also painted in 1836 more paintings of the ice-captured Terror, not so well known but equally interesting.

Part of his other works are here: http://www.wikigallery.org/wiki/artist54018/Lieutenant-Smyth/page-1

and here: http://www.1st-art-gallery.com/Lieutenant-Smyth/Lieutenant-Smyth-oil-paintings.html

On this second link there is acurious painting of the Navy men playing football over the ice close to the Terror.

Another interesting link is this other with some sketches of the F. Beechey expedition towards the Bering Strait. Among others, there is a curious engraving of the crew of the Blossom erecting a pole with the intention of being sighted by the Franklin expedition. The rest of the engravings made are here.

He commanded several ships after this expedition in missions in South America and near the Good Hope cape. At the end of his career he was promoted to the rank of Admiral.

The main reference I´ve used to draft his biography has been obtained from here, I reccomend its reading because there are more descriptions about others important character of the time:


8 comentarios:

  1. Lovely paintings, my favorite has to be the men playing football ^^

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  2. It is curious how, the same people who fought in cruel battles, did trips in the rainforest which lasted eight months or faced hard arctic expeditions, were so talented. A lot of Navy officers had a special sensitivity.

  3. Another famous Franklin painting, "They forged the last link with their lives" was painted by another William Smith, spelled with an "i" rather than a "y". William Thomas Smith is something of a mystery, according to the description of the painting in the British National Maritime Museum. Smith seems to have appeared out of nowhere as an accomplished painter and then vanished. He might have been a Canadian.

  4. Yes, there is not too much information about this painter, strange thing, considering the painting you mentioned would become one of the most popular icons about the Franklin expedition.

    However, I have found some details about his life which could help us to have an idea about who was him from this web site:


    It seems that he had a long life (b.1862- d.1947), that he was of Irish origins and that, as you mentioned, he actually moved to Canada, specifically to Beaverton, Ontario. He is defined in this little biography as "as one of the greatest marine painters and water colorists of his time". If that´s true, which judging from his work, it could perfectly be, it is weird not too much is known about him.

  5. Now I am not so sure if this biography belongs the same man who painted "They forged the last link with their lives",it seems there were two William Smith in the same school:

    "He received his art training at the Ontario College of Art and reputedly it was there he received the nickname of "St. Thomas" to differentiate him from another art student also named "William Smith"."

    Could our William Smith be the other one?

  6. It is also possible that the William Thomas Smith who painted "the Last Link" was not Canadian at all. Someone might have confused him with William St. Thomas Smith, the well known (at the time) artist of almost the same name who was from Canada. The "Last Link", is that an oil painting or a water colour?
    William Smith is a very common name. William is sometimes changed to "Bill".