Thursday, July 6, 2017

Searching for Franklin

It might be said of Sir John Franklin, as of the unlucky Thane of Cawdor in Macbeth, that "nothing became his life like the leaving of it." Had Franklin succeeded in finding a navigable Northwest Passage, he would have gone down in history as a notable dullard; instead, by vanishing, he has ascended to the firmament of Arctic mythology, as much a fixture of that sky as the Aurora Borealis. His death, and the mystery surrounding it, has inspired dozens of poems and novels, attracting writers from Wilkie Collins and Charles Dickens to Joseph Conrad and Margaret Atwood; any number of poignant ballads (among them Stan Rogers' Northwest Passage,' which has become almost a second Canadian national anthem), and (to date) four plays, six documentary films, and an Australian musical. A feature film, based on the Canadian novelist Dominique Fortier's On the Proper Use of Stars, is in the works from the director of The Young Victoria.

The search to rescue, and then to discern the fate of, Sir John Franklin and his men was the very first mass-media disaster. For more than a decade, it dominated the popular press on both sides of the Atlantic; writers such as Dickens, Collins, Swinburne, Thoreau, Eliot, Verne, and Conrad were enthralled by its dark mysteries; clairvoyants from Scotland to India had visions of Franklin's ships, and more than thirty vessels were dispatched, at a cost of tens of millions of dollars in today's money, to seek him out. Stage plays, moving panoramas, and lantern shows depicted the wild loneliness of the "Frozen Zone"; lecturers equipped with maps, charts, and Esquimaux artifacts opined on his likely location, and his wife/widow Lady Jane Franklin became a dominating figure of the day, lauded by The Times of London as "Our English Penelope." Alas, for her, there would be no returning Odysseus! But loss and death draw down to deeper springs of human feeling, perhaps, than happy returns and loving embraces. And when, finally, the specter of the "last dread alternative" -- cannibalism -- was cast over the affair, it drove its tincture of admiration and revulsion deep down into the British psyche.

Even after the recovery of the "Victory Point Record" by Francis Leopold McClintock in 1859, there was continued interest in discovering anything further about his final fate. The American eccentric and erstwhile newspaper publisher Charles Francis Hall led two search expeditions in the 1860's; in the 1870's, the U.S. Army dispatched Lieutenant Frederick Schwatka on a new seach for paper records or artifacts that might help clarify the last days of the Franklin exedition. Individual searchers returned to the area periodically from the 1880's through to the 1980's, among them the great explorer Knud Rasmussen, who in the 1902's heard stories of Franklin's ships from the grandsons of the men who had seen them perish, stories almost exactly the same as those collected by Hall more than half a century earlier. Forensic expeditions -- Owen Beattie in the mid-1980's, and Anne Keenleyside in the early 1990's -- collected the bones, and analyzed the bodies, of known Franklin remains, finding evidence of lead poisoning, scurvy, and tuberculosis. Most significantly, historians such as David C. Woodman and Dorothy Harlan Eber have collected and gathered Inuit testimony, comparing numerous accounts with the hope that a common narrative thread could be found. Woodman has traveled to the Arctic numerous times, searching for the ships in the places the Inuit described.

In the summer of 2010, Parks Canada archaeologists re-located HMS Investigator, the ship commanded by Captain Robert McClure during the early years of the Franklin search. McClure and his men had steered their vessel into a sheltered cove, "Mercy Bay," which came very close to being their tomb. It was only after a second, terrible winter, when his men were dying of scurvy and McClure was preparing to leave his ship on a blind search for help which would surely have ended in disaster, when one Lieutenant Pim, of the ship HMS "Resolute," found him and led his men to rescue. The Resolute herself was later frozen in and ordered abandoned, although the ship miraculously freed herself from the ice a season later, and drifted down the Davis Straits to where she was spotted by an American whaler. Restored to pristine condition at public expense, she was sailed back to England and presented to Queen Victoria. Years later, when it was slated to be broken up at a shipyard, Queen Victoria returned the favor, ordering a large panel desk -- the 'Resolute Desk' -- and three smaller ones to be made from its timbers. The first desk she gave to U.S. President Rutherford B. Hayes; it sits today in the Oval Office of the White House. The second she gave to the widow of Henry Grinnell, patron of several Franklin searches; it's now on display at the New Bedford Whaling museum.

26 comments:

  1. Let me begin by saying that I had never heard of Sir John Franklin so learning about him has been interesting. It is mind blowing to know how many voyages and people have been sent looking for his remains and any type of clue that would lead them to his death and journey. Never mind the amount of years’ people invested in the search, including his wife who never gave up and looked for him until she died. That is just incredible. I wonder what Franklin would think about all the fame and uproar that came after him and his crew went missing. Would he be proud? Would he regret it? Would he appreciate how much people have looked to resolve his mysterious death? That is something to think about…
    Laura Ramirez

    ReplyDelete
  2. I have to say that I have more pity for Franklin than Mccandeless due to the fact that Franklin was actually searching for something that would benefit his people.I give him alot of credit going out on the sea with no means of communication, not by choice like Chris but by lack of technology for the time period. I think that his wife searched for him for so long out of love but also out of guilt because the story had mentioned that she was always "prodding her pudgy husband to greater and greater achievements" while she was happy in the shadows.I feel like he would be proud of himself and would be happy with all of the efforts that have gone into searching for him and his men.
    -Heather Souza

    ReplyDelete
  3. This story entices curiosity in the beginning by starting with a missing ship in a mysterious area
    - This mysterious area could have held the interest of the reader with another mysterious area, such as the bermuda triangle. A location with not a lot known about it can draw a reader such as myself more interested in the story as compared to if that setting was somewhere that has been explored numerous times
    - I liked the integration of the space race, and also Mozart into this article which really brought a nice tangent to a serious story. Overall the i thought adding the history leading up to 2014 was an interesting touch which lead the reader to have a more informative background on this topic and to really answer the question of " Why should I care "

    ReplyDelete
  4. With this being my first time learning about Franklin, it was interesting to know how much of a well known man he was through the many expeditions he has done. Especially with his final expedition, although it was a failure, I admire the idea of people portraying him as a hero. It is fascinating to know that there are poems and novels inspired because of Franklin. I have no doubt in mind that many people helped find Franklin and his men due to how famous he was.
    When thinking of Franklin who has impacted the world through his expeditions, It makes me think of what other men or women in history that I don't know about that has also impacted the world through their inventions, discoveries, etc.

    ReplyDelete
  5. The Franklin expedition was not unlike McCandless expedition in the sense they were both unprepared for the unknown. The Franklin expedition seemed to depend solely on canned food for survival, and did not equip the men with the tools or skills necessary for such a voyage. I think it was more of a question of weather they could prove the passage, rather than would they survive the north passage. It is fascinating to think several men survived six years in the Arctic North according to Eskimo oral tradition. The Franklin expedition is saturated with sadness and lost hope, however the bodies of the Franklin crew represent their achievement. Scientists are able to identify and differentiate what manner of death took their lives. Starvation, survey, and lead poisoning may have taken the men to an early grave, yet the passage of the north was forever established due to their endeavors.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I have a very little knowledge on artic exploration. Reading Franklin expedition has helped me walk away with lasting knowledge. I find Franklin as a pathetic character. Before reading, I thought he would have a superior attitude and bad planning due to his arrogance who had a horrible outcome. There were a lot of other men that were like that but Franklin seem the opposite. The writing made he seem very nice, intelligent and fair. Throughout the story there were many times where it show his bravery and faced unimaginable hardship. I became fond of Franklin while reading this story and genuinely sadden to what happened. You don't see many good men in history.
    -Leuyen Huynh

    ReplyDelete
  7. This was the first time that i learned of Franklin the expeditionest. i am sorry to say i had not heard of him before the article. at first i was thinking that perhaps franklin did have enough supplies for his expedition, knowing that he had 2 ships and food for 3 years, as well as all those men he took with him. it is very unfourtunet that he was unable to be success full in his endevers.i find this story very sad, her is a successfull man in all of his readyness and his men ready to take on the unknown world. in the prevoius of Alex he was not ready at all to go into the wilderness and his death came to me as if he was asking to die.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Reading and learning about Sir Franklin was nice. I, like everyone else who has posted have never heard of him. However his story is quite fascinating. I find it extremely interesting that his ship went missing and they found it September 9, 2014. It is also amazing how they searched for him for so long. It intrigues me that his voyage and quest with his men is something that is still being taught today. I think he would be very proud knowing that in the year 2017 we are learning about his quest to find the Northwest Passage. I think he would be pleased that the quest he set out on is also portrayed in novels, musicals, plays and operas. Another thing that caught my attention was the fact that he and his men were actually prepared. His men were mostly service veterans. The fact that they had the necessities aboard these ships to last them three years showed how passionate they really were about successfully completing this quest. Knowing that they could not communicate with loved one back home truly shows their dedication. It is a sad story but I am happy knowing that they did not set on this quest for nothing. I am also happy knowing that they are still very much relevant today.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Why venture north when history, especially our own American history, has almost always dictate that we travel west - that all wealth and prosperity is to the west? Christopher Columbus traveled west and perhaps not entirely on purpose found what we call North America. The Pilgrims journeyed west for religious persecutions from England. Settlers hitched their wagons to California’s golden hills. And Alaska was, and to some is still, considered the last frontier before we ventured to outer space.
    Like many of my fellow student colleagues have pointed out, I too feel less sympathy for McCandless after reading about Sir John Franklin. I feel like we should have read this story before 'Into the Wild' because reading that first, you know what's going to happen to Franklin, despite the obvious that the Franklin expedition happened first. There's also, like Heather Souza pointed out, the technological factor. Would Franklin and his crew still have perished if they had a Garmin? A Magellan? An ice breaking ship? Or even well prepared knowledge of the trip, e.g., best time to cross ice, what and how much food to bring with you, maybe some extra blankets to fight off hyperthermia?
    If I were part of the Franklin crew, I would not travel across the Atlantic in a ship called the 'Terror' - nice try Satan, but I think I'll pass.
    Part of me also thinks that Franklin and his crew purposely traveled to the unknown to get away from their lives. I may be a bit 'glass is half empty' but maybe, Franklin was tired of his wife "prodding her pudgy husband to greater and greater achievements" and just wanted to chill on the couch, drinking scotch and smoking a cigar?
    ~Sally R. Nihill

    ReplyDelete
  10. As many others have mentioned, I also have never heard of Sir John Franklin. As I was reading this I noticed some similarities and differences between Franklin and McCandless. I think the most important difference between the two is Franklin had a purpose. He went out on this expedition in hopes to find the Northwest Passage. He was not doing this just for himself, he was doing this for all of his people. While in contrast McCandless did not have a purpose for his expedition, he was doing it more for himself. While there were some similarities between the two such as both of them not being prepared for what to come, and both of them not making it back. Times were very different when McCandless went on his expedition compared to when Franklin went. When McCandless went there was more technology and things available for him to use that he chose not to. Franklin did not have some of those things available to him. Maybe if he did he would have taken it with him and would have been more prepared. Like others have mentioned I do sympathize more with Franklin then McCandless. I really do think that Franklin should be considered a hero. He did this to help his people he had a purpose, and died trying to achieve it.
    -Nadia Nada

    ReplyDelete
  11. danielle cascellaJuly 12, 2017 at 5:47 AM

    I also have never heard of Sir John Franklin. Sir Franklin was in search for something to help his people which I found admirable where McCandles didn't really have a purpose but to try and run away from his past in my opinion. Sir Franklin did have men that went with him, food for three years and two ships so I thought he was well prepared and the fact that he dies was sad, but I also have zero experience with anything regarding the wild or artic encounters, but I do think it's amazing how many years he was looked for and that this is still researched and talked about in 2017. I think he would have been proud of that.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Having never learned or heard of Sir John Franklin, the story surrounding his voyage is one that I find interesting. Yes, his expedition was sponsored, and he and his crew set out with a purpose and ultimate goal. The striking detail I found in his voyage was even though this was a "sponsored" expedition, Sir John Franklin and his crew remained very ill-prepared. The aspect of ill-preparedness is one that could also very well relate to Chris McCandless. Yes, he did extensive research in regard to the terrain that he would be encountering, such as the plants that could be edible. Chris, however, lacked the gear, supplies and relied too heavily on nature. The purpose of their journeys also remained significantly divergent. Franklin was sponsored by England, and McCandless embarked on a solo trek across the Stampede Trail. In the end, Sir John Franklin and McCandlesses "expeditions" resulted in demise for parties.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I believe part of the issue and tragedy was due to Sir John Franklins own ego. I think he felt he had something to prove since he had failed in his governing of Van Diemen's Land combined with the fact he survived the Coppermine expedition he may have turned a blind eye to the many warning signs in front of him. He seemed to be eager to bring home a "victory" in his books, not only for himself but maybe for his wife as well.

    ReplyDelete
  14. This is the first time I have heard of the Franklin Expedition as many other students have commented about. After learning about Franklin and about the expedition, there are many aspects of the story that struck me. Why did the British not take the Inuits' eye-witnesses seriously the first time when they said where the ships were. Why did the British think of the inuits as savages?
    Another area of the expedition was the part on the cannibalism. I could not imagine eating another human for meat, but then putting myself in their footsteps, seemed like the only last option they had to stay alive. I wonder if they shipmates turned on one another and murdered for food, or if they only ate the men that had already died.
    The whole expedition is tragic. But, maybe if they did not go missing which led to more people in the Arctic searching for them, the arctic could still be unexplored. This tragedy seemed to has shaped the exploration of the Arctic, which somehow gives a purpose for the deaths/lives of these 129 men.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Muhammad Basit AzizJuly 12, 2017 at 7:17 PM

    People views about Chris McCandless are different. Some think that he is courageous and heroic, while other think that he is stubborn and arrogant. Chris McCandless failed to accept the reality which is one of his tragic mistakes this is what ultimately leads to his death. Chris McCandless doesn’t accept help or advice when given to him. To compare McCandless trip with naval officer Sir John Franklin expedition, I think McCandless trip is lacks essential humility and obsessed insufficient respect for the land. With these claims in consideration, McCandless is a young man who is arrogant because he is reckless and stubborn; however, he is also humble because he is gentle and kind. On the other hand, the motives behind the Franklin expedition was to acquire new geographical and scientific information. Another motive is to gain personal prestige, fame or some wealth and to experience adventure, while Chris McCandless don’t have any specific reason for the journey. Another difference is that Franklin was fully prepared for his expedition but proved wrong as those supplies were not sufficient for that period but Chris was not even prepared for his journey. In the end both expedition resulted in the death of the parties.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Like many others have mentioned, this is the first time I have heard of the “Franklin Expedition”. In my own opinion Sir Franklin was not prepared to manage this expedition. Franklin only wanted to completed the Northwest Passage and to redeem his reputation. Also “The Huge” amount of supplies on this ship was not enough to feed all these men for many years. The point that Jane Franklin offered some of her own money to rescue her husband I think was laudable. I found that Searching for Franklin is a sad history but a real history that showed to us the end of these men. These Men were trapped in the ice and dying agonizingly in the frozen wastes, numbed by cold, starving and also became Cannibals with no other option, make me think and feel how difficult and tragic was this expedition. I can’t compare McCandless with Franklin in my point of view both stories are totally differents and both “trips” were with a different vision and goal.

    ReplyDelete
  17. I actually knew part of the story of the "Resolute" desk in D.C., however I didn't know where the wood had come from, just that it was a gift from the queen.
    I do find it fascinating that the subject of cannibalism is so taboo. Passive cannibalism is not unique to Franklin and his crew. Three years stuck in the arctic with no food, will drive anyone to such extreme measures. Look at the Uruguayan Rugby team that crashed in the Andes. It took two months to be rescued, and out of 45 people on board, only 16 survived. Though they swore they would never tell anyone about their last resort, it eventually was revealed, also stating that several that were to die offered themselves after death to help the survivors. Kind of a morbid thought, but nobody knows what they would do in a situation similar to theirs, or Franklin's.

    Paula T.

    ReplyDelete
  18. It's interesting how failure can also breed future success. Like when following explorers found the Northwest Passage. Even though he was a failure in a sense, Franklin succeeded in his goal, through his sacrifice.

    ReplyDelete
  19. As we review the Franklin Expedition I feel as though I am working on the case as they do in forensic investigations and private investigations. It is very interesting to see the possible map of where the men ended up using the last "clues" of the case. I wonder what it would have been like if Franklin's Wife had had the technology of today to search for her husband. Would she have been able to find them before things turned to cannibalism? Would they have been able to call for help when things got bad? It seems so interesting that in today's world we have technology so close to our fingertips at all times that we forget that there was a time when it was not readily available. I also wonder what could have been done with the technology of their time to make this trip either successful or understandable. With a journey like Franklin's it is extremely believable that terror would strike, but would could have been done to avoid the questions?

    -Amanda Crawley

    ReplyDelete
  20. I found the account of Franklins Expedition to my very intriguing. Even though that none of the men on the journey survived or were able to send word back home of their encounters, I think there journey although tragic was successful. Their expedition is still being discussed, debated, and investigated in present day. Which brings attention and increases knowledge to the north west passage, and the artic. I also found it very interesting that some men were able to survive six years in those conditions, according to the Inuits testimony.
    Jamie Fitzgibbons

    ReplyDelete
  21. It's difficult to compare McCandless and Franklin (other than their untimely demise). These were two very different people who ventured out into the unknown for two very different reasons. I would have to agree with previous posts of how Franklins voyage is justified for the research purpose especially st a time where so little was known about the world. I'm actually really interested in watching the new show that is set to come out based on Franklins voyage. In my efforts to find out more about the show I came across a movie loosely based on him called Passage, a 2008 film. It wasn't rated to good but I might watch it.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Although Alex and Franklin both end up dying in a similar way, their deaths and motives behind dying are very different. Both died due to unpreparedness, but Franklin was at least trying to find something that would greatly benefit the world instead of just trying to get away from the world. Franklin searching to map the final area of the Northwest Passage, hoping to find an easy trade route to connect Europe and Asia. It was a shame the route ended up not being used as often as he hoped it would, due to conflict with Canada as well as some unsafe water depths, but Franklin will always be remembered in his efforts pertaining to exploring the Northwest Passage.
    -Brent Schlicht

    ReplyDelete
  23. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  24. I can't be the only one who wonders what we did before cell phones. Remember when all we had were beepers (how primitive!). How did we ever get ahold of each other..... and how about GPS? I can't imagine life without it. Its so remarkable how early explorers were able to navigate the globe, manage with their primitive survival skills and accoutrements. Fast forward to present day, it's difficult to imagine that many of us could reenact their journeys, without assistance, in spite of the technology we have at our disposal. Compare Sir Franklin's expedition to the experience of McCandless. He had knowledge, books and maps and was unable to survive in what were, in comparison, much more manageable circumstances. Its as if technology and modern conveniences are making us more fragile as we become more dependent upon them.

    ReplyDelete
  25. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Seeing the mistakes that were made on those expedition shows you that results can be learned from failure. Even though you have good intensions towards an achievement; bad preparation can lead you to ultimate failure. But lessons are learned through past mistakes.

    ReplyDelete