"With the lead levels confirmed, McMaster's Department of Anthropology will next make a batch of the ox cheek soup and can it using methods from the 1840s. Over the course of a year the cans will be opened and analyzed. Researchers will then be able to gauge how quickly lead leaches into soup rendering it lethal. Lead poisoning has long been considered a cause of death for the ill-fated explorers."
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Friday, December 4, 2009
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
Sunday, November 29, 2009
Sunday, November 22, 2009
Saturday, November 21, 2009
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
"It is now known to all who have studied the subject that the cause of copper, yellow metal, zinc, and other metallic alloys placed on a ship's bottom, keeping clean and free from fouling, is the exfoliation of the metal and the constant renewal of the surface caused thereby, through which the adherent matter is, as it were, sent adrift, by the friction of the water against the metal sheathing washing off the exfoliated parts or films."
"I believe the reason for dating was an attempt to discover why copper varied from good to bad. Coppering ships served two purposes. It prevented worm attack, especially important in the West Indies where new hulls could be destroyed in under two years. The second need was for the copper to erode slowly preventing excessive fouling. This was known as "good" copper and relied on small quantities of impurities to achieve this effect, since completely pure copper eroded quickly and neededreplacing in less than two years. Really bad copper had too many inclusions and did not erode at all; fouling was then just as bad as plain wooden hulls. In an attempt to recognise good from bad, the Dockyards recorded the plate's life by dating each sheet. I would stress that these copper marks are not easily discernable when hidden by an oxide coating."
"These copper sheets and other artifacts were not found on the beach but associated with Inuit tent circles on one of the islets to the north of O'Reilly Island, so they were not primarily associated with a ship at all. They could have been transported there by either drifting wreckage from the north or Inuit travel (as could the relics recovered by the 1967 Project Franklin group) but since some of the testimony indicates a wreck nearby they could also be corroborative. Even if from the ship it may not be external sheathing but 'trade copper' or the remnants of copper sheeting carried by the expedition for making pots etc."
Saturday, November 14, 2009
Colonel Gilder and I [interviewed] old Ikinnilik-Puhtoorak, the head man of this tribe, with Joe Ebierbing as our interpreter. The old man, then about sixty years old, had an intelligent, open face, and all his answers were given without hesitation, in a straightforward manner which carried the conviction of truth. In response to our questions he stated that he had seen white men before in this country. Almost impatiently we waited Joe's interpretation of the old man's statements. His next remarks electrified us.
"A long time ago, said Puhtoorak, "when I was a small boy living with my people just below the bad rapids near the mouth of the Great Fish River, we saw a wooden boat with white men going down the river. The white men shook hands with the Innuits and the latter rubbed their hands down their breasts, a sign of welcome."
There were ten men in the boat, and the commander's name as near as he could remember it was Tooahdeahhrak (probably Lieut. Back on his first exploration of the river).
Continuing his story, Puhtoorak told Ebierbing that the next time he saw a white man it was a dead one in a large ship about eight miles off Grant Point. The body was in a bunk inside the ship in the back part. The ship had four big sticks, one pointing out and the other three standing up. On the mainland, near Smith Point and Grant Point on the Adelaide peninsula, an Esquimaux party which he accompanied saw the tracks of white men and judged they were hunting for deer. At this time the tracks indicated there were four white men but afterwards the tracks showed only three. He saw the ship in the spring before the spring snow falls and the tracks in the fresh spring snow when the young reindeer come of the same year. He never saw the white men. He thinks that the white men lived in this ship until the fall and then moved onto the mainland.
Puhtoorak told how the Esquimaux, not understanding how to get into the ship, cut through one side. When summer came and the ice melted the ship righted herself but the hole in her side being below the water line she sank as the water poured in. After the ship sank, they found a small boat on the mainland. When he went on board the ship he saw a pile of dirt on one side of the cabin door showing that some white man had recently swept out the cabin. He found on board the ship four red tin cans filled with meat and many that had been opened. The meat was full of fat. The natives went all through the ship and found also many empty casks. The found iron chains and anchors on deck, and spoons, knives, forks, tin plates, china plates, etc.
When the ship finally sank her masts stuck out of the water and many things floated on shore which the natives picked up. He also saw books on board the ship but the natives did not take them. He afterwards saw some that had washed ashore. He never saw any stone monument or cairn on the mainland near where the ship sank. There was one small boat hanging from the davits which the natives cut down. Some of the ship's sails were set.
Monday, November 9, 2009
Friday, November 6, 2009
Sunday, November 1, 2009
We gather on this solemn occasion to give renewed thanks for the life of Lieutenant Henry Thomas Dundas Le Vesconte, and to re-inter his mortal remains in the vestibule of this Chapel In this the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary year of the discovery of Sir John Franklin's death, we pray that peoples from across the world who visit this holy and historic place may hereafter pause, and remember all those who lost their lives alongside Franklin ..The reading, appropriately enough, was from the Book of Job. Afterwards, Bishop Chessun ascended to the pulpit and delivered quite a lovely address, in which he extolled the merits of the urge to explore, to risk life and limb in the pursuit of expanding geographical and scientific knowledge. The Canadian High Commissioner, James R. Wright, offered a poignant excerpt from Canadian poet Gwendolyn MacEwen's poetic cycle "Terror and Erebus."
Thursday, October 29, 2009
This makes Le Vesconte one of only two officers (the other being John Irving) whose mortal remains received a proper burial back home. In Le Vesconte's case, his tomb has been a restless one; originally installed in the Painted Hall, the memorial was moved, bones and all, to a location in a back stairwell of the Chapel. In 2009, it was moved to a far more prominent position in the Chapel's entryway. As a matter of fact, this very evening, I've been invited to attend a special event at the Chapel which celebrates the rededication of this monument, and the legacy of the officers and men of the Franklin expedition ... I can't say more for now, but promise to describe the proceedings, and include photos and more, in another post soon to follow!
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
"After a fair amount of guesswork and reasoned elimination, I would suggest this is probably Captain Frederick Marryat's widely used, classic, 'Code of Signals' or, to give it the full title, 'A Code of Signals for the Use of Vessels Employed in the Merchant Service.' An 8th edition was published in London, 1841, and it's possible a revised edition was issued in 1845, a few years before Marryat died. It was first published in 1817 and was still in use, officially and unofficially, into the 1890s. Vesconte's copy certainly looks like a special edition of some sort, possibly given by a friend or colleague to wish him well on his voyage into the unknown. Of course, until more research is done, we can't possibly know the details."The inset image on the right in the composite above is taken from a Google Books scan of the 10th edition, which came out in 1847, a little too late for Le Vesconte, but as it seems likely he would have taken the most recent edition, it may well be that of 1841. Although the book itself is unremarkable, its author, Marryat, brings a rich resonance to the image. Marryat was an acquantance of Dickens and a prodigious novelist, who more or less established the classic narrative arc of the "sea story" in which some likely lad runs away to sea, faces a series of challenges and adventures, and eventually rises to the rank of Captain. The earliest of these, The Naval Officer, or Scenes in the Life and Adventures of Frank Mildmay (1829), was said to be partly autobiographical. Who knows but that some of the younger lads aboard Franklin's ships might have been inspired by such tales?
In wartime, Royal Navy signal books were often bound in lead, so that, should an enemy overrun the vessel, they could be thrown overboard and counted on to sink. The one in Le Vesconte's hand looks almost to be made of wood -- perhaps a measure to ensure that it would float if dropped. This also suggests to me that such a specially-bound volume may well have been enhanced by additional signals; some systems of the day included specific signals designed for surveying coastal areas, a labor in which we know Le Vesconte and Fitzjames were enagaged in even before the ships left Greenland. The 3/1 indication looks at first like a price, but perhaps this simply means it was one of three copies.
I'll have more to say about Le Vesconte in my next post, but for now, suffice it to say that this offers another instance of how the remarkable level of detail preserved by the Daguerreian process offers numerous avenues for further discovery.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Then it was time for my own presentation. I used as my main (actually, my only) visual aid the 1928 Gould map, with which I was able to illustrate all the efforts to find some more final resolution of the Franklin mystery in the wake of McClintock's determinations of 1859. In particular, I talked at length about the Inuit evidence gathered by Charles Francis Hall, and later analyzed with such diligence by David C. Woodman. I also discussed the vital contributions of other amateur searchers, ranging from Hall to Barry Ranford, and offered the conclusion that the progress we've made, and any hope for an eventual solution, are absolutely dependent on collaboration of both amateur and professional searchers.
Somehow, on our return to town, a number of us found the energy to gather at O'Brien's pub for a final round of pint-lifting. The next morning, though we were all unaccountably feeling a tad groggy, we gathered again to hear Dr. Michael Rostove guide us through "The Great Books of Shackletonia." As a book collector myself, even though these titles were out of my area (and in most cases, out of my budget as well!), I found his account fascinating, especially with regard to the printing points of Aurora Australis, the first book entirely printed and bound in the Antarctic. After the tea-break which followed his talk, the lecture hall quickly filled to capacity, with scarce standing room at the back, in anticipation of Lady Marie Herbert's talk, "The Way of the Explorer." Speaking with quiet dignity and nimble wit, she recounted her first meeting with Sir Wally Herbert, and some remarable stories from the time they spent together in Northwest Greenland with their daughter Kari. Her talk was beautifully illustrated with photographs from the time, and her account of her own journey after loss to the world of Native American spiritual practices was especially moving. At the conclusion, there was a long and lasting roar of applause, followed by so many questions that Seamus Taaffe, in charge of the proceedings, was obliged to ask other questioners to wait until the afternoon forum.
Lunch came again -- for some -- while my good friend Dr Huw Lewis-Jones and I put the final polish on our program of polar films. The audience was delighted with our choices, paricularly (if I may say) with our screening of Georges Méliès's 1914 "Conquest of the Pole," for which I provided a few wry vocal annotations. During part of the sequence, I was joined my old friend Kenn Harper, as we showed some materials about early Arctic films related to turn-of-the-century "Esquimaux" villages at World's Fairs. Everyone seemed delighted with our final film "Frigid Hare" (1949), a Bugs Bunny classic which has Bugs rescuing a sad-eyed little penguin from a ravenous Eskimo.
The conference concluded with the traditional forum, in which all the lecturers took questions from the audience, with Bob Headland serving as host. At the conclusion of the forum, he introduced Irish Green Party TD Mary White, who announced that Ireland is to subscribe to the interntional Antarctic Treaty, in part as a tribute to Sir Ernest Schackleton, as well as to the efforts of the Shackleton School in lobbying for this result. A thunderous round of applause followed.
Further proceedings, following tradition, were continued for a final night at O'Brien's, where nearly everyone was present for at least part of the evening. I was particularly pleased to have another chance to talk with Joe O'Farrell, whose guest posting on this blog was very widely commented upon, and who is surely one of the stalwarts of the School, having attended every year since it was founded. From Joe we all learned a new turn of phrase, as he's fond of using the word "chuffed" -- which in North America means something like "heated," but in Ireland means "delighted" instead. So, as Joe might say, I'm absolutely chuffed to say what a wonderful time I had at the Shackleton school this year, and although next year will mark its tenth anniversary, the organizers will have their work cut out for them improving on this year's success.
Sunday, October 25, 2009
Thursday, October 15, 2009
[Editor's note: Readers of this blog may recall my referring, among other theories as to the whereabouts of Franklin's ships, the work of Joe O'Farrell on the reports that the two ships had been seen, fast-frozen to an iceberg and abandoned, drifting off the coast of Newfoundland. I'm very grateful to Joe for being willing to share his carefully-researched account, originally delivered at the McClintock Winter School in Dundalk in January of 2008. On that occasion, unfortunately, other speakers went well over their allotted time, and as a result the paper had to be severely condensed. I offer here an excerpt from this remarkable presentation, as well as -- for the first time -- an accessible copy of the entire text. I'm certain that readers of Visions of the North will be excited and intrigued to hear of this remarkable and yet still little-known incident in the range of possible solutions to the Franklin mystery.]
"A very strange thing happened in May 1851. An item appeared in (of all places) the May 28th 1851 issue of The Limerick Chronicle, an Irish newspaper. Written by a John Supple Lynch of Limerick, to his uncle in England, it relates the story of his voyage on the “Renovation” from Limerick to Quebec, Canada, and, how, close to Newfoundland on or about April 20th of that year, his ship passed within a few miles of a big ice-flow upon which were stranded two ships. He said that the ships looked to have been abandoned, for, having studied them through the telescope, no sign of life or movement could be detected. Obviously a man reasonably acquainted with maritime affairs, he formed the opinion that they were consorts, and, surprisingly, expressed the view that they must be the missing Franklin ships. He added that the mate of his ship also observed the scene, but not the captain, for he was ill in his bunk below.
For two specific reasons, I find this letter quite fascinating.
Firstly, it shows the widespread knowledge of, and interest in, the Franklin Expedition of 1845. It‟s quite unbelievable that this man, who described himself to the subsequent Admiralty Enquiry as “an ordinary man”, should, in the Limerick of 1851, and as a post- famine emigrant to Canada to start a new life, even be aware of, or have any interest in, the goings-on of his colonial masters and in the Arctic to boot!
Secondly, it's very strange, but eminently understandable (bearing in mind the rather parochial circulation of a newspaper such as The Limerick Chronicle) that this matter did not come sooner to the attention of the Admiralty in London.
Indeed, it may never have come to any official attention were it not for the fact that the captain of the “Renovation”, on arrival in Quebec, and no doubt at the prompting of his passenger John Lynch, mentioned the episode to his fellow sea-faring colleagues, and, in this way, the matter eventually came to the attention of the Authorities in London. Further interest in the matter was generated by a letter which appeared in The (London) Times of May 8th 1852, almost a year after John Lynch's letter appeared in The Limerick Chronicle. It corroborated exactly what John Lynch's letter said."
Click here to read the entire paper.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Monday, September 21, 2009
The Nunavut government has come under fire for denying an archeological permit to a privately-funded group that wants to search for Sir John Franklin's missing ships in the High Arctic. Members of the Finding Franklin Expedition said the reasons they were denied a Class 1 archeological permit by the territorial government do not make sense. "It's extremely important, I think, on a global scale to Canada, to Great Britain, that the wrecks be found," Rob Field, one of the lead archeologists in the expedition group, told CBC News.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
According to several stories which have appeared on the CBC's website, Rob Rondeau is not looking for Franklin this year:
One of the leaders of a private search for Sir John Franklin's lost ships in the Northwest Passage denies he was planning to look for the vessels this year. The Nunavut government threatened Rob Rondeau of ProCom Diving Services and his team with criminal charges if they searched for the HMS Erebus and HMS Terror without an archeological permit.
Rondeau received a letter to that effect from the territorial Justice Department last week while he was in the hamlet of Taloyoak. Nunavut government archeologist Julie Ross said Rondeau's team was trying to launch a search for the ships — which have been missing in the High Arctic passage for more than 160 years — even though the group had been denied a territorial archeological permit this year ...
It's difficult, at this point, to say how much of this story reflects the Government's own desire to keep its mission pre-eminent, or how much is due to political resistance on the part of Nunavut authorities. Since the establishment of Nunavut, many researchers say it's been more difficult to get archaeological and other permits; while the requirement that local Inuit communities be consulted is certainly understandable, it can add costs and delays. I've talked with Dave Woodman about this, and he's certainly had a few frustrating experiences with "officialdom" up there. That said, it certainly would be most unfortunate if Rondeau's team had indeed -- as some reports suggest -- attempted to skirt the proper processes in order to do a quick, unpermitted search.