Monday, February 1, 2016

Finding Franklin

Many readers have noticed my hiatus here at Visions of the North, with only one new post since October of last year. The reason for this, though, is a happy one: I've been at work on the final touches of my new book Finding Franklin: The Untold Story of a 165-Year Search, which will be coming out September 1st from McGill-Queen's University Press.

Finding Franklin brings together much of my research on the Franklin mystery from the past twenty years, but there's also a great deal of brand-new material. I spent much of 2015 digging into the history of the Franklin search in the modern era, from Lachlan Taylor Burwash and "Paddy" Gibson in the 1920's and '30's to Barry Ranford and David Woodman in the 1990's and 2000's. I conducted more than a dozen new interviews with archaeologists, journalists, and amateur Franklin searchers, working to create a more complete and detailed picture of what we know, what each search has added to our knowledge, and what remains unknown, or unknowable. In the process, I found that searches for Franklin had been far more numerous and ambitious than I'd previously realized, and that much of what was once found has since been forgotten, with artifacts and human remains shelved away in obscure collections, or simply lost. In fact, between Burwash's first searches in the 1920's and the last of the private searches before Parks Canada became involved in 2008, there were more than fifty Franklin searches.

Finding Franklin sets the stage for these searches by recounting the essential details of the Franklin mystery, and the questions raised by early searchers such as Rae, Hall, and Schwatka. A focus throughout is the Inuit testimony, widely credited for helping to find HMS "Erebus" in 2014, but seldom discussed, or understood in detail. The book also showcases the new ways in which old evidence is being freshly examined, from the question of lead poisoning to that of identifying specific human remains. And, along the way, I offer my own reflections on the meaning of such a search, and reminiscences of my encounters with my fellow-searchers, whether on the glistening  ice of Resolute Bay or in a dim-lit booth in a pub in County Kildare. My book will, I hope, interest and engage both those who've long been curious about the Franklin mystery but have been unsure where to start, as well as those who, like myself, have long ago been bitten by the bug that leads to 'Franklinitis' -- a so-far incurable condition that spurs its sufferers to undertake their own personal pilgrimages to the books, the places, and the artifacts in which the Franklin story resides.

As the book's publication draws nearer, I'll share some of the fruits of my recent work, including a revival of my "Franklin searcher of the month" feature, this time highlighting those whose contributions, though significant, have been largely forgotten. I hope that all who have followed my earlier posting here will continue to do so, and can promise fresh news, and new approaches, to this storied mystery.

17 comments:

  1. I'm sure all the Remembering the Franklin Expedition (RFE) Facebook group members, and many others, look forward to your writings with MUCH anticipation, Russell. The fruits of the many RFE collaborations will be a joy to see!

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  2. Congratulations Russell. Decades in the gestation, this publication is sure to be a landmark event. Looking forward to it!

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  3. We're not even through winter yet and now I'm looking forward to next fall already!!! The posts on this site sure get the mind going, get it thinking and rethinking. If this site is any indication, I'm sure this book will be read, re-read, and picked up again to double check random thoughts that occur!
    Eagerly awaiting the publication as well as more postings here!

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  4. Hooray! Congrats! Looking forward to reading about a fresh look at the Franklin saga. You said it, "Frankilinitis" is.......happily incurable .

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  5. Congratulations Russell, I can´t wait!! It seems that we have in front of us a new an updated cornerstone of the Franklin story like Cyriax´s one.

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  6. Can't wait to get my hands on it Russell... thanks!

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  7. Looking forward to it. Great news, Russel, congratulations!

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  8. Can't wait to add this book to my collection! Keep us informed on how to acquire it, will it be available on Amazon?

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    1. Thanks Charles -- and yes, it will be available on Amazon. I'll update the blog as soon as I have the date!

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  9. Thanks all! I really appreciate your kind words, and hope that the book will live up to your expectations -- I'm just working on the copyedited text now!

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  10. I'd been anticipating an updated account of the Franklin Expedition since the finding of HMS Erebus, suspecting, however, that it'd be a disappointing read, with little to add to what we already know.
    Now that I know you're the one writing it, I look forward to it with unalloyed enthusiasm.
    Needless to say, it also makes it easier to cope with the absence of a regular fix from your blog.

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    1. Thanks, Rick! Well, and yes, while HMS Erebus still has plenty to tell us, it will be a long time coming; what I've sought to do in my book is to lay out what we do know -- including some lesser-known and forgotten things -- so we can see how we got to where we are. Hopefully, this will also decrease the likelihood of having to rewrite chunks of the book once more finds from the ship are made!

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  11. grant murchie@gmail.comMarch 27, 2016 at 7:11 AM

    Looking to contact a Russell Poland or palind. Stayed at my dads house in the sixties. was on a search for franklin in the 60's. drove around the world on a motorcycle. just want to touch base talk old times. think he was mentioned on a river trip in canadas west also but cant relocate that article. even the last name escapes me. he did a slide show of the search expedition at the local school here. think he was from England or the low countries. can anyone point me in the right direction?

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  12. Dr. Potter, congratulations! I can't wait for the book to be published, I will be sure to get my copy...or two! I just wish I could be in Canada for your lecture! Good luck and thanks for the continued inspiration!

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  13. Better late than never, Russell, for a comment to be posted to your Feb 1st blog. Firstly, welcome back - you've been sorely missed. Secondly, congrats on your upcoming "Finding Franklin": I suspect it may be the definitive story.
    It's an inescapable fact of life that, no sooner is one mystery solved than another emerges!!! Now that "Erebus" has been found, and "Terror" will likely follow this summer, how are we to solve the mystery of the two ships "seen in the ice" by the crew of Renovation off Newfoundland in April 1851? Are we likely ever to be able to identify them?

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    1. Great to hear from you, Joe! And yes, the mystery continues; if indeed the 'ships on the ice' weren't Franklin's then which ships were they? The one thing I think that the search for "Terror," and another season of dives on "Erebus," guarantees is that this process will continue, and we'll never have a shortage of Franklin enigmas!

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