Thursday, June 30, 2011

Parks Canada confirms 2-phased searches for summer 2010

Parks Canada has finally confirmed that there will be a search expedition this summer, two in fact, as well as some of the details of the search.

The two phases will encompass a July re-visit to the site of the wreck of HMS Investigator, which was discovered last year, in Mercy Bay off Banks Island, and an August underwater search for HMS Erebus and HMS Terror in the region west of King William Island in Nunavut. No greater detail of the search area has been provided yet for the Franklin ships phase. Whether "west of King William Island" means just west or west and south is not clear which is unfortunate as the areas south and west, particularly the Queen Maud Gulf area and O'Reilley Islands area, appear most promising from the historical data.

The expedition will set sail on the Canadian Coast Guard vessel Sir Wilfrid Laurier as they did in 2008 and 2010. The HMS Investigator expedition will take place from July 10 to 25 and will deploy various underwater cameras. They'll also investigate McClure's cache and related terrestrial sites, including the rare, ancient Paleoeskimo site. The HMS Erebus and HMS Terror search is expected to launch on August 21.

New Technology to be Deployed in the Search for Franklin's Lost Vessels

Government of Canada continues Franklin search expedition in Canada's Arctic

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - June 30, 2011) - The Honourable Peter Kent, Minister of the Environment and Minister responsible for Parks Canada, today announced that Parks Canada will be working with other Canadian researchers to deploy highly sophisticated underwater technology in the continuing search for polar explorer Sir John Franklin's lost ships, HMS Erebus and HMS Terror. This summer's two-phased Arctic expedition will focus on further uncovering the story of the 19th century pursuit to find the Northwest Passage and will also include underwater exploration of the HMS Investigator shipwreck located last summer off Banks Island, as well as archaeological studies of related land sites.

"The Government of Canada is proud to be working with a nationwide team of existing and new Canadian researchers in this search for two of the world's most elusive shipwrecks", said Minister Kent. "Our collective efforts will significantly enhance this year's search capacity through the use of new technology."

The search for Sir John Franklin's lost ships under the direction of Parks Canada will enlist a sophisticated autonomous underwater vehicle to expand the search area, supplied by University of Victoria's Ocean Technology Laboratory.

Beginning about August 21, depending upon local weather conditions, Parks Canada and the associated organizations will continue the search for Franklin's lost vessels in the region west of King William Island in Nunavut. The expedition is a collaborative effort among Parks Canada, University of Victoria Ocean Technology Laboratory, Government of Nunavut and Canadian Ice Service. As in 2008 and 2010, Parks Canada archaeologists will be operating from the Canadian Coast Guard vessel Sir Wilfrid Laurier alongside hydrographers with the Canadian Hydrographic Service.

"The challenging search for a Northwest Passage has captured the public imagination for more than 400 years. As an integral part of our Canadian history and development as a nation, the Government of Canada is pleased to spearhead these important archaeological expeditions in Canada's Arctic," concluded Minister Kent.

HMS Erebus and HMS Terror were lost during Sir John Franklin's ill-fated 1845 expedition to chart Canada's Northwest Passage and the vessels have been sought for more than 160 years, creating great anticipation for their possible discovery.

From about July 10 to 25, Parks Canada archaeologists will further study the HMS Investigator wreck from a camp in Aulavik National Park, Northwest Territories near the western end of the Northwest Passage. The camp is near the location where Captain McClure and his ship HMS Investigator were trapped in the ice of Mercy Bay while searching for the lost Franklin voyage.

While HMS Investigator was discovered last summer, underwater archaeologists plan to dive the wreck for the first time this summer using a variety of underwater cameras, with the purpose of bringing back new information and unique underwater images. Archaeologists will also investigate McClure's cache and related terrestrial sites, including a rare, ancient Paleoeskimo site.

For additional information on the two-phased Arctic expedition and the 2011 itineraries, please see the accompanying backgrounders at under Media Room. As well, please visit the special feature on the Arctic expeditions at for regular updates over the summer.

Canadian Government to Announce Franklin Ships Search Plans

Some new news nearly here, just before noon, on Parks Canada's northern summer search plans seeking the Franklin ships.

(Don't ask at all why I'm alliterative all day today. Could be connected to Canada Day coming.)

Government of Canada to Unveil Details on Archaeological Expeditions in Canada's Arc
Thursday, 30 June 2011

The Honourable Peter Kent, Minister of the Environment and Minister responsible for Parks Canada, will unveil plans for the summer 2011 archaeological expeditions in Canada's Arctic.

Minister Kent will announce new details regarding the search for lost vessels of the Franklin Expedition, HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, and information on the archaeological surveys of HMS Investigator and related land sites.

Questions can be asked by calling in via teleconference at 1-877-413-4814 (toll free)

Access code is 5125526

To participate, media personnel must call at 10:50.

Please note that this advisory is subject to change without notice.

The details are as follows:

Date: June 30

Time: 11 a.m.

Location: Parks Canada
Ontario Service Centre
1800 Walkley Road
Ottawa, Ontario

That would be in half an hour so I'm going to try to call in and will update if there is anything of substance.

Monday, June 27, 2011

A Kindle for Sir John Franklin

This has only the thinnest thread of a tie-in with Franklin, but it's so neat that I couldn't resist.

Perhaps if Franklin had had a Kindle of this sort, the Erebus wouldn't have weighed down so heavily and been able to free itself from the ice.

h/t Nathalie Foy.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Summer of Franklin, Take 2?

Two bits of search-for-Franklin news.

First, there is the intrepid and independent journey by Ron Carlson in his DeHavilland Beaver. Carlson is flying solo over the route travelled by the survivors with unique thermal photography equipment that he hopes will suggest where bodies from the expedition may have been buried, perhaps even Sir John Franklin's. Check Carlson's blog for background, updates and photos of his journey, including a discovery of a lost Hudson Bay Company outpost and an abandoned church with stainglass donated by Lady Franklin. Russell Potter puts this search in some context.

Second, Parks Canada is quietly preparing for another search expedition this summer. After the numberous Franklin-related stories and discoveries from last summer, most especially the discovery of HMS Investigator, can we expect even more this summer? (Still waiting for any details from the very interesting and curious northwest passage of Bear Grylls and the discovery of a possible Franklin site find.)

Search for ill-fated, historic Franklin expedition could continue this summer

By Randy Boswell, Postmedia News
June 19, 2011

Parks Canada is quietly organizing a third season of searching this summer for the lost ships of Sir John Franklin — the 19th-century British explorer whose ill-fated expedition to the Canadian Arctic in the 1840s ended with the sinking of the ice-trapped HMS Terror and HMS Erebus, as well as the deaths of Franklin and all 128 men under his command.

While a Parks Canada spokeswoman told Postmedia News that plans are “fluid” and that the agency isn’t yet ready to disclose details of the proposed mission, she said officials are working with several partners in the federal and Nunavut governments “towards obtaining various authorizations and securing the necessary logistical support to be able to have the most productive search possible.”

Two previous searches in 2008 and 2010 were successful “in charting a navigation corridor to an area where we believe, through historic research, there is a high probability of finding the lost ships,” Parks Canada’s Natalie Fay told Postmedia News. “The area of surveying was approximately 150 square kilometres.”

The disappearance of the Franklin vessels, a profoundly traumatic moment for Victorian-era Britain and its Canadian colonies, prompted a series of Royal Navy rescue attempts that failed to find the ships but mapped much of the Arctic archipelago, ultimately securing sovereignty over the vast region for the future Canada.

The final resting place of the Franklin wrecks, which are believed to lie somewhere in the ice-choked waters off Nunavut’s King William Island, has eluded recent generations of searchers determined to locate one of the great global prizes of underwater archeology.

The Canadian government announced in 2008 that it was launching an unprecedented, three-season hunt for the sunken ships, so central to the story of Canada that they’ve already been declared national historic sites despite their unknown location.

Extensive sweeps of the Arctic sea floor were conducted in the 2008 and 2010 searches by Parks Canada and its partner agencies, including the Government of Nunavut, the Canadian Hydrographic Service and the Canadian Coast Guard.

A planned search in 2009 was called off when the Coast Guard icebreaker required by archeologists for sea floor surveys was unavailable because of other commitments related to Canada’s increased strategic interest in its Arctic frontier.

But federal archeologists said the resumed search for the Franklin ships in 2010 ruled out another large swath of seabed near King William Island and significantly narrowed the target zone for the 2011 expedition, which would begin in August if Parks Canada’s plans come together as expected.

Last year’s landmark discovery of the most famous of the Franklin rescue ships — HMS Investigator, which was abandoned in the Western Arctic pack ice in 1853 — has buoyed hopes for an even greater find this summer.

The Investigator — which had became hopelessly frozen in at Mercy Bay, just off Banks Island in today’s Northwest Territories — was finally pinpointed on the ocean floor last year by a Parks Canada team that won international acclaim for solving the long-standing mystery of that ship’s whereabouts.

The Investigator’s commander, Capt. Robert McClure, had led his crew off the ice-locked ship onto Banks Island, where they deposited a cache of supplies that has also been excavated by archeologists.

Both the shoreline area and the bay where the Investigator went down are today part of Aulavik National Park.

McClure and his men, facing sickness and starvation, eventually trekked across the sea ice to Melville Island and were rescued, at last, by another British ship.

But their combined travels by ship and foot marked a banner achievement in global exploration that Franklin and his doomed men had helped make possible — the traversing of the final link in the Northwest Passage, the polar sea route sought for centuries by European adventurers.

“With the arguable exception of the vessels from the Franklin expedition, the Investigator is the most significant shipwreck in the Canadian Arctic,” Jim Prentice, the former minister for Parks Canada, said after the July 25 discovery last year.

Though the Franklin ships vanished more than 160 years ago, the expedition’s many enduring mysteries have continued to attract attention from archeologists, wreck hunters, historians, songwriters and authors of popular books.

Earlier this year, a team of British scientists announced that they had re-identified one of only two sets of human remains from the Franklin Expedition returned to Britain for burial.

For more than 140 years, a sailor’s remains found on King William Island in 1869 — then transported to a memorial chamber in Britain — had been identified as those of Lt. Henry Le Vesconte, one of Franklin’s perished officers.

But the first modern scientific study of the entombed bones and teeth determined that the skeleton probably belonged to another of Franklin’s officers: expedition naturalist and assistant surgeon Harry Goodsir.

The study also shed fresh light on the theory that a disastrous illness, perhaps scurvy or tuberculosis, had caused or contributed to the demise of Franklin and his men.

“No evidence of these diseases was found on the bones, and DNA tests proved negative for tuberculosis,” English Heritage, a British government advisory agency, stated in its summary of the new scientific findings.

Another prominent theory about the tragedy — that lead poisoning from tinned food or the ships’ water supplies had sickened the sailors during their Canadian voyage — is still being tested using the bones.

© Copyright (c) Postmedia News

Friday, June 10, 2011

Canadian Bookshelf - Canadian Books on Franklin

[I was recently honoured to be asked to submit a list of Canadian books on Franklin to the Canadian Bookshelf, a great new blog and website and must read for any Canadian bibliophile, for their launch on June 7, 2011. The following is the list I submitted, which can be found here. Unfortunately, the site does not support hyperlinks, so for now you, the readers of Franklin's Ghost, get the to enjoy the exclusive privilege of reading the post here with the re-inserted hyperlinks. My original post was also edited a little bit with the introduction and conclusion merged to work with their "list" formatting.

Unfortunately, they excluded Frozen in Time by Owen Beattie and John Geiger from the posting as the book is out of print (a travesty in its own right) and they aren't set up for out of print books. Something about the way the information loads up directly from their publishers. It will be added eventually once they figure a workaround.

Obviously, the list is necessarily very limited by being restricted to Canadian books, as any more complete list of Franklin books would show. But there are two interesting observations I would make about the list.

First, the early writing that renewed and reinvigoured interest in the Franklin expedition and inspired later generations of writers were Canadians. Most notably, Owen Beatie and John Geiger's Frozen Time and Pierre Berton's Arctic Grail. Many fine non-Canadian writers have written about Franklin, of course, both before and after the mid-1980s, but those two (especially Beattie/Geiger) opened up new channels of study and interest. And the late 1980s and early 1990s witnessed a relative flurry of Franklin-related writing insprired by those early writers. From Margaret Atwood and Mordecai Richler in fiction and cultural studies to Woodman in Inuit and historical studies.

Second, while Ken McGoogan has persisted in carrying the flag in the North, most recent writing on the Franklin expedition has been by , to a greater extent, British, and, to a lesser extent, Americans. Just like with the original searches, I guess. And this research has been deep and getting deeper. Somewhat to do no doubt with the volume of papers and artifacts actually in the UK, most especially the Scott Polar Research Institute, with books of Crozer by Smith and Fitzjames by Battersby, but also a number of British historians unsatisfied with the overall modern perception of Sir John Franklin, his expedition and all of the British Navy's explorations of the north (and elsewhere). Books like Beardsley, Cookman, Lambert, for example.

Opportunities abound for some enterprising Canadian writer.]

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Sir John Franklin set out from Greenhithe, England, on the morning of May 19, 1845to discover the Northwest Passage. He and his 129 member crew were never seen again. While bones and artifacts, and even graves, have been found, their ships have never been found and the mystery of their disappearance has endured for 150 years. With the discovery of the sunken HMS Investigator and the unexpected possible finding of the last resting place of the Franklin crew last year, and multiple new expeditions in search of answers every year, the Franklin story not only refuses to fade away, but grows yearly.

The resurgent interest in the mysteries of the Franklin expedition in the last 25 years was initiated by, and continues to be spurred on by, Canadian writers. Here's a few of them.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The Arctic Grail: The Quest for the Northwest Passage and the North Pole, 1818-1909 by Pierre Berton (1988)

If you were to pick one book to start with, it really has to be The Arctic Grail, the classic book by the iconic Canadian writer and historian Pierre Berton. Following shortly on the heals of Owen Beattie’s foresic discoveries (see below), and no doubt inspired by them, it is an excellent survey of arctic exploration and the central role the Franklin Expedition and, more importantly, the decades plus search for Franklin had in mapping and exploring the Arctic.

Frozen in Time: Unlocking the Secrets of the Franklin Expedition by Owen Beattie and John Geiger (1987 with a good updated edition in 2004)

The groundbreaking archeological work of Owen Beattie almost single-handedly re-opened research and interest into the Franklin expedition. Beattie's first expedition explored King William Island, where nearly 150 years earlier Franklin's men abandoned their ships and supposedly started their long "death march" along the western coast. Strewn along the coast were the bones of dozens of European men from the mid-nineteenth century. Using modern day forensic analysis on the bones back at the University of Alberta, Beattie made two startling discoveries. The first confirmed what was already generally known: that the expedition survivors had indeed "been driven to the last dread alternative", cannibalism. But it was the second discovery that surprised: bone samples revealed extremely high and dangerous levels of lead. Frozen In Time then documents two subsequent trips to Beechey Island in which the bodies of the 3 found sailors were exhumed. The cadavers, frozen in the permafrost for a century and a half, confirmed the earlier results: the Franklin sailors were suffering from lead poisoning to such a degree that it was a contributing factor to their demise. The 2004 paperback edition updates their research to subsequent theories.

Unravelling the Franklin Mystery: Inuit Testimony by David C. Woodman (1992)

Historian David C. Woodman is one of the first modern writers to recognise the profound importance, accuracy and reliability of Inuit oral history and to analyse it in depth. He concludes from his investigations, among other startling discoveries, that the Inuit probably did visit Franklin's ships while the crew was still on board, that there were some Inuit who actually saw the sinking of one of the ships and that the crew, or at least some of them, may have lived for years longer than supposed. This is a book for the real Franklinophile. Consider also Woodman's harder-to-find follow-up Strangers Among Us (1995).

Fatal Passage: The True Story of John Rae, the Arctic Hero Time Forgot by Ken McGoogan (2002)

No reading list of Franklin history or of northern Canadian exploration would be complete without at least a few books from historian Ken McGoogan. Two of McGoogan’s “Fatal Passage Quartet” related directly to the lost Franklin expedition. Hudson Bay Company chief explorer John Rae charted more of Canada’s northern coastline on foot than possibly any other. It was Rae who not only uncovered the true story of Franklin – the location of the disaster and cannibalism (the telling of which doomed his career and reputation) – but also, according to the author was the true discoverer of the Northwest Passage and received £10,000 for it. In Fatal Passage, McGoogan tries to re-cast Rae into his rightful place in history.

Lady Franklin's Revenge: A True Story of Ambition, Obsession and the Remaking of Arctic History by Ken McGoogan (2005)

The story about Sir John Franklin cannot be fully understood without knowing about his ambitious, determined, obstinate and opinionated wife, Lady Jane Franklin. But for her efforts to mount and continue the search for her husband, there would have been no search for Franklin and no mapping of millions of square kilometers in the north. More than that, in Lady Franklin's Revenge, McGoogan brings to vivid life Lady Franklin and her husband Sir John, and the events that led to his command of the fateful expedition.

De Bon Usage des Etoiles [On The Proper Use of Stars] by Dominique Fortier (2008; translated to English in 2010)

The lost Franklin expedition has inspired not only serious research and study by non-fiction writers, but a library of fiction as well. The science and history inspired a significant portion of Mordecai Richler’s Solomon Gursky Was Here (1990), Margaret Atwood’s short story “The Age of Lead” (1989) from Wilderness Tips (as indicated by the title, directly from Beattie, in fact) and more recently the Helen Humphreys short story “Franklin’s Library” (2005) and the mystery/detective novel by the late, prize winning Canadian author Dennis Richard Murphy in Darkness at the Stroke of Noon (2008). Most recently, Dominque Fortier’s captivating and elegant historical fiction, On The Proper Use of Stars, which won the Governor General’s Medal in 2008 and was beautifully translated in 2010 (by Sheila Fischman) shows us the magneticism of this slowly unraveling mystery.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

In a way, the historical and scientific writing, and the modern fiction it has inspired, is only catching up to generations of writing on Franklin by artists and folklorists and dramatists and poets. As Margaret Atwood noted in her 1995 book, Strange Things: The Malevolent North in Canadian Literature, though, the Franklin mystery has been told and re-told so many times that it has created a fundamental Canadian myth.

Ted Betts is a Canadian lawyer and historian who occasionally writes at the Franklin's Ghost blog. If this short list has in any way piqued your interest, he has compiled an essentials reading list on Franklin history.

Originally posted at Canadian Bookshelf.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Owen Beattie in the news

Ever wonder what University of Alberta forensic scientist and author of the ground-breaking Franklin book Frozen in Time, Professor Owen Beattie, has been up to since he retired?

The retired professor's skills and experience remain of great value, though not just for our little Franklin world. He was called to testify as an expert witness in the bizarre first-degree murder trial of Mark Twitchell in Edmonton:

An anthropologist says it's impossible to tell what killed a young man from his charred bones found in the bush near Draper Road. Owen Beattie testified Tuesday in the first-degree murder trial of 33-year-old Dax Mack. Mack is accused of killing his roommate, 25-year-old Robert LeVoir. Beattie says he and his team spent days uncovering 4,539 cremated pieces of bone, including 87 tooth fragments, from the site in April 2004. He says the remains were from a man aged 20 to 30, but he couldn't determine how the man died. Crown prosecutor Steven Koval told an Edmonton jury earlier this week he intends to prove Mack shot LeVoir five times, then burned his body over three days.

More here.

It's a truly grisly tale. Twitchell is accused of killing Johnny Altinger on Oct. 10, 2008, cutting up his body, burning the parts and dumping his remains down a manhole. The Crown alleges the crime followed one of Twitchell's movie scripts in which a man is lured over the Internet and attacked. Altinger was lured to Twitchell's house over the internet and was either attacked, according to the Crown, or accidentally killed, according to Twitchell, before being dismembered and stuffed in a duffel bag.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Essential Franklin Reading

My very first post here at Franklin's Ghost was a listing of what I considered to be some essential reading on the lost Franklin polar expedition and its participants. I promised then to eventually post a comprehensive bibliography of Arctic and Franklin related readings. I still plan (hope!?) to do that.

For now though, with so many new titles in the last 3 years and since I've read so many more on the list that I had not yet read back then, I'm going to simply update my essential reading list. The list is also now a little more comprehensive and a start on that bibliography. I've also reorganized the list a bit into different sections which are hopefully a bit more reader-friendly.

Consider the list your basic first course in Franklin related literature.

Feel free to suggest others or argue against any of them in the comments. The big gap in the list is Inuit accounts

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

General Surveys on Arctic Exploration and the Search for the Northwest Passage

  • Berton, Pierre (1988) The Arctic Grail: The Quest for the Northwest Passage and the North Pole, 1818-1909 -- If you were to pick one book to start with, I strongly recommend The Arctic Grail, the classic book by the iconic Canadian writer historian Pierre Berton. It is an excellent survey of arctic exploration and the central role the Franklin Expedition and, more importantly, the search for Franklin had in mapping and exploring the Arctic.

  • Fleming, Fergus (1998) Barrow's Boys -- Sir John Barrow, the Second Lieutenant of the Navy and the author of the Navy report that documented the story of the mutiny on HMS Bounty, was the driving force behind the many British expeditions of discovery in the North but also throughout the world. This is tale of his "boys" who sailed the world, and chief among them Sir John Franklin.

  • Sandler, Martin W. (2006) Resolute: The Epic Search for the Northwest Passage and John Franklin, and the Discovery of the Queen's Ghost Ship -- Despite the title, this is a good updated general survey of the search for the Northwest Passage, including a re-telling of the Franklin expedition and the searches for him, but one framed in the retelling of the fascinating tale of the ship Resolute which was abandoned after being beset deep in the northern Canadian archipelego in the ice while searching for Franklin but miraculously freed itself and was discovered in the Atlantic by whalers. The ship was returned by the US government to England and, years later when decommissioned, was used to make the famous Oval Office desk used by US Presidents since Kennedy.

  • General Franklin History

  • Beattie, Owen, and Geiger, John (first published: 1987, updated paper back edition: 2004) Frozen in Time: Unlocking the Secrets of the Franklin Expedition -- Groundbreaking archeological work that re-opened research and interest into the lost Franklin expedition. The 2004 paperback edition updates their research to subsequent theories.

  • Cookman, Scott (2000) Iceblink: The Tragic Fate of Sir John Franklin's Lost Polar Expedition -- While subsequent research has shown that it is highly unlikely that tinned food and food poisoning played any significant role in dooming the expedition, the rich and descriptive detail of Cookman's narrative style of writing and research almost puts you right into the hull of the Terror and Erebus.

  • Woodman, David C. (1992) Unravelling the Franklin Mystery: Inuit Testimony -- Woodman is one of the first to recognise the profound importance of the Inuit testimony and to analyse it in depth (John Rae or Charles Francis Hall should probably be recognized as the first, but Woodman is one of the first contemporary researchers). He concludes from his investigations, among other startling discoveries, that the Inuit probably did visit Franklin's ships while the crew was still on board, that there were some Inuit who actually saw the sinking of at least one of the ships, that the crew survived far longer than believed and actually split into two groups. Consider also Woodman's harder to find follow-up Strangers Among Us (1995) in which Woodman re-examines the Inuit accounts taken by Charles Francis Hall in the light of modern scholarship and re-evaluates the importance of Inuit oral traditions in his search to reconstruct the events surrounding Franklin's expedition.

  • Biographies

  • Cyriax, Richard J. (1939) Sir John Franklin's Last Arctic Expedition -- There has been an abundance of good biographies in recent hears, but anyone truly serious about learning about Sir John Franklin will need to eventually read Cyriax's 1939 biography. I still think the definitive biography of Sir John has yet to be written, but this remains, in many respects, still the most comprehensive and a good starting point.

  • Lambert, Andrew (2009) Franklin: Tragic Hero of Polar Navigation -- The first comprehensive biography of Franklin really since Cyriax's Sir John Franklin's Last Expedition in 1939. Lambert sets about re-casting Franklin's image of a bumbling sailor to a seasoned explorer and scientist. The latter especially is a too neglected part of Franklin's life. I reviewed this book here.

  • McGoogan, Ken (2002) Fatal Passage: The True Story of John Rae, the Arctic Hero Time Forgot -- Rae uncovered the true story of Franklin and his career and reputation was doomed for being honest about it. McGoogan tries to re-place Rae into his rightful place in history. I reviewed this book here.

  • McGoogan, Ken (2005) Lady Franklin's Revenge: A True Story of Ambition, Obsession and the Remaking of Arctic History -- The story about Sir John Franklin cannot be fully understood without knowing about his ambitious and opinionated wife, Lady Jane Franklin, and her efforts to mount and continue the search for her husband. More than that, McGoogan brings her and Sir John, and the events that led to his command of the fateful expedition, to life.

  • Smith, Michael (2006) Captain Francis Crozier - Last Man Standing? -- The first (and only) comprehensive biography of Captain Crozier, captain of the Terror and, after the death of Franklin, commander of the expedition.

  • Battersby, William (2010) James Fitzjames: The Mystery Man of the Franklin Polar Expedition -- The first (and only) comprehensive biography of Captain James Fitzjames, Commander of the Erebus and third in command overall. I reviewed this book here.

  • Affect on Art & Culture

  • Atwood, Margaret (1995) Strange Things: The Malevolent North in Canadian Literature -- A survey of the writing and literature about Franklin and how it has created a fundamental Canadian myth.

  • Potter, Russel (2007) Arctic Spectacles: The Frozen North in Visual Culture -- Potter illuminates the nineteenth-century fascination with visual representations of the Arctic and brings us closer to understanding why the Arctic has held such magnetic appeal through history.

  • Moss, Sarah (2006) The Frozen Ship: The Histories and Tales of Polar Exploration -- A truly sweeping survey of art, culture, polar exploration and the human imagination from Medieval Norse sagas to Winnie the Pooh and children's polar fiction. Sometimes reads like her doctoral thesis upon which it is based, but I'm quite sure she's missed very little.


  • Franklin is not reserved only for the serious research and study of non-fiction writers. Someday I'll write up my own "essential" Franklin fiction reading list. The criteria for what is a "must read" is entirely different. For now, I'll leave you with a link to Professor Russell Potter's quite comprehensive list of Franklin-related fiction.

  • ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

    For anyone already emersed in Arctic and Franklin writing, this list is obviously hardly the start of it. But they are a good start. Feel free to let me know your favourite, or to provide your own review or suggestions for further reading, in the comments or by email. You may also want to browse this quite comprehensive list of Franklin links and this comprehensive regularly updated bibliography of Franklin fiction and poetry, thanks for both to Professor Potter.

    Scanning this list you might notice something quite remarkable: just how much of the literature covering this nearly 200 year old event is so very recent. With new discoveries and expeditions every summer, comprehensive government-funded searches for the ships, ever more on the way. To say nothing about the plethora of fascinating blogs dedicated to all things Franklin.

    We are truly in the midst of a genuine renaissance of writing on the lost Franklin Expedition. I hope to help foster that interest with this website. And you have just become a part of it by visiting.