A Conversation for The Mystery of The Franklin Expedition to the Northwest Passage

Books for those who are interested

Post 1

Cheerful Dragon

I am interested in expeditions before the Second World War, especially those that went wrong in some way. I have books by the authors mentioned that cover the Franklin expedition:

Frozen In Time: The Fate of the Franklin Expedition by Owen Beattie and John Geiger
Iceblink: The Tragic Fate of Sir John Franklin's Lost Polar Expedition by Scott Cookman

The books come up with different reasons for the failure of the expedition, but it could be argued that it's not 'either one or the other'. If the producer of the tinned food was skimping on quality of the contents and their preparation, it's likely the manufacture of the cans wasn't up to much either. As for 'war with the Inuit', I'm not convinced by that one. John Rae got on well with the Inuit, but then he was prepared to 'go native' - probably one reason why his findings (the Inuit told him Franklin's men had been reduced to cannibalism, something confirmed by Geiger) were ignored by his contemporaries.

Books for those who are interested

Post 2


Yes, I agree. It's one of the fascinating things about this Expedition: trying to fit all the jigsaw pieces together. But I quite like the thought that it will remain a mystery (I hope).

smiley - cheers
Fbsmiley - starsmiley - star

Books for those who are interested

Post 3

Delicia - The world's acutest kitten

I find mysteries maddening! If only I could know... smiley - winkeye

Books for those who are interested

Post 4

James C

"Fatal Passage" by Ken McGoogan gives interesting information on Rae's efforts, and ultimate success, in discovering the fate of Franklin. However,it proposes that John Rae is the hero of the piece and that Franklin's fame derives from his wife's talent for publicity. In fact her staining of Rae's character and the racist views she promoted towards the Innuit would leave a bad taste in the mouths of most these days.

This book also points out that Roald Amundsen counted Rae as his greatest influence and inspiration and that he successfully followed the passage as identified by Rae (Franklin's route only being passable by modern icebreaking ships). Rae certainly comes across as a remarkable explorer achieving what he did in the most extreme conditions.

It is interesting that Franklin's memorial in Westminster Abbey credits him with the discovery of the northwest passage and the tomb of Rae in Kirkwall Cathedral credits that man. It is McGoogan's contention that it is the Westminster Abbey memorial which is in error even though Franklin receieved all the honours and plaudits.

Books for those who are interested

Post 5


The Stromness Museum in Orkney has a great section on John Rae - and would certainly back up McGoogan's contentions, Crabit.

Actually, I reckon there's probably another Guide Entry on Rae, just waiting to be written smiley - eurekasmiley - run

Did you know that Rae 'invented' the inflatable dinghy? smiley - wow

Books for those who are interested

Post 6


Thanks, Dragon.
I learned about Franklin from a book by Vilhjalmur Stefannson (a controversial figure himself), in which he favored the starvation scenario. He scolds Franklin for 'taking only bird guns to live off the land'.
I can't find a reference, but I recall that the late Philip Morrison, in one of his legendary book reviews for Scientific American, wrote on the surprising accuracy of the oral histories of pre-literate peoples. His example was of a conversation with an Inuit elder/storyteller who gave an account combining starvation and antagonistic behavior toward the natives as the main factors. The interviewer was amazed at the verifiable detail present in her account, over a century after the expedition.

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