This summer, Parks Canada launched yet another search for Sir Franklin’s lost ships, HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, which disappeared when in search for the Northwest Passage around northern Canada in 1845. Many attempts were made to locate the ships which had become stuck in Arctic pack ice in 1846. Crew members tried to survive as long as possible before the 105 survivors were forced to abandon ship in 1848 and try and make their way to Back’s Fish River. Sadly none would survive. There are stories of encounters between the local Inuit people and the crew members recorded in oral histories. In fact, John Rae, one of many British explorer’s sent to find the ships and learn the fate of the crew, heard these oral histories from the Inuit in 1854. The stories he heard were not for the faint of heart, the Inuit told of how they had come across the dead bodies of the crew members and evidence that they had resorted to cannibalism in order to try and survive. Upon his return, Rae’s report was not well-received in England, in fact it was outright rejected by the British Navy and the general public, even Charles Dickens attacked John Rae’s findings in a weekly column he wrote called ‘Household Words.’ The fate of the crew is still debated today. The HMS Terror and the HMS Erebus have never been found, but the wrecks have been designated a Canadian National Historic site…..when and if they are found.
We have quite a few exceptional books in at the moment about the search for the northwest passage, Sir Franklin and his contemporaries as well as other Arctic expeditions, see below for descriptions! Call us 780-962-9686 or comment for more information on these wonderful books!
Fatal Passage: The Story of John Rae, the Arctic Hero Time Forgot
by Ken McGoogan
A fascinating non-fiction book written about Joh Rae’s 1854 expedition in the Arctic to find the Franklin ships. John Rae’s expedition was not done in a large sea-faring boat, but rather by snowshoe and small boats around the inland. it is said he surveyed 1,765 miles of uncharted territory, and 6,555 miles hiked on snowshoes. Ken McGoogan argues that through his research Rae found the last link in the Northwest passage, but because he also brought a terrifying story of Franklin’s crews cannibalism back to the British public, he was denied all honour and fame he deserved. This book rocketed onto the National bestseller list in 2001 and stayed there for 14 weeks, McGoogan is recognized as the authority researcher on John Rae.
The Man who Mapped the Arctic: The Intrepid Life of George Back, Franklin’s Lieutenant
by Peter Steele
“George Back went on three Arctic expeditions under Sir John franklin, searching for the mythical Northwest passage while opening up the vast barren lands of the north. But unlike Franklin, comma, Back lived to tell his tales and left behind an inspirational legacy of journals, drawings, watercolours and maps. From these sources emerges a story of remarkable endurance in the face of appalling odds.
Back was one of natures survivors, his crowning achievement was the discovery and descent of the treacherous Back River. Not only did he shoot it’s 83 rapids, but on reaching the Arctic rapids he dragged his home-made boat back upstream as winter closed in. After a final ill-fated expedition to Hudson Bay, Back retired, was knighted and died in his bed at the age of 82. A gifted artist and map maker, Back was a brave and important explorer who has long been denied the limelight he deserved.”
Across the Top of the World: The Quest for the Northwest Passage
by James P. Delgado
James P. Delgado, and underwater archaeologist and historian, brings together the multiple stories of exploration of the northwest passage. He brings these sagas to life with quotations from grim first-hand accounts with dramatic images, 100 colour and 100 black and white. These painting, engravings and photos of the intrepid men and their ships, as well as relics and archaeological sites, provide a poignant and compelling link with the past.
Midnight to the North: The Untold Story of the Inuit Woman who saved the Polaris Expedition
by Shelia Nickerson
Tells the story of the American Polaris expedition of 1971-1873, it was the first official American party to the north pole. Five months in, the ship was locked in ice, and Captain Charles Francis Hall was dead, likely murdered by his crew. Nineteen of its crew and passengers were forced to embark on what would be the longest ice drift in history, and remarkably they all survived thanks to one Inuit woman, Tookoolito, Hall’s translator. Brave, resourceful, and unassuming, Tookoolito kept the expedition together physically and emotionally in the face of starvation, disease, freezing col, storms and the constant danger of being crushed by drifting ice. had it not been for the deep loyalty of this heroic but largely forgotten woman, the journey of the ill-fated Polaris might stand to the monument of bravery and madness that constituted much of early Arctic adventure.
Ghosts of Cape Sabine: The Harrowing True Story of the Greely Expedition
by Leonard F. Guttridge
In July 1881, an expedition of 25 American soldiers led by Lieutenant Greely went north to set up a scientific base in the remote Arctic region of Lady Franklin Bay. The expedition put an American flag further north than any British explorer had been able to. But then disaster struck, the ships that were meant to relieve them one year later, never came, the ship that was supposed to come two years later never came. They had been abandoned. A non-fiction story of government neglect, bad luck, starvation, mutiny, suicide, shipwreck, execution, and cannibalism.