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Great Britain was interested in charting the Northwest Passage and there was some 500 kilometres left unexplored so the British Admiralty sent a well equipped Arctic expedition to complete it. Sir John Franklin received the command HMS Erebus on 7 February 1845. Captain Francis Crozier in command of HMS Terror accompanied him. The crew were mostly Englishmen and the ships were fitted with steam engines and carried three years’ worth of conventionally preserved or tinned preserved food supplies. Unfortunately, the latter was supplied from a cut-rate provisioner who was awarded the contract only a few months before the ships were to sail. He had canned using his own process that led to sloppily-applied beads of solder on the cans’ interior edges and allowed lead to leach into the food.The expedition was last seen by Europeans on 26 July 1845, when Captain Dannett of a whaling ship Prince of Wales encountered Terror and Erebus moored to an iceberg in Lancaster Sound.

It is now believed that the expedition wintered in 1845–46 on Beechey Island. The ships became trapped in ice off King William Island in September 1846 and never sailed again. According to a note later found on that island, Franklin died there on 11 June 1847. To date, the exact location of his grave is unknown.

After two years and no word from the expedition, Lady Franklin urged the Admiralty to send a search party. Because the crew carried supplies for three years, the Admiralty waited another year before launching a search. Eventually, more ships and men were lost looking for Franklin than in the expedition itself.

In 1854, Dr.John Rae while surveying the Boothia Peninsula for Hudson Bay Company discovered the true fate of the Franklin party from talking to Inuit. He was told both ships had become icebound, the men had tried to reach safety on foot but had succumbed to cold and some had resorted to cannibalism. Rae’s report to the Admiralty, in a letter headed “Repulse Bay, July 29, 1854,” was published in The Times the day after his arrival back in London on 22 October 1854. This report to the Admirality somehow leaked to the press, which led to widespread revulsion in Victorian society, enraged Franklin’s widow and condemned Rae to ignominy. One of the most eloquent and outspoken critics was the novelist Charles Dickens. It was inconvenient truth. The British Establishment wanted a hero and they made Sir John Franklin one and as the discoverer of Northwest Passage. In the process Dr. Rae the hero of Orkeny was denied the fame due to him.

Reasons why a man is wrongly euologized as the discoverer of North West Passage on insufficient grounds and a man who was entitled to it on patent merits are diffuse: that officers and men of the Royal Navy should be accused of cannibalism or word of Inuit could be trusted as Dr.Rae did was unthinkable in the prevailing mindset of Victorian England. Rae was criticized because he had not gone to the scene of the tragedy to confirm the story, and he was accused of having rushed home to collect the 10,000pounds offered by the British government to anyone who ascertained the fate of Franklin and his party. Rae defended the credibility of the Inuit accounts, and insisted he had not received sufficient information to locate the site of the tragedy until it was too late in the season to continue the search.( Despite the protests of Franklin’s widow, the government’s reward of 10,000pounds for discovering the fate of the missing officers and men was finally granted to Rae and his men.)His adoption of native methods of travel in the Arctic was disapproved of by the Royal Navy.He was, however, accepted as a friend by the Inuit, for whom he had great admiration. Dr. Rae did not softpedal when he found the British naval officers and others who formed snap judgements after spending only a short time in the Hudson Bay company’s territories: “These self-sufficient donkeys come into this country, see the Indians sometimes miserably clad and half-starved, the causes of which they never think of enquiring into, but place it all to the credit of the Company.”

After long and fruitless search it fell to Lady Franklin to send an expedition by her own means. The Fox (177 tons), a three-masted schooner with auxiliary steam power, was purchased, and she put Francis Leopold M’Clintock, who had been promoted to captain in charge.His charge was to recover any survivors, retrieve relics, and to confirm that her husband’s expedition had discovered the Northwest Passage. Money was raised by subscription; the British Admiralty generously contributed many of the supplies. Refitted and strengthened, carrying twenty-eight months of provisions, the Fox left Aberdeen, Scotland, at the end of June 1857.

Tailspin: In his lifetime Rae was a controversial figure. In the 20th century Rae has been recognized as an innovator in techniques of survival in the north, and as the forerunner of the great Arctic explorers Roald Amundsen and Vilhjalmur Stefansson, both of whom acknowledged their debt to him.

I owe this post to BBC- Ray Mears’ Extreme Survival series

( Ack: wikipedia,libweb5.princeton.edu;www.biographi,ca-R.L Richards)

benny

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