Saturday, January 13, 2018

Accounting For The 105 Survivors

An estimated 59 Franklin crewmen can be accounted for by counting all known sites except Terror Bay and Starvation Cove. Including the lower estimates for Terror Bay and Starvation Cove the total comes to 95. Using the higher estimates yields a slightly unrealistic total of 109 considering 105 survivors were stated to be alive at Crozier's Landing on April 25, 1848. 

 The list includes crewmen found by the Inuit, crewmen whom were found by searchers such as Schwatka and those found more recently by archaeologists.

In some cases such as the Todd Islets and Booth Point the number has been inferred from physical findings and eyewitness Inuit accounts.

The numbers for Terror Bay and Starvation Cove are estimates.

Lt John Irving   1
Grave presumed to belong to Lieutenant John Irving of HMS Terror.

Gore Point 1
A crude grave containing a skull was found by Schwatka's expedition. Schwatka's Inuit guide Toolooah identified the skull as belonging to a white man.

Near Point Le Vesconte 1
A partially disinterred skeleton from a grave containing blue cloth and gilt buttons.

4 Miles South of Point Le Vesconte 1
A partially disinterred skeleton from a grave containing a belt buckle and percussion caps.

Erebus Bay Boat Places 23
A total of 23 crewmen were spread out over about 2 miles roughly centered on the archaeological site known as NgLj-2.

Terror Bay 30-to-40 (Estimated)
The site of the Terror Bay camp was wiped clean by the sea sometime between the Hall and Schwatka expeditions. The Inuit indicated a large number of dead were found here. Most were cannibalized by the few remaining survivor(s). 

Tee-Ke-Ta told Hall that the tent was longer than 25-ft. Woodman page 155. Assuming 24-inches per crewman a 30-ft tent would hold 30 crewmen and a 40-ft tent would hold 40 crewmen.

Gladman Point 1
The Peglar/Armitage/Gibson skeleton found by McClintock near Gladman Point.

3 Miles Southeast of Gladman Point 1
A grave containing a skeleton and a few buttons was found by Royal Canadian Rangers during the 1973 Northern Quest Exercise.

Douglas Bay 7 
Gibson found 7 skulls here therefore an absolute minimum of 7 crewmen can be accounted for at this location. The total may be higher.

Setumenin 2 
Two graves were found here by the Inuit. The skeleton of Harry Goodsir (originally misidentified as that of Henry Le Vesconte) was found here and retrieved by Hall. 

Booth Point 2
Inuit found 1 crewman in a grave. Beattie found the remains of 1 cannibalized crewman. It seems unlikely to me that these are the same set of remains.

Todd Islets   7
The Inuit described finding 5 crewmen on Todd Island (Keeuna). An additional 2 crewmen were found on nearby Kookar Island. David Woodman discusses how he arrived at this total on pages 159-to-170.

Islet Near Starvation Cove 7
Neninook reported seven skeletons, partially buried in the sand, on an islet about 5 miles northwest of Starvation Cove. These crewmen had boots with nails driven into the souls like the example found in the 1980s.

Tikeraniyou 3
Located 12 to 15 miles northwest of Starvation Cove and near Thunder Cove

Thunder Cove 1
A skull was found at Thunder Cove in 1926.

Starvation Cove 6-to-10 (Estimate)
Schwatka's expedition was the first to visit Starvation Cove and were told that 6-to-10 crewmen were found there. 
An absolute minimum of 4 men can be accounted for here because Learmonth found 3 mandibles (jaw bones) and 1 "whole skull."

South of Starvation Cove 1
Furthest South known crewman. Found 5 miles South of Starvation Cove by the local Inuit who searched the area during Schwatka's expedition. This individual was not in a grave but lying on the surface.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

How Many Boats Did Franklin's Men Take?

The 105 Franklin survivors probably took a minimum of 4 boats when they deserted Erebus and Terror.

Boats found by searchers and Inuit:
  1. Found by McClintock's expedition in Erebus Bay.
  2. A second boat in Erebus Bay found by Inukpoozhejook. This boat was missed by McClintock's expedition due to deep snow.
  3. At least one boat found at Starvation Cove.
  4. One boat found in Douglas Bay (Kagisukyuak).
This lower estimate of 4 boats is based on the seating room available in each boat (see diagram below). Dividing 105 people between four boats would put 26 in three boats and leave one boat with 27. Using only three boats would put 35 men in each boat. This may have been feasible but I believe such an arrangement would be viewed as dangerously overloaded. Taking 5 boats would assign 21 men to each.

More boats would result in fewer men to man-haul each boat. This deficit in manpower would be made worse if some of the survivors were too ill to help pull on the drag ropes. Therefore I believe it is unlikely the 105 survivors took more than 6 boats.

It is possible that a larger number of smaller boats were taken.

The seating diagram above is based on a drawing of a whale boat from the National Maritime Museum's website. For the model, the whale boat's beam was scaled up from 5.3-ft in the drawing to match the 7-ft 3-inches measurement given by McClintock. Each model sailor has a width of 18-inches and a total length of 24-inches.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Supunger's Victory Point Grave and Tomb

 Is there a tomb near Victory Point or just one grave?

Sketch by Heinrich Klutschak

Schwatka's expedition found an open grave at Crozier's Landing. The grave was built on the surface by arranging stones in a rectangular pattern and then closing off the top with flat slabs. This grave is often attributed to Lieutenant John Irving based on:

1)  Blue cloth and gilt buttons present in the grave indicating the grave belonged to an officer.
2)  A medal with John Irving's name on it being found at the edge of the grave.

Charles Hall collected testimony from an Inuit man named Supunger who visited the same area and also described finding a grave. However, Hall recorded Supunger as describing a much more elaborate tomb dug into the ground and marked with a large wooden post.

Eyewitness testimony of the grave (or graves) found at or near Victory Point is given below.

Credit must be given to Dr Russell Potter of Rhode Island College and David C. Woodman for transcribing and publishing the text in Charles Hall's notebooks kept at the Smithsonian. These notebooks have been a valuable source of eyewitness accounts.

The Grave Found By Schwatka's Party

William H. Gilder, Schwatka's Search: Sledging the Arctic in Quest of the Franklin Records Kessinger Publishing, Page 61

The next day we stayed at Cape Jane Franklin to make a preliminary search of the vicinity. Lieutenant Schwatka and I went up Collinson Inlet, but saw no traces of white men. Henry and Frank, who had been sent up the coast, were more fortunate. About a mile and a half above camp they came upon the camp made by Captain Crozier, with his entire command from the two ships, after abandoning the vessels. There were several cooking stoves, with their accompanying copper
kettles, besides clothing, blankets, canvas, iron and brass implements, and an open grave, wherein was found a quantity of blue cloth, part of which seemed to have been a heavy overcoat, and a part probably wrapped around the body. There was also a large quantity of canvas in and around the grave, with coarse stitching through it and the cloth, as though the body had been incased as if for burial at sea. Several gilt buttons were found among the rotting cloth and mould in the bottom
of the grave, and a lens, apparently the object-glass of a marine telescope. Upon one of the stones at the foot of the grave Henry found a medal, which was thickly covered with grime, and was so much the color of the clay stone on which it rested as to nearly escape detection. It proved to be a silver medal, two and a half inches in diameter, with a bass-relief portrait of George IV., surrounded by the words, 


on the obverse, and on the reverse a laurel wreath surrounded by


and in closing


This at once identified the grave as that of Lieutenant John Irving, third officer of the Terror. Under the head was found a figured silk pocket-handkerchief, neatly folded, the colors and pattern in a remarkable state of preservation. The skull and a few other bones only were found in and near by the grave. They were carefully gathered together, with a few pieces of the cloth and the other articles, to be brought away for interment where they may hereafter rest undisturbed. A re-burial on King William Land would be only until the grave was again found by the natives, when it would certainly be again torn open and despoiled 

Lieutenant Frederick Schwatka The Long Arctic Search
The Marine Historical Society Inc, 1965, Page 82

"The reader must remember that nearly all Arctic graves are built upon the surface, being side walled with large stones collected in the vicinity. No doubt, the natives had broken open the grave to obtain whatever articles contained, but the medal, which identified the grave, fortunately had eluded their vigilance.

Just outside the broken down walls of the grave, we came upon the skull. The larger bones were scattered over a wide area; the smaller and more perishable ones having been completely lost. In grave was found the object-glass of a marine telescope, and a few officer's gilt-buttons stamped with an anchor and surrounded by a crown. Under the head was a colored silk handkerchief, still in a fair state of preservation, and many pieces of coarsely stitched canvas, showing that this had been used as a receptacle for the body when interred. From this fact I inferred that the body had never been buried from the ships, where sufficient work (especially after they had determined upon abandonment) could have been procured to construct a coffin; but Lieut. Irving belong to a party that had returned to the ships, after it had become evident that all could not escape, as they had originally thought when they first abandoned them.

The skull and a few other bones were found in and nearby the grave. They were carefully gathered together, with a few pieces of cloth and other articles, to be brought home for interment where they may hereafter rest undisturbed. A reburial on King William Land would be only until the grave was again opened by the natives and despoiled."

Heinrich Klutschak Overland To Starvation Cove, In search of Franklin
University of Toronto Press 1987, Page 83

"...I spotted a cairn and near it a human skull. It was a grave made of flat slabs of sandstone, like a grave vault but built above ground. It had once been covered but had obviously been subjected to search. The skull (indisputably that of a white man) lay outside, along with other human bones. Inside the grave a luxuriant growth of moss was flourishing on some remnants of cloth which, judging by the buttons and fine texture, had once belonged to an English officer's uniform. A silk handkerchief in a remarkably good state of preservation lay at the head end and above it on a rock a silver medal measuring 2 1/2 to 2 3/4 inches in diameter lay openly exposed."

The Grave Found By The Inuit

Testimony of Supunger: 
From the notes of Charles Hall

First Interview:
"He said that near the sea ice was a large tupik of same kind of material as that now covering the habitation of E-bier-bing & Too-koo-li-too ... (after the dome of his Igloo fell in last evening, [Ebierbing] spread a canvas over the walls so that he has a Kong-mong (Half tupik & half Igloo.))  A little way inland from this tupik wh. was not erect but prostrate he & his uncle came to place where they found a skeleton of a Kob-lu-na (white man) some parts of it having clothing on while other parts were without any it having been torn off by wolves or foxes. Near this skeleton they saw a stick standing erect wh. had been broken off - the part broken off lying close by. From the appearance both he & his uncle thought the stick, or rather small pillar or post, had been broken off by a Ni-noo (polar bear) on taking hold of that part of the wooden pillar wh. was erect they found it firmly fixed - could not move it a bit.  But what attracted their attention the most on arriving at this pillar was a stone - or rather several large flat stones lying flat on the sandy ground & tight to-gether. After much labor one of these stones was loosened from its carefully fixed position & by great exertions of both nephew & uncle the stone was lifted up a little at one edge just sufficient that they could see that another tier of large flat stones firmly & tightly fitted together was underneath.  This discouraged them in their purpose wh. was to remove the stones to see what had been buried there for they was [sic] quite sure that something valuable was underneath.”

Second Interview:
 "Monday, June 4, 1866. An interview with Su-pung-er who with his family (natives of Pelly Bay) came with us keeping with our company most of the way from Lat. 68F8-00-00 N, Long. 88F8-17'-15" W (where I & my party met them) to this place. 3h-00 P.M. Present Su-pung-er, myself, my good Too-koo-li-too & the widow Mam-mark. Su-pung-er had just told us that when he & his uncle were on Ki-ik-tung (as the natives denominate King Williams Land) they saw something that was a great curiosity to them & they could not make out what it was for. From his description of it, Too-koo-li-too suggests that it was a cook stove - it was very heavy & all iron. It had on one side or end a great many small pieces of iron close enough together to make it look something like spears - fish spears. By his language & symbolizing, these pieces of iron can be none other than a grate in the stove for burning hard coal. There were several heavy Oot-koo-seeks (kettles) with handles or bales. Too-koo-li-too has asked Su-pung-er why he did not get these kettles. He answers that he & uncle had as much of other things as they could carry & these Oot-koo-seeks were very heavy. Su-pung-er himself had 3 Boats oars & a mast besides some smaller articles that he found. The place where this curiosity (stove) was, was close by the large tu-pik (tent). The tent they found was close by the coast above Back's Bay, not far from Victory Point as Su-pung-er has shown on the chart that I placed before him. A little back (inland) from the tent, was where his uncle 1st found a large piece of wood - a post or pillar sticking up & this drew his uncle's attention to something by it. The pillar was broken off. They both thought it had been broken off by a Ni-noo. This post or pillar was sticking upright in the ground & was beside some flat stones that were very tight to-gether. They thought there must be something covered up by these stones & they tried very hard to get one loose. There was a hole near one end that appeared to have been made by some strong wild animal. After trying to raise one of these stones & failing they went back to where the tupik was. After a while they concluded to go & make other attempts to raise some of the stones where the pillar was found. At last they were successful in raising enough of the stones to see what they covered up. They found a hole of the depth from the feet up to the navel & of a length more than a man's height & wider than the width of a man's shoulders & this was all nicely walled with flat stones placed one above another, flatwise. In this vault they found a clasp knife, a skeleton bone of a man's leg & a human head (skull). There was much water, mud & sand at the bottom of the vault. The sand had been carried in by water, as they thought, running in at the hole that had been made by the wild animal on one side of the vault. Near this vault they saw parts of a human skeleton with fragments of clothing on the limbs. There was no head about these skeleton bones & Su-pung-er & his uncle concluded that the same wild animal that had made the hole in the vault had taken these skeleton bones out of the vault & dragged them where he & his uncle saw them. Su-pung-er had on this page at my desire just been marking out with my pen the vault covered with stones. It is a very rude draft as Nuk-er-zhoo (who happened to come in at the time Su-pung-er was making it) placed his finger on this plan before the ink had dried thus defacing it. I will have Su-pung-er make another & then proceed to describe it."


Testimony of Ockarnawole
William H. Gilder, Schwatka's Search: Sledging the Arctic in Quest of the Franklin RecordsKessinger Publishing, Page 56

"An old Netchillik, named Ockarnawole, stated that five years ago he and his son, who was also present in the igloo, made an excursion along the north-western coast of King William Land. Between Victory Point and Cape Felix they found some things in a small cask near the salt water. In a monument that he did not take down, he found between the stones five jack-knives and a pair of scissors, also a small flat piece of tin, now lost; saw no graves at this place, but found what, from his description of the way the handle was put on, was either an adze or a pickaxe. A little north of this place found a tent place and three tin cups. About Victory Point found a grave, with a skeleton, clothes, and a jack-knife with one blade broken. Saw no books. In a little bay on the north side of Collinson Inlet saw a quantity of clothes. There was plenty of snow on the ground at the time they were there. Viewing this statement in the light of our subsequent search upon this ground, I am inclined to believe that the grave they found was not at Victory Point, but was Irving's grave, about three miles below there. We saw no evidence of any grave at Victory Point, though we made a particularly extended search around that entire section of the country. The little bay spoken of is also probably the little bay where Lieutenant Irving's grave was discovered. There is a little bay on the north side of Collinson Inlet, but Lieutenant Schwatka and I visited it several times without finding any traces of clothing or any other evidences of white men having been there; and from what we saw at other places it seems almost impossible that there could have been much there as late as five years ago without some indications remaining. The vicinity of places where boats had been destroyed, or camps where clothing was found, were invariably indicated by pieces of cloth among the rocks, at greater or less intervals, for a long distance--sometimes as far as one or two miles on either side, and it would be almost impossible to escape seeing the principal point when led to it by such gradually cumulative evidence."

Monday, March 9, 2015

Franklin Expedition Links

A list of online resources, especially books and papers, that would be useful to anyone who is starting to build their own Franklin library.

Books available online:

The Voyage of the Fox, by Sir Francis Leopold McClintock, 1860
McClintock's expedition found the boat in Erebus Bay and the Victory Point note.

Schwatka's search, by William Henry Gilder, New York, 1881
Schwatka's expedition visited Starvation Cove, searched King William Island and interviewed an Inuit man who had been on board HMS Erebus when she was found West of Adelaide peninsula.

The Search For Franklin, A narrative of the American expedition under lieutenant Schwatka. 1899
Schwatka's account of his search expedition.

Narrative of the second Arctic expedition made by Charles F. Hall, by Nourse, Washington, 1879
C. F. Hall's search for Franklin and life with the Inuit. Hall eventually reached the southeast corner of King William Island.

Lieut. John Irving, R.N., of H.M.S. "Terror," in Sir John Franklin's last expedition to the Arctic regions :a memorial sketch with letters. Edinburgh : D. Douglas, 1881. Includes letters written by Lt. Irving sent back from Greenland in 1845. Two sketches drawn by Irving are included. (Thanks to Russell Potter for finding this copy).

The carreer, last voyage and fate, of Captain Sir John Franklin, by Sherard Osborn, London 1860

Famous voyagers and explorers, by Sarah Knowles Bolton, 1893

Articles from past issues of The Beaver:

Sir John Franklin's Last Voyage, by William Gibson, June 1937. Gibson found 7 skulls located on an islet in Douglas Bay (South shore of KWI) along with fragments of oak and pine.

Footnotes to the Franklin Search, Spring 1955. Information and drawings of Halkett inflatable boats. A photograph of Dr John Rae's own Halkett boat is shown. The Inuit described an inflatable Halkett boat to Hall that may have been used by Franklin survivors.

Rae's Franklin Relics, by Robert Kerr, March 1954. A note on artifacts recovered by Dr Rae.

A Further Clue in the Franklin Mystery, by W. G. McKenzie, 1969. Land and sea search of O'Reilly Island.

Articles from Arctic:

The “Boat Place” Burial: New Skeletal Evidence from the 1845 Franklin Expedition (pdf file), Excavation of the remains found at McClintock's Boat Place. "In 2013, a burial feature was excavated at NgLj-3, a Franklin expedition archaeological site on the Erebus Bay coast of King William Island. The feature contained 72 human bones representing a minimum of three individuals" Published 2015.

Notes on Franklin relics (pdf), Learnmonth L. A., Arctic, 1948. This article discusses the discovery of Franklin remains found northwest of Starvation Cove.

The final days of the Franklin expedition : new skeletal evidence (pdf file), Keenleyside, Bertulli and Fricke, 1997. Examination of approximately 400 human bone fragments found in Erebus Bay, King William Island. These remains came from 11 individuals. Curiously one of these is estimated to be between 12 and 15 years old at the time of death. This reports provides definitive evidence of cannibalism amoung Franklin survivors.

The route of Sir John Franklin's third Arctic expedition : an evaluation and test of an alternative hypothesis (pdf file), Hickey, Savelle and Hobson, 1993. An examination of possible routes taken by the Erebus and Terror during the summer of 1846. Notably down McClintock Channel.

Papers From Other Sources:

Identification of the Probable Source of the Lead Poisoning Observed in Members of the Franklin Expedition (pdf file), by William Battersby, Journal of the Hakluyt Society, September 2008. This paper examines the fresh water distillation systems of the Erebus and Terror as a potential source of Lead poisoning. (Other arctic expeditions carried tinned food supplies similar to those used by Franklin's men yet these expeditions did not seem to suffer any ill effects because of this).

Oldest Canned Food In The World? New Scientist, Dr. F. H. Banfield, May 5, 1960, page 1138. Three historic tins of preserved food are opened, examined and eventually tasted. This includes a 7-pound tin of veal manufactured in 1823 for Parry's expedition. Data on lead and metal content is included.


Erebus & Terror Files, by Peter Carney. Original research on the details of the ships themselves and other issues such as lead poisoning.

The Fate of Franklin, Russell Potter's extensive website about the Franklin Expedition. The website includes the results of recent searches. Many more interesting links can be found at this website. I have chosen not to repeat them here. Russell appeared in PBS' 2004 Nova episode Arctic Passage.

Visions of the North, Russell Potter's blog site about the lost expedition of Sir John Franklin and other arctic topics. Russell has published a number of very interesting entries on this website. A number of these entries, such as The Mystery of the 'Peglar' Papers, contain rarely seen information.

Monday, August 27, 2012

The Utjulik Ship (HMS Erebus)

Three expeditions, McClintock, Hall and Schwatka, spanning two decades, recorded almost identical Inuit accounts of a ship found frozen in the ice near a place called “Utjulik” (the West coast of Adelaide Peninsula) more than 100-miles South from where Franklin's ships were deserted in 1848. The Inuit described finding a dead man inside a locked cabin on board. In September 2014 this ship was finally relocated and is now known to be HMS Erebus. Divers have only begun to scratch the surface of the wreck site and the unknown dead man is presumably waiting to be found.

The Inuit testimony about the Utjulik ship is given below. When possible the date and location of the testimony has been given:

  McClintock April, 1859
Testimony recorded on Boothia Peninsula near Lat. 70-1/2

“I also purchased a knife which had some indistinct markings upon it, such as ship's cutlasses or swords usually have; the man told us it had been picked up on the shore near where a ship lay stranded; that it was then about the length of his arm, but his countryman who picked it up broke it into lengths to make knives.

After much anxious inquiry we learned that two ships had been seen by the natives of King William's Island; one of them was seen to sink in deep water, and nothing was obtained from her, a circumstance at which they expressed much regret; but the other was forced on shore by the ice, where they suppose she still remains, but is much broken. From this ship they have obtained most of their wood, &c.; and Ootloo-lik is the name of the place where she grounded.

Formerly many natives lived there, now very few remain. All the natives have obtained plenty of the wood.

The most of this information was given us by the young man who sold the knife. Old Oo-nalee, who drew the rough chart for me in March, to show where the ship sank, now answered our questions respecting the one forced on shore; not a syllable about her did he mention on the former occasion, although we asked whether they knew of only one ship? I think he would willingly have kept us in ignorance of the wreck being upon their coasts, and that the young man unwittingly made it known to us.

The latter also told us that the body of a man was found on board the ship; that he must have been a very large man, and had long teeth; this is all he recollected having been told, for he was quite a child at the time.

They both told us it was in the fall of the year — that is, August or September — when the ships were destroyed; that all the white people went away to the "large river," taking a boat or boats with them, and that in the following winter their bones were found there.”

Second expedition
This testimony is quoted from David C. Woodman’s book “Unraveling the Franklin Mystery.” The testimony was originally recorded by Hall in his field notebooks which have not been published.

Field notebook no. 24
Ootgoolik native named Ek-kee-pee-ree-a:
This ship 1st seen he said by Nuk-kee-che-uk an Ook-joo-lik Inuit who is now dead, having been killed by his (Ek-kee-pee-ree-a’s) father. This he told me with a smile. The ship had 4 boats hanging at the sides and 1 of them was above the quarter deck. The ice about the ship one winter’s make, all smooth flow and a plank was found extending from the ship down to the ice. The Innuits were sure some white men must have lived there through the winter. Heard of tracks of 4 strangers, not Innuits, being seen on land adjacent to the ship.

Field notebook no. 28
Koo-nik, wife of Seeuteetuar:
She says that Nuk-kee-che-uk and other Ook-joo-lik Innuits were out sealing when they saw a large ship – all very much afraid but Nuk-kee-che-uk who went to the vessel while the others went to their Ig-loo. Nuk-kee-che-uk looked around and saw nobody and finally Lik-lee-poo-nik-kee-look-oo-loo (stole a very little or few things) and then made for the Ig-loos. Then all the Innuits went to the ship and stole a good deal – broke into a place that was fastened up and there found a very large white man who was dead, very tall man. There was flesh about this dead man, that is, his remains quite perfect – it took 5 men to lift him. The place smelt very bad. His clothes all on. Found dead on the floor – not in a sleeping place or birth … The vessel covered over with see-loo, that is housed in with sails or that material, not boards, but as Jack (Hall’s guide Nuk-ker-zhoo) says like Capt. Potter’s vessel when at Ship’s Harbour Isles in the winter quarters.
The Ig-loos or cabins down below as “Ansel Gibbs” not on deck like “Black Eagle.”

Do you know anything about the tracks of strangers seen at Ook-joo-lik? The Innuits at Ook-soo-see-too saw when walking along the tracks of 3 men Kob-loo-nas & those of a dog with them … say she has never see the exact place not having been further w or w & south than Point C. Grant wh is the Pt. NE of O’Rialy Island. She indicates on Rae’s chart the places, recognizing them readily. Ook-soo-see-too the land E of O’Reilly Isle as she shows on chart.

The vessel seen 1st & then little while after the tracks of the 3 Kob-lu-nans & dog seen on land. The vessel seen in the spring about the time of the next moon or it may have been as moon now is, that is about the middle of May or 1st of June… Koo-nik, when did Ook-joo-lik Innuits first see the large ship? Was it before or after the Innuits saw Ag-loo-ka & his men on Ki-ki-tung?* The time was about the same, either the same year or next after, one or the other – is sure not 2 years after.”
*”Ki-ki-tung” Is the Inuit name for King William Island. This is a reference to the Inuit meeting Franklin survivors at Washington Bay on the South shore of King William Island. This meeting probably took place in July of 1848, 1849 or 1850.

Schwatka's Expedition
May 1879
Along Hayes River, approximately 15 miles East from the mouth of Back’s River.

Three members of the Schwatka expedition to King William Island each wrote a book about their journey. Each book describes an interview with an Inuit who had personally been onboard the Utjulik ship. Note, Ikiunelikpatolok, Ikinilik-Petulak and Puhtoorak all refer to the same person.

“From Ikiunelikpatolok, the old Ookjoolik, we learned at the interview that he had only once seen white men alive. That was when he was a little boy. He is now about sixty-five or seventy. He was fishing on Back's River when they came along in a boat and shook hands with him. There were ten men. The leader was called "Tos-ard-e-roak," which Joe says, from the sound, he thinks means Lieutenant Back. The next white man he saw was dead in a bunk of a big ship which was frozen in the ice near an island about five miles due west of Grant Point, on Adelaide Peninsula. They had to walk out about three miles on smooth ice to reach the ship. He said that his son, who was present, a man about thirty-five years old, was then about like a child he pointed out—probably seven or eight years old.* About this time he saw the tracks of white men on the main-land. When he first saw them there were four, and afterward only three. This was when the spring snows were falling. When his people saw the ship so long without any one around, they used to go on board and steal pieces of wood and iron. They did not know how to get inside by the doors, and cut a hole in the side of the ship, on a level with the ice, so that when the ice broke up during the following summer the ship filled and sunk. No tracks were seen in the salt-water ice or on the ship, which also was covered with snow, but they saw scrapings and sweepings alongside, which seemed to have been brushed off by people who had been living on board. They found some red cans of fresh meat, with plenty of what looked like tallow mixed with it. A great many had been opened, and four were still unopened. They saw no bread. They found plenty of knives, forks, spoons, pans, cups, and plates on board, and afterward found a few such things on shore after the vessel had gone down. They also saw books on board, and left them there. They only took knives, forks, spoons, and pans; the other things they had no use for. He never saw or heard of the white men's cairn on Adelaide Peninsula.”
*The Inuit did not measure and record time in years therefore Gilder gave an estimate of the ages involved. Using; “a man about thirty-five years old, was then about … seven or eight years old” would give a year of 1851 or 1852.

“From the moment we encountered the first relics deriving from Franklin and his people it was also our duty to question the people as to their knowledge in the area, and as to the information which had reached them orally. Only one person, a man of 60-70 years by the name of Ikinilik-Petulak, had himself come into contact with one of the expedition’s ships. He was one of the first people to visit a ship which, beset in ice, drifted with wind and current to a spot west of Grant Point on Adelaide Peninsula, where some islands halted its drift. On their first visit the people thought they saw whites on board; from the tracks in the snow they concluded there were four of them. This was in the fall; the following spring they visited the spot again and found the ship in the same position. When no sign of whites or of any other sign of life could be seen, and since they did not know how to get inside the ship, they made a large hole in the ship’s side near the ice surface. As a result the ship sank once the ice melted. According to Ikinilik they had found a corpse in one of the bunks and they found meat in cans in the cabin. Otherwise they had found no traces of whites on the coast of Adelaide Peninsula, apart from a small boat in Wilmot Bay which, however, might have drifted to that spot after the ship sank.

The credibility of these reports was later enhanced when confirmed by similar statements by others. Ikinilik Petulak had seen whites once before, coming down the Great Fish River in two boats. This was Lieutenant Back’s exploring party which descended and mapped this river (also called the Back River, after him) in the summer of 1834.”

Continuing his story, Puhtoorak told Ebierbing that the next time he saw a white man was a dead one in a large ship about eight miles off Grant Point. The body was in a bunk inside the ship in the back part. The ship had four big sticks one pointing out and the other three standing up. On the mainland, near Smith Point and Grant Point on the Adelaide Peninsula, the Esquimaux party which he accompanies, saw the tracks of white men and judged they were hunting deer. At this time the tracks indicated there were four white men but afterwards the tracks showed only three. He saw the ship in the spring before the spring snow falls and the tracks in the fresh spring snow when the young reindeer come of the same year. He never saw the white men. He thinks that the white men lived in the ship until the fall and then moved onto the mainland.

Puhtorak told of how the Esquimaux, not understanding how to get into the ship, cut through one side. When summer came and the ice melted the ship righted herself but the hole in her side being below the water line she sank as the water poured in. After the ship sank, they found a small boat on the mainland. When he went on board the ship he saw a pile of dirt on one side of the cabin door showing that some white man had recently swept out the cabin. He found on board the ship four red tin cans filled with meat and many that had been opened. The meat was full of fat. The natives went all over and through the ship and found also many empty casks. They found iron chains and anchors on deck, and spoons, knives, forks, tin plates, china plates, etc.

When the ship finally sank her masts stuck out of the water and many things floated on shore which the natives picked up. He also saw books on board the ship but the natives did not take them. He afterwards saw some that had washed ashore. He never saw any stone monument or cairn on the mainland near where the ship sank. There was one small boat hanging from the davits which the natives cut down. Some of the ship’s sails were set.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

New Search for Erebus and Terror

As we are approaching late July, I started wondering how Parks Canada's search for the Erebus and Terror was progressing. At this time of year Lieutenant Schwatka's expedition witnessed the ice break up in Victoria Straight. Expedition member Heinrich Klutschak wrote that on July 24 the ice near Erebus Bay began to fracture and pile up on shore. However Klutschak does not make it clear how much, if any, water was opened at the time.

The bad news is that Parks Canada's search has been called off since the designated ice breaker is needed elsewhere (understandable and somewhat expected). The good news is that a private search expedition Finding Franklin 2009 (pdf file) is scheduled to start shortly and will try to search the bottom of Victoria Straight, to the northwest of Victory Point. The area is known as "Larson Sound." The search team plans to use side scan sonar and forego any metal detecting.

There seems to be a good probability that one of the ships went down somewhere West or northwest of Adelaide Peninsula to the South of KWI. This ship is sometimes referred to as the "Utjulik" wreck. Over the span of decades, the Inuit told and retold a story about boarding a deserted ship in this area. This would account for the location of one ship with the other generally presumed to lie somewhere in Victoria Straight.

Robert Grenier, leading the (now stalled) Parks Canada search, outlined a plan to estimate the drift of the ships down from the north of KWI and towards the RGS Islands. This estimated drift path would then be used to define a search area. This method has always been my first choice though it is expensive.

If the second Franklin ship was crushed by the ice what traces could we expect to find? Would it be nothing but a debris field? Or more intact like the Breadalbane (side scan sonar image)? Or perhaps somewhere in between?

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Jens Munk's 1619 Expedition

A translation of Jens Munk's account can be downloaded from Google Books: Danish Arctic Expeditions 1605 to 1620, by C. C. A. Gosch 1897.

I became aware Danish explorer Jens Munk when reading "Dead Silence." The story is amazing. Munk's expedition left Denmark in 1619 with the goal of locating the northwest passage. The expedition sailed into Hudson Bay where their progress was halted by ice. Munk and his men were forced to winter over. It was not long before the expedition experienced a severe outbreak of scurvy. Munk himself became so ill that he wrote a farewell letter (included in the book).

Eventually the ice broke up in the summer of 1620 allowing a very few survivors to sail back to Denmark. Only Munk and two others survived the expedition.

This was almost the first arctic expedition to be completely wiped out. One hundred years later James Knight's expedition would become the first arctic expedition to be lost with all hands. The expedition of Sir John Franklin met a similar end in the 1840s.

Munk's expedition gives some insight into what life might have been like for the very last Franklin survivors. The tale of a handful of scurvy stricken men trying to sail out of danger is similar to some evidence of the Franklin expedition's end.