Burial of John Franklin. Author: me


Kabloonas is the way in which the Inuit who live in the north part of Canada call those who haven´t their same ascendency.

The first time i read this word was in the book "Fatal Passage" by Ken McGoogan, when, as the result of the conversations between John Rae and some inuit, and trying to find any evidence of the ill-fated Sir John Franklin Expedition, some of then mentioned that they watched how some kabloonas walked to die in the proximities of the river Great Fish.

I wish to publish this blog to order and share all those anecdotes that I´ve been finding in the arctic literature about arctic expeditions. My interest began more than 15 years ago reading a little book of my brother about north and south pole expeditions. I began reading almost all the bibliography about Antarctic expeditions and the superknown expeditions of Scott, Amundsen, Shackleton, etc. After I was captured by the Nansen, Nobile and Engineer Andree. But the most disturbing thing in that little book, full of pictures, was the two pages dedicated to the last Franklin expedition of the S.XIX, on that moment I thought that given the time on which this and others expeditions happened, few or any additional information could be obtained about it. I couldn´t imagine that after those two pages It would be a huge iceberg full of stories, unresolved misteries, anecdotes, etc. I believe that this iceberg, on the contrary than others, would continue growing instead melting.

viernes, 24 de marzo de 2017


The time John Franklin spent in Van Diemen´s land won´t be the time for what he would be mostly remembered by the world, in spite of he and his wife Lady Jane, left there a deep print.

John Franklin arrived at this land by january of 1837 and was its governor till 1844, when he returned to England before leading his final expedition to the Arctic. Not much later after his arrival, Franklin and his wife were paying a visit to the defensive system which prevented convicts of Port Arthur to escape from the prison facility to the mainland: The terrible Dog-line placed in Eaglehawk neck. 

Sir John Franklin and Lady Jane visiting the Dog line in Eaglehawk neck.
You can see a more sketchy image of the same scene but at higher resolution here.
Eaglehawk neck is a narrow istmus of land, of an interesting geological origin by the way, which links the rest of Australia with the irregular peninsula where the prison of Port Arthur was once located. The Dog-line was exactly what its name indicates, a long line of around eighteen fierce dogs chained to improvised barrel-made houses. The line was also provided with a serie of lamps that would allow the dogs to see better the unwary prisoners who were trying to escape through that route.

Eaglehawk Neck nowadays from above.

That visit surely provoked on John´s peaceful and pious mind not few nausea and horror, at least that is what I have always thought every time I have taken a look at that picture. There is something in Franklin´s countenance, that tight smile, almost a grin, which invites you to think he was horrified at the sight of those savage and ravenous dogs. What could that ferocity could mean for the poor convicts which fell into their jaws?. Franklin stays rigid wearing proudly, as it happens in many of John Franklin portraits, the Royal Hanoverian Guelphic Order with which he was awarded in 1836, together with other decorations. What the scene transmit to me is countersigned for what I read in some notes written by Frank Debenham and which you can find in Polar Record. The papers, which describes the visit of Erebus and Terror to Van Diemen´s land, illustrate the scene as follows:

"The situation is admirably depicted in a sketch, which is published in the Life of Lady Jane Franklin by W. F. Rawnsley, illustrating a visit of the Vice-Regal party to the penal settlement of Port Arthur. The group is inspecting Eaglehawk Neck, a narrow isthmus which was the only possible route of escape to the mainland, and which was therefore guarded by savage dogs chained in a line across the low neck, just within reach of each other. The excessively dignified attitude of the Governor, the dainty appearance of his lady and the portentous mien of the officers are in so great a contrast to the line of raging beasts, the lamp posts and the sentries behind them that one would consider it grotesque were it not for the murky figures of some convicts themselves in the background, and the obviously truthful character of the picture."

I couldn´t find the sketch where in the notes it is said it should appear, that is, in "The Life of Lady Franklin by F.W. Rawnsey". Maybe the drawing was published in a different edition of the book which I consulted in Google books. If it is not there, I wonder from where this image actually comes. 

The title of the picture, whenever I found it in the Internet, reads "The visit of Sir John and Lady Franklin to the Dogline in 1837". But was it actually done by that year? It is the style of the sketch, which invited me to think the author of this drawing could be Owen Stanley, the navy officer which is famous among Franklin enthusiasts for his watercolours of the HMS Terror and other arctic related scenes. There is something familiar in the way this sketch was painted which reminds me strongly Owen´s style. Was Stanley present at the moment of that visit?. We will find out that soon.

Owen Stanley departed in april of 1836 on board HMS Terror sailing as second lieutenant under George Back orders while trying to find a passage to the west north of Hudson Bay. He didn´t come back to England till the 31st of august of 1837.  You can see part of his artistic work during that time in the National Maritime Museum collection here. It was then, the 21st of december of 1837, months after returning from the Arctic, when he was given command of HMS Britomart. His orders?, establishing a colony at Port Essington (north of Australia). You can see many of his excellent drawings of that trip in two volumes called "Voyage of HMS Britomart from 1837 to 1843".

Though in some places I have found that they departed from England in september of 1838, the fact that the colony was set up only a month after, in october of the same year, suggests that the ship could have sailed from England months before that date, surely stopping in their way in the British settlement of Van Diemen´s land. From this other link, I have learned HMS Britomart reached Hobart the 22nd of july of 1838 and that Owen Stanley met Franklin there. It is specifially said that: 

"The Governor of Tasmania, Capt Sir John Franklin, RN, met Capt Robert Fitzroy, RN, HMS Beagle, Capt Sir Gordon Bremer, RN, HMS Alligator, and Lt Owen Stanley, RN, HMS Britomart, at Hobart."  

That places Owen Stanley in Hobart and in company of Franklin much more close to the year on which the sketch was allegedly made. More than I have previously foreseen and making possible that the visit to the dog-line could have been actually done a year later that when it was supposed, that means in 1838 instead of in 1837. I haven´t been able to find details of that encounter, I would be glad if someone could put some light to this event.

I thought maybe Franklin would have liked to show and horrified Fitzroy, Stanley and the others, the facilities of Port Arthur including the Dog-line of Eaglehawk neck, maybe the sight of the dogs impressed Owen that much that he decided to put the scene into a paper, or maybe this sketch was just the work of any other artist. But there is another fact which relates place and artist though not the year. Eaglehawk neck was painted in this watercolour in january of 1841 by Owen Stanley when he landed there (well in 1838 or during his second visit of 1840 after frustrating the French attempt to stablish a colony in south New Zealand).

Many of us know very well, as I mentioned before, part of Owen Stanley´s work. Specially those paintings which show HMS Erebus and HMS Terror during the first stages of their voyage to the Canadian arctic archipielago. But few of us know how was him like and how huge was his artistic work. This portrait of him which I have found today in the Internet, and who knows if it was painted by Owen himself, is apparently available in Dunham Massey, Chesire England

Owen Stanley
From the collection of Dunham Massey, Cheshire
Owen´s drawings not only show landscapes and ships, he also usually shows very realistic scenes where people, like the crews of the ships, aborigins,etc. behaved in their daily lives. As if they were vignettes of an adventure comic book, you can see the life, as he saw it through his own eyes, almost in motion, as for example happens here and here. That´s precisely the style you can see in the picture which shows Franklin´s visit to the Dog-line.

The casual style you can see in his drawings, (like the drawing called "The unprotected female" also available in the NMM), the liveliness what you can deduce from the title of other of his drawings like "Man Overboard off the North Point of New Zealand" or in that other which apparently shows himself being attacked by an albatross, together with his visit in july of 1838, are my strongests points to sustain my theory that it was Owen Stanley the author of the Dog-line drawing which is consuming me.

There are other connections between Owen and Franklin which could help to understand why he could have drawn that sketch. Stanley sailed for some time on board HMS Rainbow in 1831 as Lieutenant under Franklin orders, surely that was the origin of a friendship which would last till the day Franklin vanished. Poor Stanley died at the early age of 39 without knowing yet the whereabouts of the Erebus and Terror expedition. Whatever happened in HMS Rainbow during its service in the Mediterranean, maybe it would be reflected in James Harrison journal. The Rainbow was Franklin first command after returning from his overland expeditions in North America.

Stanley´s premature death is involved in mistery. There are several versions about what could have killed him so soon. Illness, or another one much more morbid which says  he could have committed suicide after receiving the awful news that his father, uncle and brother had died while he was sailing through the southern seas.

As I said, part of Stanley´s work is available in the National Maritime Museum and other part should be available in the Royal Society of Tasmania. According to a piece of paper from april 1931 which I have found in the Evening post, his widow presented the Society the collection of sketches mentioned above from his years serving on board HMS Britomart (1837-1841). The article, interesting because it is one of the few sources of information which tells Owen story, is titled as follows:

Piece of news from Evening post, 1931

It has been my curiosity to guess who was the artist after that singular sketch which has led me to Owen Stanley and his fascinating history. He, from my point of view, was another of those outstanding characters related with the arctic exploration whose name should occupy a prominent place in the hall of fame together with some of the most famous ones. His story has been told in the book: Owen Stanley R.N. 1811-1850 Captain of the Rattlesnake by Adelaide Lubbock.

 His grave was for some time not properly marked in the cemetery of Cammeray, but at least, he had a plaque in his memory which still exist in St Thomas Church in Sydney which you can see here. Apparently, now there is a map of the church and graveyard which shows you where exactly lies his body.

Well, it seems that after all this digression, we still will continue without having the answers to the main question which led me to start this post:

Who was the artist after that powerful sketch which shows that terrified Franklin in the Dog-line?

Now, right before publishing this, I have thought that maybe, and logically, my desired answer could lie on Lubbock´s book which tells his life, what better place to look for it? It would be perfect if that book would be waiting for me in my bookselves, but unfortunately that´s not the case. My last resort is then to beg within the very scarce  fragments of it which are available in Google Books using keywords as "Eaglehawk neck". Doing it I have found a very promising sentence inside the "HMS Britomart 1837-43" chapter which reads the following:

"The Vice-Regal party was transported from Eaglehawk neck"

Which put together at Owen Stanley and John Franklin not only in the proper period but also in Eaglehawk neck.

viernes, 3 de marzo de 2017


When John Ross talked about the second ship he used during his expedition in search of the Northwest Passage in 1829, he refers to it as follows:

"It being also thought expedient to have a secondary vessel of as large a tonnage as our own could conveniently manage, we obtained, by the kindness of the Admiralty, the decked vessel of sixteen tons burden which had accompanied a former expedition intended to the Pole; giving him the name of Krusenstern and we were provided with two boats which had been used by Captain Franklin."

I can´t avoid undestanding, throught the reading of these previous lines, that John Ross was very dissapointed not to have managed to get from the hands of the Admiralty a bigger ship  to accompany the "Victory", his side-wheel steamer. 

Ross had chosen the Victory because he had virtually fell in love with it when he saw how it, with its 30 horse power engine, towed a much bigger ship of 600 tons against the wind and tide time before. His enthusiasm drove him to improve the powerful engine which had impressed him so much for a supposedly much better  model. The change was made by the inventor John Ericsson, not related with the father of the multinational company, with the result that Ericsson was condemned to be blamed untiringly for his sins by Ross, because the poor performance of the machinery, for the rest of his life. 

The new fabulous brand new engine was the source of such infinite problems during the whole journey that it ended abandoned in the shores of Sommerset Island to serve as a curiosity which tourists visit from time to time. That was the fate of the boiler of the Victory but what about the Krusenstern? That name has always sound very peculiarly in my ears. Not the typical name the Royal Navy used for their ships.

The Krusenstern was a small ship of 16 tons which bore the name of a not very well known (at least for me) explorer. Not a polar explorer though, not almost British either. Adam Johann Von Krusenstern was not British but for a time was a member of the Royal Navy. He was born in 1770 in Estonia and died in august of 1846 while John Franklin was travelling south from Beechey island towards his ice prison in the shores of King William Island.

Adam Johann Von Krusenstern
Krusenstern had formed part of the Royal Navy from 1793 to 1799. That john Ross had christened his small ship with the name of Krusenstern is not a coincidence. John Ross and Krusenstern were about the same age, being Ross seven years younger than Krusenstern. They didn´t sailed together but as Maurice James Ross mentions in "Polar Pioneers" both men met after 1814 while Ross was in command of a small sloop of 16 tons called Acteon. 

Krusenstern was by then a reknown explorer who had circunavigated the world during the years 1803 and 1806, the same expedition on which one of the discoverers of the Antarctic continent had also participated, Fabian Gottlieb Bellingshausen. Maybe John Ross, Fifteen years later remembered that encounter when he was given the command of his small secondary ship and inspired by some sacarstic sense of humour decided to give the name of such big explorer to such small boat. The name of Krusenstern was also given to a very different kind of ship which honoured him in a much proper way, a four masted training ship which was built in 1926 in Germany. The ship was given to the Russian army by the germans in 1946 (one hundred years after the death of the explorer) and was baptized with the name of Krusenstern.

But this is not the only connection between both men. M.J. Ross tells in his book that Ross was occupied during his last year of life in the edition of the English translation of the  Memoirs of Admiral Krusenstern which had been translated by Krusenstern daughter Charlotte Bernhardi. Ross proposed the book to be dedicated to the Royal Geographical society and his wishes were accomplished.  John Ross´s name appears in big letters in the front page of the book:

Whatever happened during that encounter in 1814 (actually it was in 1815 as we soon will see) it left a deep print in the heart of the stubborn John Ross. The two facts of naming a ship after Krusenstern and  editing his memoirs, speak by themselves. Krusenstern memoirs is a short book of hardly eighty pages. 

What did I do next? Of course I had to check what was inside this memoirs, ROss and Krustenstern had some kind of strong link, what better place to find it than in Krustenstern biography?

I found the answer easily. A quick search on it led me to find the name of Ross several times mentioned on the book. It could look as a long text but I thing it is worth to transcribe it completely here:

In the year 1815, Admiral Krusenstern being employed by the Russian Government to purchase    two English frigates, proceeded for that purpose to Plymouth, and was met by the Editor of this Memoir, then captain of His Majesty's ship Actaeon (JOHN ROSS), at the hospitable table of the late Sir Byam Martin, G.C.B., at that time junior Port Admiral at Devonport. The conversation happening to turn on the navigation of the White Sea, which had been recently surveyed by the Actaeon, the Editor mentioned that he had determined the latitude of Archangel by observation, and also the longitude by the occultations of the satellites of Jupiter, simultaneous observations having been made at Greenwich. The Russian Admiral said " I have determined the longitude of Archangel by the same method," and it also appeared that both had observed in the dockyard. Sir Byam Martin immediately said " I should like to know how you two astronomers agree. I have two sons (who are now both Admirals) : one shall go home with Admiral Krusenstern, and the other with Captain Ross, and you shall send me in writing the latitude and longitude of Archangel." This was accomplished, and it turned out that the latitudes agreed within a few seconds, and the longitude to the nearest minute.
It need scarcely be added, that the above satisfactory result tended more closely to cement the friendship that had previously existed between them, but which was more fully exemplified by the hospitality and kindness subsequently shown to a cousin of the Editor, Mr. E. Cuninghame, who is now no more, to whom he gave a letter of introduction to the worthy Admiral, on a visit that gentleman made to St. Petersburgh, where he remained in the society of his amiable family for many months, and not very long before the noble Admiral and sincere Christian was removed from this to a better world.

The letters addressed to John Ross, published together with Krusenstern memoirs, shown that the Admiral always demonstrated great interest by the feats achieved by the Royal Navy in the Arctic in search the Northwest passage, as well as a strong and a lasting friendship towards John Ross. The feeling was reciprocal. Ross not only named his small ship after the Admiral but also some geographical features as at least one lake during the journey.

Well, we have solved part of the mistery which for me surrounded this small auxiliary ship. We know what happened to Krusenstern the Admiral, but we don´t know yet what happened to Krusenstern the ship.

Victory in Felix Harbour

In the drawing above we can see the Victory gently sleeping in her winter quarters in Felix harbour and another red boat in front of it with a small mast. Could this small ship be the Krustenstern? Both, the Victory and the Krustenstern were painted in red with the intention they could be easily distinguished in the snow from distance. The boats, formerly belonging to Franklin (I wonder to which expedition), were also painted the same colour. 

The Krusternstern had an hazardous life during the Ross expedition, it was almost all the time towed by the Victory and for some time, buried so deeply under the ice that the crew thought it would be impossible to recover ever. It was finally freed, but in spite of the efforts, her destiny was intimately joined to that of the Victory and was brought on shore, fill with sails and other equipment to be subsequently abandoned in the Arctic. Nothing remained of it, maybe the tides swallowed it or maybe Inuit people made the most of its timbers.

Abandonment of Victory by William Bradford
But... which was that former expedition where the Krustenstern had participated which Ross mentions in his narrative?, we still have a small mistery to solve here. Could the Krustenstern be the boat with which the Admiralty pretended to survey the northern and eastern coast of Spitzbergen ,under the orders of Lieutenant Foster, while Parry and J.C. Ross were performing their attempt to reach the North Pole? I don´t know of any other previous attempts to reach the North Pole than those of Franklin in 1818 together with Buchan, where as far as I know, any 16 ton ship was mentioned, and that other attempt of Captain Phipps made much earlier.

As it happened with that training ship mentioned before, the name of the russian Admiral was given to a ship not when it was launched for first time but in a second round. I couldn´t find any further clue about the origins of our little friend of 16 tons. As it uses to happen when one plays at the game of being a researcher, there are always loose ends difficult to tie. Let´s see if any reader could put some light to the beginnings of this small and secondary but at the same time great and gallant ship.

lunes, 6 de febrero de 2017


There is not too much information about the pets which accompanied the Franklin expedition when they departed towards the north in 1845, we do not know much more than they took a dog called Neptune, a cat of unknown name and a monkey called Jacko. Nobody asked them if they wanted to participate, if someone had asked maybe they would have refused and saved their lives, in case they had actually died in the Arctic. It has never been found bones of a cat, of a dog or of a monkey in King William Island and surroundings, and till now, they have not been found in the Erebus or the Terror neither.
Was any of those animal companions part of the previous expedition of Erebus and Terror comanded by James Ross to the Antarctic in 1839-42? There is no trace of a Monkey in the official account of this voyage though there was indeed a cat. The 21th of february of 1842, the cat of the ship (whose name is unknown) devoured a small fish, which has been accidentaly brought aboard, while it was being sketched by Mr Robertson, the Terror´s surgeon and Naturalist. An awckward and curious scene which surely was the cause of loud laughs .

According with Wikipedia, I could consult better sources I know that..., Monkeys began to take part of the crews of the nineteenth century ships when British ships started to land in Africa´s shores. We are not, of course, speaking of the so called "Powder Monkeys", those poor young boys in charge of supplying of gunpowder the gun crews but of actual monkeys instead.

Senegal Monkey´s were adopted by ship´s cooks. Apparently, monkeys which are nowadays kept in captivity in United Kingdom are descendants from those monkey sailors.

My suggestion is not that poor Jacko could become crazy at some point during the trip and had killed all the Franklin´s men while sleeping, as a sort of a Victorian version of Horror Express or the not very well known story of the British Barque Margaret which was the scenario of a bizarre outbreak of animal fury, but that he could be the host of a mortal disease which in the isolation of the arctic had produced the mithyc and rare high rate of casualties.

But why should a ship, employed in discovering a passage at such high latitudes, carry a monkey which wouldn´t have been likely ever before at temperatures below zero? 

Was Jacko a Senegal Monkey, also called Green Monkeys? I am not sure, but what we know is that Jacko was actually "she" and that she was a gift from Lady Franklin. This is a tantalizing thought, could have been Lady Jane who, for presenting the Monkey could have caused the death of so many on board the ship?

It could sound as an odd thought but the truth is that Green Monkeys are famous for carrying and transmitting a disease which is called "The Green Monkey disease" also called "Mar´burg disease" a fatal illness which can be easily transmitted to humans and which provokes you: fever, rash, diarrhea, vomiting, and gastrointestinal bleeding. Maybe you would recognise it better if I call it Ebola.

Surely we will never know if poor Jacko had something to do with the tragedy, or if on the contrary he cheered up the survivors in their camps in the island during the long and boing nights of winter, or ,if he ended in the bellies of the hungry men as the main course of a special dinner for Christmas when the things became desperate.

Interestingly there is another Jacko, whose name has absolutely nothing to do with our little pet, but who has called strongly my attention while trying to find some clues about the monkey. This other Jacko, called Jacko Jararuse, is an Inuit  artist author of magnificent craft masterpieces, as it is the carved Whalebone that you can see in this link and other amazing creations like hunters or drumdancers made of jade-like serpentine.

Jacko W.K. Jararuse.
When I stumbled upon this I jumped in my seat. Would this have any connection with our Jacko? Definitely Jacko doesn´t sound as an Inuit name at all, and this man keeps so deeply his traditions that it is strange he hasn´t a name which matchs better his roots. Inuit people, as europeans used to do time ago, give the name of their deceased to the new born to keep their souls somehow alive. The myth behind this is much more complex but that would be the essence. This would mean that Jacko´s name could have been used by his grandfather or even by his great great grandfather, uncles or any other relative. However, there is not apparent and evident connection, what could be? First of all Jacko the artist comes from a little town in the east coast of Labrador called Nain which is very very far from the route followed by Franklin and secondly and more importlay, if for some strange coincidence, Jacko´s ancestors origins were based in the northwest, from the region of King WIlliam Island, why should an Inuit from there bear the name of that pet? There is no doubt that the inuit people would have been very surprised, not to say scare to death when they met Jacko the pet for first time, and we should agree that if those men climbed to the decks of Erebus and Terror they met Jacko for certain. Could have it left such deep print into their minds as to use the Monkey´s name as a name or nickname for one of their children?

My investigation is very limited, but I could at least found that another "Jako Jararuse" was living in Saglek bay, Nain area, in 1945 with an age of 22. Jacko the artist was born in 1963, if they are relatives or not it is a matter on conjecture.

There is another Jacko Jararuse (maybe the same who I mentioned before), the main character of a story of an Inuit (Jacko) who met once a dwarf in a kayak. The story is very short and you can read it here. As this story is part of some other Inuit stories of Labrador which have been found recently and which comes from the first half of the twentieth century, my researching, which tries to attach the two loose ends, could end happily if I investigate a little bit more....but I am afraid that there won´t be any connection after all, or if that exists would be another of those thousands of little misteries which surrounds the Franklin expedition and which never would be solved.

Most likely, and I am sorry if I distracted you in excess with my digressions, is that the name of "Jacko", when used as an Inuit name, is not more than a different spelling of the name "Jacob" which Moravians missionaries surely spreaded profusely in Labrador peninsula . 

miércoles, 18 de enero de 2017


It was in Lady Franklin´s Revenge by Ken McGoogan where I learnt more about Sir John Franklin´s offspring. A recent conversation in the facebook group "Remembering the Franklin Expedition" about that topic has led me to search for some new faces in the Internet. 

My first steps have driven me to John Phillip Gell, Franklin´s son in law. If I remember well John together with Eleanor Isabella Franklin, Franklin´s daughter, complained continuously with the permanent leak of money Lady Franklin was starring. 

The reverend John Phillip Gell met the Franklin family while living and working in Tasmania in 1840. He married Eleanor in 1849, surely this was the result of a long courtship which could have started years before when they met in Van Diemen´s land.

John Phillip Gell

This marriage produced seven children. Yes, seven. The eldest son, John Franklin Gell was the grandson of our beloved explorer, named John surely after his granfather more than after his father. Poor John Franklin Gell died soon at the age of 33. I haven´t been able to find a portrait of him, nor of any of his other children but of two of them.

It is of Eleanor Elizabeth Franklin Wiseman of whom I have found the second of those two portraits which exists of Franklin´s grandchildren. She was, apparently, the eldest of the seven. Eleanor was born in 1850 and died in 1909, same year Robert Peary claimed to have reached the North Pole,  

Eleanor Elizabeth Franklin Wiseman

Her portrait reminds me a bit that of her Gandmother Eleanor Anne Porden, the poet. Same rounded cheeks same mouth and I would dare to say that same eyes too.  Don´t you agree? Maybe Franklin grandaughter was some sort of reincarnation of his first wife. I don´t know nothing about her life, maybe he enjoyed writting poetry as her grandmother used to do.
Eleanor Anne Porden

Eleanor Jr had five children, the second of whom, born in Bristol in 1883, was also named John Franklin (Wiseman). John Franklin´s name survived at least till to witness the twentieth century and to witness another great war. The great grandson of Sir John Franklin was living for some reason in Canada when he joined in 1916 the Canadian army  at the age of 32 as a Captain to fight in the first world war for Britain. Captain John Franklin Wiseman wasn´t killed in action, I don´t even know if he took actively part of the war itself. We know that because, though  I couldn´t get a picture of him, it exists a picture of his grave. Captain John Franklin died quite young at the age of 44 in New Zealand where he was buried. You can see his tombstone and details of his burial place here. It seems he didn´t leave any descendency.

Another portrait I have found is the one who belongs to Philip Lyttelton Gell. Philip, died in 1928 without leaving any child neither.

Philip Lyttelton Lyttelton Gell


In coming posts I will descend through the branches of the genealogical tree to see if I can get more portraits of his legacy.

miércoles, 28 de diciembre de 2016


(In English below)
Os dejo aquí el link a un libro "The great Frozen land" (accesible pero en inglés) que cuenta la historia de un paseíto de 3.000 millas por la tundra siberiana que el señor Frederick George Jackson realizó montado en un trineo en 1893. Yo todavía no me lo he leído pero está en la lista de "siguientes".
Su objetivo era probar la vestimenta, el material y la comida bajo condiciones árticas invernales antes de emprender la expedición de 1894-97 para explorar el norte de la Tierra de Francisco José (80ºN), la expedición que se conocería como Jackson-Harmsworth.
Frederick  George Jackson
Eligieron la Tundra siberiana porque como él mismo dice en el prefacio del libro:

"Como mucha gente sabe, las tundras bajas del ártico ruso y Siberia, aunque son fácilmente accesibles por el este, oeste y sur de los confines de la civilización, poseen un clima invernal de una severidad tan grande que no solo supera el rigor de muchas regiones que se encuentran mucho mas al norte, sino que realmente presentan menores temperaturas que las registradas en la cuenca ártica. Por lo que es en las heladas Tundras de Siberia donde encontraremos lo que ha sido denominado EL POLO DEL FRÍO EXTREMO".

Para mi personalmente, Jackson es un personaje un tanto desconocido y puede que lo sea para muchos de vosotros también. Casi todos los forofos de lo polar nos hemos siempre centrado en los grandes exploradores que o bien llegaron o bien intentaron realizar grandes hazañas como llegar andando, en barco, en globo o en avión al Polo Norte, Polo Sur, cruzar el paso del Noroeste, etc. Pero dejamos a un lado muchas veces a aquellos que realizaron expediciones de exploración que podríamos considerar "de detalle" por llamarlo de alguna forma. Aquellas expediciones se centraban solo en una pequeña parte de la geografía ártica, que normalmente había sido descubierta por otros y la cartografiaban con esmero, midiendo y registrando todo tipo de datos científicos y meteorológicos.

En mi caso, conozco a Jackson sobre todo porque fue él durante esa segunda expedición a la Tierra de Francisco José quien se tropezó por pura casualidad con Nansen que volvía de su expedición al Polo Norte. La historia de Nansen pudo haber sido muy distinta si este encuentro no se hubiese producido, esta afirmación es objeto de conjetura todavía hoy en día. Es posible que Jackson salvase la vida de Nansen, y es posible también que si no hubiese sido por este encuentro, Jackson sería uno de esos exploradores de "segunda" de los que apenas habríamos oído hablar.

Jackson - Nansen encounter Junio 1896
Con o sin encuentro, Jackson demostró ser merecedor de la fama que ahora parcialmente tiene. Completó el reconocimiento del archipiélago descubierto (al menos fueron los primeros que se lo adjudicaron) por los austriacos Karl Weyprecht y Julius Von Payer en 1873. Engañado por los exploraciones superficiales de la expedición precedente, Jackson demostró que la Tierra de Francisco José no era una extensión de tierra que llegaba hasta el polo, como se creía, sino un archipiélago que no superaba en su punto más septentrional los 81 ºN. Algo parecido a lo que le ocurrió a la expedición Danesa de Jorgen Bronlund, que por fiarse de los mapas dibujados por Peary acabaría pereciendo en el norte de Groenlandia en 1908 junto con dos de sus colegas.

Ahora que estoy leyendo sobre Cook me doy cuenta de lo potencialmente peligroso que era dar crédito a ningún mapa, por fiable que la fuente pudiera parecer. Los mapas posteriores al tratado de Tordesillas movían tierras e islas a placer para situarlas en ubicaciones donde fueran más conveniente para según que potencia. Ficticias bahías como la de Poctes Bay en King William Island podría haber conducido a la expedición de Franklin a una muerte lenta por inanición y escorbuto en 1846, pero lo más sorprendente es que aún en épocas relativamente recientes en el siglo XX, un mapa equivocado podía todavía matar exploradores bien preparados y entrenados como ocurrió en el caso de la expedición danesa. Yo, gracias a Dios, no me separo nunca de mi GPS, y espero que nunca me deje colgado cuando realmente lo necesite.

Here I add the link to a book called "The great Frozen land" which tells the story of a short walk of 3.000 miles by the siberian Tundra which Mr Frederick George Jackson did riding a sledge in 1893. I haven´t read it yet but it is in my list of "Nexts".

His target was to test the clothing, equipment and food under arctic winter conditions before beginning his expedition of 1894-97 to explore the north of Franz Joseph Land (80ºN), the expedition which would be called Jackson-Harmsworth arctic expedition.

Frederick  George Jackson
The choose the Siberian Tundra because, as he himself says in the preface of the book:
"As most people are aware, the low Tundras of Arctic Russia and Siberia, although readily accessible and stretching on the east, west, and south to the confines of civilisation, possess a winter climate of a severity so great that it does not merely exceed the ri-gour of many regions lying farther north, and in the strict embrace of Oceanic ice, but actually reveals the lowest temperature yet recorded in the whole of the Arctic basin. 
For it is on the frozen Tundras of Siberia that we find what has been called " THE POLE OF EXTREME COLD." 
To me, personally speaking, Jackson is a character slightly unknown and it may be for many of you too. Almost all polar fans have always focused in those great explorers who, walking, sailing, by balloon or plane, either reached, or well just tried, theNorth Pole, the South Pole, the Northwest passage, etc. But we usually put aside those who made "detailed" explorations, to say something. Those expeditions focused only in a small part of the arctic geography, which had been previously discovered by others, and they carefully mapped them, measuring and recording all kind of scientific and meteorological data.

In my case, I know Jackson above all becasue it was him who during that second expedition to Franz Joseph Land, stumbled by chance upon Nansen who was returning from his expedition towards the North Pole. Nansen story could have been different if that encounte hadn´t happened, that assertion still is matter of conjecture. It is possible that Jackson had saved Nansen´s life and it is also possible that if it weren´t for that encounter, Jackson would be one of those "secondary"explorers about who one hardly have heard a word.

Jackson - Nansen encounter Junio 1896
With or without encounter, Jackson demonstrated to deserve the fame which now he partially has. He finished the survey of the archipielago discovered (at least first on claiming that) by the austrians  Karl Weyprecht y Julius Von Payer en 1873. Cheated by the cursory precedent explorations, Jackson demonstrated that Franz Josef Land wasn´t a huge land extension which touched the North Pole, as it was the general believing, but an archipielago which its northern point was located not beyond 81ºN of latitude. Something similar happened to the danish expedition of Jorgen Bronlund, who, believing in the accuracy of Peary´s maps will end his days in the north of Greenland in 1908 together with other two colleagues.

Now than I am reading about Cook´s voyages, I realise how potentially hazardous was giving any credit to any existing map those days of exploration. No matter how reliable it could seem. Maps made after Tordesillas treaty move unscrupulously lands and islands to locate them in more convenient places, according to the need of every power. Fictional bays like that of Poctes (or Poetess) bay, in King WIlliam Land could have driven the Franklin expedition to a certain and slow death by starvation and scurvy in 1846, but the most astounding of all is that in relatively recent days in the twenty century, a wrong map could still kill well trained and equiped explorers as it happened in the case of the danish expedition. Me, thank goodness, never forget my GPS, and I wish it never abandoned me the day I really need it.

jueves, 22 de diciembre de 2016


(In English below)

El sol era recibido por los exploradores polares después de un largo invierno como si hubieran encontrado un oasis en el desierto después de haber pasado toda una semana sin beber agua. Dependiendo de la latitud en la que se encontraran, el sol podía permanecer escondido de su vista desde solo unos días hasta varios meses.

Hay quien dice que puedes experimentar incluso reacciones físicas cuando ves el sol ponerse por última vez justo antes de que comience la larga noche ártica. El sol significa disponer de luz, calor y tener el ánimo alto, un claro contraste con la larga noche ártica que implica siempre oscuridad, frío y normalmente, actitudes depresivas.

La aparición del sol sobre el horizonte suponía un punto de inflexión para todas aquellas expediciones que pasaban al menos un invierno en altas latitudes. No para todas, solo para aquellas que habían cruzado el circulo polar ártico. Por eso no he buscado referencias sobre este hecho en los relatos de expediciones como la de Sir John Franklin en el río Coppermine, una de mis favoritas, y otras por el estilo que nunca cruzaron el círculo polar.

El sol era siempre bienvenido con alegría por las tripulaciones de los barcos que habían permanecido atrapados por el hielo durante los largos meses que duraban los inviernos en las regiones polares. Algunas veces, su esperada salida se plasmaba en hermosas acuarelas que los propios oficiales del barco pintaban a bordo. Hace poco me he comprado una copia de una esas ilustraciones por Internet.
Fue el brillo de sus colores y la actitud de los hombres que aparecen en la escena lo que inmediatamente captó mi atención sobre ella y la que al mismo tiempo ha inspirado esta publicación. 
La imagen real que tengo en mi poder tiene en realidad colores bastante mas apagados que los que veis en la foto siguiente.

Returning sun in the Arctic regions
Likely from one of Elisa Kent Kane Expeditions published in "Sunday at home" february 1870
La ilustración proviene de una publicación de carácter religioso llamada "Sunday at home" february of 1870 (página 468). De acuerdo con la descripción, este  dibujo en particular procede de una de las expediciones de Eliza Kent Kane, el afamado explorador americano.

Pero repasemos como era el sol recibido por aquellos intrépidos y valientes exploradores del siglo XIX.

En la narración de su primer viaje como comandante a bordo de los barcos HMS Hecla y HMS Griper (1819-20), William Edward Parry describe como días antes de que el sol apareciese ordena realizar guardias para hacer observaciones científicas. Sus cuarteles de invierno estaban ubicados en Winter Harbour (74º N) en Melville island.

"Puesto que el momento en el que sol debía de reaparecer sobre el horizonte estaba cerca, comenzamos a otear desde lo alto del mástil para hacer observaciones, tales como la cantidad de refracción atmosférica, que podía ser visible antes que en circunstancias normales"

Los hombres de Parry escalaron y permanecieron de guardia en lo alto del mástil, durante cortos periodos de tiempo para evitar congelaciones, con objeto de realizar las observaciones necesarias en el momento en el que el sol apareciese, cosa que ocurrió  el 3 de febrero de 1820. La temperatura era de - 38 ºF, casi la misma que en grados Celsius en este caso.

"A 20 minutos del aparente amanecer, el sol fue visto desde lo alto del mástil del Hecla a una altura de cincuenta y un pies sobre el mar, siendo esta la primera vez que veíamos esta luminaria desde el 11 de noviembre, un periodo de ochenta y cuatro días."

Se hicieron observaciones sobre la luz, la refracción y otros eventos, pero aparentemente no se celebraron fiestas ni nada por el estilo. Lo que Parry hizo cuando hubo suficiente luz, fue comenzar los preparativos para zarpar de nuevo. Aquella fue realmente una larga noche, quizás una de las mas largas experimentadas por ningún otro explorador anterior.

Durante la segunda expedición de Parry (1821-22), pasaron un par de inviernos cerca de Igloolik. Igloolik está ubicado a solo unos pocos grados por encima del círculo polar, de manera que la noche perpetua no lo es en realidad tanto. Durante su segundo invierno, el sol fue recibido como sigue:

"El 19 de enero de 1823, el cielo se despejó, fuimos entonces gratificados con la visión del sol, y  se vieron numerosas partidas de paseantes  en diferentes partes de la bahía disfrutando de la novedad y el esplendor de esta gratificante y gloriosa visión...Los esquimales que estaban en los barcos hoy antes de que el sol saliera dijeron que lo veríamos hoy, y  con gran confianza, aparentemente. Es cierto, no obstante que en esta ocasión no tuvo lugar ninguna danza del sol ni ninguna otra festividad...su única de expresión de satisfacción ante este evento fue parecida a la nuestra."

De nuevo, no hubo celebraciones ni fiestas, Parry no estaba impresionado por el regreso del sol, quizás estaba mas preocupado acerca de como alcanzar sus objetivos. Él, después de todo, tenía una reputación que mantener y a un imperio entero expectante vigilando sus espaldas.

Por supuesto que hubo mas ejemplos como estos que he contado aquí. Ya iré indagando un poco mas en la próximas semanas. Una de mis historias favoritas relacionadas con la vuelta del sol está relacionada con el invierno de 1848-49 que James Ross´s pasó en Port Leopold (también a 74 ºN).

Para celebrar la vuelta del sol, se organizó una carrera que consistía en escalar la colina que dominaba la bahía donde su barco se encontraba todavía atrapado por el hielo. En aquella carrera participó Henry Mathias, el ayudante de cirujano del HMS Enterprise. Hace un tiempo escribí en el post que he vinculado unas líneas mas arriba acerca de aquel momento:

"La carrera la ganó Mr Court que llevaba una pequeña paleta en cada mano, así que imaginad como era de inclinada la pendiente, la temperatura era de - 49 ºF, (-45ºC). ..., fue un evento feliz que pronto se nubló cuando Mathias comenzó a escupir sangre y a perder fuerzas rápidamente desde ese momento"

Lamentablemente, Henry Mathias murió en Junio de ese mismo año. Aparentemente ya estaba enfermo de tuberculosis cuando partió de Inglaterra, su estancia en el ártico no debió hacer sino empeorar su estado de salud. Su cadáver yace aún en Port Leopold junto con el de otros tres compañeros de expedición.

Como os he dicho seguiré estudiando otras expediciones de la época, he leído en varias ocasiones sobre este tema, solo tengo que recopilar la información y escribirla. Trataré de seguir un orden cronológico y mostrar como se vivieron aquellos momentos por los diferentes capitanes y tripulaciones. Ya iremos viendo.

The sun was received by polar explorers after a long winter, as if they had found an oasis in the middle of the desert  after being deprived of drinking water for as long as a week. Depending on the latitude they were, the sun could stay hidden from their view for a period of time which could vary from several days to months. 

There are people who say you may even experience physical reactions when the sun sets for last time before the beginning of the long Arctic winter nights. Sun means light, heat and high spirits in clear contrast with the long polar night which means darkness, cold and usually, depressive attitudes.

The returning of the sun was an inflection point to all those expeditions which spent at least a winter at high latitudes. Not for all though, only for those which had crossed the Arctic circle. I haven´t looked for that reason on the narratives of expeditions like my dear Coppermine expedition by Sir John Franklin and in others of that kind which never crossed the Arctic circle, but only on those who did it.

The Sun was always welcomed cheerfully and happily by the crews of the ships which had stayed beseted by the ice for the long freezing months of the Arctic winters. Sometimes, its expected rising was even depicted in watercolours or engravings of some sort by the officers on board. I recently bought one of those drawings which inmediately caught my attention when I saw it in the Internet. It was the brightness of its colours and the attitude of the men who appear in the scene which inmediately captivated my eyes.

Returning sun in the Arctic regions
Likely from one of Elisa Kent Kane Expeditions published in "Sunday at home" february 1870
As it happens with digital photography, colours seem to have been enhanced somehow by the development process of the picture and it happens that actual colours are much more faded. 

The coloured illustration comes from the religious journal called "Sunday at home" february of 1870 (page 468). According to what I have read in the publication this particular drawing comes from one of Eliza Kent Kane´s expeditions.

But let´s review how was the sun received by those intrepid and gallant explorers. 

In Parry´s account of his first journey of 1819-20 on board the ships HMS Hecla and HMS Griper as a leader, it is pages and days before the sun actually rose that Parry began to speak about it demonstrating how strongly they missed being warmed by its rays. They had their winter quarters located in Winter Harbour (74 ºN) in Melville Island.

"As the time was now near at hand when the sun was to re-appear above our horizon, we began this day to look out for it from the mast-head, in order that some observations might be made, as to the amount of the atmospherical refraction, which might render it visible to us sooner than under ordinary circunstances"

Parry´s men climbed to the top of the mast in a succession of short shifts to avoid frostbites. He wanted them to observe its first appearance which happened about the third of february of 1820. The temperature was of - 38 ºF, same than in celsius in this case.

"At twenty minutes before apparent noon, the sun was seen from the Hecla´s main-top, at the height of fifty one feet above the sea. being the first time that this luminary had been visible to us since the 11 th of november, a period of eighty-four days."

The light, refraction and other events were observed but apparently there were no parties nor any other special celebration. What Parry did when he had enough light was beginning preparations to set sail again. That one was a long night, maybe one of the longest endured by any previous explorer of those regions. 

During his second expedition he spent a couple of winters near Igloolik. Igloolik is only a few degrees over the Arctic circle so the perpetual night wasn´t that perpetual after all. During the second winter the sun was welcomed as follows:

"On the 19th (january 1823), the weather, having at least cleared up, we were once more gratified with a sight of the sun, and numerous parties of walkers were seen in various parts of the bay, enjoying the novelty and splendour of this cheering and glorious sight....The esquimaux who were at the ships today before the sun rose particularly said that we should see it, and appaarently with great confidence. It is certain however that on this coccasion no sun-dance took place nor an other festivity... their only expression of satisfaction at this event being of the same geneal nature as our own."

Again no celebrations nor parties, Parry was not impressed by the returning sun, he maybe was more concerned about the accomplishment of their objectives. He, after all had a reputation to keep high and an entire empire watching his back.

Of course there were more examples like those I have explained here, I will dig in some of them in the coming weeks. One of my favourite stories related with the returning of the sun is the race which was organized during the winter James Ross´s spent in Port Leopold (74ºN) in 1848-49. Henry Mathias, the assistant surgeon of HMS Enterprise. The race consisted on climbing the hill which dominates the bay and it happened the 27th of february of 1849. Quoting myself from a previous post about the small graveyard which was once built there by James Ross:

"The race was won by Mr. Court who carried a scraper in each hand, so imagine how steep was the slope, the temperature was -49 F (-45ºC). According with the reference, that was a cheering event which was soon shadowed by the fact that Mathias began to split blood and to lose strength."

Henry Mathias died in june of that same year, apparently he was already sick when he departed from England. His body still lies in Port Leopold together with other three shipmates.

I will study other expeditions trying to follow chronological order and see how all those events were experienced by the different captains and crews.

jueves, 3 de noviembre de 2016


It usually takes me weeks if not months to read a book in English. It is still challenging even now that I have improved a good deal with the language (maybe you will end thinking otherwise after reading this post). But when I pick up a book written in Spanish, my eyes fly over its pages as a bird. That´s exactly what has happened to me while reading ´Finding Franklin´, it was written in English but I didn´t noticed it.

Finding Franklin and friends
I began with the book some days ago and everytime I arrived at home after work I couldn´t avoid grabbing it and read till I had to dine or to go to bed. 

Finding Franklin more than a book is surgery. If you are one of those who are well initiated in the "Franklin question" you  won´t like to lose a second  of your valuable time reading for the umpteenth time how John Ross missed the entrance of the Northwest Passage, how Parry got through it the year after, and bla, bla.bla. When you have a book like this in your hands what you want is to get to the point as soon as possible as if you had to be taken in a taxi to the center of an unknown city. Precedents of exploration in the Northwest Passage and subsequent  expeditions, are written in hundreds of books, more than I thought there could exist at first when I got lost in the Arctic labyrinth. Many of those books merely repeat exactly the same story only in different words.

I had foreseen that maybe Finding Franklin could be the sequel of the famous and, nowadays very difficult to find, Cyriax´s book titled "Sir John Franklin´s last expedition." but after reading it I would say much more about it. Unlike Cyriax, Russell Potter doesn´t lose time, if losing is the proper verb tp be used, in describing background stories. 

Russell´s purpose is a quite different one, and you soon realise after reading its Index, that you are in front of something different. You may have breathed in a similar atmosphere when you read, and you surely did if you have Finding Franklin in your hands, Unravelling the Franklin Mistery and Strangers among us

Then, like jumping over separated stones to cross a river, you begin to leap from one chapter to the following compelled for the inertia of your own reading in such a way that you can´t stop even if you want to. 

I have read many books about the Franklin expedition, maybe not as much as you, but from my amateur experience, it is only through the reading of Potter´s book, that I have now a complete view of the sequence of those, from very far in time to the more recent, events which took place in King William Island and surroundings.  Its content could lead you, book in hand, to retrace the steps of the poor men who were so unlucky to be forced to land there. You have the feeling that with such a good manual in your backpack, as if it was a Lonely Planet guide, you won´t miss any detail and you will have every important clue you could need to have at hand in just one single book. 

Jumping from skull to bone, from relic to searcher you could follow easily the path of annihilation. Such has been this feeling on me that when I reached the end of the book, I was expecting to find a CD attached to the backcover with an audioguide and a map containing the description of every single relic which was found in those barren island.

Even now that the Terror has been found, I don´t believe it should affect too much what has been told in Russell´s book. But what, however, I have missed in his book, and this is just to put a "but" in this reflection about a superb book, is that after reaching the climax which wrapped you in its last chapter, Russell  had risked to make a final exercise on which he had tried to reconstruct the story. Maybe, it is not fair calling it just an ´exercise´ but more an impossible task due to the infinite variants this reconstruction could offer. 

Unfortunately, unlike Nemo, Franklin didn´t arrive safely home. We know that for certain, but finding Franklin still resting quietly in his lost stony mausoleum in King William Island, could bring, at least to some of us, part of the peace which our hearts and brains so ravenously need.