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, 9 de agosto de 2013


Recently, posted by my collegue Beatriz, I´ve read an article about the content of the new and modern medicine kits which are now used on Polar expeditions. On it, is mentioned that nowadays part of them are now contraceptives, the Pill, and the morning-after pill, far from the reality of the content of the old and sober medicine chests of the nineteenth century expeditions like the medicine chest found by Lt. Hobson of the last and lost Franklin expedition in the Point Victory. That medicine chest is wonderfully described and the use of the medicines inside was analized here by J.Cyriax in order to try to determine what diseases were suffering the crews at the moment of abandoning the ships.

Why then the modern expeditions include this apparently "out of place" items? Because: "Thank goodnes" the current expeditions are not anymore "All men - expeditions", It is clear that the sexual question (at least)  in  the civil expeditions have been solved in the XXI century.

But after reading, in a couple of fiction books about the Franklin expedition, at least two episodies about some intimal behaviour between men. I´ve  wondered what happened actually (sexually spoken) on those arctic expeditions. I know, or better said, I can deduce through some references and quotes about some arctic expeditions in that time that there were intimal contact between the crews and the Inuit during the course of the years which lasted those expeditions. 

Why are there so many references in the fiction books to the same fact?, How would it be the sexual live on board ships which were trapped in the ice for more than three years, if they had one? How the commanders of isolated expeditions like these dealt with them?. 

I´ve done some cursory searching and I´ve found, reading quickly, an interesting article called "Buggery and the British Navy: 1700-1861"  that the punishment for those kind of behaviours, besides of course being awfully unfair, were absolutely disproportionated, causing the death of innocent men till the end of the first thirty of the nineteenth century. Some sailors received till 1.000 lashes and some officers were even hanged for that. Between 1756 and 1816 four ship´s captains were accused, one was hanged, other cashiered and two acquietted.

The numbers published on this article speak: the second reason in the eighteen century for deserving a Death sentence was "Buggery" after the accusation of Desertion. How many innocents were killed by this "Naval laws"?

But  what happened after in the nineteenth century? The martial courts fortunately decreased. It seems that it was a direct relation between the periods of war and the number of Death sentences and punishments provoked by these causes. In the first place because the cases of "buggering" decreased and also because the naval officers and sailors were more reluctant to report the known cases and this find its explanation on that there was a change of mind of that time that related the homosexuality with some kind of mental disorder. The explanation about the correspondency between the war time and the increasing of buggery accusations seems to be based on the increase of the number of people recruited to fill the war ships, which were taken from all kinds of background levels and countries.

The last man executed by this accusation was William Maxwell, a boatswain who was hanged the 7 of january of 1829 and, as far as I know,  there weren´t sailor, officer or captain who were executed in any artic expedition. 

7 comentarios:

  1. Great post, Andrés! Bold topic. As early as in the 17th century, sailors used to stitch ladies' clothing together to create what they called "Dames de Voyage". This was basically the origin of the sex doll as we know it today. I once stumbled upon an article on this with a picture included, but can't find it now. Anyway, here's a reference: (this might be a little bit NSFW)

    So happy to be mentioned in Kabloonas! :D :D :D

  2. Yes Beatriz, I know that this is a delicate subject to discuss, but I thought that it was enoughly interesting to be comented. The writers of the fiction books mentioned should think the same, if not, why did they use this topic?.

    The Spanish navy of course also condemned the homosexuality on that time. I would like to find some references about it but it is hard to find one. It is and will be still for a while a Tabu issue.

    Thanks for the link.

  3. Very thought-provoking and courageous post, Andres! This is not a subject that receives due attention in the annals of maritime history. Dan Simmons wrote of some High Arctic homoeroticism in "The Terror", but I cannot think of another example offhand. It is a shame that homosexuality was so strongly vilified and viewed as a form of mental illness or beastiality. If you are looking for a closer, contemporary look at the subject, try "An American Seafarer in the Age of Sail: The Erotic Diaries of Philip C. Van Buskirk, 1851-1870". If only we could find a frank, straightforward account of this aspect of naval life from the Victorian Arctic/Antarctic expeditions--how sociologically illuminating it would be!

  4. There was a scene in North with Franklin between Couch (I think) and somebody else DX I was horrified by it DX

    Anyway, Jess, what're you doing reading Erotic diaries?' ;3

    Btw, thank you for this post. my mother's reaction was priceless when I showed it to her xD I was giggling in the background.

  5. Finally I had a decent internet cover and I was able to read that links and investigate those references, thanks for them.

    About the "Damme of Voyage" or the "Dama de viaje" the only thing I can say is: Arghhhhhh!! what an unhealthy thing, I didn´t know its existence. I guess that on case of necessesity everything can "fill the gap", but not with that!!. I coincide with the author of the article about that perhaps we are fortunate of not having any picture of those artifacts.

    I am afraid, Jaeschylous, that it will be hard to find direct references on any log or journal about whatever happened on the ships of that time, it seems that this kind of things were kept on secret and they always were hidden with shame, perhaps specially in the polar expeditions where the officer were in more close contact with the men than perhaps in normal navigation because the long hours of inactivity.

    I don´t think that I had been specially courageous or bold talking about this subject. It is an obvious question questioning what do you do (X speaking) in the arctic during three years?

    Anyway, I don´t think that the ships trapped in the arctic were the stages of something like the scenes that you can see in the "Rocky Horror Picture Show". I imagine that this cases were not so common as it may seem and that the men in general prefer to resort to those unsanitary dolls or substitutes of them and that those who prefered the company of men, had to restrain their feelings in order to not be punished.

  6. I like to think that for all those sailors who were punished for "buggery", a much larger number successfully got away with it.
    Sometimes officers might also simply have turned a blind eye to many sexual acts other than straightforward sex, possibly thinking "as long as it's not actual buggery it's not serious".
    In the end, of course, we'll never truly know who did (what with) whom.

  7. I guess that men an officers became friends or would develop some sort of friendship among them during their trips, which surely helped to do the things not so rigid about these cases, specially in the Arctic expeditions where the discipline was less hard. Anyway is hard to find registers about this except what Jaeschylous pointed, it was and it seem still is, a taboo subject.