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.

miércoles, 26 de febrero de 2014


It was always been said that little ships were better suited to cross the shallow and treacherous waters of the Northwest Passage, there were several explorers who affirmed that thing (Hall, Hood, among others), but of course the Admiralty was thinking on a different way, because they persevered on sending to the NWP heavy expeditions. 

William Edward Parry: From: WahooArt.com
What have surprised me is that William Parry, a man already experimented in the arctic hazards, said this on the narrative about his first Voyage: 

"On the 5th, it was necesary to pass through some heavy streams of ice, in order to avoid the loss of time by going round to the eastward. On this, as many other occasions, the advantage possessed by a ship of considerable weight in the water, in separating the heavy masses of ice, was very apparent. 
In some of the streams, through which the Hecla passed, a vessel of a hundred tons less burthen must have been immoveably beset. The Griper was on this, and many other occasions, only enabled to follow the Hecla by taking advantage of the openings made by the latter. "

He thought, and likely correctly, that the weight of the ships could help them on saving time ,while sailing on a straight line breaking the ice, as the heavy ice breakers currently does, pushing the ice and climbing slightly over the borders of the floes to break it with their weight.  But Parry had been beset before by the ice, he should have known the dangers of sailing in icy waters with such heavy ships. He should have known by then that the seas on those latitudes are not always covered by thin ice but for thick ice which can trap easily a heavy ship. A more maneuverable ship could have helped him to sail closer to the shores when the waters would be impracticable and a smaller and lighter ship could take the advantage of using whatever lead opened in the ice, no matter the smaller the lead could have been. He should have known or deduced that.

Ivan Constantinovich Aivazovsky - Ships in a Storm From Wikimedia Commons

Wasn´t Parry wrong on their appreciations? Was he only refering to the kind ship which could be best suited for navigation on open waters or he meant what kind of ship could be suitable for the whole expedition? Did he change his mind?

 I have read several original narrations about arctic expeditions and I don´t remember that any of their commanders would propose the use of lighter ships. It is true, on the other hand, that previously to these expeditions of the nineteenth century, there were several cases of small  ships, which were accompanying others of a bigger size, which capsized during storms, sometimes even before reaching the shores of America.

miércoles, 19 de febrero de 2014


Time ago I wrote several posts about John Hepburn, the sailor who accompanied John Franklin on his expedition to the mouth of the Coppermine river and who played a very important role on their final survival. John Hepburn even took part together with Joseph René Bellot in one of the rescue expeditions after Sir John Franklin disappeared, but there is another man, another sailor whose behaviour and mood gain for him an outstanding place on the oficial journals of some of the first expeditions performed by John Franklin.

Robert Spinks is the actor of a funny, though dangerous, anecdote in the expedition towards the North Pole of 1818 commanded by David Buchan and described by Frederick William Beechey here

While some of the men of the crew were on shore in Spitzbergen, Robert Spinks trying to descend the first of all to the ships he tried to go down by a steep glacier. He slipped and fell thousands of feet in an apparently uncontrolled way. 

Fortunately for him, the fallen resulted in no hurt for him and the anecdote was such that it resulted worthy of being published on the oficial account when it was finally published. The funny thing was that, after being able of stopping the dangerous fallen, he had broken the pair of trousers he was wearing and, as Beechey describes, "something more". Spinks, stood up laughing heartily and the rest of the men who were attending the spectacle joined him. This scene could easily be part of an old adventure film. 

Beechey even tells on this book how Spinks also accompanied Franklin and Back on their second expedition towards the north shores of Canada, giving him a little homage. Spinks is described by George Back as a man of great zeal, fortitude and perseverance and as a man of an unusual degree of good humour and who was of the utmost use on keeping up the spirits of others. 

After reading this, one thinks that sometimes we focus our attention on the great names of the polar exploration and that sometimes we forget that those great men were surronded by humble sailors which acts were so heroic or even more heroic than those performed by his commanders and that without those men those expeditions simply couldn´t have been posible. 

 Robert Spinks must have been a man worth of knowing, a good friend and a good man. Unfortunately he died soon after having being promoted as a gunner on the ship HMS Philomel in Gibraltar, the cause of his dead is not told by Beechey.