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.

domingo, 24 de agosto de 2014


The combination of my recent reading of "Captain Francis Crozier, last man standing" by Michael Smith and my brand new fourties, have made me reflect about what was the limit age to participate or even to command an arctic expedition.

It is well known that the Royal Navy recruited men since the early age of eleven or twelve. but, what was the maximum age to participate in an arduous and hazardous arctic expedition?

It has been widely discussed the suitability of the Franklin´s age of 59  to command the expedition which carried him to his death, but it has not been so widely discussed how ideal or not was the age of other explorers which formed part of other expeditions of the kind. I am speaking about people like Dr Richardson., John Ross, John Hepburn, and surely about others.

Doctor Richardson, with 61 years old, accompanied John Rae in the overland rescue expedition of 1848-49. He turned back in the spring of 1849 and arrived at Liverpool a day after his 62 birthday, the 6th november of 1849 while Rae, twenty six years younger than Richardson pressed further north. As Michael Smith describe it, this was one of those mamooth expeditions towards the north shores of Canada which tipically involved walking thousands of miles across the wilderness and descending wild rivers.

Dr. Richardson.
John Hepburn, the hero of the Coppermine expedition of 1819 signed, with 57 years old, in the rescue mission commanded by Kennedy in 1851 . The hardships which he endured cost him, with almost all certainty, a slow death during the subsequent years. 

National Portrait Gallery

As in the case of Richardson, what drove Hepburn to go on board an expedition ,which aim was finding Franklin, was love and the friendship he devoted to him. 

But, by far, the most outstanding and astonishing case is that of John Ross. It was the most extreme. The man, a revolutionary and clever mind for his time, broke all the non written rules and, at the age of 73, organised his own expedition and, faithfull to a promise he did to Franklin before departing, sailed to the arctic in 1850 to rescue him.

Tips images
John Ross from tipsimages

Ross senior, not only set a record marching towards the arctic as such age, but he also surely beat other record at joining the navy at the early age of nine years old.

To me, after reading a relative amount of books about the discovery of the Northwest passage, John Ross and his stubborn mind occupies in my opinion a privileged place in the podium of the best arctic explorers. Apart of the incident of the Croker mountains, which I believe was a hidden plan to book tickets for a future opening of the Northwest Passage for himself, Ross Sr. was correct when using a small ship and a tiny crew for the exploration of such shallow straits and he was also a pioneer and a visionary in using a steam boat to attempt to cross it. His fight against cold and scurvy during the expedition of 1829 to 1833 could be compared in merits with the worldwide known Shackleton's feat of survival in the antarctic. 

The strong will of Ross drove him to the arctic even at a age when most of his contemporary mates have already dead, that is what I call a true polar explorer.

lunes, 4 de agosto de 2014


With the change of the decade, the mine, some reflections have arisen about how the elders are treated in the modern society. Speaking about this I have remembered something I read, not long time ago, about that incident of which Charles Francis Hall was witness during his years in the arctic while searching for the Franklin expedition.  
From: http://www.athropolis.com/arctic-facts/fact-hall.htm
This incident was no other than a case of senilicide. Particularly, an old woman was locked into an igloo in order to be left there to die from cold and starvation. Hall was so shocked and touched about this action that he re-opened the igloo and tried during long hours, if not days, to save the life of that poor old woman. It seems however that this concrete measure was a very rare practice, being prefered by the people quicker methods which were usually applied with great regret and pain and almost always under request of the elder. 

All the things I have learnt about this practice are in this paper written in 1941. It is an interesting analysis about the most shocking habits and costumes of the Inuit people:

Regents Professor Emeritus of anthropology at the University of Minnesota

E. Adamson Hoebel, Law-Ways of the Primitive Eskimos, 31 Am. Inst. Crim. L. & Criminology 663 (1940-1941)

This subject will surely resurrect among the readers the issue of the consideration as barbarism or not of some of the Inuit costumes followed by the time of the Franklin expedition, and from the reading of the lines which follow, it will resurrect the famous debate and discussions between the recently post humously awarded John Rae and the big Charles Dickens. Both, spokesmen of two antagonistict worlds. 

If you want to know my opinion, which you surely won´t, I think that those unfairly called barbarian costumes are not more than the result of long ages of evolution and survival practicing in extreme environments. We are speaking here about infanticide, senicilide, cannibalism, and others alleged monstruosities. Not the most pleasent things to speak about  during the tea time, but the things which can make the difference between living or dying during the long arctic winters at 50 or less degrees Celsius below zero and after a week or more without eating NOTHING. The same C.F.Hall was trapped in an igloo for several days with a couple of Inuit through of which they were unable to hunt or fish anything. He suffered and shared then on his own skin and bones the risks these people were assuming in their daily life. One should not judge if have not lived in that conditions and time ever.

But, it is not the senicilide which has brought me here to write this post, but the always polemic and morbid cannibalism. In the pg. 11 of this article is discussed how was legally treated this particular issue by the Inuit people. It is surely a coincidence that part of the information we can read in the article about this comes from a man from King William Island. Please, read his whole assessment in the article to understand his point of view, but his conclusion matches, I believe, the same conclusion that the great part of the people could adopt  under the necessary circunstances simply applying their common sense:

 "How can one who is in good health and well fed expect to understand the madness of starvation? We only know that every one of us has the same desire to live"

Interestingly, cannibalism, is considered, and according with the article, by the Inuit law as:

"an emergency measure, socially recognized, acceptable and regrettable"

It is socially recognized till the point you could legally kill and eat members of your own family, and that apparent horrid fact, wouldn´t be considered an homicide and it would be accepted by their law. It was, however, considered an homicide the killing of people which didn´t belong your own family.

Returning to our beloved Franklin expedition, I would like to highlight another point mentioned in the article and which is related to cannibalism. It is mentioned a case of:

" A voracious Baffin Islander who killed and ate twelve persons in time of famine, without indicating any legal consequences".

This is astonishing. I have no idea about the year on which this happened and I am pretty sure that these cases of multi-homicide were extremely rare even under the worst environmental circunstances, but, our Hollywood-affected and distorted mind could get relaxed for a while and easily imagine, as Dickens did more than a hundred of years ago, that "voracious islander" getting into the camp in Erebus bay in 1848 and killing all the men lying there. It is tempting to fall again in the mistake of accepting that theory which pointed the Inuit tribes as the perpetrators of the disappearance of the men the Franklin´s expedition

Surely the end of the men camped in King William Island was a very different one. According with the Inuit hearsay, those men in Erebus Bay were found frozen and intact inside their tents. But, with the ammount of information available by the time of Dickens, and far from having the current valuable statistics and contrasted technical and anthropological information about the costumes and habits of the Inuit societies we have now, one cannot blame Charles Dickens of reaching certain conclusions.