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So what DID happen on the Franklin Expedition?

Well I've not posted much on the blog lately.

After last summer when Parks Canada announced the relocation of HMS Investigator and Bear Grylls possibly identified a new Franklin site, things have gone rather quiet. I can't think this is anything other than temporary though, as the world's enduring fascination “concerning Franklin and his gallant crew” never goes away for long.

Over the last few years I have spent literally months of my time research into and thinking about the Franklin Expedition. The principle fruit of this so far as been my life of James Fitzjames. In the book I presented what I believe to be a lively and accurate reconstruction of the Expedition from May 1845 when they sailed until either 29th or 31st July, 1845, the date when the last eyewitnesses, Captains Dannett and Martin of the whalers 'Enterprise' and 'Prince of Wales' lost sight of it near the entrance to Lancaster Sound. After that there are no first-hand, written, eyewitness account to have survived. That's the point at which I decided to end my book.

Yet we know from the Victory Point note that, together with 104 members of the Expedition, Captain Fitzjames was still alive in April 1848. Clearly a great deal must have happened in the nearly three years between those two dates, and had Fitzjames' or anyone else's Journal survived, we would know all about it.

And what happened afterwards? Nine years after the Expedition sailed, in 1854, an Inuit hunter called In-nook-poo-zhe-jook told Dr. John Rae that he had seen about forty men from the Expedition travelling south over the ice from King William Island 'four summers ago': that is, in 1850. Rae wrote down what he was told and there's no reason to disbelieve its accuracy. So the Expedition seems to have survived in an organised fashion for at least five years after they sailed.

As I wrote above, I've spent a long time studying and weighing up all the evidence which I can find to have survived from the Franklin Expedition. As have many other people. Since news seems to be light in 'Franklin-land' now, and is likely to be until the summer permits more searching, I thought I'd have a bit of fun by trying to speculate on how the Expedition may have progressed from July 1845. I'm not so arrogant as to think that I can 'solve' problems which have occupied such disparate and talented people as Admiral McClintock, Richard Cyriax, Owen Beattie and David Woodman, to name but four. But I hope that presenting a detailed speculative reconstructed chronology of the Expedition, based on my interpretation of all the evidence, may amuse and perhaps even assist interested readers. I'll not be avoiding controversy, so I'm hoping that through the comments section we can set up debates on some of the key uncertainties or controversies. Perhaps that will warm things up a bit while we wait for the Arctic to thaw and, just possibly, reveal a little more of the fate of the Franklin Expedition in this the one hundred and sixty sixth year after they sailed?

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