I can find Franklin’s grave, says his­to­rian

Ex­pe­di­tion one of the great Arc­tic mys­ter­ies

The London Free Press - - CANADA - BoB We­Ber

GJOA HAVEN, NU­NAVUT • The man who guided searchers to the wreck of John Franklin’s flag­ship may have one more sur­prise left up his parka sleeve. “I be­lieve that Franklin is in a vault on King Wil­liam Is­land,” says Louie Kamookak, an Inuit his­to­rian who has spent 30 years cor­re­lat­ing sto­ries col­lected from el­ders with Euro­pean log­books and jour­nals. The mys­tery that sur­rounds the Franklin Ex­pe­di­tion is one of the great le­gends of Arc­tic ex­plo­ration. The ships Ere­bus and Ter­ror set out from Eng­land in 1845 with 129 men to search for the North­west Pas­sage, but they never re­turned. Lit­tle by lit­tle, the Franklin story is com­ing to­gether. Ar­ti­facts and graves found through­out the 19th and 20th cen­turies were joined by sev­eral more bod­ies dis­cov­ered in the 1980s. The ships were found in 2014 and 2016. But where is the grave of John Franklin? Kamookak re­lates two sto­ries passed down through gen­er­a­tions that may of­fer tan­ta­liz­ing clues. “One group of Inuit said they saw a burial of a great chief un­der the ground, un­der stone.” This was re­mark­able for the hunters, as Inuit tra­di­tion­ally buried their dead on the sur­face, wrapped in cari­bou skins and un­der a cairn. They in­ves­ti­gated the site, ex­pect­ing to find some­thing sim­i­lar. All they found was a flat stone. “They said he was a great shaman who turned to stone,” says Kamookak. In an­other ac­count, a group of trav­el­ling Inuit came across a large wooden struc­ture. “They man­aged to get a cross piece they took for a sled. The man who was telling the story said there was a flat stone and he could tell the stone was hol­low.” Given that other ex­pe­di­tion graves have been found on land, Kamookak be­lieves Franklin’s is there, too. “I don’t think they would have an ocean burial for him.” If he’s right, Franklin is prob­a­bly still ly­ing be­neath the tun­dra on King Wil­liam Is­land’s rocky and windswept north­east coast. If he’s wrong, chalk up one more mys­tery in a tale that’s been gen­er­at­ing ques­tions for 170 years.

Louie Kamookak

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