Canada's History : 2020-08-01

TRADING POST : 38 : 38


insula, an Inuk named In-nook-poo-zhe-jook revealed to HBC explorer John Rae that the Franklin expedition had ended in catastroph­e. With the help of William Ouligbuck Jr., the finest Inuit interprete­r of the era, Rae interviewe­d In-nook-poo-zhe-jook and more than a dozen other Inuit. They told him that a ship had sunk off the west coast of King William Island; that thirty-five or forty starving sailors had straggled south along that coast; and that some of the final survivors had been driven to cannibalis­m. These revelation­s sparked an extraordin­ary backlash, with no less a figure than Charles Dickens writing two long screeds denouncing Rae and the Inuit. Rae’s findings radically narrowed the search area. And in 1859 a search expedition financed by Lady Franklin and led by naval officer Leopold McClintock turned up the “Victory Point note” — the only written document yet found from a member of the expedition illuminati­ng its ultimate fate. That note indicated that in 1848, with the ships trapped in ice and twenty-four men already dead, John Franklin among them, the remaining 105 men abandoned the ships and set out marching southward towards the Arctic coast. McClintock also found dead bodies, an abandoned lifeboat, and numerous small artifacts, all of which raised more questions than they answered. In the 1860s, following the discovery of the Victory Point note, the fluent-English-speaking woman Tookoolito, together with her husband, Ebierbing, enabled the American Charles Francis Hall to interview Inuit who had actually gone aboard one of the ships before it sank. They provided invaluable eyewitness accounts that would later give rise to theories about what had happened to the expedition. And, in the 1870s, an Inuk named Tulugaq, working with Ebierbing, guided the American Frederick Schwatka in searching for written records along the coasts of the continent and King William Island. They found none but unearthed still more bodies, new locations, and eyewitness accounts. To these searchers, an aging Inuk named Puhtoorak said that in the early 1850s he had visited a big ship frozen in the ice and had seen the body of a dead white man lying in a bunk. He pointed to a location near where, more than a century later, the was eventually found. Without these Inuit guides and translator­s, the truth of the Franklin expedition would never even have begun to emerge. Through the twentieth century, scholars and researcher­s published works and debated theories, but Inuit testimony provided the breakthrou­gh. In 1991, after sifting through hundreds of pages of Inuit testimony gathered by Charles Francis Hall with the help of Tookoolito and Ebierbing, Canadian David C. Woodman published which offered a new, more complex reconstruc­tion of the final months of the expedition. Woodman argued that some of the 105 men who abandoned the two ships in 1848 later returned to one of them and remained aboard as it travelled south in the ice, with some men surviving as late as 1851. He provided a rough geography for more focused ship searches. The late Inuit historian Louis Kamookak (1959–2018), who spent much of his adult life investigat­ing the Franklin story, was one of those who then pointed the way to the 2014 discovery of A second hunter from Gjoa Haven, Sammy Kogvik, led the way to the 2016 finding of The Indigenous contributi­on can hardly be overstated (see the sidebar on page 40). Erebus Unravellin­g the Franklin Mystery: Inuit Testimony, Erebus. Terror. N or would any commemorat­ion of the lost Franklin expedition be complete without recognizin­g the role and the machinatio­ns of Jane, Lady Franklin. First, despite intense opposition, she got her husband appointed leader of the 1845 undertakin­g. At age fifty-nine, overweight, and out of shape, John Franklin was nobody’s first choice. Working behind the scenes, Lady Franklin secured the backing of several influentia­l figures, foremost among them James Clark Ross, the clear front-runner who did not want the leadership. Some argued that Franklin was not healthy enough to survive another Arctic winter, and his 38 AUGUST–SEPTEMBER 2020 CANADASHIS­TORY.CA