Canada's History : 2020-08-01

BOOKS : 54 : 54


BOOKS the Arctic Archipelag­o hosted no fewer than ten ships belonging to five separate expedition­s. They included a British Admiralty fleet commanded by Horatio Austin, an American expedition led by Edwin Jesse De Haven, a single ship under Arctic veteran Sir John Ross, and two expedition­s initiated by Franklin’s wife, Lady Jane: a private effort captained by Charles Codrington Forsythe and another entrusted to the Admiralty under the command of whaling captain William Penny. While Penny is the narrative centre of the book, Ross toggles frequently between the many hunters on Franklin’s track, who worked against each other as often as they worked in concert. The most significan­t discovery of the season occurred late in August 1850, when some of Penny’s men came across the graves of three members of Franklin’s crew on Beechey Island. This find led to the location of Franklin’s wintering camps of 1845–46, the most significan­t clue yet in the quest for the missing ships. The rest of the season, though, proved to be fruitless. Winter sledge expedition­s yielded nothing of significan­ce, and, after Penny had made a brief sally up the Wellington Channel, the search was curtailed in August 1851. On their return, Austin and Penny were roundly criticized for lack of perseveran­ce, leading to an Admiralty inquiry and acrimony all around. The documentar­y record of the search for Franklin feels as vast and varied as the Arctic Archipelag­o itself, and Ross skilfully weaves together the many logbooks, letters, official reports, private journals, and published narratives of the events of 1850–51. The narrative mirrors the journey in other ways, too. Just as the searchers occasional­ly pursued false leads or became beset by ice, Ross leads his readers on repeated digression­s, touching upon topics as diverse as the constructi­on of Scotland’s Caledonian Canal and the origins of baseball, which have tangential relevance to his story. Many of these tidbits are admittedly fascinatin­g, such as the fact that modern Inuit drink more tea than the English and the in 1886 and was later purchased by the Canadian Pacific Railway. Mofford describes more than thirty hotels and roadhouses in towns along the route, some of them still in operation, and allows us to discover not only the buildings themselves but also the fascinatin­g owners and patrons who came and went before him. The journey starts at Esquimalt ( now a suburb of Victoria) in the south and ends at Campbell River — 450 kilometres northwest along the proposed and surveyed but never fully completed route — and nearby Forbes Landing. invention in 1850 of message balloons that would drop slips of paper every five minutes during flight — a kind of prototype of Twitter. The narrative is also enlivened by a number of vivid scenes and homely details, such as descriptio­ns of hungry dogs awaiting the butchering of a narwhal and of sleeping mariners’ nightcaps freezing to their ship’s hull. Unfortunat­ely, the few maps included in the book are so rudimentar­y as to be unusable, and so readers will need recourse to a good map of the Arctic Archipelag­o (or, more likely, Google Earth) in order to situate the several search parties and to understand the decisions their commanders made. Writers on the search for Franklin have tended to exalt naval men and to overlook whalers, and in his prologue Ross characteri­zes Penny as “part of a large brotherhoo­d of seafaring men” that has not been properly celebrated. In his disputes with Austin, Penny was always on his back foot; it is telling that the 1851 board of inquiry was made up of five naval officers and nary a civilian. Just as the discountin­g of Inuit testimony delayed the resolution of the Franklin mystery, so too did the denigratio­n of whalers’ knowledge and experience. In the end, Ross’s volume is an act of rehabilita­tion for these working people. is filled with remarkable photos that transport readers back in time and bring Mofford’s fascinatin­g stories to life. There is also a timeline of Vancouver Island’s history and brief biographie­s of some of the people featured in the book. The author writes in his introducti­on, “You’ve bought your ticket, so sit back and relax as we visit the historic hotels along the E&N.” Reading this book was like going on an exciting adventure filled with interestin­g places and characters. Along the E& N — Danielle Chartier Reviewed by Bill Moreau, a Toronto teacher and writer and the editor of the threevolum­e Writings of David Thompson. Tens of thousands of Czech refugees left their homeland and came to Canada during the Cold War. Once they got here, many of those same refugees organized and worked to put their fingers on the scales of politics in this country. Author and historian Jan Raska’s own family left Czechoslov­akia in 1985 in search of what he says was “a better life and greater economic opportunit­ies elsewhere.” In his book In his latest book, writer and historian Glen A. Mofford takes readers on a journey up the east side of British Columbia’s Vancouver Island, where he follows the E&N (Esquimalt & Nanaimo) railway line that began operation Czech Refugees in Cold War Canada, he explains that many Czech immigrants who came to Canada between 1945 and 1989 brought with them 54 AUGUST–SEPTEMBER 2020 CANADASHIS­TORY.CA