I’ve written about the doomed nineteenth-century Franklin expedition to the Arctic here, here, and here. Now, I’m pleased to report that Paul Watson has published an account of the effort it took to find the lost ships Erebus and Terror.
My interest in the expedition goes back to my reading of Dan Simmons’ horror novel, The Terror, several years ago. Since a great many people in Britain knew of the Franklin expedition but no one knew exactly how the ships were lost, the field was open to writers like Simmons to make something up for fun and profit, and that’s what he did. He researched the expedition as much as possible for historical accuracy but speculated that the crews were done in by a murdering monster. It’s a creepy novel–almost as good as Carrion Comfort or Song of Kali–and I recommend you spend some time with this talented writer, if you like scary books.
Turns out, the owner of the company for which I work is also a fan of the Franklin expedition’s history. Three years ago, he shared with me some photographs he had taken of the probable locations of the two ships. Although Paul Watson’s digs at Charles Dickens’ treatment of the Inuit people and the supposed scheming of twenty-first century politicians are probably overblown, it is true that the locations of the two wrecks were closely guarded secrets for a long time because of the potentially lucrative salvage rights and the long term value of the sites as historical and commercial enterprises.
Beyond the financial benefits of discovery and salvage, however, the Franklin expedition remains a human story of bravery and tragic miscalculation, the consequences of which are vividly conveyed by the photograph of the wreck of the eerily-preserved Erebus on the sea floor in the middle of The Guardian‘s review.