Ice Blink: The Tragic Fate of Sir John Franklin's Lost Polar Expedition

Scott Cookman, Author, Cookman, Author
Scott Cookman, Author, Cookman, Author John Wiley & Sons $24.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-471-37790-0
Reviewed on: 01/31/2000
Release date: 02/01/2000
Paperback - 256 pages - 978-0-471-40420-0
Prebound-Other - 978-0-613-35414-1
Open Ebook - 256 pages - 978-0-470-31329-9
Hardcover - 260 pages - 978-1-63026-115-3
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In 1845, Captain Sir John Franklin sailed into Arctic waters, the latest of many navigators to seek a ""Northwest Passage"" from the Atlantic to the Pacific. With him were 128 stalwarts of the Royal Navy; up-to-date maps and sophisticated tools; three years' worth of ample provisions; and two advanced ships, iron-clad, steam-heated and steam-powered. The ships were never seen again. In 1859, Lieutenant William Hobson, sunburnt and frostbitten, trekked across remote King William Island and found the last remains of the expedition: two notes attached to a cairn, a small, stranded boat and human bones, some showing evidence of cannibalism. Freelance writer Cookman's ably researched, sometimes eloquent account follows the doomed voyage, then proposes to solve the enduring mystery. Stuck in the ice, the men of the H.M.S. Terror and Erebus lasted months with barely a look outdoors; when cooking fuel ran short, something sickened the men. Cookman identifies the culprit as botulism, conveyed by the canned goods furnished by contractor Stephan Goldner. ""Pinching pennies and cutting corners,"" Goldner defrauded the Navy by giving Franklin's men canned meats and vegetables ""shoddily made and improperly sealed."" Cookman drapes his central story with short accounts of the people involved, including Captain Franklin (""plodding, sober,"" and ""fame-hungry"" but steadfast) and Goldner, whose record of defaults and frauds (delivering ruptured cans, missing deadlines, packaging bones as meat) led the Navy to cease doing business with him in 1852. Hard-bitten readers who last year clamored over Shackleton's adventures will take to this grimmer tale of unscrupulous contractors, diligent historians and brave British explorers who never made it. (Mar.)
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