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Here's why we're excited to visit the site of Franklin's found Erebus

Here's why we're excited to visit the site of Franklin's found Erebus


Parks Canada divers will resume exploring Erebus a few days from now, around the time we reach the site with Adventure Canada. That's the word on the street. Thanks to Parks Canada, we will have a live feed that will enable us to witness discoveries as they happen. Why is this exciting? Well, I offer an excerpt from my forthcoming book, Dead Reckoning: The Untold Story of the Northwest Passage. . . .

The other ship (Erebus) was carried south by ice to Wilmot and Crampton Bay, an area known to the Inuit as Oot-joo-lik. [Researcher] David Woodman suggested that a large group of sailors abandoned that vessel in 1851, while it drifted south in the ice. Some Inuit hunters met this party of men, weak and starving, slogging south along the west coast of King William Island. These were the men In-nook-poo-zhe-jook described to John Rae. A few sailors—probably four, according to Puhtoorak—remained aboard the ice-locked ship, probably until early 1852.
This is not the place for a forty-page analysis of Inuit oral history. But the discoveries of the ships does suggest turning a spotlight on a few key passages that explain why most Franklin aficionados believe archaeologists will discover at least one body aboard the Erebus. Not far from where Canadian searchers found the ship, Charles Francis Hall and Tookoolito interviewed a local woman named Koo-nik. She was the one who spoke of finding “a very large white man” dead on the floor inside a ship.
In a letter to his sponsor, Henry Grinnell, Hall added details: “The party on getting aboard tried to find out if any one was there, and not seeing or hearing any one, began ransacking the ship. To get into the igloo (cabin), they knocked a hole through because it was locked. They found there a dead man, whose body was very large and heavy, his teeth very long. It took five men to lift this giant Kabloona [Qallunaat or white man]. He was left where they found him. One place in the ship, where a great many things were found, was very dark; they had to find things there by feeling around. Guns were there and a great many very good buckets and boxes. On my asking if they saw anything to eat on board, the reply was there was meat and tood-noo [caribou fat] in cans, the meat fat and like pemmican. The sails, rigging, and boats—everything about the ship—was in complete order.”
This same story turns up again in 1879, when with the help of Ebierbing, Frederick Schwatka interviewed Puhtoorak, one of the Inuit who had ventured aboard the Erebus. Puhtoorak said that he found a dead white man in a large ship eight miles (thirteen kilometres) off Grant Point (near where Erebus was found). He reported that the Inuit found a small boat on the mainland, and many empty casks on the ship. “He also saw books on board the ship but did not take them.”
Puhtoorak also said that before discovering the ship, while hunting along the shore with friends, he came across the tracks of four white men and “judged they were hunting for deer.” Later, he found the tracks of three men, and suggested “that the white men lived in this ship until the fall and then moved onto the mainland.” In so saying, he affirmed the earlier account by Koo-nik, who told Hall that Inuit had seen “the tracks of 3 men Kob-loo-nas & those of a dog with them.” Hall added that “there is no such thing as their being mistaken when they come across strange tracks & pronounce them not to be Innuits.”
These accounts and others, taken together, suggest that four men were living aboard the Erebus when the ice carried it—some suggest they guided it—into Wilmot and Crampton Bay. One of them¾a large man?¾probably died on board. The other three left the ship in a bid to survive, and were never seen again. Inuit hunters boarded the ship. They made off with a few “treasures” but left a great many more.

Over the next few years, Parks Canada archaeologists will almost certainly produce artifacts and possibly papers that will further clarify what happened to the Franklin expedition. Inuit testimony suggests that they will come across at least one body in Erebus. . . . If the past is any guide, these findings will generate conflicting interpretations. This much is certain: as experts thrash out an all-encompassing revision, they will draw heavily on Inuit testimony. 
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Ken McGoogan
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Dead Reckoning takes us into the secret life of maps

Dead Reckoning takes us into the secret life of maps


This glorious map turns up as endpapers in Dead Reckoning: The Untold Story of the Northwest Passage. It was drawn by Dawn Huck, one of the principals at Heartland Associates in Winnipeg. I love the way it captures the discovery of the original Northwest Passage in three essential expeditions. The first, led by John Franklin, got halted by ice off King William Island. In the British (Royal Navy) version of exploration history, it stands alone, the culmination of a centuries-long search. The second highlights a profoundly Canadian moment that arose out of the fur trade. Here we find an Orcadian Scot, an Inuk, and an Ojibway -- John Rae, William Ouligbuck, and Thomas Mistegan -- locating the final missing link in the Passage: Rae Strait. The third expedition is that of Norwegian Roald Amundsen, who succeeds in completing the Passage by diverging from Franklin's route and sailing through Rae Strait.
This map is one of half a dozen in Dead Reckoning, which launches on September 27, when I return from voyaging Out of the Northwest Passage
with Adventure Canada. But books may start trickling into bookstores mid-month, and I want to give faithful readers a heads-up: early copies from the first print run include a map-related glitch that will turn those books into collectors' items. Most readers won't notice, and the glitch disappears from later printings and won't be found in the ebook. But for Arctic history buffs, it will identify that book as coming from the earliest printing. So, if you collect Arctic history or you are buying for a collector, you might want to pick up a copy sooner rather than later. Just saying!



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Ken McGoogan
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A younger male writer crosses swords with Margaret Atwood

A younger male writer crosses swords with Margaret Atwood


Over on Twitter, I find myself arguing with Margaret Atwood. When I mentioned that I am proud to be part of The Atwood Generation, she objected: "Now Ken. You are WAY younger than me!" Yes, I am younger. But future scholars will talk of The Atwood Generation of Canadian writers as comprising those born 15 or 20 years before or after the warrior queen herself. I suggested as much in my 2013 book 50 Canadians Who Changed the World.  First, I launched a section on Artists (painters, writers, and film-makers) with a quick look at Atwood in action on the global stage. . . .  


Speaking in Jerusalem while accepting the Dan David Prize for Literature, Margaret Atwood noted that writers are easy to attack because they don’t have armies and can’t retaliate. She and Indian novelist Amitav Ghosh, with whom she shared the $1 million award, had “both received a number of letters,” she said, “urging and indeed ordering us not to attend, on the grounds that anything connected with Israel is tabu.”
Those letters “have ranged from courteous and sad,” she added, “to factual and practical, to accusatory, outrageous, and untrue in their claims and statements; some have been frankly libelous, and even threatening. Some [of the correspondents] have been willing to listen to us, others have not: they want our supposedly valuable ‘names,’ but not our actual voices.” In other words, Atwood said, “the all-or-nothings want to bully us into being their wholly owned puppets. The result of such a decision on our part would be – among other things – to turn us into sticks with which to beat other artists into submission, and that we refuse to do.”
The Dan David Prize for the Present, as distinct from those prizes awarded for the Past and the Future, was ear-marked in 2010 for “an outstanding author whose work provides vivid, compelling, and ground-breaking depictions of 20th-century life, rousing public discussion and inspiring fellow writers.” Atwood was cited specifically for enabling “the emergence of a defined Canadian identity while exploring . . . issues such as colonialism, feminism, structures of political power and oppression, and the violation and exploitation of nature.”
. . . As an artist, and more specifically a writer, Margaret Atwood is more politicized than most, and also more politically effective. Here in Canada, she long ago established herself as the Warrior Queen of Canadian Literature. Globally, as we see from her words and actions in Jerusalem, Atwood remains fearless. She defends the diminishing space afforded to art in the broad sense -- the psychological space an artist, writer, or film-maker requires to work. . . .
Later in the book, in a chapter about Atwood, I wrote:
As a novelist, poet, essayist, and, indeed, activist, Margaret Atwood is a global figure. She has published more than fifty acclaimed books and won a still greater number of awards, including prizes from France, Germany, Ireland and the United States, as well as the Booker Prize (she was shortlisted five times), the Giller Prize, and two Governor-General’s Awards (she has been a finalist seven times). Here in Canada, Atwood has been doing cutting-edge work for decades. Her influence is so far-reaching that, in the minds of many, she leads a generation of writers: the Atwood Generation. . . .

The image above is from 1999: Atwood walking the picket line at the Calgary Herald.
And with that, the younger writer rests his case.

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Ken McGoogan
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Sailing Out of the Northwest Passage launches Dead Reckoning

Sailing Out of the Northwest Passage launches Dead Reckoning



More Dead Reckoning events are in the works. But at this point, Our Hero is sailing with Adventure Canada Out of the Northwest Passage from Sept. 7 to 23. After that, the confirmed schedule looks like this:
Sept. 27: Toronto: Ben McNally
Oct. 1: Stratford Writers' Festival 
Oct. 14, 15: Calgary Wordfest
Oct. 17: Victoria: Bolen Books
Oct. 18, 19: Vancouver Writers' Fest
Nov.6: U of T series, Oakville
Nov. 9. U of T series, Markham
Nov. 15. U of T series, St. George 
Nov. 18: Niagara: Hotel Dallavalle
Nov. 24: Embro, Ont: Caledonian Society, St. Andrews Day
Dec. 6: Burlington, Different Drummer
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Ken McGoogan
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Log church at Loch Broom commemorates arrival of Scottish immigrants

Log church at Loch Broom commemorates arrival of Scottish immigrants


The little log church at Loch Broom, Nova Scotia, is open seven days a week . . . except on Mondays. Sheena took this shot through a window at the side and I was quite pleased with the result. A memorial cairn out front indicates that this was the site of Pictou Country's first church, erected in 1787. Forty feet long by 25 feet wide, it was built of logs. First services were conducted in Gaelic. A second memorial, to the left of the church,  commemorates the arrival of Alexander Cameron (and other Scottish immigrants) on the Hector in 1773. Born in 1728 in Loch Broom, Scotland,
Cameron saw two older brothers killed at the Battle of Culloden in 1746.  Here in Nova Scotia, he named his land grant Loch Broom and, as a pioneer farmer, turned forest into farm land. A community leader, Cameron lived to the age of 103. He is buried a few miles from this site at Durham Cemetery. Some BBC types have been poking around in these environs. They have produced a documentary that has yet to be seen in Canada.

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Ken McGoogan
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Prince Edward Island can be REALLY boring. Please stay away!

Prince Edward Island can be REALLY boring. Please stay away!



So you hear about the glorious red-sand beaches and the entrancing sites pertaining to Anne of Green Gables and the culinary, architectural and historical delights of Charlottetown. And the 75-minute ferry ride from Nova Scotia, and the boating and the lobster dinners and the shocking friendliness of the people, and like that. And that's how Prince Edward Island ends up being over-crowded all summer long!  So I am here to show you
that PEI can be really, really boring. Look: above we have St. John's Presbyterian Church in Belfast. The Selkirk settlers, having arrived here starting in 1803, built it in the 1820s. That's boring, right? Behind the church, you might stumble upon a stone marking the grave of Mary Douglass . . . the only daughter of the 5th Earl of Selkirk, who brought several hundred Highlanders here from Scotland in three ships. I have no doubt that the story of this daughter is well-known. She had a family, after all, as you can deduce from adjacent gravestones, and lived quite a long life. Still, because in my ignorance I had not expected this, the site made me wonder. Selkirk himself rambled all over the place, and died in France. How did his only daughter end up living out her life in PEI? Boring, right? Wait! There is more. Below, we have a view of the beach behind Prim Point. This is where the Selkirk settlers, and the Acadians before them, first came ashore. Nondescript, right? There's a graveyard above the beach, and also a nine-hole golf course. Boring, boring, boring. In short, I recommend that you take a miss on PEI. Leave this boring little island to me and my history-minded ilk. We'll find ways to cope.


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Ken McGoogan
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Advance readers discover 'a brilliant reclaiming of history'

Advance readers discover 'a brilliant reclaiming of history'


The advance readers are encouraging. Bob Rae writes: "Finally! A page-turning book about Arctic exploration that puts the heroism and leadership of indigenous people at the centre of the story." Ronald Wright calls it "a lively and gripping tale of heroism, folly and icy death . . . by highlighting the role of the Inuit, Dene and Metis, Ken McGoogan shows how the most successful white explorers were those who learned from the locals." Katherine Govier discovers "our national myth finally recast on our own shores . . . A brilliant reclaiming of history." Modesty, long known to be my bugbear, precludes my offering more extensive quotation. Dead Reckoning arrives in September.
In response to overwhelming popular demand (see comment below) I am adding two more advance bits: The legendary Peter C. Newman hails Yours Truly as "the ultimate guide to our last frontier." And the equally legendary Louie Kamookak writes: "This is Ken's best book yet. I am going to post a picture with all of his books so that he can show it around. I will even put on a seal-skin vest and tie."
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Ken McGoogan
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Before turning mainly to books about arctic exploration and Canadian history, Ken McGoogan worked for two decades as a journalist at major dailies in Toronto, Calgary, and Montreal. He teaches creative nonfiction writing through the University of Toronto and in the MFA program at King’s College in Halifax. Ken served as chair of the Public Lending Right Commission, has written recently for Canada’s History, Canadian Geographic, and Maclean’s, and sails with Adventure Canada as a resource historian. Based in Toronto, he has given talks and presentations across Canada, from Dawson City to Dartmouth, and in places as different as Edinburgh, Melbourne, and Hobart.

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