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When will Franklin searchers discover that dead body on Erebus?

The next step in searching the Erebus, according to Parks Canada's chief underwater archaeologist, is  "to start exploring the inside in more depth, because that is where 97% of the artifacts are, where all the information that is going to tell us what happened is going to be.” Quoted in the digital magazine Tabaret, based at the University of Ottawa, Marc-André Bernier drew attention to interviews collected in 1879 by American searcher Frederick Schwatka (pictured right).  One of the Inuit Schwatka interviewed, Puhtoorak, "had been on the wreck. He recalled seeing the deserted ship ‘in complete order … seeing many spoons, knives, forks, tin plates and china plates.’ The plates that we recovered would have been close to where sailors had their mess tables, really close to the stove … It kind of corresponds to, ‘things were left in order.’ The fact that these things were found together with the medicine bottle," Bernier said, "in that little niche in that part of the deck, we can already link it to the Inuit accounts and testimony.” What Bernier does not mention is that, according to Schwatka, who conducted interviews with the help of (Joe) Ebierbing, Puhtoorak also came upon a white man dead in a bunk: "The body was in a bunk inside the ship in the back part." Other accounts put the dead body on the floor. We can only wait and wonder.

Ken McGoogan
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Russell Potter said...

Great post, Ken. You're right in pointing out that the Inuit testimony indicates the body was in a locked room or cabin "in the back part of the ship." It seems to me quite possible that this is the area most damaged by ice; as Bernier has said, its contents may be the 'most inaccessible, but the best preserved.' So I suspect that this body, if still there, is probably somewhere in or under the debris at the ship's stern, and that it may be some time before it's recovered, depending on how much time the divers have each season.

Randall Osczevski said...

There may have been 5 bodies on this ship when it went down, according to a 1927 map of Franklin discoveries.

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.