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SOLVING THE FRANKLIN MYSTERY

SOLVING THE FRANKLIN MYSTERY


Always great fun to get a magazine cover. Here's the August/ September issue of Canada's History, which is now rolling into stores and going out to subscribers. The subtitle reads: After 175 Years, searchers close in on answers to what actually doomed the tragic 1845 Northwest Passage voyage. I begin the story like this:

One summer day in the not-too-distant future, off King William Island in the high Arctic, scuba divers from Parks Canada will swim into the cabin on HMS Terror that Captain Francis Crozier once occupied. Working carefully in freezing cold water roughly twenty-three metres below the surface, these underwater archaeologists will search drawers and shelves, systematically gathering artifacts until, whoa! they come upon an array of rusty metal cylinders or canisters.
Controlling their excitement, they will place these items in a specially designed lifting bag and bring them topside. Judging from past experience, only when they have delivered this cache to their colleagues will they give themselves over to the extraordinary rush of having entered history. Almost certainly, those canisters will contain written records from the 1845 Franklin Expedition whose leadership Crozier inherited. Almost certainly, they will reveal answers to the greatest mystery of Arctic exploration: what happened to that expedition?
This year marks the 175th anniversary of the departure from England in May 1845 of the vessels HMS Erebus and Terror. Former warships newly fitted out with heating systems, reinforced hulls, and steam engines for use when the winds failed, the vessels sailed from Greenhithe (22 miles south of London) with enough food to last three years. Under Sir John Franklin, the expedition was expected to locate and travel through the long-sought Northwest Passage across the top of North America, and to emerge into the Pacific Ocean trailing clouds of glory.
 Those ships, as many readers will know, ended up halfway through the Passage at the bottom of the sea. Canadian searchers located the wreck of the Erebus in 2014 and that of the Terror two years later. Since those discoveries, Parks Canada divers have been investigating the two ships whenever Arctic conditions permit – usually for a week or ten days in late July or August. . . .
(To read the rest, pick up the magazine.)


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Ken McGoogan
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Scotland awake to celebrating John Rae

Scotland awake to celebrating John Rae



By Mike Merritt (The Herald / Scotland)
OVERLOOKING the sea, with views of neighbouring islands, it is enough to inspire a spirit of adventure in any youngster. Now the childhood Orkney home which helped to inspire the man described as the greatest Arctic explorer of his age is set to undergo a multimillion pound restoration as a visitor centre in his honour. Dr John Rae discovered the final stretch of the North West Passage and the fate of the Franklin Expedition. However, his achievements were airbrushed out of history.
Supporters the 19th century surgeon – including explorers Michael Palin and Ray Mears – acquired the Hall of Clestrain on Orkney’s south coast in 2016, after a 20-year campaign to negotiate its purchase.
They plan to restore the house “to its former glory” and open it to the public, as well as making the area around it a visitor attraction. Orkney Islands councillors have now approved funding towards a feasibility works project.
Councillors at a special general meeting gave their backing to a request from the John Rae Society for grant assistance of 50 per cent of the total eligible costs, up to a maximum sum of £14,730, meaning the full funding package of £29,460 has now been secured.
The society is contributing £10,830 of its own resources towards the project and has been awarded £3,900 of grant funding support from the Architectural Heritage Fund. The feasibility work will focus on developing a business plan, options appraisal and a conservation report.
A commissioned feasibility study completed in August 2019 concluded that the project, with an estimated project cost of around £3 million can become a financially viable visitor centre and community resource. John Rae Society president Andrew Appleby said: “The development of The Hall of Clestrain, John Rae’s birthplace and family home, has been such a long-awaited ambition. It’s been a long road this far.
“We have saved the building by making it wind and water tight. Now we want to turn it into a world-class tourist attraction and tell the story of this remarkable man and the Arctic in general.” A service in honour Dr Rae took place in Westminster Abbey in 2015 - helping to right a historical wrong stretching back more than 200 years.
Dr Rae, who was born in Orphir in 1813, discovered the last link of the North West Passage and the fate of the Franklin Expedition. However, his achievements were airbrushed from history after he reported that the Franklin Expedition survivors been forced to resort to cannibalism.
But through the efforts of the John Rae Society, Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael saw a plaque honouring him unveiled at Westminster Abbey in 2014. Dr Rae’s achievements are said to rank above all 19th-century Arctic explorations. . . .
Ken McGoogan author of the book ‘Fatal Passage’ featuring John Rae has said: “Because of John Rae, Clestrain is the most important heritage building in Orkney, and one of the most significant in all of Scotland. It will make a spectacular visitor centre.”
(Click link in byline to read the complete story.)

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Ken McGoogan
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Scottish Trilogy Still Marching in Canada

Scottish Trilogy Still Marching in Canada


So a friend who lives in Hants County, Nova Scotia -- the county in which my mother was born and raised -- sent me a link to a podcast I have never heard, but which finds me talking about How the Scots Invented Canada. For sure that's something people want to hear, right? Voila: click here. In related news, Flight of the Highlanders is exceeding projections. Published in hardcover last autumn, the book will surface in paperback in August. Assuming we get clear of COVID-19, that same month will find me talking with folks at the Fergus Scottish Festival and Highland Games. Please stay tuned.
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Ken McGoogan
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Chasing Lemurs dazzles early readers

Chasing Lemurs dazzles early readers




For nineteen months, while in her mid-twenties,

Keriann McGoogan lived and worked in Madagascar, spending twelve-hour days following groups of lemurs through the northwestern dry forests. She was leading a research team of Malagasy men, only one of whom spoke English or French. What could possibly go wrong? In her forthcoming book, Chasing Lemurs, McGoogan brings the story to vivid life. Don't take my word for it. The advance readers are weighing in: 

“Chasing Lemurs is a riveting journey into one of our planet’s most imperiled biodiversity hotspots. With the irrepressible spirit and sure voice of a hardened traveler, McGoogan exposes the physical and mental toll that remote scientific field work can take upon the scientist, and how moments of epiphany in the wild are made all the richer for it. The adventure of a lifetime. Recommended for all primate fans, and anyone who has ever dreamed of studying animals in the wild.” 
–Andrew Westoll, author of The Chimps of Fauna Sanctuary

"Keriann McGoogan weaves a gritty and truthful tale that immerses readers in the remote, dangerous, and uncomfortable world of expeditionary fieldwork. The intense narrative reveals the wonders of a lost world and the sacrifices made in the name of research. Her confessions of self-doubt and uncertainty will resonate with anyone facing life's challenges or choosing to take the road less traveled."
–Jill Heinerth, author of Into The Planet: My Life as a Cave Diver

“Keriann McGoogan has given us a fascinating adventure story that is also a superb travelogue, field guide, and social portrait of one of the world's least-known, yet truly exotic countries. A reader could hardly ask for a more encompassing overview of Madagascar or a clearer description of its increasingly threatened ecology. Importantly, the reader is left with the terrible realization of how badly humans have treated our fellow primates -- the many and intriguingly various species of lemurs, who are endemic to this African island. McGoogan’s 's book is fundamentally a call to action to protect these complex and endangered creatures, and she has succeeded admirably.”
–Geoff White, Canadian chargé d'affaires to Madagascar, 2010-2013

“An honest and suspenseful account of the challenges of wildlife research, Keriann McGoogan’s book shatters all the romantic illusions of doing science in a remote tropical location. Her story is a must read for any wildlife enthusiast considering embarking on a career in the field, or for any conservation-minded individual curious about the difficulties field researchers sometimes endure. McGoogan rose to the seemingly insurmountable challenges and persevered. As a result, she has made substantial strides in what has become a very rewarding career in both primate research and conservation”.
Dr. Brian Keating, presenter/producer greatBIGnature.com & owner of goingwild.org

(Chasing Lemurs, published by Prometheus Books of New York, will be released everywhere on April 14. 



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Ken McGoogan
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F*cking with Narrative in T.O.?

F*cking with Narrative in T.O.?


Sounds dangerously radical, I know. But that, I'm afraid, is today's burning question. It surfaces here because a fabulous writers' conference is coming to Toronto and I play a small part in it. 

The annual gathering of the Creative Nonfiction Collective will take place at the University of Toronto (Emmanuel College) from May 8 to 10. Born in the Wild West (OK, Banff) some 16 years ago, the CNFC will attract writers from across the land.
The Friday night keynote speaker is Ian Brown, whose books include Sixty and The Boy in the Moon. Trust me, he is one heckuva speaker. And the program is jam-packed with CNF writers of all kinds -- memoirists, essay-writers, narrative historians -- as well as a public relations consultant, a publisher-agent, an online marketing strategist, you name it. Here, check it out. 
As for F*cking With Narrative, well, that’s what we'll explore in my Saturday workshop. When research-based story-telling drives you towards third-person omniscience, suddenly you find yourself facing stop signs and roadblocks. You can’t do this, you can’t do that. Narrative is f*cking with you.
Or maybe your story cries out for scene but the biographical record presents nothing. Nada. What to do? No worries. These problems have technical solutions. In this craft-oriented workshop, we’ll look at best strategies, among them transparency, implied stream of consciousness, multiple flashbacks, and The Rolling Now. We’ll do some on-the-spot freewriting. Master these moves, it says here, and you’ll be break-dancing with story. Yup, you’ll be f*cking with narrative.


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Ken McGoogan
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Fatal Passage still working magic

Fatal Passage still working magic


Big shoutout to the John Rae Society and the editors who put together the latest Aglooka Advisor (Winter 2019). The editors asked people who take out membership in the Society why they decided to join. Two recent members replied and both mentioned the first of my five books on Arctic exploration.
Neil Ferguson  noted: "A visit to the book shop in the Skara Brae visitor centre [in Orkney] led to the discovery of Fatal Passage and I suppose it all mushroomed from there. . . . My imagination was kindled by reading of Ken McGoogan's journey from Gjoa Haven to the site on Boothia Peninsula where John Rae first saw that the strait remained free of ice for part of the year and that King William Island was an island and not part of Boothia Peninsula."
The editors note that "Neil booked a place on a Hurtigruten curise this August so as to be able to stand on the same place Rae did when he identified the last 'missing piece' of the puzzle of the North West Passage."
And Nick Collis Bird responded that he had always been interested in Polar exploration. "Franklin was a hero to me until I read Fatal Passage by Ken McGoogan. I'd never even heard of John Rae. I thought, 'There really ought to be a society to promote this amazing man' and lo and behold I came across [the JRS]. Of course I just had to join." 
These are the bits that jumped out at me, though the Advisor contains much else of interest.
[Right: In 1999, Cameron Treleaven, the late Louie Kamookak and I placed a plaque at the ruins of the cairn that John Rae built to mark his discovery of the final link in the Northwest Passage.]

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Ken McGoogan
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Chasing Lemurs is The Book of the season!

Chasing Lemurs is The Book of the season!


For nineteen months, starting when she was twenty-five, Keriann McGoogan lived and worked in the wilds of Madagascar. She spent twelve-hour days following groups of lemurs through the northwestern dry forests. Previously, she had spent six months in Belize studying black howler monkeys. All this was in aid of  earning a PhD in biological anthropology and a master's degree in primatology.
Keriann's field research evolved into what her publisher describes as "an exotic adventure story, a surprise journey of self-discovery, and a deeply personal appreciation of a place that's unlike any other." Yes, the most anticipated book of the spring season is almost upon us -- a 256-page memoir called Chasing Lemurs: My Journey into the Heart of Madagascar.
Despite careful planning, we read on the dustjacket, Keriann's research trip into the remote northwest "spiraled out of control. Food poisoning, harrowing back-country roads, grueling hikes, challenging local politics, malaria, and an emergency evacuation would turn a simple reconnaissance into an epic adventure."
While investigating the island-country's extraordinary biodiversity, Keriann soon found herself "the lone woman amid a small band of local male assistants, diligently conducting research on the lemur population around the camp." Then her right-hand man -- the only Malagasy who spoke English or French -- contracted a life-threatening strain of malaria and became delirious. Oh, hers is quite the story.
Last August, I revealed how I learned about the existence of this book.  Now I can tell you that Chasing Lemurs, published by Prometheus Books of New York, will hit bookstores on April 14. That is also the date when Keriann will surface in the Different Drummer Book and Author Series at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Burlington. Meanwhile, it IS possible to pre-order the book at Amazon or Chapters-Indigo. Did I mention that Chasing Lemurs is The Book of the season? 

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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.