Arctic historian Ken McGoogan approaches the legacy of nineteenth-century explorer Sir John Franklin from a contemporary perspective and offers a surprising new explanation of an enduring Northern mystery.
Two of Arctic explorer Sir John Franklin’s expeditions were monumental failures—the last one leading to more than a hundred deaths, including his own. Yet many still see the Royal Navy man as a heroic figure who sacrificed himself to discover the Northwest Passage.
This book, McGoogan’s sixth about Arctic exploration, challenges that vision. It rejects old orthodoxies, incorporates the latest discoveries, and interweaves two main narratives. The first treats the Royal Navy’s Arctic Overland Expedition of 1819, a harbinger-misadventure during which Franklin rejected the advice of Dene and Métis leaders and lost eleven of his twenty-one men to exhaustion, starvation and murder. The second discovers a startling new answer to that greatest of Arctic mysteries: what was the root cause of the catastrophe that engulfed Franklin’s last expedition?
The well-preserved wrecks of Erebus and Terror—located in 2014 and 2016—promise to yield more clues about what cost the lives of the expedition members, some of whom were reduced to cannibalism. Contemporary researchers, rejecting theories of lead poisoning and botulism, continue to seek conclusive evidence both underwater and on land.
Drawing on his own research and Inuit oral accounts, McGoogan teases out many intriguing aspects of Franklin’s expeditions, including the explorer’s lethal hubris in ignoring the expert advice of the Dene leader Akaitcho. Franklin disappeared into the Arctic in 1845, yet people remain fascinated with his final doomed voyage: what happened? McGoogan will captivate readers with his first-hand account of travelling to relevant locations, visiting the graves of dead sailors and experiencing the Arctic—one of the most dramatic and challenging landscapes on the planet.
About the author
KEN MCGOOGAN is the best-selling author of a dozen books, among them 50 Canadians Who Changed The World, How The Scots Invented Canada, Fatal Passage and Lady Franklin’s Revenge. He has won the Pierre Berton Award for History, the University of British Columbia Medal for Canadian Biography, the Canadian Authors’ Association History Award, the Drainie-Taylor Biography Prize and an American Christopher Award for “a work of artistic excellence that affirms the highest values of the human spirit.” Before turning mainly to books, Ken 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, and in faraway places as different as Edinburgh, Sydney, Stromness, and Hobart. www.kenmcgoogan.com