Thursday, July 9, 2009

Franklin Search Called off for 2009

According to the CBC, this summer's search for Sir John Franklin's ships has been officially called off. Apparently, despite the much-vaunted announcement of Harper's government last year that a three-year mission had been authorized, neither the Canadian Navy nor its Coast Guard could be persuaded to give priority to this project. To my mind, it's a sad and regrettable occasion when a government proves unable to command either its Navy or Coast Guard to effect its own stated plans and policies, and especially so here -- the news makes it sound as though the officers in charge of these agencies have the ability to override the Premier - and this at least seems to show me that affairs in Ottawa are "disjoint and out of frame" as one King of Denmark once said.

On the other hand, as Jonathan Karpoff has argued, there is something to be said that, treated overall, Government-funded expeditions have fared poorly compared with private ones. So many limbs of the octopus must be marshaled together for a Government expedition, and there is such complication in its internecine conflicts, that it acts too slowly, and corrects too late, much as the helmsman of the Titanic seeking to avert an Iceberg. Whereas, the story goes, private expeditions can respond with alacrity to changed circumstances, and go where the going is good rather than being tethered to some three (or five) year plan.

According to Rob Rondeau, a marine archeologist with Alberta-based ProCom Diving Services, which has its own mini-icebreaker at its disposal, they are quite confident that they can find one of the ships this summer. Such claims have been made before, but it's clear that a small, private party has a chance of success, being willing to risk something when a Government will not, and for my part I wish them Godspeed. It was, after all, a private mission by Sir Francis Leopold McClintock that solved the greater part of the Franklin mystery before, to the shame (though Sir Francis would not say this) of a Government which had declared Franklin and his men dead, and not worth finding.

12 comments:

  1. This is unfortunate. I was looking forward to seeing what they might turn up this summer; it was sounding promising. All the best to Rondeau and his team.

    On another note, does anyone know if the graves discovered by Louis Kamookak on the Todd Islands remain unexplored?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Louie didn't actually "discover" anything - what he did was lead some ill-informed CBC cameramen to where Gibson (Louie's grandfather) had collected the bones on the heights of the Islets in 1930 (they were originally found on the ground near the shores and were moved up for safekeeping). Hall was told of the bones and found some, and everyone in Gjoa Haven knew of them for decades. I was there in 2002.

    Dave

    ReplyDelete
  3. Does Rondeau have a website set up relating to the expedition?

    ReplyDelete
  4. Ted: Yes, Rondeau's outfit has a site with a brief account of the Franklin search and a photo of their icebreaker -- just drop by:

    http://www.procomdiving.com/Expeditions/FindingFranklin2009.pdf

    And in response to Dave Woodman's post: While I am sorry to hear that Grenier's search this year has been called off, it's quite right to point out that many aspects of this new search, at least as publicly announced, show all the usual signs of garbled and partial information. If the Government really wanted to maximize their chances of success, they should involve Dave in the process!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Ted, I also found this comment by Rob Rondeau, on the CBC website.

    "Finding Franklin '09" is a privately funded scientific expedition which will conduct a non-intrusive bathymetric survey of Larson Sound - where Sir John Franklin's two ships, the Erebus and the Terror, are believed to have gone down. No public funds will be used.

    Sponsoring the expedition are the Discovery Channel (Canada), Nunavut Eastern Arctic Shipping, Canadian North Airlines, ProCom Diving Services and others.

    Rob Rondeau
    Marine Archaeologist
    ProCom Diving Services
    rob@procomdiving.com

    ReplyDelete
  6. Thank you for letting us know. I am really saddened to hear this but like you mention, it sounds like there were certainly some problems from the start. I am glad to hear that there is a promising private expedition, and I wish them Godspeed as well! Mr. Woodman certainly should have been involved in the government effort...makes one wonder what they were thinking! I am glad that there are all the exciting discussions on the expedition online now to tide me over. Sometimes I imagine the announcement of the discovery of a ship or papers and I think it will be by far the most exciting day of my life! Fingers crossed that day will be soon.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I now see that "Finding Franklin '09" also has a Facebook page with discussion boards and more current news.

    Go to:

    http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=90863512211

    to have a look.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Thanks for the clarification Dave. Indeed, it was implied in the CBC program that these graves at Todd Island were “new discoveries.” I also came across several articles dating back to 2000 suggesting the same thing. Has this site been excavated by archaeologists? One of the articles (dated year 2000) claimed it would be.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Thanks for the links and information about the Rondeau expedition. Hopefully they will be actively updating the Facebook Group site so we can all vicariously search for Franklin.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Hello all,

    In response to Andrew there are various "sites" on the Todd Islets. Louie took the CBC crew to one on the crest of the largest islet where bones have presumably been collected and deposited for their own preservation as the bodies were originally described as having been on the western shoreline and at risk of being washed away. The issue is quite complicated and I can only self-servingly direct you to the chapter "Keeuna" in my Unravelling to get a better sense of what was found from the testimony. James Delgado applied to do archaeological work on these bones in 2001 but was not granted a permit by the Nunavut Authorities (it is very difficult to get permission to work on human remains).

    Dave

    ReplyDelete
  11. It will be a blow to all the Families that are looking forward with much interest to the possibilities of finding The Terror and Erebus. It could put the end to many mysteries that surround the Franklin Expedition.We are looking for official confirmation can anybody throw some light on this. Have Parks Canada made a press release on the subject.

    John Crozier

    ReplyDelete
  12. Hello John, -- good to hear from you here.

    I have not seen any statement from Parks Canada itself, but since this news has been very widely reported in major Canadian newspapers, they've certainly had ample opportunity to rebut it, or at least comment on it. I'm certain that Robert Grenier is as disappointed -- probably more so -- than the Families, historians, and Arctic buffs generally. Nevertheless, the private expedition mentioned seems to offer some hope, and I still expect that Grenier will make another attempt next season. I wish all parties the best!

    ReplyDelete