Monday, December 20, 2010

Trafalgar Chronicle 2010

Following our notice of NIMROD, there's one other annual publication that's often a treasure trove for Franklinites and other Arctic aficionados -- the Trafalgar Chronicle, Year Book of the 1805 club. Although its main focus is on all matters involving the British Naval campaign against Napoleon, along with Naval memorials and Nelsoniana in general, the "TrafChron," as it's known around here, has often included material on Franklin, since he was present at the battle of Trafalgar and is thus considered a campaigner, albeit one who was far better known for his later career. Under the able editorship of Dr Huw Lewis-Jones, there have been a number of recent articles of interest, most prominent among them that on Lieutenant Henry Le Vescomte, which appeared in the 2009 number.

This year's issue sees a number of scholars whose names will be familiar to Arctic history buffs, among them Dr Lewis-Jones himself, along with Glyn Williams, Andrew Lambert, E.C. Coleman, and myself. And, although my article is the only one that deals specifically with Franklin, these other contributions will surely be of value to anyone with an interest in Naval affairs of this period. Lewis-Jones offers a remarkably vivid and engaging account of the career of Lord Nelson's star of the Order of the Bath and the role of such relics in the cult of naval history; Williams has an account of Patrick O'Brian's early novels, set prior to the Napoleonic era; Coleman contributes an account of the career of George Vancouver; and Lambert an essay on the Royal Navy's White Sea Campaign of 1854. My own contribution, "Some Unresolved Aspects of the Franklin Expedition," is based on the talk I gave on that subject at last year's Shackleton Autumn School in Athy, Ireland. In it, I give an overview of a variety of still-unresolved questions about the final fate of Franklin's last expedition, with notes on recent discoveries, including that of Robert McClure's HMS Investigator just this past summer.

The astute reader will also discover two other articles with Arctic connections: James Davey's piece on the career of Sir James Saumarez, who was a key mentor to and supporter of Sir John Ross, and Barry Smith's "Gone Aloft: Some Maritime Memorials at Kensal Green Cemetery," a delightful guide that would have been of great use when, last October, I visited the cemetery with Dr Lewis-Jones, Kari Herbert, and Kenn Harper; it clears up the issue of the legal care of each plot, the shape and extent of the catacombs, as well as the actual location of each of the deceased, including that of Lady Jane Franklin in Catacomb B, 12059, Vault 61, Compartment 1. Even the "Notes on Contributors" provides matter of interest, not the least by mentioning E.C. Coleman's recent book, The Grail Chronicles, in which he claims to have discovered the Holy Grail in Lincoln Cathedral. As with every number of the TrafChron, it's an annual that no historian worth his or her salt will want to be without.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

New issue of NIMROD

Although I wasn't able to attend the Shackleton Autumn School in Athy, this past October, I'm delighted to report that the latest issue of NIMROD, the school's journal, is now available. Editor Seamus Taaffe has brought together a fine and representative array of papers, most of which are drawn from talks given at last year's meeting.

In addition to an excellent overview of the school's many highlights over the past 10 years by my good friend Joe O'Farrell, this issue offers some impressive examples of the kinds of high-quality, wide-ranging papers presented at last year's meeting. It would be false modesty not to mention an essay on which well-known Arctic author Kenn Harper and I collaborated; it details the remarkable history of very early Arctic films -- all made in or before 1920 -- featuring Arctic scenes and Inuit people, particularly Nancy Columbia. Kenn was able to present a few clips from these rare films at last year's meeting, while others were shown in a programme arranged by Dr Huw Lewis-Jones and myself; this article gives the remarkable backstory to how these films -- including 1911's "Way of the Eskimo," the first Inuit-written, Inuit-cast dramatic film in history -- were produced. The essay is richly illustrated with stills, adverts, and on-set snapshots, many of them never before published, from Kenn's extensive collection.

Another highlight for me is Michael H. Rosove's "The Great Books of Shackletonia"; as was his talk last year, it too is richly illustrated with covers and title pages of the books he describes, many of them extraordinarily rare. Bob Headland also contributes a fine piece on "Historic Huts of the Antarctic from the Heroic Age," and Jim McAdam gives his account of Shackleton and Fur Sealing on the Falkland Islands. Three informative book reviews by Paul Davies, Kevin Kenny, and Robert Stephenson round out the volume, which is well-printed on good, heavy-weight stock and stoutly bound. At just €12 each, it's an extraordinary value; copies may be ordered online here.

Next up: the new issue of the Trafalgar Chronicle, also just published, offers a trove of articles, many of them looking to the Franklin expedition. Watch this space for a full account.