Finding Franklin brings together much of my research on the Franklin mystery from the past twenty years, but there's also a great deal of brand-new material. I spent much of 2015 digging into the history of the Franklin search in the modern era, from Lachlan Taylor Burwash and "Paddy" Gibson in the 1920's and '30's to Barry Ranford and David Woodman in the 1990's and 2000's. I conducted more than a dozen new interviews with archaeologists, journalists, and amateur Franklin searchers, working to create a more complete and detailed picture of what we know, what each search has added to our knowledge, and what remains unknown, or unknowable. In the process, I found that searches for Franklin had been far more numerous and ambitious than I'd previously realized, and that much of what was once found has since been forgotten, with artifacts and human remains shelved away in obscure collections, or simply lost. In fact, between Burwash's first searches in the 1920's and the last of the private searches before Parks Canada became involved in 2008, there were more than fifty Franklin searches.
Finding Franklin sets the stage for these searches by recounting the essential details of the Franklin mystery, and the questions raised by early searchers such as Rae, Hall, and Schwatka. A focus throughout is the Inuit testimony, widely credited for helping to find HMS "Erebus" in 2014, but seldom discussed, or understood in detail. The book also showcases the new ways in which old evidence is being freshly examined, from the question of lead poisoning to that of identifying specific human remains. And, along the way, I offer my own reflections on the meaning of such a search, and reminiscences of my encounters with my fellow-searchers, whether on the glistening ice of Resolute Bay or in a dim-lit booth in a pub in County Kildare. My book will, I hope, interest and engage both those who've long been curious about the Franklin mystery but have been unsure where to start, as well as those who, like myself, have long ago been bitten by the bug that leads to 'Franklinitis' -- a so-far incurable condition that spurs its sufferers to undertake their own personal pilgrimages to the books, the places, and the artifacts in which the Franklin story resides.
As the book's publication draws nearer, I'll share some of the fruits of my recent work, including a revival of my "Franklin searcher of the month" feature, this time highlighting those whose contributions, though significant, have been largely forgotten. I hope that all who have followed my earlier posting here will continue to do so, and can promise fresh news, and new approaches, to this storied mystery.