Saturday, October 15, 2016

The Terror, in all her glory ...

Side-scan image of HMS Terror by Parks Canada; used by permission
In the Franklin story there are just a few images that, without a single word to accompany them, tell volumes: the face of John Torrington seeming to stare forth from his coffin; the lone skull in a field of rocks at Erebus Bay; William May's still-life lithograph of the Franklin relics. Certainly the sonar image of HMS "Erebus" was another, and to that may be added the even more dramatic scan made by Parks Canada of HMS "Terror." In it one can see many structures missing from her sister ship Erebus: the long and lovely bowsprit, the davits from which the boats once swung still attached to the deck, and the shadows of the deckhouse, masts and other fixtures. Indeed, it's possible if one places a plan of the ship over the top of the image, to see the correspondence of the vessel that enabled Parks to make its identity positive -- not that there were any other missing vessels of that period know to be in the vicinity!

The ship appears a bit narrower than she actually is, and the bowsprit seems to be at an angle -- but these effects are due to the relatively steep angle of the sonar beam; like the beams of some artificial sun, the shadows it paints are an a steep angle, a golden sunset not solar, but painted by reflected sound.

But like those other images, it raises as many questions as it answers: where precisely does she lie (we're not meant to know just yet, for the understandable reason that the security of the site is paramount); near what portion of land (which instantly becomes the ideal place for archaeologists to do work on the ground); facing in what direction? Was she piloted here or did she drift (the former seems, for now, by far the most likely). The Inuit testimony tell of a sudden sinking, but so far as can be seen, she seems in "ship shape" from stem to stern. Nevertheless, she sits in deep silt, which may yet disclose the damage, severe or slight, which brought her to her resting place. Even that place is a question: according to some modern Inuit accounts, the ship may have shifted in position about seven years ago, such that a mast was present above the ice of the bay -- a mast which may since have been broken off or carried away. Low tides that year may have also had something to do with it, And, however she reached her present resting place, the all-important when is yet unknown -- upon which the chronology of the "Terror Camp" on land, and the subsequent departure of some number of survivors, depends. For that answer, we'll have to wait at least until next year's dive season.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The Terror Bay "Tent Place"

One of the most horrific revelations among the Inuit testimony collected by Charles Francis Hall is that concerning the "tent place" at Terror Bay. Now that we know that HMS "Terror" herself had sunk in the vicinity, this place -- quite possibly the "Terror camp" of the Peglar Papers -- takes on enormous added significance. Many previous searches, reading the words "the bottom of Terror Bay," interpreted that as  the inmost part of that bay -- but it seems clear by Tee-ke-ta's and Ahlangyah's descriptions that "bottom" must have meant the outermost part, since they place it "a little way northerly of the point adjacent to Fitzjames Islet (some later texts mistakenly read this as "Fitzjames Inlet"). The location is also said to be "on top of some rising ground" -- doubtless one of the elevated beaches characteristic of King William Island -- and indicated by fields of brown dots on Canadian topographic maps of the region. Here is the original testimony as given to Hall -- every word of which now rings quite differently in our ears:
xi A. M. by guess time & this moment Tee-ke-ta has entered our Ig-loo & laid before me a fragment of a striped handkershief [sic] - as I suppose from its looks & a relic of Sir John Franklin's Expedition. I will now try & get the history of it. Tee-ke-ta, where did you get this?  
Ans. From Ki-ki-tung (KWI) from a tent found there.
Who got it there? Ans. “Mong-er”. That is he (and) Tee-ke-ta. 

Now I ask him to show me if he can by the chart (McClintock's) on what part of KWI this tent was. Having shown Dr. Rae's & McC's & Admiralty charts to this Innuit as well as others here yesterday & the preceding day, he quickly points out the place & the spot which is near the bottom of Terror Bay, a little way northerly of the point adjacent to Fitzjames Islet. The tent was on the top of some rising ground - or a very small hill - a sandy hill. The tent large & made with ridge pole resting on a perpendicular pole at either end - small ropes extended from top tent at each end to the ground where the rope ends were fast to sticks that had been driven into the ground ... the tent was partially down from the snow upon it & a fox had bitten in two one of the lines by which the tent was held upright ...  
Three men saw this tent first - he, Tee-ke-ta, one of them.
How long after you saw Ag-loo-ka was it before you and the two men found this tent?
 The next spring - that is, one year after. What did you see in this tent?
 Blankets, bedding & a great many skeleton bones, a great many skulls - the flesh all off, nothing except sinews attached to them - the appearance as though foxes & wolves had gnawed the flesh off the bones. Some bones had been severed with a saw. Some skulls with holes in them. On trying to get Tee-kee-ta to tell how many skulls there were in this tent, he says he cannot tell for there were so many - the tent floor seemed to be covered with bones & the tent much larger, longer, than this Ig-loo. (Our Ig-loo of oval form, the longer diameter being 25 feet.) Some of the skeletons had been completely cleaned of all flesh and sinews & [?] fastened to various portions of the dress that one might suppose to have clothed the living man.
What else in the tent?
 Ans. Tin cups, spoons, forks, knives, two double barrel guns, pistol, lead balls, a great many powder flasks. If I or anybody else will go there in the summer after the snow has melted off the land will find a great many balls and see all the skeletons. Ahlangyah remarked that the books were are given to the children “for playthings.” Teekeeta also remembered this.  
Did you see the paper with such kind of marks or writing as you see here?
 Saw a good deal, as you express it, what Tee-ke-ta says.
I now show Tee-kee-ta a book, Capt. Ross voyage of the Victory 8 vols. (French edition but in English) & showed him the difference between printed marks & writing marks & he says he and companions saw both kinds in tent.
What did you do with the books & papers?
 Ans. As they were good for nothing for Innuits, threw them away, except one book which had pictures in it he brought home.
Where is that book?
 Ans. All gone long ago. Gave it to the children & after a while all of it got torn to pieces. He says if any one goes there in summer he may find pieces of paper about there.
Any boxes in that tent?
 Only one small box & something all metal, brass, inside, a sextant as Joe thinks. Now I have my large sextant (u.s.c.s. sextant) brought into igloo & he looks at the sextant and says it was not like that, it was round as one could see on opening the box. I now show him Eggert pocket chronometer & he says it was like that only much larger & the inside of it like inside my chronometer but all much bigger. Therefore this was a box chronometer. A good many watches found in the tent, found there in some of the clothes that covered some of the skeletons. Some with chains knotted around the necks of the skeletons. 
You can see Hall's sketch of this very tent in his field notebook, shown above. So rather than at the inmost part of the bay, this location seems almost at its very edge -- and it's here that I believe we should look for traces of the Franklin expedition. Here is its location on a CanTopo map:

Sunday, October 2, 2016

The significance of Terror Bay

Like a fine-toothed comb passing through tangled hair, the knowledge of the definitive location of HMS "Terror" in Terror Bay is having the effect of reshaping and sorting out historic Inuit testimony in unexpected ways. Nowhere is this more evident than at Terror Bay itself, where we now have to recalibrate everything we know with the awareness that one of Franklin's ships lay under the water just a short distance away.

The Inuit testimony is consistent in locating a very large "tent place" with many bodies, as well as a series of shallow graves just outside it. This is almost surely the "tent place" described to Hall, filled with unburied bodies, along with clear evidence of cannibalism. With the Terror sunk nearby, the working assumption would be that this tent was the final home for many of her crew. Unfortunately, due to years of tidal action, as well as scouring by coastal ice, the surface remains of this site were already gone by the time Frederick Schwatka arrived to search for them in 1879, even though living Inuit elders verified that they had seen them at the spot: "The natives said nothing was to be seen where previously they saw many skeletons and other indications of the white man's camp, as it was so close to the water that all traces had disappeared."

We do, however, know of two items of special significance in the area, both of them associated with Pasty Klengenberg. Klengenberg, the son of Danish whaler/trapper Christian Klengenberg Jorgensen, lived near Terror Bay for some years, operating a small HBC outpost. During his time there, his wife Mary Yakalun came upon a large crumpled metal object. William Gibson believed it was "the remains of a water tank from one of the life boats," but that seems a bit off -- the ship's boats weren't intended as life boats, and I know of no water tanks being standard equipment. However, floatation tanks were a feature of at least some later whaleboat designs (as in the "Montague Whaler" -- thanks to Peter Carney for this suggestion), and earlier ones may well have had that same feature. In addition, it seems that Patsy Klengenberg came upon what Gibson describes as the "grave of a member of the Franklin expedition," which must have somehow been missed by Schwatka and earlier searches. Klengenberg rebuilt the grave marker into a substantial cairn, although no trace of it appears to be known today. It's tempting to connect this with the Peter Bayne story, said to be obtained from a "Boothian native," which also involved a large tent and a row of graves:
Many of the white men came ashore and camped there during the summer; that the camp had one big tent and several smaller ones; that Crozier (Aglooka) came there some times, and he had seen and talked with him; that seal were plentiful the first year, and sometimes the white men went with the natives and shot seal with their guns; that ducks and geese were also plentiful, and the white men shot many; that some of the white men were sick in the big tent; and died there, and were buried on the hill back of the camp; that one man died on the ships and was brought ashore and buried on the hill near where the others were buried; that this man was not buried in the ground like the others, but in an opening in the rock, and his body covered over with something that, “after a while was all same stone”; that he was out hunting seal when this man was buried, but other natives were there, and saw, and told him about it, and the other natives said that “many guns were fired.”
If we assume, just as a thought experiment, that this story took place in Terror Bay, then there's good reason to suppose that, for a time at least, both of Franklin's ships were present, and under Crozier's command. The death and funeral of the high-ranking officer could well have been Crozier's own, as would have been the tomb sealed with something that "after a while was all same stone." Both ships would have carried the makings of concrete, and finding just such a sealed vault has been sought by
Bayne Map
many searchers. If so then perhaps Bayne's map -- which was, in the past, erroneously thought to apply to Victory Point, could refer instead to any of the several northwest/southeast trending coasts in Terror bay. A quick glance at Google Earth reveals any number of candidates; if we knew more precisely where HMS Terror was found, my money would be on the ones closest to that point. If we could relocate that spot, perhaps Peter Bayne's long-discredited map would, after all, turn out to be a map of a known Franklin location, and the key to finding  a tomb which might -- even now -- contain not only human remains, but the kind of invaluable written records so many have sought for so long.