Cover image for Ice blink : the tragic fate of Sir John Franklin's lost polar expedition
Ice blink : the tragic fate of Sir John Franklin's lost polar expedition
Cookman, Scott, 1952-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Wiley, [2000]

Physical Description:
xii, 244 pages : illustrations, map ; 24 cm
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Format :


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Material Type
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G660 .C66 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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Two of the most advanced ships of the time. 129 handpicked men. A commander who had survived three previous Arctic trips. Lost without a trace. What happened? For a century and a half, the question of what happened to the Franklin Expedition-the worst disaster in the history of polar exploration-has remained a puzzle. Now, based on original research in British Admiralty records, author Scott Cookman re-creates the full story of the ill-fated expedition and reveals a frightening new explanation for one of the most enduring mysteries in the annals of exploration.

Author Notes

Author Scott Cookman was born in 1952. He wrote two outdoor adventure histories and wrote both cooking features and how-to advice articles for Field and Stream magazine. He died in 2007.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

In this absorbing account of the fabled 1845 Franklin expedition in search of the Northwest Passage, Cookman inculpates a novel malefactor in the tragedy: botulism. In the 1980s, three frozen corpses of expedition members were found and exhumed (Frozen in Time, by Owen Beattie and John Geiger, 1987). Autopsies revealed lead, fingering lead-soldered cans from the provisions. Cookman still arraigns the cans, or rather the shady victualler who supplied them, and, through explanation of the then-infant process of canning, opens his botulism possibility. Yet knowing the impossibility, short of the discovery of journals or supplies cached by the expedition, of finding out what exactly happened, Cookman still ably argues for his theory. He does so by artfully narrating a possible course of events in the expedition's demise, based on the one official note and bits of debris (including evidence of cannibalism) found by searchers sent to look for Franklin in the 1850s. Adventure readers will flock to this fine regaling of the enduring mystery surrounding the best-known disaster in Arctic exploration. --Gilbert Taylor

Publisher's Weekly Review

In 1845, Captain Sir John Franklin sailed into Arctic waters, the latest of many navigators to seek a "Northwest Passage" from the Atlantic to the Pacific. With him were 128 stalwarts of the Royal Navy; up-to-date maps and sophisticated tools; three years' worth of ample provisions; and two advanced ships, iron-clad, steam-heated and steam-powered. The ships were never seen again. In 1859, Lieutenant William Hobson, sunburnt and frostbitten, trekked across remote King William Island and found the last remains of the expedition: two notes attached to a cairn, a small, stranded boat and human bones, some showing evidence of cannibalism. Freelance writer Cookman's ably researched, sometimes eloquent account follows the doomed voyage, then proposes to solve the enduring mystery. Stuck in the ice, the men of the H.M.S. Terror and Erebus lasted months with barely a look outdoors; when cooking fuel ran short, something sickened the men. Cookman identifies the culprit as botulism, conveyed by the canned goods furnished by contractor Stephan Goldner. "Pinching pennies and cutting corners," Goldner defrauded the Navy by giving Franklin's men canned meats and vegetables "shoddily made and improperly sealed." Cookman drapes his central story with short accounts of the people involved, including Captain Franklin ("plodding, sober," and "fame-hungry" but steadfast) and Goldner, whose record of defaults and frauds (delivering ruptured cans, missing deadlines, packaging bones as meat) led the Navy to cease doing business with him in 1852. Hard-bitten readers who last year clamored over Shackleton's adventures will take to this grimmer tale of unscrupulous contractors, diligent historians and brave British explorers who never made it. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

The two ships of the Franklin expedition set out from Greenland on July 12, 1845, to find the Northwest Passage. Two weeks later, they passed through Baffin Bay and were never seen again. "It was as if Apollo 11...had disappeared on the dark side of the moon," writes Cookman (whose "Man & Mission" videos about the Mercury 7 astronauts are a main attraction at the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame at Cape Canaveral). Here he examines the mystery of "the largest and best-equipped" expedition ever mounted, "the greatest Arctic tragedy of the age." Although he notes that what triggered the disaster may always be open to debate, his painstaking search through British Admiralty records reveals a possible cause: botulism, the deadly toxin resulting from improperly canned food, which he blames on the Admiralty's canned food contractor--"a scam artist" who "stalled, obfuscated, lied outright--and got away with it." Recommended for larger public libraries and academic libraries.--Robert C. Jones, Central Missouri State Univ., Warrensburg (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Prefacep. xi
1 The Epitaphsp. 1
2 Messages from the Deadp. 5
3 The Enigma: Sir Johnp. 14
4 The Passagep. 30
5 Two Shipsp. 36
6 Spectersp. 42
7 Ships' Commandersp. 50
8 Ships' Companiesp. 59
9 Outward Boundp. 66
10 Beechey Islandp. 79
11 The Last Summerp. 83
12 Besetp. 87
13 Imprisonedp. 95
14 The Cursep. 105
15 The Culpritp. 108
16 Houndsditchp. 116
17 Schedulesp. 130
18 The Dying Timep. 135
19 Killer at Largep. 144
20 The Death Marchp. 154
21 Cannibalismp. 174
22 The Culprit's Footprintsp. 186
23 The Empty Prizep. 196
Afterword: Anatomy of a Disasterp. 198
Appendix I Provisionsp. 213
Appendix II Northwest Passage Voyages: Mortality Ratesp. 221
Appendix III Mid-Nineteenth-Century Naval Medicinep. 224
Appendix IV Expedition Musterp. 227
Bibliographyp. 233
Indexp. 239