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In 2014 media around the world buzzed with news that an archaeological team from Parks Canada had located and identified the wreck of HMS Erebus, the flagship of Sir John Franklin's lost expedition to find the Northwest Passage. Finding Franklin outlines the larger story and the cast of detectives from every walk of life that led to the discovery, solving one of the Arctic's greatest mysteries.
In compelling and accessible prose, Russell Potter details his decades of work alongside key figures in the era of modern searches for the expedition and elucidates how shared research and ideas have led to a fuller understanding of the Franklin crew's final months. Illustrated with numerous images and maps from the last two centuries, Finding Franklin recounts the more than fifty searches for traces of his ships and crew, and the dedicated, often obsessive, men and women who embarked on them. Potter discusses the crucial role that Inuit oral accounts, often cited but rarely understood, played in all of these searches, and continue to play to this day, and offers historical and cultural context to the contemporary debates over the significance of Franklin's achievement.
While examination of HMS Erebus will undoubtedly reveal further details of this mystery, Finding Franklin assembles the stories behind the myth and illuminates what is ultimately a remarkable decades-long discovery.
Acknowledgments / ix
Editorial Notes / xi
Introduction / xiii
1. The Man Who Ate His Boots / 3
2. Bones / 21
3. Papers / 35
4. Provisions / 53
5. Maps / 65
6. Rae / 83
7. Hall / 99
Russell A. Potter is professor of English at Rhode Island College and the author of Arctic Spectacles: The Frozen North in Visual Culture, 1818-1875.
"Finding Franklin is a compelling book. Potter is one of the most respected Franklin scholars in the world and this volume shows us why. He has an intimate familiarity with the vast material on the search and understands – better than anyone else – its place within the cultural imagination."
– Michael F. Robinson, University of Hartford
"With ambitious scope and profound depth, Potter deftly demonstrates that truth can indeed be stranger and more fascinating than fiction. This seamless blend of research and captivating storytelling showcases the curiosity, frailty, and endurance of the human spirit."
– Publishers Weekly
"Dr. Potter's treatment of recent projects dedicated to uncovering clues to the Franklin mystery incorporates information from both historic and recent searches in a constructive, lively sequence. It juxtaposes clues in the writings of early searchers and Inuit testimony with descriptions of field projects carried out by recent searchers based on these early leads; it sympathetically illustrates the enthusiasm (indeed, the fanaticism) that captures so many individuals concerning all things Franklin. Russell Potter is the one to tell this story, coupling his wide knowledge of Franklin history with his conscientious attention to detail."
– Margaret Bertulli, lead archaeologist on the 1993 study of the Franklin site at Erebus Bay
"Dr. Potter has pulled together the Franklin story into a compelling narrative of a search that focussed the attention of the world on the far north a century and a half ago, and has refocused it today. He hasn't dived into Arctic waters or excavated ancient middens; rather he is the generalist scholar whose task is to bring together the work of various specialists and dedicated amateurs to tell a tale never before told so coherently, a task in which he has succeeded admirably."
– Kenn Harper, noted Arctic historian and author of Give Me My Father's Body: The Life of Minik, the New York Eskimo
"I can think of no-one more suited to telling this story."
– David C. Woodman, author of Unravelling the Franklin Mystery: Inuit Testimony
"A worthy addition to the Franklin literature."
– Montreal Review of Books
"What becomes increasingly evident is Potter's own fervent interest in his subject matter [...] [he] creates a contagious sense of excitement."
– Quill & Quire
"In his thoughtful catalogue of the Franklin mystery and affectionate reverence for the people who have defined and recorded its history, Potter has earned himself sure footing among them."
– National Post
"Just as Franklin and his contemporaries deserve a better remembrance in Britain, Russell Potter's thoughtful, generous, deeply informed and elegant book deserves to be read. It cannot be recommended too highly to anyone wanting to reconnect with this extraordinary chapter in Britain's history, or succumb to its haunting fascination for the first time."
– Times Literary Supplement
"Among the many strengths of Finding Franklin is Potter's treatment of history as the investigation of problems, and not simply the narration of a story. He puts his readers in a position where we can assess for ourselves the various explanations of the fate of the Franklin expedition, and in so doing illuminates a chapter of Canadian history that is too often overlooked in our textbooks. Finding Franklin deserves a wide readership."
– The Winnipeg Free Press
"A lively overview of over 160 years of searching and of the uncertain results it has yielded."
– Journal of Historical Geography