KABLOONAS

KABLOONAS
Burial of John Franklin. Author: me

KABLOONAS

Kabloonas is the way in which the Inuit who live in the north part of Canada call those who haven´t their same ascendency.

The first time i read this word was in the book "Fatal Passage" by Ken McGoogan, when, as the result of the conversations between John Rae and some inuit, and trying to find any evidence of the ill-fated Sir John Franklin Expedition, some of then mentioned that they watched how some kabloonas walked to die in the proximities of the river Great Fish.

I wish to publish this blog to order and share all those anecdotes that I´ve been finding in the arctic literature about arctic expeditions. My interest began more than 15 years ago reading a little book of my brother about north and south pole expeditions. I began reading almost all the bibliography about Antarctic expeditions and the superknown expeditions of Scott, Amundsen, Shackleton, etc. After I was captured by the Nansen, Nobile and Engineer Andree. But the most disturbing thing in that little book, full of pictures, was the two pages dedicated to the last Franklin expedition of the S.XIX, on that moment I thought that given the time on which this and others expeditions happened, few or any additional information could be obtained about it. I couldn´t imagine that after those two pages It would be a huge iceberg full of stories, unresolved misteries, anecdotes, etc. I believe that this iceberg, on the contrary than others, would continue growing instead melting.



domingo, 25 de marzo de 2018

LOUIE KAMOOKAK, UNA ANTORCHA EN EL CIELO

No creo que ninguna publicación nacional se vaya a hacer eco de esta mala noticia, al fin y al cabo, la historia del descubrimiento del pasaje del noroeste todavía es una gran desconocida para muchos, así como la expedición pérdida de Franklin lo era hasta que Dan Simmons con su novela, y años después la serie de AMC The Terror, la catapultara al gran público. Por eso me permito el honor de dedicarle unas pocas palabras en mi blog y hacerle, dentro del modesto alcance que pueda tener, un poco más conocido en nuestro país.


Para aquellos que hemos estudiado algo acerca del tema, el nombre de Louie Kamookak ha sido una referencia en todo lo relacionado con ésta expedición. Su papel ha sido fundamental a la hora de localizar los restos del HMS Erebus, encontrados frente a la costa de la peninsula Adelaida en 2014. Pero ese hecho no ha sido más que el resultado de años de dedicación a la investigación de esa expedición y a la tradición oral Inuit. Podéis ver en su pagina web los proyectos en los que estaba involucrado.

Louie vivía por encima del paralelo 68, en el archipielago Canadiense, en la única ciudad existente en la isla del Rey Guillermo, Gjoa Haven, el mismo lugar donde Roald Amundsen invernó durante dos años en 1903 en el transcurso de la primera travesía que se hizo en barco del pasaje del noroeste. Un lugar privilegiado para profundizar en aquello que a Louie le apasionaba, donde habitaba un grupo de Inuit Netsilik al que Amundsen había definido como "el mejor pequeño puerto del mundo" . 

Quizás la mejor manera de homenajear a Louie no sea practicar mi prosa vanagloriando sus logros, que son muchos, sino quizás traduciendo sus propias palabras que dan una imagen fiel acerca de como era este hombre y cuales eran sus pasiones. Palabras que ponen de manifiesto de forma escueta, pero precisa y contundente, su amor por sus propias tradiciones. 

He elegido su intervención pronunciada cuando recibió la medalla Erebus en la sede de la Royal Canadian Geographical Society, un momento sin duda crucial en su carrera:

"Es un honor y estoy agradecido de estar aqui en Toronto. Venir del Ártico y llegar a una gran ciudad como ésta es como un sueño. Justo como el sueño que tuvimos cuando Parks Canada decidió lanzar otra búsqueda basada tanto en el conocimiento Inuit pasado de generación en generación a través de la tradición oral así como en el estado del arte de la tecnología, de resolver uno de los mayores misterios de la humanidad, el paradero de los barcos de Franklin. 
Un sueño que se hizo realidad para todos nosotros cuando se anunció al mundo el hallazgo del Erebus. Habíamos estado trabajando todos juntos para poner todas las piezas del Puzzle en los lugares correctos. Es a causa de esta cooperación, que nuestro sueño se ha realizado finalmente. Cuando se trata de vivir en uno de los lugares mas hostiles del mundo, pienso en mis ancestros que únicamente fueron capaces de sobrevivir trabajando juntos. Me hace feliz ver que en este sentido, estamos siguiendo sus pasos. 
Durante las pasadas tres décadas, mi trabajo ha consistido en recopilar la historia oral de nuestros ancestros, nombres tradicionales de lugares, los nombres de los grupos de Inuit antes de que llegaran los europeos, y estudiar los diarios de la gente que vino a nuestra tierra en búsqueda de la expedición perdida. Este trabajo ha sido mi parte, mi contribución a resolver el puzzle. Desde el primer día, he tenido curiosidad por saber que les habría ocurrido a los barcos. Tenía mis teorías, mis ideas de que les podía haber pasado. De manera que estoy muy feliz de haber sido parte, de saber ahora que iba en la buena dirección. Pero ha sido solo gracias al trabajo duro de Parks Canada que ha sido posible. 
Siempre bromeo acerca de que como de imposible sería que pudiera salir con mi kayak, sumergir la cabeza en el océano y encontrarlos por mi mismo. Por eso ahora estoy un poco sorprendido al saber que estaba equivocado, que el Erebus se encuentra a  solo 10 metros de profundidad...
Gracias a la Royal Canadian Geographical Society por la invitación y por la condecoración a todos los involucrados. Estoy muy agradecido y espero volver para resolver donde está el propio Franklin para traerle a casa."
Efectivamente, como bien expresó Louie, la localización del Erebus, ha sido un ejemplo de como la tradición y la tecnología pueden encontrar relaciones simbioticas que pueden vivir en perfecta harmonia. En la localización del otro barco que formaba parte de la expedición, el HMS Terror, también han tenido un papel fundamental la intervención de los Inuit que habitan el lugar, pero esa es otra historia.

Loiue centraba ahora su actividad en la localización de la tumba de Franklin, otro de los griales  arqueológicos relacionados con la expedición, pero que la enfermedad que sufría y que se lo ha llevado prematuramente, ha impedido que fuera posible. Esperemos que otros como él tomen el testigo y continúen rescatando los tesoros contenidos en la tradición oral Inuit. Joyas que casi 170 años después, todavía afloran de tanto en cuanto allí donde nacen las Auroras Borelaes. Historias que proyectan inesperada luz en la oscuridad y que nos esperan como ollas llenas de oro al pie de un arcoiris a ser descubiertas. Relatos que están aguardando a que alguien como Louie los desentierre y se pueda continuar con el rastro allí por donde él lo ha dejado. 

Quiero pensar, como dice la tradición Inuit, que Louie con su antorcha en la mano ha atravesado el peligroso desfiladero que lleva a los campos donde las almas de los Inuit  juegan con las calaveras de las morsas cuando dejan este mundo. Quiero pensar que la Aurora que Louie ha formado en su viaje en el cielo ha sido una de las más impresionantes que se haya podido ver en años, porque al fin y al cabo Louie, durante su vida y a través de su trabajo, ha despertado y vuelto a hacer oír la voz de muchos de sus ancestros que seguramente le esperaban con sus linternas en los campos de más allá del abismo al final de su camino.

¡Buen viaje, Louie!

"Northern Lights" - an etching/aquatint by Inuit artist Germaine Arnaktauyok, depicts the arsarnerit legend, in which Inuit ancestors play football with a walrus skull



martes, 9 de enero de 2018

LAS TUMBAS OLVIDADAS - SECUESTRO DE INUITS, CAPÍTULO 1

A lo largo de la historia de la exploración polar y la caza de ballenas, los Inuit han sido capturados y alejados de sus lugares de nacimiento por sus lejanos "vecinos" europeos y americanos. Los Balleneros, al igual que expediciones de  exploración polar, secuestraron no solo a cazadores Inuit, sino también a mujeres y niños. A veces apresados intencionadamente por la fuerza y a veces rescatados del mar por razones humanitarias cuando después de haberse alejado de la costa y perdido se encontraban con éstos por casualidad.

Éste, es el primer capítulo de una serie de casos que quiero analizar en mi blog. Quizás, una de las más dramáticas descripciones de tales prácticas que he leído nunca, es la que Nordeskjold hace en su Artículo " Esquimales, antiguos y modernos", que expresa de forma vívida y trágica como se producían este tipo de situaciones a través de un caso particular, sobre el que ya volveré en próximos capítulos. El relato es el siguiente:

  "Sus encuentros siempre terminaban con el asesinato o captura de los pobres nativos, quienes eran apresados para ser mostrados como animales curiosos en Europa. El informe de La Peyere sobre Groenlandia, escrito en 1647, los describe, y cuenta la historia de nueve esquimales que fueron traídos a Dinamarca por diferentes expediciones polares. ¡Pobres esquimales! A menudo miraban hacia el norte, y una vez intentaron escapar en sus embarcaciones, pero una tormenta los arrastró a la costa y algunos campesinos los cogieron y llevaron de vuelta a Copenhagen. Dos de ellos intentaron escapar de nuevo en sus kayaks uno fue capturado y los otros dos que consiguieron escapar murieron ahogados en el mar. El último murió de pena después de su último tercer intento de regresar a Groenlandia en su kayak. se encontraba a treinta o cuarenta millas de la costa cuando fue capturado de nuevo."

Y ésta, desafortunadamente, es una historia que se repite a lo largo del tiempo invariablemente, ya que normalmente no había supervivientes como pronto veremos. Sin llegar al extremo de lo que hemos leído más arriba, los Inuit que llegaban a Europa y no morían intentando escapar, morían como consecuencia de no haberse aclimatado a la insana atmósfera de las ciudades europeas, sus enfermedades, o quizás simplemente, porque no podían soportar la dieta, tan diferente de la suya, que estaban obligados a seguir.

Quizás, uno de los casos mejor documentados, y puede que uno de los primeros, sea el caso de Caligouche (o Kalicho), una mujer llamada Ignorth (o Egnock), y su hijo Nutaaq (o Nutioc), que fueron capturados por Martin Frobisher en 1577. Este hecho ha inspirado algunos artículos y la historia aparece por aquí y por allá por todos lados, por lo que no me entretendré en como sucedieron los hechos en ésta publicación.

Martin Frobisher, marino y pirata del siglo XVI, dirigió tres expediciones al ártico, su primera intención era la de encontrar el mítico pasaje del Noroeste, pero después de tropezarse con la isla de Baffin y con la profunda bahía que actualmente lleva su nombre, se concentró de forma obsesiva en su exploración y en la posibilidad de explotar los tesoros imaginarios que él pensaba que aquel lugar escondía, y se olvidó del pasaje del Noroeste. Fue en el transcurso de aquellas expediciones cuando contactó con las tribus Inuit locales que vivían allí.

Su primer contacto, fue durante la expedición de 1576 a la bahía de Baffin, cuando dentro de la bahía Frobisher, en la isla Burche, encontró algunos Inuit a los que pidieron ayuda para que les guiaran por aquellas extrañas costas. Frobisher envió a cinco hombres para negociar con ellos pero fueron supuestamente tomados como prisioneros. Frobisher apresó a uno de los Inuit a los que inicialmente había pedido ayuda y partió de  regreso a Inglaterra con él y sin sus hombres.

Este hombre fue llevado a Inglaterra y llegó a Lóndres donde apenas tres semanas después de desembarcar murió. Como se dice en el artículo "Los Esquimales de Frobisher en Inglaterra" de un resfriado que pilló en el mar. Fue retratado Post Mortem por Cornelius Ketel (no he podido encontrar este retrato en particular porque es también parte de la colección perdida de cuadros de Ketel). Su cuerpo fue embalsamado, aparentemente con la intención incial de enviarlo de vuelta a su país. También se le hizo supuestamente una máscara funeraria de cera que tampoco se conserva. Sin embargo, su cadáver nunca llegó a la isla de Baffin, sino que fue enterrado en Hart street, Londres, en el cementerio de la iglesia de  St. Olave's, que se encuentra ubicado tras de la siniestra puerta que está macábramente decorada con tres calaveras sonrientes.

Al año siguiente, Frobisher volvió a Frobisher Bay y como resultado de sus enfrentamientos con las tribus de la zona, en parte debidos a su insistencia por recuperar a sus hombres desaparecidos el año anterior, acabó apresando a los Caliguche, Ignorth y Nutaaq. Los tres Inuit fueron retratados de una manera exquisita por varios buenos artistas de la época, como John White y Cornelis Ketel, autor de varias pinturas que mostraban a los tres vestidos con sus originales ropas Inuit, con ropa occidental y también desnudos, aunque al igual que el retrato del primer Inuit secuestrado, ninguna se conserva. Los retratos que si se conservan son los de John White que se encuentran en el British Museum. Son muestras, que casi como fotografías, muestran como vestían y estaban armados los Inuit del siglo XVI de la isla de Baffin

Kalicho, Ignorth and Nutaaq by John White

Por desgracia, los tres cautivos murieron uno a uno por diferentes circunstancias. Caliguche como resultado de las heridas recibidas durante su apresamiento, Ignorth como consecuencia de una enfermedad adquirida en Inglaterra y el bebé Nutaaq, de un año y medio, como resultado de una herida de bala recibida en un brazo también durante su captura. Los dos adultos murieron en Bristol y el bebé en Londres. Se realizó la autopsia de los cuerpos de Caligouche y de Ignorth antes de ser enterrados en la iglesia de St Stephen de Bristol en noviembre de 1577. Nutaaq, el pequeño que murió tiempo después en Londres, de camino hacia un encuentro programado con la reina Isabel que ardía de curiosidad por ver aquella rareza,  fue enterrado en la iglesia de St Olave antes de que tal evento se produjera.

Ésta iglesia en particular, es un superviviente en si misma, una rara antigualla que sobrevivió al gran fuego de 1666 y a los bombardeos de Londres de 1941. Hoy en día, está sitiada por edificios altos y ajetreadas calles. Ahora, ¿Quien sabe que queda del cementerio y si los cuerpos de éste pobre hombre y de Nutaaq están allí todavía y no fueron violentamente exhumados a causa de las bombas alemanas arrojadas durante la segunda guerra mundial?. No hay registro de estos dos enterramientos en la iglesia, ni lápida que indique que sus huesos todavía se hallan allí.

St Olave´s church, London
Sin embargo, hay placas en estas iglesias que hacen honor a gente importante de la época, de hecho, la iglesia de St Olave era en aquellos tiempos un lugar muy honorable donde ser enterrado, a pesar del hecho de que también es el lugar de enterramiento de un personaje ficticio como Mamá pato.

La iglesia de St Stephen de Bristol, que en aquella época estaba muy bien situada a la orilla de un río, también era un lugar de cierta importancia que fue testigo de la partida de muchos barcos mercantes. 

De manera que parece que los Inuit secuestrados, realmente fueron tratados con grandes honores en el momento de su viaje final, algo que subraya el hecho de que, aunque no fueran cristianos, y de forma inusual para aquella época, existiera un registro de los dos enterramientos que se hicieron en la iglesia de StStephen. El registro dice los siguiente:

"Collichang, un hombre pagano (no creyente) enterrado el 8 de noviembre. Egnock, una mujer pagana (no creyente) enterrada el 13 de noviembre".

En la iglesia de St Stephen también hay una lápida que marca el lugar de enterramiento.  La lápida dice lo siguiente

"Where rest ...two In... (inuit? Indians? Inuk?) kidnapped from Baffin Island (?)"


"Donde descansan ...dos ..In... (Inuit, Indios, Inuk?) secuestrados en la isla de Baffin (?)"

http://www.drawingexchange.org/the-graveyard-tours/graveyard-exchanges/

Es dificil conseguir una lectura clara de lo que está grabado en esa lápida, pero al menos podemos ver claramente la palabra "secuestrados" en ella, lo cual, parece pagar de alguna manera la deuda. Al menos, figura como un último tributo a estas dos personas, como una especie de reconocimiento que  quiso mostrar a cualquier visitante casual que los hechos que los trajeron a Inglaterra y a tan prematura muerte, no fueron gestos nobles en absoluto. Por otro lado, si la lápida es contemporánea de los enterramientos, la palabra Inuit o Inuk, la cual he creído leer sería anacrónica, ya que ese término no se empezó a usar para refirerse a los nativos de Groenlandia y del norte de América hasta mucho tiempo después. Quizás algún alma generosa decidió colocar esta lápida mucho mas tarde, o quizás, dado que el lugar de donde proviene, es una página web de artistas, no sea más que el producto de la imaginación de alguno de ellos. En cualquier caso, me encantaría que alguien que viviese por las cercanías de Bristol pueda enviarme una mejor imagen de esa lápida si es que existe.

Pero no hay todavía lápidas o placas en StOlave, al menos no que yo conozca ni haya encontrado en Internet. En el artículo "Los esquimales de Frobisher", referenciado más abajo, la decisión de enterrar al niño y al primer hombre secuestrado se puede encontrar en el siguiente pasaje:

"Fue elegida para los esquimales porque está dedicada al Noruego Olaf Haraldsson, quien fue convertido al Cristianismo en el siglo XI, ¿se pensó que era adecuado para albergar los paganos huesos árticos? La cuestión es intrigante"

Por alguna razón, hoy en día, no encontramos ninguna simple mención a estas tres pobres almas en casi ninguna referencia que encontramos en Internet de ambas iglesias, StStephen en Bristol y StOlave en Londres. No hay memoriales, placas ni nada que de forma sustancial muestre que se cometió una injusticia y que las silenciosas víctimas de ella, aún yacen ahí.

Quizás, la razón simplemente recae en el hecho de que ha pasado demasiado tiempo  desde que ocurrió todo y desde que fueron enterrados allí, o peor, puede que ahora a nadie le importe. Quizás solo han sido olvidados y el último reducto que llama nuestra atención sobre sus respectivos lugares de descanso es el link que nos conduce a la lápida que (si no es una ficción) se haya en StStephen, y también en aquellos artículos que hablan de la loca cruzada de Frobisher en pos de su Dorado imaginario, donde ocasionalmente se mencionan sus tumbas.

Puede que Caliguche, Ignorth y Nutaaq, y aquel otro pobre hombre cuyo nombre no se ha conservado, no sean recordados de forma apropiada en sus actuales lugares de enterramiento, pero mientras y en su lugar, hasta que se haga algo para remediar esta situación, les rendiré homenaje en mi mapa de localización de monumentos polares ubicando el lugar donde ahora se encuentran, con la esperanza de que algún ocasional visitante a este inventario, visite alguna vez respetuosamente estas iglesias para pensar en ellos, y quien sabe, quizás también para localizar exactamente sus tumbas y marcarlas como realmente se merecen.

Referencias: 

Frobisher Eskimos in england
The death of an Inuit man in England 
A chronological outline history of Bristol
A collection of documents of Spitzbergen and Greenland
Bristol Polar Adventures

Roanoke: Solving the Mystery of the Lost Colony



lunes, 8 de enero de 2018

DEAD RECKONING, THROUGH THE DARK SIDE OF THE NORTHWEST PASSAGE

This is not the first time that this happens to me with a Ken McGoogan´s book. I have read Dead Reckoning again in a record time. In this occassion, Ken makes you run fast through the history of the northwest passage in the same way you would cross it while sailing a small and light vessel. Fast yes, but not that fast as  not for having enough time to stop in some of his bays and islets to unbury old legends, Inuit people who sometimes with their lives, helped to forge not the last link of the passage, but almost all of it. 



I remember Parry said once, during his first expedition as commander,  that to get through the middle ice of the Baffin bay you would need heavy ships, as the ones he was commanding, in order to beat the thick ice that usually covers that part of the bay. However, Amundsen demonstrated, almost one hundred years later, the contrary when he accomplished the whole crossing of the passage with his small and maneuverable ship Gjoa. Dead Reckoning, the small yacht with which Ken makes us travel at an amazing speed, will also allow us to get into tortuous corners of the history of the passage to rescue the credit, sometimes forgotten or not enough watered, of the native heroes which actually made a big part of the discovery possible. 

Dead Reckoning is a quick way to approach to the story of the Northwest Passage from a different point of view. There are many and very good books which tell the story in a very detailed way, like the impressive "Arctic Labyrinth" or  the very famous "The Arctic Grail" but in the former you can´t read any of those Inuit names Ken mentions in his book, and in the latter, though some of these appear, they don´t occupy prominent places in the chapters they become visible and of course don´t get any recognition for the role they played. A role which has been crucial even till today, as many of you know, when thanks to the Inuit testimony, Terror was finally found saving the searchers tons of money and human effort.

Apart of what has been mentioned above, which forms the keel of the book I have been pleasently surprised when while reading Ken´s book I have discovered a "never seen before for me" new portrait of someone who I won´t mention here (Everybody who knows me well is aware of my obsession to put faces to the names of the explorers and characters of who I have read their achievements). So the finding of this one really amazed and delighted me.

This of course, wouldn´t be a good Ken´s book about the northwest passage, without rising the topic of the controversy about who actually discovered the last link of it, Franklin or Rae, all seasoned with Lady Jane´s crusade to clean his husband hands of the blood of the men cannibalised during the awful retreat we all know.

If you ask me, I vote for Rae and agree with the fact that dead people can discover anything for the simple fact that they can´t convey the message with the news. However, a very different thing in my opinion, would be if, in the sunken ships or under a destroyed cairn,  the searchers ultimately find a map with that last link  drawn and perfectly recognizable...

Dead Reckoning is definitely a book which should decorate your polar bookselves, not only because its design and cover are really beautiful, but also because it will give you the necessary new point of view this story has longer needed.

To finish, I would say that the story of the northwest passage has been told many times, sometimes better sometimes worse, what is left then? Is there any need for another book about this topic? In my opinion the answer is yes. We do need a book written by an Inuit historian, a book which will tell us what happened in those desolated islands and channels of water through the eyes of those who actually made it possible, told by those who have lived and still live there and will live there forever. A story which first stone has clearly been Dead Reckoning but which must be detailed further, dressed by the proper background of customs, traditions, feelings and beliefs which only an inhabitant of those lands could supply us in an accurate and credible way. A story told by those whose future is at dire straits for what is coming slowly like a smooth tide, slow but relentlessly... for their good, I wish. 

Dead reckoning has wonderfuly made our mouths water yes but, I want more!




viernes, 29 de diciembre de 2017

THE FORGOTTEN GRAVES - ABDUCTING INUIT PEOPLE CHAPTER I

Along the history of polar exploration and whale hunting, Inuit people have been taken away from their birth places by their far "neighbours". Whalers, alike, exploring expeditions abducted Inuit hunters, and also women and children, sometimes purposedly by force, and sometimes kindly when rescuing them, during their homeward trip, from the sea when they had got lost fram from the coast. This, is the first chapter of a series of cases I wanted to analyse in my blog.

Maybe, one of the more dramatic depiction of such practices I have ever read is that of Nordenskjold in his article "Eskimos, Ancient and Modern", which expresses vivid and tragically how these events used to happen through a particular case, to which I will come back in the coming chapters:

"Their meetings always ended in the murder or capture of the poor natives, who were carried away to be shown as curious animals in Europe. La Peyrere's Report of Greenland, written in 1647, describes them, and goes on to tell of the nine Eskimos who had been brought to Denmark by different Polar expeditions. Poor Eskimos ! They often looked northwards, and once tried to escape in their skiffs ; but a storm cast them ashore, and some peasants caught them and took them back to Copenhagen. Two of them again tried to escape in their kayaks ; one was caught, the other who got away was drowned at sea. The last of them died of grief after the failure of his third attempt to return to Greenland in his kayak. He was thirty or forty miles out to sea before he was overtaken." 

And this, unfortunately, is a tale which is repeated along the time invariably, there usually weren´t survivors, as we soon will see. Inuit people who arrived to Europe, hardly ever got used to the insane atmosphere of the British cities, their local illnesses, or maybe, they just couldn´t stand the very different diet they were obliged to follow.

Maybe the most well documented of these events, and likely one of the first, is the case of Calichoughe (or Kalicho), a woman called Ignorth (or Egnock), and her child, Nutaaq (or Nutioc)., who were got caught prisoners in 1577 by Martin Frobisher. It has inspired some articles and the story appears here and there everywhere and it is not the  main subject of this post. The three Inuit people where nicely portrayed by talented artists of the time, like John White or Cornelis Ketel, author of several paintings (some of them in their Inuit clothes, other dressing like Englishmen and others naked, and which apparently haven´t survived). The existing portraits by John White are held in the British Museum.


Kalicho, Ignorth and Nutaaq by John White
The corpses of the two adults were properly authopsied and then, after, buried  in St Steven´s church (or St Stephen´s) in Bristol in november of 1577. Nutaaq, who died time after in London, on his way to "visit" the Queen, was buried in St Olave´s church before that happened 

The sixteenth century sailor and pirate, Martin Frobisher, led three expeditions to the Arctic, his first intention was to find the mythical Northwest passage, but after stumbling upon Baffin island and with the deep bay which nowadays bears his name, he subsequently focus his attention on those shores and  forgot the searching of the passage on behalf of exploiding the imaginary treasures he thought Frobisher bay hide. It was during those expeditions when he contacted local Inuit tribes which lived there.

His first contact, was during the 1576 expedition to Baffin´s bay, when inside Frobisher´s bay, in Burche´s island, he found some Inuit men who were asked to guide the expedition, Frobisher sent five men in a boat to deal with them but they apparently were caught captives. Then, in his turn, Frobisher captured one Inuit man as a hostage. 

This man was taken to England and reached London, where he soon died. As it is said in the article "Frobisher Eskimo´s in England" of "colde which he had taken at sea" hardly three weeks after landing. He was portrayed post mortem by Cornelius Ketel (I couldn´t find this particular one cause it also is part of the Ketel´s lost collection of Eskimo paintings). His body was embalmed, apparently with the idea of sending back him to his country and a wax face mask was also allegedly made. His body never reached Baffin island but was buried in St. Olave's churchyard, behind its sinister door which is decored with three smiling skulls, in Hart street, London. 

This particular church, it is a survivor itself, an ancient rarety which survived the great fire of 1666 and the war bombings of 1941. It has been sieged by tall buildings and busy roads since it was built many centuries ago. But now, who knows what´s left of the old churchard and if the bodies of this poor man and Nutaaq (who as we read above, was also buried here) are still there and there weren´t forcedly and violently exhumed because of the german bombs dropped during the WWII. There are no records of these two burials nor gravestone which indicate their bones are still there. 


St Olave´s church, London
There are plaques in these churches which honour prominent people of the time, in fact St Olave´s church was at that time a very honourable place to be buried, in spite of the fact it is also the place of burial for a pantomine character like Mother Goose. St Stephen´s church, which was at that time well located at the bank of the river, also was a place of certain importance which witnessed many departing merchant ships. So it looks that the abducted Inuit people actually were treated with big honors at the time of their final voyage, thing which is underlined by the fact that, though they weren´t christians, unusally for that time, there is a record of the two St Stephen´s  church  burials. The register says what follows:

"Collichang a heathen man buried the 8th of November. Egnock a heathen woman buried the 13th of November'''

In St Stephen´s church, there also seems to exist a gravestone which marks the burial place. The stone reads:

"Where rest ...two In... (inuit? Indians? Inuk?) kidnapped from Baffin Island (?)"

http://www.drawingexchange.org/the-graveyard-tours/graveyard-exchanges/

It is difficult to have a clear reading of what was engraved in that gravestone, but at least we can clearly see the word "Kidnapped" on it, which seems to pay somehow the debt or at least, a last tribute, with these two people, as a sort of recognition that wanted to show to any casual visitor, that the facts which brought them to England and to  such premature death, were not gallant at all. On the other hand, if the stone is contemporary of the burials, the word Inuit or Inuk, I have believed to have read, wouldn´t have sense since the used term by that time was Eskimo. Maybe some good hearted soul decided to place this stone much later. Anyway, I would love that someone on the ground in the surroundings of Bristol could forward me a better image of this gravestone.

But still, there are no plaques or gravestones in St Olave, at least no one I could have found in the Internet.  In "Frobisher´s Eskimo" article referenced below, the decission to bury the child and the first abducted Inuit there, lies on the following:


"Was it chosen for the Eskimos because its dedicatee, the Norseman Olaf Haraldsson who was converted to Christianity in the eleventh century, was thought to be suitable numen to preside over their pagan arctic bones? The speculation is intriguing. "

For whatever reason, nowadays, we do not see any single mention of these three poor souls in almost any reference we find about both churches, St Stephen´s in Bristol and St Olave´s in London. There aren´t memorials, plaques nor anything which substantially give notice that an injustice was commited and that the silent victims of it, still are resting there.  Maybe the reason simply lies in the fact that too much time has elapsed since they were buried there and all this happened and nobody cares. Maybe they have just been forgotten and the only redoubt which calls our attention about  their final resting places is the link to st Stephen´s church gravestone before posted and those articles which talk about Frobisher´s crazy gold crusade which occassionaly talk about their graves.

They may not be recorded properly in their actual burial places but in its place, till something to mend this situation is done, I will homage them pinpointing their graves in my Polar memorials location file with the hope of any visitor of that inventory, pay someday a respectful visit to those churches to think about them, and who knows, maybe also to find and mark their graves as they actually deserve.

References: 

Frobisher Eskimos in england
The death of an Inuit man in England 
A chronological outline history of Bristol
A collection of documents of Spitzbergen and Greenland
Bristol Polar Adventures

Roanoke: Solving the Mystery of the Lost Colony



viernes, 8 de diciembre de 2017

OH RELEASE ME! OH RELEASE ME! - THE STRANGE CASE OF BENJAMIN BALLOON

Pigeons, balloons, arctic foxes, rockets, kites, tin cilinders under prominent cairns, graffitis in rocks, bottles and also golden buttons. All these were the means used by arctic expeditions for communication during those days when satellite phones simply didn´t exist. 

Many different systems, as you can see, but not all of them actually useful. Analysing and comparing their effectiveness would require a specific article, and who knows, maybe there already exists one. The more extensive description of many of them I have found, was written by Sherard Osborn in the book "Stray leaves from an arctic journal". Sherard, in a very personal witty and funny style, describes them giving you an accurate idea of what was the expectation of success they inspired at the time and how they actually worked. 

Maybe the more ingenious one, and also the more spectacular, was the inflatable balloon. These amazing inanimate messengers were made of oiled silk and were inflated with hydrogen, which was produced in site mixing zinc with sulfuric acid. Horatio Austin searching convoy of 1850, was one of the first expeditions which used these "new" inventions. At least, that is what Sherard mentions in his account of the voyage. Some of these devices were equipped with a five feet long slow match to which were attached coloured pieces of paper, or cloth, where the position of the rescuer ships was indicated. The messages were supposed to be released by the effect of that match at certain intervals  . The papers, would fall from the air with the purpose of indicating any possible survivor where to walk in search of help.

   
Sherard Osborn, complains somehow in despair while describing how almost all the released balloons from HMS Assistance flew in south or south east directions instead northwards. It was generally understood for the Admiralty at that time, and for all the contemporary searchers, that Franklin & Co. were stranded north or northwest from their current position. They thought Franklin was beset some place north of Cornwallis island or in a non existent, open polar sea even further north. If he, as Richard King firmly believed, had known that the Erebus and Terror were actually located in the vicinity of King William Island, 600 miles southwest of their position, perhaps he would have followed with his sight how  his precious balloons flew in a more correct direction than he thought with a much better mood.

It is at this point where the real protagonist of this post appear for first time. Our friend Benjamin Balloon, who was scared to death moments before being freed by a couple of s.ailors in the upper deck of HMS Assistance, as the picture in the Illustrated Arctic news shows below. 

- Oh Release me! Oh release me!.- shouted Benjamin Balloon. 

And he was.



The sad episode is told in the northern most newspaper of all as follows under the title of "Fatal Accident":

"On monday last, Benjamin Balloon, literally inflated himself from a cask containing Hydro-Gin he became light headed in consequence, and falling into a current of air, soon disappeared from the sight of the astonished spectators.

He is supposed to have on his papers to a great amount. Active steps will be taken for their recovery, they being for the most part drafts at sight of the firm of Messrs Cask and easel, of Cape Hotham and leopold."

Our indulgent Benjamin, obviously lost almost inmediately his way, taken with him forever those drafts in the wrong direction. You can read the original publication here, (page 28 of the document).

Many of those passenger-messages luckily survived that era of creativity and can still be found in some museums and in the mists of the Internet here and there. 
Message
https://www.adams.ie/catalogue_images/7034/large/313.jpg 


But, what if Franklin had been equipped with such  modern invention? had they been able to find the needed help? In fact, as I said some time ago in other of my posts, a balloon, allegedly procedent from his expedition arrived at England in 1851. A mysterious and urgent mesage was written on it indicating the position of the ships. A message which read like that:

"Erebus, 112 W, Long, 71 deg. N. Lat. September, 3, 1851. Blocked in"




The Admiralty shouldn´t lose a second and inmediately send a fleet to that place, but...it happens that, as Russell Potter correctly indicated in his post about the topic, that Franklin was never supplied with those wonderful objects, so, apart of many other aspects which play against the veracity of the theory that defends that a balloon could have reached England after flying more than three thousand kilometers, there is the undisputed  fact that there weren´t balloons on board the Erebus nor the Terror. That converts the suggestive finding into a complete and cruel hoax.


An amazing distance to be covered by an object which proved record of longest distance covered at the time and at those latitudes, was not more than 50 miles. That wasn´t the case of the carrier pigeons, which had been used for very long time as very effective messengers, though not in the arctic. A couple of pigeons were sent by John Ross from Cornwallis island during 1850. Instead of freezing, died of hunger or being shot, they reached his house in Scotland five days after being freed. That was a record never to be beaten for any other kind of messenger used in the polar regions.  Ross message, however, was not addressed to reach Franklin, but had a less trascendental purpose, it borne instructions regarding finantial  personal  matters.

Sometimes, both systems, balloons and pigeons were put together in order to optimize the benefits procured for them. A pigeon embarked one of these balloons to be carried for it, at some distance  from the ship, before being released during the flight. Ultimately, Salomon Andree also combined these two methods, though this time it was he and his friends the ones to embark in a huge balloon.  In his way to the north pole, he sent some pigeons to carry his messages homeward, thing which their feathered companions performed perfectly well for some time. At least, before Andree and company disappeared for the following thirty years before being found death in a lost and icy island. 

Another formidable method, nor for its effectiveness, but for the merriness it provoked during the short winter days of those arctic expeditions, were the arctic foxes. Those little and astute animals were fitted with copper collars on which were engraved the position of the searching ships.

Copper collar fastened on neck of fox-cub caught and released by crew of H.M.S. Enterprise, at Port Leopold, 1848

Sherard Osborne describes very visually the event of freeding a fox as follows:

Lastly, we carried out, more I believe from amusement than from any idea of being useful, a plan which had suggested itself to the people of Sir James Ross s expedition when  wintering in Leopold Harbour in 1848-49, that of enclosing information in a collar, secu-red to the necks of the Arctic foxes, caught in traps, and then liberated. Several 
animals thus entrusted with despatches or records were liberated by different ships;but, as the truth must be told, I fear in many cases the next night saw the poor " postman," s Jack facetiously termed him, in another trap, out of which he would be taken, killed, the skin taken off, and packed away, to ornament, at some future day, the neck of some  fair Dulcinea.
I can´t avoid smiling before the Quixotic reference, surely it didn´t escape Osborne the similarity between their activities and our national paradigm of uselessness. The thing is that once released, the foxes fell into the sailor traps once and once again, such was the problem that even an order had to be issued not to kill any fox taken alive in the traps, just in case they could be bearers of the messages. Of course, after the order was delivered,  all the  trapped foxes which were trapped, were "found" invariably dead. In any case, those should be scenes which many of the readers and the author of this post, would have liked to witness:

The departure of a postman was a scene of no small merriment : all hands, from the captain to the cook, were out to chase the fox, \vho, half frightened out of its wits, seemed to doubt which way to run ; whilst loud shouts and roars of laughter, breaking the cold, frosty air, were heard from ship to ship, as the fox-hunters swelled in numbers from all sides, and those that could not run mounted some neighbouring hummock of ice, and gave a view halloo, which said far more for robust health than for tuneful melody. 

Another easy way, but maybe not very effective, method of communication was carving messages in conspicuous stones which usually called the attention of any visitor. Not used normally to deliver messages to other expeditionaries, but more often used as markers of the new conquered territories. That is the case for example of Parry´s stone of Winter Harbour. A stone which would play a very important role many years after, as we soon will see.
Parry rock
Rockets and kites of different colours and numbers, were also used to send messages. But were not intended to communicate with lost explorers but with neighbour ships. Kites were supplied  to HMS Assistance by Mr Benjamin Smith, that´s what Sherard Osborne says. Was this Benjamin the British politician? Was he an ardient lover of technological and flying devices? Was after him, in his honour, that our beloved Benjamin balloon was named? Surely it was. I have tried to dig a little about his life and bizarre interests but could find at the time I wrote this post.

But the more effective way to deliver a message, even if years had passed since it had been written, buried and ultimately found, were the sealed tin cilinders inside of which, rolled papers were placed. Those time capsules, were buried under huge cairns of more than six feet tall located in strategical geographical points. It weren´t few times these tins were succesful in transmitting the intended messages. Narratives of the time speaks of them being opened and sealed again a good number of times. Sometimes, they played crucial roles. Thanks to these methods, HMS Investigator crew was rescued when one of the Kellet rescue parties found the message left by McLure at the feet of the above mentioned Parry´s stone. And it was also thanks for those magical metal cilinders, the Victory point record, that we know the few things are now known about the proceedings of the Franklin expedition before disappearing forever.

We don´t know yet if any of these messages, which were hundreds, finally reached the Franklin expedition, maybe one of them deliberado by our Benjamín balloon.... Finding any of these messages, whatever was the method followed to send them, among the belongings left by the crews of the Erebus and Terror in King WIlliam Island, would have helped to know till what year they could have survived. 

Perhaps, the current searching of the shipwrecks could help us to know if any of these messages finally reached their destination. Finding one of those coloured and typed papers on board, among the remains present in the ships will help us, not only to know if the Franklin men survived as long as the year 1850 or even after, but also to know if the ships were actually remanned or not. 

jueves, 19 de octubre de 2017

THE PARTY GOES ON: DR. JOHN RAE IN FUR A DAGUERROTYPE BY BEARD (EDITED)

I never thought I could find so many new pictures, not only pictures but Daguerrotypes!, in such short time. This time I am proud to announce I have found a beautifully coloured daguerrotype of Dr. John Rae dressed in his arctic outfit, apparently took in 1849, after returning from his overland voyage with Dr. Richardson. At least I had never seen this before now.


John Rae in arctic fur -
Silver Shadows - Fine Early photographs
There is a naughty smile in his face which suggest he was having fun or a good time while dressed like that in the photographic study. Interestengly one of the several streets, surely the locations of the different studies belonging "Beard´s photographic Institutions", is King William Street. It would be a curious and paradoxical coincidence that Rae had been pictured in that precise place. 

This picture had to be taken soon before Beard when bankrupt in 1850, a pity, because if he had overcome his finantial issues, maybe we could have now many more faces, in colour, of those heroic explorers who we could look at their eyes. 

EDIT: After the convincing comments of some heavyweights of the matter who projected founded doubts about the portrait belongs to John Rae, I have cooked a new theory. Maybe this man is James Clark Ross after all. I have made a quick "Photoshop" to compare the man in the daguerrotype with Ross´s face. Judge yourself:


For me the nose is very similar, if not in the James Clark ROss painting I used , it is in other paintings of him. Only his eyes look different, but as I said in the comments below, maybe J.C. Ross was somehow exhausted after the long winter of 1848-49 and that provoked that languish look. 

miércoles, 18 de octubre de 2017

THE DR JOHN RICHARDSON AND THE REASON WHY YOU SHOULD NEVER CEASE SEARCHING

This is going to be a short post, I can assure you that. As I asserted in my last blog publication, we never should stop searching for new pictures of our beloved and ancient explorers. I can guarantee you all, that I have performed multiple searches in the Internet trying to look for a more contemporary portrait of John Richardson, the Naval surgeon who accompanied John Franklin in his first  overland expedition, and whose role in it saved likely the life of John Hepburn, the faithful sailor, and maybe the life of Franklin as well. 

And what is what I have found?, a new and overexposed photograph of an aged John Richardson, likely shot at the last stages of his life. Richardson died at the age of 78 years old in 1865, so either the portrait was taken at about that age or was taken when he retired from active service at the age of 68. I would like to know who took this picture and why was it taken.

Dr John Richardson
Picture from Future museum
For those less familiar with his life, I will summarize here that John Richardson was an exceptional man, not only known for his arctic explorations, he participated in the Franklin´s first and second overland expeditions and in one of the first searching expeditions organized to find the lost Franklin in 1848, but also for his contributions to naval surgery and science.

His later work in the Harslan hospital, where he worked for some time together with William Edward Parry, consist on part, on training the surgeons who would join arctic expeditions. 

No matter how harsh his gesture could seem to you on this, or in other similar portraits of him, his achievements  speak of him in a very friendly way. You can read all the details in the brief biography of the Dictionary of Canadian Biography. He stood out over the average men of his time in the three different disciplines mentioned above.  He engraved every stepp of his three different careers in the path of history. As an arctic explorer, he demonstrated outstanding phisical conditions, as a surgeon he achieved so many big things which would need a whole book to explain them all, and as a naturalist, his published work speaks for itself, he rubbed shoulders with the most prominent scientist related with that matter of his time. But on top of that, he demonstrated with his actions in moments of extreme danger at the very edge of complete disaster, that he was an extraordinary and well natured human being.

You can find other portraits of him here, our large and growing collection of portraits and pictures of Arctic and Antarctic explorers. This project consists on a pinterest board, a cooperative project where, mainly Stephen Nicholson and me, are contributing to put faces to all those heroic explorers.