Synopses & Reviews
The Tragic Fate of Sir John Franklins Lost Polar Expedition
What turned the greatest Arctic expedition of the nineteenth century into the worst Arctic tragedy in history? Ice Blink (the name sailors gave the haunting mirages formed by reflections off pack ice) probes one of the most enduring mysteries in the annals of explorationthe baffling disappearance of the largest, best-equipped expedition of its day. Led by veteran Arctic explorer Sir John Franklin, two ships and 129 handpicked officers and men sailed from Greenland on July 12, 1845, seeking a navigable shortcut to link the Atlantic and Pacific. It was the most technologically advanced mission of the nineteenth centurythe Apollo program of its day. The ships were revolutionary: iron-plated, locomotive-powered, and steam-heated. They were equipped with desalinators, canned fooda recent innovationthe worlds first cameras, and other equally sophisticated gear. On July 26, Franklins ships were spotted by two whaling ships in Baffin Bay. They were never seen again.
Over the next fourteen years, more than fifty expeditions scoured the Arctic in search of Franklin and his men. In 1859, on desolate King William Island in the heart of the Arctic archipelago, searchers found evidence of catastrophe: a mountain of abandoned equipment, two skeletons, and a chilling message. Signed by the expeditions second-in-command, it reported that Franklins ships, trapped in monstrous ice for nearly two years, had been deserted in April 1848. A total of twenty-four officers and men, including Franklin, were already dead, virtually all of them in the ten months before the vessels were abandoned. The 105 survivors had embarked on a desperate 900-mile march inland in an attempt to reach safety. Maddeningly, the message gave no clue as to what had caused the deaths and prompted the expedition to desert its still-sound ships and take its chances on the ice. In the years that followed, the skeletal remains of twenty or more Franklin crewmen were found scattered along their line of march, with gruesome evidence that they had resorted to wholesale cannibalism in order to survive. The rest of the party had vanished in the Arctic.
Whateveror, more intriguingly, who-everwas responsible for the Franklin tragedy will always be open to debate. In Ice Blink, Scott Cookman provides an unforgettable account of the ill-fated expedition, vividly reconstructing the lives and events of a voyage that began with the certainty of success and led instead into oblivion. Drawing upon original research, he also suggests a human culprit and reveals a terrifying new explanation for what triggered the expeditions doom.
Ice Blink is a gripping adventure tale of an "infallible" voyage that failed monumetally, illustrating how mankinds technology is mocked by Natures menaceand showing the best and worst in men.
The tragic fate of Sir John Franklin's last polar expedition is the subject of this dramatic account, which offers a new and frightening explanation of what doomed Franklin and his crew. Cookman claims the Royal Navy suspected the real cause and covered it up. 21 photos. 2 maps.
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.
For a century and a half, the question of what happened to the Franklin Expeditionthe worst disaster in the history of polar explorationhas 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.
Praise for Scott CookmansIceblink
"Ice Blink is a gripping tale of adventure overlaid with tragedy. Readers will come away from it with a fresh understandingand a deep compassionfor the men of Sir John Franklins ill-fated polar expedition."Nathan Miller, author of War at Sea: A Naval History of World War II
"An absorbing account ...readers will flock to this fine regaling of the enduring mystery surrounding the best-known disaster in Arctic exploration." Kirkus Reviews It has been called the greatest disaster in the history of polar exploration. Led by Arctic explorer Sir John Franklin, two state-of-the-art ships and 128 hand-picked men sailed from Greenland on July 12, 1845, in search of the elusive Northwest Passage. Fourteen days later, they were spotted for the last time in Baffin Bay. What happened to these ships has remained one of the most enduring mysteries in the annals of exploration. Drawing upon original research, Scott Cookman vividly reconstructs the voyage and presents a terrifying new explanation for what triggered the deaths of Franklin and all 128 of his men. This is a remarkable debut by an author who has woven a shocking tale of true-life suspense and intrigue.
"Absorbing.artfully narrat[es] 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."--Booklist
"A great Victorian adventure story rediscovered and re-presented for a more enquiring time."--The Scotsman
"A vivid, sometimes harrowing chronicle of miscalculation and overweening Victorian pride in untried technology.a work of great compassion."--The Australian
It has been called the greatest disaster in the history of polar exploration. Led by Arctic explorer Sir John Franklin, two state-of-the-art ships and 128 hand-picked men----the best and the brightest of the British empire----sailed from Greenland on July 12, 1845 in search of the elusive Northwest Passage. Fourteen days later, they were spotted for the last time by two whalers in Baffin Bay. What happened to these ships----and to the 129 men on board----has remained one of the most enduring mysteries in the annals of exploration. Drawing upon original research, Scott Cookman provides an unforgettable account of the ill-fated Franklin expedition, vividly reconstructing the lives of those touched by the voyage and its disaster. But, more importantly, he suggests a human culprit and presents a terrifying new explanation for what triggered the deaths of Franklin and all 128 of his men. This is a remarkable and shocking historical account of true-life suspense and intrigue.
Includes bibliographical references (p. 233-238) and index.
About the Author
SCOTT COOKMAN is a nonfiction writer whose articles have appeared in such magazines as Field & Stream, Army, and America's Civil War. His "Man and Mission" videos, chronicling America's Mercury 7 astronauts, are the main attraction at the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame at Cape Canaveral. He lives in Atlanta, Georgia.
Table of Contents
Messages from the Dead.
The Enigma: Sir John.
The Last Summer.
The Dying Time.
Killer at Large.
The Death March.
The Culprit's Footprints.
The Empty Prize.
Afterword: Anatomy of a Disaster.
Appendix I: Provisions.
Appendix II: Northwest Passage Voyages: Mortality Rates.
Appendix III: Mid-Nineteenth-Century Naval Medicine.
Appendix IV: Expedition Muster.