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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Deadly Winter: The Life of Sir John Franklin, 20 Nov 2014
Keen Reader "lhendry4" (Auckland, New Zealand) - See all my reviews
I sought this book out to read after reading about the search for the Northwest Passage, and the late, fatal journey under Sir John Franklin of the Terror and Erebus. This book, first published in 2002 is a valiant attempt to offer to the reader a picture of John Franklin the man, rather than Franklin, ‘the man who ate his boots’, or the man who led an expedition to the Arctic which disappeared. Here we get a fully rounded view of the man, his family, his career and his overwhelming desire for exploration which led him to that last journey from which he never returned.

John Franklin was born in 1786, the ninth child (of a total of twelve), and the fifth boy of the Franklins of Spilsby, Lincolnshire. He seems to have shown early a hankering for exploration, being determined to go to sea, and becoming a midshipman on HMS Polyphemus in 1800, at the age of just 14. Franklin had a distinguished career in the Navy, serving at the battle of Copenhagen in 1801, and in the thick of the action of the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 on board Bellerophon. In 1818 he was appointed as commander of the brig Trent in the expedition to the Pole under Captain Buchan (their two ships partnered with another two ships under Ross and Parry which split off to search for the Northwest Passage). In 1819 Franklin was given leadership of an expedition overland to the northern coast of Canada which would then join up with Parry to hopefully complete the Passage. This Coppermine River expedition nearly ended in utter disaster, and by the time the remaining members of the expedition were rescued in 1822, Franklin became known as ‘the man who ate his boots’, the survivors having been reduced to eating their shoes of untreated leather. While Franklin was scorned by some for the failure of this expedition, the author makes the valid points that there were many factors that caused the disaster, including bad planning, bad luck and unreliable allies.

Franklin married in 1823, and his first wife died in 1825 when he was on another overland expedition, leaving a daughter born in 1824. His second wife, who he had known for some years, he married in 1828. Franklin was knighted in 1829, and then spent some years as a diplomat, on missions in the Mediterranean and as Lieutenant-Governor of Van Dieman’s Land (now Tasmania, Australia). In 1845 another push was made for the Northwest Passage and fate placed Franklin in charge of the Erebus and the Terror as they sailed in May 1845. Apart from the four men who returned to England (two were sick, and two incompetent), none of the remaining 129 men would ever return home. What happened to them has been, in some part, pieced together by investigations since, but the full story of their sad fate may never be fully known. Unfortunately for Franklin’s reputation, the loss of this expedition has largely been the factor that has kept his name known. While the search for the Northwest Passage was not completed by Franklin, he deserves to be known for much more than the sad fate of the expedition. He was an honourable and brave man, determined and courageous. A good man.

This is a highly enjoyable read, and supplements well other reading on the search for the Northwest Pasage. Given its date of publication, there have been other advances made in the search for Franklin’s expedition since, and I will look to read more about both that, and the Northwest Passage. It is all extremely interesting.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent source, 16 Sep 2009
This review is from: Deadly Winter: The Life of Sir John Franklin (Hardcover)
A well-researched and balanced view of Franklin's life and career, lots of information about his last expedition including crew lists of HMS Erebus an Terror and many quotes from Franklin himself from letters etc.
However, Beardsley is sceptic of Beattie's lead poisoning theory which has been proved right more than once.
Still a great book and a must-have for everybody interested in Franklin and/or Arctic Exploration.
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Deadly Winter: The Life of Sir John Franklin
Deadly Winter: The Life of Sir John Franklin by Martyn Beardsley (Hardcover - 1 July 2003)
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