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Ice Blink: The Tragic Fate of Sir John Franklin's Lost Polar Expedition Paperback – 7 Mar 2001
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"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.
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"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.See all Product description
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Plagued by two tiny maps which were such poor quality as to be illegible and with Sir John Franklin portrayed as some sort of hapless clown, desperate to prove himself following a lifetime of failure, the worst part of this book for me was the way that it 'revealed the plot' through the captions underneath the poorly-reproduced photographs. I already knew the entire story by the time I was a few pages in owing to this inept piece of publishing.
The account was biased in the extreme, most of it being taken up by a vilification of Stephen Goldner, the "facts" of which seem to be based on speculation rather than evidence. Contrary to what the other reviewers have said, I didn't even find this book engagingly readable.
Overall, I am still left looking for an unbiased and thought-out account of Franklin's expedition. This certainly wasn't it.
So the Franklin expedition has inexperienced and top heavy leadership and a larder stuffed with poisonous food. The food supplier, Goldnar, gets a pretty severe battering in this book: he cuts corners on ingredients, hygiene, cooking, and tin manufacture. The fact that he keeps getting contracts awarded to him despite concerns over quality shows the mentality of the Navy at the time. If the Royal Navy was anything like the Army the Admirals would be assigned a budget and be allowed to pocket themselves any money they did not spend; add this to the fact that expeditions were expected to last circa three years and be out-of-sight-out-of-mind there was no motivattion for the Navy top-brass to monitor supplier quality. What this book needs is an extra ingredient of historical context: what was the reaction to the failure of the expedition and what brought about the feeling that all Britain had to do was sail west of Greenland and the North West Passage would be open to them. Still this is an OK introduction to the subject but is understandably compromised by lack of evidence as to what actually happened.
As well as providing a splendid 'potted' biography of Sir John Franklin, the book also paints a picture of the society and attitudes of the day which are all integral elements in the ultimate fate of Franklin's crews.
Scott Cookman has compiled an excellent commentary on the events that led up to the expedition, and has used all the available evidence to piece together a possible account of the events that took place once the ships left Greenland. The author's conclusions are of course his own, but provide a very convincing argument as to the underlying cause of this tragedy.
Throughout the book is peppered with tantilising tit-bits regarding other polar explorations of the day which will no doubt wet the appetite of anyone interested in this fascinating area of exploration.
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