Saturday, May 12, 2018

Erebus And Terror

Around the displays about the Franklin Expedition, walls in this area were covered with reproduced paintings of life on a British frigate in the mid-19th century.

This display case contained items of leisure time- plays to be performed, musical instruments, or games to be played.

This display case held two items. On the left is a cat o'nine tails, used for discipline. On the right is a sailmaker's palm, used to protect the hand while pushing needles through thick canvas. It was found on King William Island in a boat abandoned by the expedition.

More bits and pieces- salt pork bone, remnants of a tobacco pipe, needles, and the lid from a tin of preserved potatoes are seen here.

The age of Arctic exploration produced items like tableware and art, depicting the forbidding wilds of the far north.

This item, a lantern slide, made it possible for European audiences of the era to get a look at the Arctic from the comfort of a lecture hall.

This display case contained Franklin Expedition items recovered from Beechey Island- two left hand gloves, tins for preserved foods, and even an earthenware dish.

It was noted at the beginning of the exhibit that a portion of this would have graphic discussion and photographs of death. This section was off the main path of the exhibit, with another warning before you stepped in. What happened to these 129 men? Some graves were uncovered as part of the searches in the decades after the expedition vanished into the mists of time. Diseases, starvation, and exposure would have played their own parts. Cannibalism is examined- a sign of how desperate things were for the men after they became trapped in the ice and ultimately abandoned their ships. Archaeologists continue to ask questions, some of which might never have answers. In this section, I chose to only photograph this panel- a nearby panel featuring large photographs of three men who died early on in the expedition and whose remains were found some decades ago have the look of mummification.

The Erebus and Terror remain in Arctic waters, and have been designated a National Historic Site. The British government, which might have had a claim to the wrecks under maritime law, have agreed to retain some of the relics as well as repatriation of any further bodies discovered, but turned over formal ownership of the ships to Canada in 2017. The story of the expedition and its mysteries has lived on in books, art, and even music. The Canadian folk singer Stan Rogers wrote the iconic song Northwest Passage, and there's a recent television series, The Terror, that has adapted a novel based on the story.

The last section of the exhibit takes place under lighting that has the effect of feeling as if you're underwater. A square metre of the debris field is reproduced here.

One of the ship bells is also present.

And I finish with this large photograph of a research diver working at the site of one of the wrecks.


  1. I would think life aboard a British frigate back in the day would not have been a bowl of cherries. And your photos tell of an interesting tale. It's nice to think these wrecks will be preserved for posterity although I don't know what posterity will do with them. :)

  2. It's an interesting exhibition, it tells the complete story of what happened.

  3. I cannot imagine being a diver working on the wreck site. I enjoyed seeing the relics recovered.
    I hope you have a pleasant weekend.

  4. ...a sad piece of history.

  5. i'll have to look up more on Stan ... i am not familiar with his tunes. i am now curious ... wow ... my fingers are not working today ... major typos ... LOL! i fixed them ... but wow wee ... have a great weekend!! ( ;

  6. Very interesting indeed. Glad to see I've finally got you showing up in my inbox. :-)

  7. Hello, what an interesting story, exhibit and museum. Happy weekend to you!

  8. @Lowell: it is quite a story.

    @Marleen: with many questions yet to be answered.

    @Mildred: thank you.

    @Tom: that it is.

    @Francisco: thanks!

    @Beth: thank you.

    @DJan: have a good one.

    @Eileen: I found it fascinating.

  9. Fascinating exhibit. Love Stan singing that song.

  10. These eerie artifacts really make one feel they are there!

  11. Horrifying that they had to resort to cannabalism. It is just devastating the desperation they must have felt.

  12. That's interesting that they had the advisory about the content of the room related to the death of these people. So very tragic. What a remarkable exhibit.

  13. A very sobering post. It is awful to think what those men went through.

  14. Good group of photos sends home the chills

  15. The courage of the men is remarkable. I can't imagine what it must have been like for them towards the end.

  16. Specially the lantern slide and the ship bell are wonderful objects.

  17. Interesting exhibit. It must have been tough for the men at the end.

  18. This was a major tragedy and a massive search went on at the time and continued to some extent to the present. Now that the ships were found we can learn much more.

  19. What an interesting exhibit! My DH has a sailmaker's palm and I've seen him using it. That and a number of other maritime bits sometimes makes me feel I'm living in another era.

  20. @Marie: it's an amazing song.

    @Cloudia: I agree.

    @Sandi: it sometimes happens.

    @Jeanie: I can see how it could be upsetting, and the way things were laid out made it easy to avoid that section.

    @Norma: it was!

    @RedPat: it was an ordeal.

    @Maywyn: it does indeed.

    @Fun60: horrendous comes to mind.

    @Jan: they are indeed.

    @Bill: it would have been.

    @Red: it is an amazing story.

    @Kay: I was not familiar with the term.

  21. Such history captured so well ~ great post!

    Wishing you a happy week ~
    A ShutterBug Explores,
    aka (A Creative Harbor)

  22. Brutal conditions to endure. Men (and now women) will probably endure a different set of brutal conditions when they leave Earth for Mars or other places.

  23. Interesting part of the history.

  24. This was a massive amount of money to recover this stuff. What an ignorant time it was.