FROZEN IN TIME: Unlocking the Secrets of the Franklin Expedition by Owen & John Geiger Beattie

FROZEN IN TIME: Unlocking the Secrets of the Franklin Expedition

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With the feel of a long magazine article stretched into a book, this tells how forensic anthropologist and coauthor Beattie discovered the role of lead poisoning in the disaster that struck the 1845-48 Franklin Arctic expedition. Franklin's expedition consisted of over a hundred men and two vessels. When the ships vanished, dozens of search parties combed the Arctic looking for a solution. Eventually, food cairns, wrecked boats, scribbled notes, human remains, and Eskimo tales combined into a sorry tale of cold, starvation, cannibalism, and death for the entire crew. But the exact cause of the disaster was never ascertained. Along with recounting this colorful history, the authors describe Beattie's two recent expeditions to Northern Canada to pore over relics of the Franklin party. On King William Island in 1981, Beattie and his team found bits of skeleton with knife markings that reinforced the tales of cannibalism; moreover, the bone fragments contained high levels of lead and evidence of scurvy. On Beechy Island in 1984, the team exhumed the bodies of three seamen buried in makeshift graves in 1850. Exposed in a set of astonishing color plates that will nauseate some readers, these bodies--essentially well-preserved 130-year-old mummies--provide strong supporting evidence (through autopsy and lab reports) for Beattie's theory that poisoning from lead dinnerware and lead-soldered food tins helped kill off the Franklin expedition. A curious scientific detective story, satisfactorily resolved. Some threatening polar bears add a bit of suspense, and the ghoulish photos have unquestionable force. By and large, however, this detailed account of anthropological legwork will appeal primarily to polar aficionados.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1988
Publisher: Dutton