Thursday, December 18, 2014

The ROM launches a 3-year, cross-country, Franklin celebration

  Ryan Harris felt a first rush of “absolute jubilation” when the sonar image of a ship popped up onto his monitor. As a senior underwater archaeologist with Parks Canada, Harris had spent the past six field seasons searching for a Franklin ship. Now, at last, he was looking at one of them. Harris and his fellow divers soon determined that the ship was the Erebus. During a panel discussion earlier tonight on the Franklin expedition, an event that drew more than 600 people to the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) in Toronto, Harris said he was equally exhilarated when he got into the water and began investigating the find.
With winter closing in, Harris and his team had two days. They managed to do seven two-person dives of 60 to 70 minutes each. After that, because the water was just 2 or 3 degrees, “we began to get chilled and lose coordination.” Next year, when the team returns, they will probably use “hard hat air supply,” or a diving helmet with an air hose running to the surface. This will enable divers to stay down longer.
Louie Kamookak, a leading Inuit Franklin expert, put in an appearance via videotape from Gjoa Haven on King William Island in Nunavut. He was delighted with the find, especially because it vindicated Inuit oral history. He also admitted that, as a Franklin searcher, he has not focused mainly on the ships: “You can’t go and look down in the water and see a ship.” Rather, he has been looking for Franklin’s grave. “I believe he is buried on the island.”
Archaeologist Doug Stenton, director of heritage for the Nunavut government, mentioned the importance of the early expeditions led by Charles Francis Hall and Frederick Schwatka. And British naval historian Andrew Lambert stressed that Franklin was part of a long quest to understand the Earth’s magnetic field.
The event kicked off a three-year Franklin Outreach Project led by the ROM and Parks Canada, which will feature exhibitions and lectures across the country. A replica of the bell taken from the Erebus, created by Edward Burtynsky using 3-D printing technology, was unveiled, and will be displayed at the ROM until mid-March, 2015.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Yo, Roald Amundsen! Happy South Pole Day . . . .

Hats off to Roald Amundsen, the most accomplished polar explorer of them all. One hundred and three years ago today, on Dec. 14, 1911, he reached the geographical South Pole as leader of the first Antarctic expedition to do so. Fifteen years later, in 1926, he also became the first to reach the North Pole -- at least if you disbelieve the claims of Robert Peary and Frederick Cook. And, yes, in 1903-06, Amundsen became the first to navigate the Northwest Passage. In so doing, he sailed through Rae Strait, which the Scottish-Orcadian John Rae had discovered half a century before. Amundsen reached the South Pole 33 days before a competing expedition led by Robert Falcon Scott, thanks in part to what he had learned from the Inuit (especially about using dogs) while spending two winters at what is now Gjoa Haven. This photo, taken earlier this year by Sheena Fraser McGoogan, finds Our Hero out front of Amundsen's house, which is now a museum. Situated on the water some distance outside Oslo, it remains exactly as Amundsen left it in 1928, when he set out on a rescue mission from which he would never return. Tip of the day: do not try to reach Amundsen's house without a GPS.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

John Rae tie prompts expression of remorse . . .and THANKS!

I have been remiss. I received this gorgeous tie -- which is embossed! -- a few days ago. And, though I posted on Facebook, I neglected to check in here to say . . . THANKS! I say this specifically to the John Rae Society, which is based in Stromness, Orkney, one of my favorite "thin places" in the world. The Society was formed in 2013 with two purposes:
  1. To advance the education of the public in the life and achievements of John Rae as the discoverer of the final navigable link of the Northwest Passage and one of the greatest arctic explorers.
  2. To advance the arts, heritage, culture and science by promoting the life and achievements of John Rae to foster friendship and understanding between members of the public, the people of Orkney, and those in Canada, particularly, but not exclusively, those areas associated with John Rae, through a broad range of activities.

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(P.S. According to the early Celts, "thin places" are "those rare locales where the distance between heaven and Earth collapses.")