July 7, 2001

The only food found by Arctic commander John Franklin and his men at Fort Enterprise was whatever they could scrape together from old animal hides used by Indians as bedding and a few bones in the ash heap. They rested for a few days then split their forces in two and headed out. Franklin's snowshoes fell apart and he returned to the fort to await rescue along with three of his men who had been too weak to leave previously. The exhausted men waited for rescue. A snowstorm settled in for the next week. When the expedition's naturalist Dr. John Richardson and seaman John Hepburn reached Franklin on October 29th, expecting to find food and get help from him, they found themselves the rescuers rather than the reverse. Two of Franklin's three companions died on the first of November. Another fell into a deep depression. It was the natives who came to the rescue, arriving on November 7th. They supplied the starving men with food, then vanished on the 14th, coming back the next morning with more supplies. After a two-day rest, the entire party of explorers and natives left Fort Enterprise behind them. At the end of their journey they had traveled 5,500 miles through the Arctic and lost eleven men; some perhaps to cannibalism. Franklin returned to England to a hero's welcome. One detail of his deprivation had preceded him and he was pointed out in London's streets as "the man who ate his boots."He made another overland attempt at finding the Passage in 1825, reluctantly leaving behind a dying wife who pleaded with him to seize his opportunity and go. When he returned in 1827 after a fairly uneventful journey he had managed to map over 1,000 miles of new coastline along the Beaufort sea, west of Victoria Island, still not certain he'd been traveling along the western end of the Northwest Passage all along.

One of Franklin's next postings provided a dramatic change of climate when he served as governor of Van Dieman's Land (later known as Tasmania) accompanied by his second wife, Jane Griffin Franklin. Lord Franklin (he'd been knighted in 1829) served a surly and unappreciative populace, mostly convicts and their jailers, between 1836 and 1843. Arriving back in London he found that the aging John Barrow had one final assignment for him. It's goal was the same as the first two, but this would be a search for the Passage by sea. He was given two ships, the Erebus and the Terror. After fitting out the two steam vessels, undoubtedly paying a visit to Donkin and Gamble where he lay in a large supply of canned goods intended to last three years, the 59-year-old explorer steamed out of the Thames on May 19th, 1845. The two vessels and their 133 men were sighted by whalers north of Baffin Island, in Lancaster Sound, on July 26th. None were ever seen again. I summarize the rest of the story told in detail in Fergus Fleming's "Barrow's Boys". In the years to follow expeditions were sent out at the insistent and tireless promptings of Lady Franklin. The clues to Franklin's fate were painstakingly pried out of the arctic solitude, often creating as many questions as answers, with some still not answered today. One thing seems certain. The ships were destroyed in the ice and Franklin once again found himself facing his old nemesis from the first expedition - hunger. His worn body finally gave out. It's more than likely weakness and confusion were enhanced by lead poisoning from the solder used to seal the expedition's canned goods. It's almost as if food had an allergic reaction to Franklin.

For Classical 91.5 and 90-point-3, this is David Minor



Those of you who may have been powering up the old barbecue recently, for some really well-done "it-was-once-food-I-think", may have wondered where the word "barbecue" originated. For the answer to this and other food-related questions, many of which may have never occured to you to ask, you might want to have a look at the promtional site for the two-volume Cambridge World History of Food, especially its Factoid page, at http://www.cup.org/books/kiple/factoids.htm Here you'll fnd answers to the burning (or charring) questions of the day. Such as: Which popular Italian confection contains cyanide?; Why is soy milk so popular in Asia and Asian-American communities?; Where does 90% of all garlic consumed in America come from?; What was infant formula like in Middle Ages?; If Starbucks existed in the early 1800's how might they have brewed their coffee? (this one's not likely to spark a revival any time soon); In India until lately dining out has been a rarity. Why?; and, In ancient Mexico, what was salsa used for? (don't think about this answer too much if you like Mexican food). One nice touch on this page is that you don't get shunted off to another page for the answer and then have to back-arrow for another question. Just put your pointer on the word "ANSWER" and it pops up. Bon apetit!

The Game's Afoot ! !


@2001 David Minor / Eagles Byte