Thursday, November 21, 2013

Lost Beneath the Ice: The Story of HMS Investigator

Lost Beneath the Ice: The Story of HMS Investigator

Text by Andrew Cohen, with images from Parks Canada

Toronto: Dundurn CDN$29.99

Reviewed by Russell A. Potter

The story of the rediscovery of the wreck of HMS Investigator by Parks Canada in the frozen waters of Mercy Bay in July of 2010 captured the imagination of the world, and evoked the 'heroic age' of Arctic exploration in a way no other recent event has managed. In part, this is due to the way in which a ship, even in its watery grave, evokes the endeavor of exploration with far more gravity and magnificence than any recent discoveries on land have done (last summer's toothbrush, found at Erebus Bay, comes to mind). But it's also due to the fact that the Parks Canada team was uniquely positioned to undertake a thorough on-site survey of the wreck, and to transmit the news and images of their discovery via the Internet and the news media almost as they were happening. And, it should be mentioned, the chief reason that the archaeologists on the site had the kind of support and media access that they did was largely due to the predilection of the then and present Government of Canada for the symbolic significance of the Franklin expedition and those who searched for it, particularly in relation to the issue of Arctic sovereignty. This is not the place to debate the wisdom of that policy -- historians and the public must be grateful for the commitment of any kind of support to archaeological research of this kind -- but still, there is a certain irony surrounding the fact that, outside of Ryan Harris's team who features in this book, Parks Canada's archaeological staff has suffered from significant losses in funding and personnel.

That said, this is a glorious book, primarily for its beautifully-printed illustrative materials, which include many of the paintings of Lieutenant Gurney Cresswell, which until now were not readily available together, nor reproduced at such a generous scale. The original Admiralty schematics for HMS Investigator herself are also reproduced as double-page illustrations, along with images of some of the letters sent conveying the news of McClure's eventual rescue, and other materials of the day. The modern photographs, although they don't reveal new findings, are reproduced with excellent resolution, and possess a drama in the hand that's missing when the same images are viewed upon a screen. The overall quality of production is very high, and there's no other book of its kind that so dramatically evokes the hazards of Arctic navigation in the nineteenth century. I certainly can't imagine a more welcome holiday gift for any exploration buffs on one's list.

The text, alas, is somewhat less enlightening; while Andrew Cohen has exercised considerable skill in briefly recounting the voyage, the ship's imprisonment in the ice, and eventual abandonment, his lurid patches of language sometimes undercut the story's own intrinsic drama. He's more journalist than historian, which is fine insofar as the book quickly acquaints the reader, in broad strokes, with the history of Arctic exploration in Britain, the reasons the Franklin expedition was dispatched, and McClure's own role in the search for its missing ships. Those deep in the throes of what I like to call 'Franklinomania' will find nothing new, but then, the text isn't really meant for them. They will, however, find the illustrations and photographs as -- or perhaps even more -- valuable than the proverbial thousand words.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Illusions in Motion

Illusions in Motion: Media Archaeology of the Moving Panorama and Related Spectacles

By Erkki Huhtamo.

Boston, MIT Press, $45.00

Reviewed by Russell A. Potter

The paramount mass-media attraction of its era, the 'moving panorama' has, until now, received only piecemeal treatment; cast in the shadow of its larger brother, the fixed, 360-dgree panorama, it has generally been regarded as an historical side-note. There have been studies of moving panoramas of certain subjects -- such as my own Arctic Spectacles -- and some of particular regions, such as Mimi Colligan's Canvas Documentaries: Panoramic Entertainment in 19th-Century Autralia and New Zealand, but no comprehensive, international consideration of the role of moving panoramas in the history of visual culture. That is, until now: Erkki Huhtamo's Illusions in Motion not only takes up the larger histories of this medium, but documents them with an enormous number of hitherto-unseen primary-source materials. For a medium of which so few actual examples survive -- Professor Huhtamo's annotated list at the end of the book catalogs the two dozen or so known -- they left behind a vast array of supportive and descriptive materials, ranging from handbills and programmes to newspaper adverts, engravings, and sketches. Their great heyday happily coincided with that of print, and so perhaps this is to be expected -- but the problem has been that so many of these materials are classed as ephemera and poorly or incompletely collected or catalogued, that it required almost a superhuman effort to assemble them.

In many ways, this has been a collective undertaking, continued for many years by scholars such as Ralph Hyde, Scott Wilcox, and Kevin Avery, along with dedicated independent researchers, curators, and artists, such as Suzanne Wray, Peter Morelli, and Sara Velas. And yet, when all these and others gathered at one of the annual meetings of the International Panorama Council, it was always Professor Huhtamo's presentations to which we all looked forward the most keenly, knowing that they would not only contain thoughtful historical analysis, but all manner of illustrative materials most of us had never seen before.

Huhtamo has gathered a great many of these same materials for this authoritative volume, which includes more than 120 black-and-white illustrations, many of items in his own collections. He has personally examined all of the surviving panoramas, participating in the discovery and restoration of several, including the remarkable Morieux panorama from the Paris Exposition of 1900, and the Grand Moving Panorama of Pilgrim's Progress, which was recently displayed in full in Saco Maine, accompanied by a full-size copy on cloth which was performed with the original narration before rapt audiences. Having been to one of these performances myself, I can report that, when the lights were dimmed, and the narrator and accompanist wove their overlapping spells, the magic worked as well in 2013 as it had in 1851.

As a subject for a book, though, the moving panorama has two daunting aspects: the vast number of them that once were shown, and the great variety of additional techniques and apparati associated with them, many of which are very imperfectly documented, and indifferently named. From the handbills, it's often difficult to tell exactly what, for instance, a "Grand Illustrated Diorama" consisted of -- was it a panorama, a lantern-show, or some combination of the two? Some panoramas touted their use of "mechanical and chemical apparati" without specifying what they were, or used adjectives such as "Dioramic" with no clear indication of what that meant.

Huhtamo begins with one of the great enigmas of this kind: the Marshalls, a family of Scots panoramists who displayed their work in Edinburgh, Glasgow, London, and Dublin, routinely attached the word "peristrephic" -- Greek for "turning around" -- to their shows. This seems to have meant something rather different from any other such productions; at least in the purpose-built structures in Glasgow and Edinburgh, their panoramas were shown on a concave surface, with a subtle, naturalistic motion. The chief of the painted figures were nearly life-size, and there were effects such as ships coming into port or smoke emerging from painted cannons, which must have required technicians behind the scenes. Huhtamo adroitly uses the few bits of eyewitness description, along with surviving illustrations and material evidence, to solve -- as best as it ever can be solved -- this persistent mystery.

In succeeding chapters, he provides comprehensive accounts of the major manifestations of the form: the theatrical panorama, the mid-century panorama craze, the interaction and ambiguity between lantern shows and panoramas, and the final efflorescence of the medium in the late 19th and early 20th century, which saw the Poole brothers taking their "Myriorama" shows to small provincial towns in England in vans with gasoline engines. Along the way, every imaginable subject of panoramas is considered, from depictions of river and ocean travel, vertical mountain ascents, religious didacticism and Biblical subjects, to battles and fortifications. One sees here, for the first time, the deep embeddedness of the moving panorama in the culture of nineteenth-century Europe and America; its procession of sequntial imagery was linked to the deepest narrative (and ideological) sense of 'progress,' both individual and national. And, while historians of the fixed great-circle panorama have always cautioned us that they ought not to be seen merely as the progenitor of the cinema, no such caution is made, or needed here. For the translation of the collective desire for narrative into a time-based sequence of images that the moving panorama provided proved to be the essential step from illustrated but static texts into the narratives of cinema, and  later of course television.

I can think of no other single volume which both documents -- with care and precision -- and explains, with such clarity and lively engagement -- this central aspect of the visual culture of the nineteenth century.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Loss and Cultural Remains in Performance: The Ghosts of the Franklin Expedition

Loss and Cultural Remains in Performance: The Ghosts of the Franklin Expedition

By Heather Davis-Fisch

NY: Palgrave Macmillan, $85

Reviewed by Russell A. Potter

Books on various aspects of the Franklin expedition have been a staple here at the Arctic Book Review since our very first issue nearly fourteen years ago; we've reviewed biographies of Franklin, volumes of Inuit testimony, the lives of Franklin officers, those who searched for him, and of Lady Franklin, along with novels and poems inspired by these events. There's a great body of conventional historical and biographical material on the subject, enough to fill a lifetime's study -- but what has been wanting has been a book which fully examines the cultural impact and lasting significance of the narratives that have clustered around this history, its mythologies (in the full Barthean sense). Aside from Margaret Atwood's (still brilliant) lecture "Concerning Franklin and his Gallant Crew" (published in Strange Things), and a few scattered essays, such as those collected in John Moss's Echoing Silence, there have been very few such studies; even in my own book, Arctic Spectacles, the Franklin saga is just one part of a larger cultural history.

Which is why Heather Davis-Fisch's book is so very welcome; here, from the perspective of performance history and theory, is the first fully-realized cultural analysis of the reception and significance of the Franklin disaster, both on the public 'stages' of its time, and ours. In so doing, she considers not only theatrical instances -- whether shipboard or, as with The Frozen Deep, on a London stage -- but theatricality in the broader sense, as when Lady Jane Franklin put aside her mourning dress for bright colors in protest of the Admiralty's striking her husband's name from the active list.

For, in the nineteenth century, the dawn of a mass reading public, the illustrated press, photography and  telegraphic dispatches meant indeed that all the world was a stage, visible to nearly anyone, and the Arctic drama was for a time its principal attraction. And within this larger stage there were many smaller ones, whether it be the Arctic shipboard theatricals that Davis-Fisch sees as invoking and enacting a sense of almost familial camaraderie, the figurations of Inuit such as Qalasirssuaq (who was depicted being transformed into a fox in a northern pantomime), or the mix of drum-dance and blackface minstrelsy witnessed by Charles Francis Hall aboard the whaler "George Henry."

Davis-Fisch analyzes these episodes acutely, and follows the thread of performance throughout these very different cultural enactments. Indeed, between Inuit and Euro-Americans, contact itself was almost inevitably a performance; whether in the exaggerated hand-shaking and calls of "Teyma" or "Mannik Toomee" that accompanied first meetings, or the "miming" of Aglooka of his ships having been crushed in the ice, theatre comes in where language cannot find out a way. Her analysis of these contact dramas then segues neatly into an astute analysis of the staging of The Frozen Deep, in which she shows how Dickens's peculiar non-theatricality, received as a kind of translucent naturalism, played a central role in the enormous public catharsis the play provided to its original audiences. It's also, by the by, a very good explanation of why the play, in its original form at least, never had that power again, although modified versions of it have managed to re-infuse the drama with a fresh sense of pathos.

Davis-Fisch's book is, for all these reasons, the most original and engaging work on the cultural impact of the mid-century Franklin fascination yet to appear -- and, it's to be hoped, a harbinger of further such studies of the larger dramas of exploration as such, in all the regions of the world that the "West" thought of as distant. We have plenty of books on hand which re-tell the main story, shed some light on one or another figure, or propose one or another solution, but there are very few books like the present volume.

For, as has been apparent for some time now, the Franklin mystery is never really going to be "solved," not in the usual sense of that word, at any rate. As Davis-Fisch aptly notes, "attempts to reconstruct what happened to the Franklin expedition break down because the material remains of the expedition produce, rather than alleviate, ambiguity." And, for those who appreciate it, this ambiguity, in fact, lies at the heart of the enduring fascination with the Franklin saga; without it, the amateur historian, like the amateur actor, would find no place upon which to stage his or her response.

NB -- The book is solidly and handsomely produced with eight halftone illustrations; it is to be hoped, however, that Palgrave Macmillan will at some point make it available at a more democratic price, whether as a paperback or an e-book (the Kindle edition, at $68, is still far too expensive).

Sunday, May 5, 2013

The Ambitions of Jane Franklin

The Ambitions of Jane Franklin, Victorian Lady Adventurer

By Alison Alexander

Allen & Unwin. 294pp.  AU $35

Reviewed by Russell A. Potter

For all her enormous stature -- her inspiring of three dozen search expeditions for her missing husband, her persuasive powers over Presidents and Prime Ministers, and her eponymous ballad, Lady Jane Franklin has remained a difficult subject for biographers and historians. It's not that she left no documentation -- between her own letters and journals (extensive, though her handwriting is infamously close and difficult to read) and those of her niece Sophy Cracroft, there's ample material -- it's just that, between the private woman who emerges in these manuscripts, and the public figure so dominant that her apartments opposite the Admirality's headquarters were dubbed "The Battery," there seems at times a strange gap. Not only that, but even with all the material available, there a second, perhaps unbridgeable gap between what Jane confided to her own writings, and what she actually, deeply, thought and felt. She was no confessional writer, not especially forthcoming about her own motives, and what few traces of controversy or impropriety there may have been, she and her correspondents took care to discreetly excise or destroy. Few recent books have really managed to bridge either of these gaps; while Penny Russell painted a delightfully wry and engaging portrait of one of Jane's undertakings in This Errant Lady, and Ken McGoogan fired a broadside of his own with Lady Franklin's Revenge, it's hard to reconcile these two accounts, and the sole volume of her letters recently published, that edited by Erika Elce, includes only her published, public missives.

Happily, in Alison Alexander, Jane Franklin has found a biographer as adroit and willing to explore obscure nooks and crannies as herself. Alexander, a widely-recognized historian whose works encompass both Australian and specifically Tasmanian history, is perhaps best known for her historical accounts of women, particularly her 1987 volume Governors' Ladies: the Wives and Mistresses of Van Diemen's Land's Governors. She is the first biographer to bring the kind of broad familiarity with primary historical sources in Australia needed to set Jane's time in Van Diemen's Land in context, as well as to make full use of the extensive papers held at the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge. And, despite the vast amount of material involved, Alexander has written an eminently readable, engaging, and lively portrait, one which for the first time gives the reader of today a full sense of Lady Franklin's curious admixture of perspicacity, persistence, and whimsy, and the way she used all three of these qualities to advance her husband's career and her own status, all the while clinging to a curiously conservative set of (often unarticulated) values.

For Jane Franklin, as she emerges here, is a bundle of contradictions. She was a social butterfly who passed up many an eligible bachelor, settling on a famous but famously milquetoast man; an outward embracer of penal reform who privately favored a harshly moralistic philosophy of prison management; an inveterate hostess of balls and social gatherings who at often preferred to absent herself from "civilized" company; a tireless traveller capable of considerable exertion but who often chose to be carried along in a chair; and a remarkable embodiment of a woman with an active intellectual and social life who nevertheless disdained other women who wore their intellect, or their politics, on their sleeves.

Jane was active -- restlessly so -- but not what one could call an an activist. The portrait that emerges here in Alexander's capable hands is of a woman who delighted in the private machinations made possible for her as the wife of a famous explorer and colonial governor, but preferred to demur, crediting her husband and always invoking his name rather than her own. As a Governor's wife, she established schools, founded learned societies (though declining to be a formal "member" of them), and conducted ambitious tours of Tasmania, Australia, and New Zealand in which she sought to learn all she could about the people and places she encountered. And, when her husband became famously lost, she mobilized searches for him, public and private, on two continents. Her letter to President Zachary Taylor led to the First Grinnell Expedition; her pressure on the Admiralty helped launch several government-funded searches, and when official interest declined, a series of private ones. The most famous of these was that of Francis Leopold M'Clintock, which in 1859 finally succeeded where others had failed in finding a final record of Franklin and his men -- but fifteen years later Jane was still supporting searches for her husband's men and the 'papers' she was sure they'd cached somewhere; the last of these -- Sir Allen Young's -- did not return until after her death.

She was skilled at using the power of the pen, and although she fulfilled a youthful promise not to 'write any books,' her writings could fill many of them. Alison Alexander has read them all, and judiciously draws from them to illustrate the texture of Jane Franklin's daily life, opinions, and passions. And though it is true, as Alexander notes, that it's very hard to see into Franklin's inner character, The Ambitions of Jane Franklin comes as close any any book has (or likely will) to discovering the essence of this remarkable woman.

NB: The book is handsomely designed, and includes numerous plates, both color and black-and-white. Notable among them is a photograph, taken in Yosemite in 1861, which is the only known one of Lady Franklin.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Nanook and Palo

Nanook of the North and The Wedding of Palo, and other Films of Arctic Life

Flicker Alley, $44.95

Reviewed by Russell A. Potter

Some years ago, I was at a conference on Arctic films at Nipissing University when I heard an intriguing paper by the Greeenlandic scholar Erik Gant. His talk took aim at the curious bifurcation in filmed portrayals of Eskimo peoples, using Robert Flaherty's 1922 Nanook of the North and Friedrich Dalsheim's 1934 The Wedding of Palo as its bookends.  The title of his talk was "Good and Bad Eskimos" -- and as I listened I realized I'd only seen half, or rather less than half of the important films depicting Inuit life, since I'd never seen, or even heard of Palo.

My ignorance was remedied, in part at least, later in the conference, when we watched almost all of a 16mm print of Palo that Dr. Gant had brought with him from Denmark (the conference organizers, unforgivably, shut down the film over time concerns before it had concluded). In the years since, I've often shared this film with my students in my Northern Exposures course on Inuit/European contact narratives, but the best I could show them was a badly-transferred VHS version with fuzzy subtitles that could hardly be read. Now, thanks to the marvellous -- and meticulous -- work of the folks at Flicker Alley, I can now show both films side-by-side in dazzling Blu-Ray transfers, and that's not all. This current set includes several other previously hard-to-see -- and, in some cases, impossible-to-see films of this era, revealing for the first time that Nanook, despite its considerable merits, never stood alone; in fact it was preceded and followed by many other films that sought to place before viewers what Nanook's promoters called "the Actual Arctic." Indeed, this release is the most wide-ranging, historically significant, and beautifully presented set of Arctic films ever made available for home viewing.

Some context is needed, however, to set these films in their historical place.  To that end, there is Lawrence Millman's essay on The Wedding of Palo, which is, as his writings always are, deftly written, salted with humor, and impeccably researched. Indeed, Millman's references to Nanook are more informative than Flaherty's own piece on how he made the film (also included), which is riddled with painful condescension (he refers to his cast as "my Eskimos") and half-truths. Palo shines forth above all the other films in this set, despite its filmmaker's somewhat romanticizing tendencies -- it is simply magnificent. Its amateur actors, all East Greenlandic Inuit, do a remarkable job with the story, considering that this means of telling a tale was entirely new to them. The scene of the piseq (drum-dance battle) between Samo and Palo is one of the great moments in the history of cinema; the reaction of the sea of faces, from children to the aged, to each development in the duel is a symphony of laughter, ridicule, and (eventually) shock. The story may be a loose fabrication, but it's one the actors intuitively grasped, and brilliantly portray. Indeed, as Millman notes, it may aptly be said that Nanook is a fiction film disguised as a documentary, while Palo is a documentary disguised as a fiction film.

Of Nanook, I don't think too much more needs to be added here -- the Blu-Ray transfer in this set is from the same source as the old Criterion DVD, only sharper, and with a more luminous luster, as seen in these screen captures. Included on its disc is the television documentary Nanook Revisited (Saumialuk) by Claude Massot, an interesting but incomplete glimpse into some of the communities where Flaherty sojourned. Some (now well-known) truths about the film are revealed -- Nanook's real name was Allakariallak, and "his" wives were actually Flaherty's mistresses; the film crew finds and interviews the widow of one of Flaherty's sons, but gets very little out of her; one senses a sort of disconnect between the film crew and the Inuit.  Another bonus feature of interest is the short 1928 educational film "Houses of the Arctic," which re-frames the "igloo building" sequence from Nanook with wordy title-cards devised by Harvard professors seeking to make a lasting impression on young minds.

But to my mind, the most absolutely fascinating material in this set consists of the two non-restored sections of two Arctic films made by Frank E. Kleinschmidt, here seen for the first time in 86 years. Kleinschmidt, who also did some safari and war films, is little known today but in his heyday he was a very visible and successful impresario of Arctic films, with which he often appeared in person as narrator. And nowhere can the influence of Nanook's success be more clearly read than in the contrast between the footage Kleinschmidt shot as part of his Carnegie Arctic Expedition feature in 1914 and his later Northern feature, the abysmally-titled Primitive Love. The Carnegie footage is an agglomeration of pure old-fashioned "actuality" footage, most of it shot with a fixed camera; there is little movement and less drama, and the only connecting is mere sequence; like a story told by a five-year-old, whose only segue is "and then," the early footage, despite its historical significance, manages to be deadly dull. Returning in 1927 in the company of the photogenic Mrs. Kleinschmidt (she has a cameo in almost all of the stills associated with Primitive Love), the poor filmmaker labors to build a lush and compelling story, using elaborately illustrated title cards, but fails miserably.  A scene in which an Inuit woman seeks, we are told, to warm her "igloo" by lighting her qullik looks as though it were filmed in the lobby of a small hotel! Still, this exceedingly rare nitrate footage, preserved in the vaults of the UCLA film archive, illuminates, precisely through its failures, what made Nanook such a success.

The set also includes two other films, Eskimo Hunters of Northwest Alaska (1949) and Face of the High Arctic (1959) -- both are reasonably competent productions, although they also serve, perhaps unintentionally, to illustrate how the documentary, a revolutionary genre when Flaherty pioneered it, gradually receded and became, for a long time, a byword for the boringly educational.

But that's a minor matter -- this set, taken as a whole, does an extraordinary job of setting Nanook in historical context, and bringing the nearly unavailable Palo to North American viewers. The supplements give fascinating hints as to our changing conception of the "actual" Arctic, and to the role of these films in shaping our understanding -- rightly and sometimes wrongly -- of the land and peoples of the Far North.

Saturday, March 2, 2013


Isuma: The Art and Imagination of Ruben Komangapik 

Igloolik: Inhabit Media, $29.95

Reviewed by Russell A. Potter

William Butler Yeats once said of the Greek sculptor Callimachus that he "handled marble as though it were bronze." The Inuit sculptor Ruben Komangapik handles no marble, but in his hands, wood, bone, and narhwal horns grow as smooth and fluid as polished metal, or even glass; it is almost as if some spirit hidden within the materials has animated them and brought them to vivid, viscid life. His sculptures play with surfaces, using and altering their texture to create singular effects. Eyes of polished stone gaze out from spongy bone in Taqanaqruluk;  walrus heads with polished tusks peep out of a bony snowbank in Hard Times; an osseous Sedna with an onyx face offers a qulliq with a row of tiny stone flames in Sedna, the Oil Giver; a hooded hunter is poised on a shelf of horn as an unsuspecting seal swims up toward its aglu from below in The Seal Hunter.  There is movement here, in these and many others of Komangapik's figures, movement that animates and belies the more static poses of the more 'traditional' sculpture of the Inuit co-ops; indeed one could say that they dance circles about them. If the stiffness of some of this art was made stiffer by the demands and expectations of southerly art dealers, collectors, and museums, Komangapik pokes subtle fun at their frozen tastes, alluding to them by breaking every one of their rules.

Some of the most striking figures are his Tupilait, the shamanistic spirit-forms whose fearsome shapes and dangerous capabilities underlay so much of the more innocuous figural Inuit art that came later. Some appear playful at first, an Arctic riff on the GEICO Gekko -- but what sharp teeth you have, grandmother! The better to eat you with, one can hear the figure answer. And there are complete stories here too, illustrated by sculptures in sequence, such as "The Legend of the Blind Boy and how the Narwhal came to be."

The striking photographs of these pieces by Estelle Marcoux Komangapik, the artist's wife, are almost as powerful as the works themselves; strikingly lit and set before dark backgrounds, their sharp dimensionality makes them almost seem to leap from every page. The book includes Dorothee Komangapik's commentary on the works and on Inuit culture generally, as well as a biography of the artist, in which we learn that he is a descendant of Quumangaapik, one of the Inuit who followed the shaman Qillaq on his epic journey from Pond Inlet across the frozen seas to northwest Greenland. Qillaq managed this astonishing feat by traveling, in his shamanistic form, over the ice in his dreams to discover the way forward.  Now, a descendant of the families he led guides those who see his work in a similar manner; Komangapik's scupltures stand at the edge of that same territory of dreams, where the path of the spirit is found within the twisted tracks of organic matter made fluid by the sheer force of one man's imagination.

Saturday, February 2, 2013


Lost! The Franklin Expedition and the Fate of the Crews of H.M.S. Erebus and Terror

By Richard Galaburri

NY: Black Raven

Reviewed by Russell A. Potter

Into the icy mists surrounding the final fate of Sir John Franklin's lost Arctic expedition there comes a new figure: Richard Galaburri. An Arctic book dealer, collector, and traveller, his short essays on various aspects of northern history have appeared the The Musk-Ox, Arctic, and other specialist journals, but those seeking a copy of Lost! at their local library or bookstore may be forgiven if they begin to wonder whether the book and its author are themselves phantasms of the frozen zone; even the vast WorldCat archives contain no record of the volume.  Happily, I can report that both the book and Mr. Galaburri do in fact exist; both may be found on eBay, where he's been quietly selling this modest volume for the past year, and I hope that this review will bring them to the attention of a wider audience.

And it will be attention well-deserved, as this slender but meticulous volume is in fact the best available introduction to the essential issues that make the Franklin mystery an 'unsolved' one. Written in a lucid and accessible style, it lays out the basic facts of the case with admirable clarity, and then traces the evidence uncovered by Charles Francis Hall, the Inuit testimony with which any meaningful account of Franklin's fate must grapple. One may disagree with some of the details Galaburri's proposed solution, as I do, and nevertheless find it stimulating and provocative; the author has done his research carefully, and his evidence is sound (and amply footnoted). It is the rare book that will appeal both to newcomers to the story, and those who have grappled with it for decades.

What follows is chiefly for the latter, and I'll apologize in advance for the density of detail; for those not already steeped in these questions, I can simply recommend Mr. Galaburi's book, followed by Woodman's two volumes; those who have read any or all of these will be familiar with the issues I raise.

*     *     *     *     *

The summary of the Franklin evidence offered in the first few sections of the present book is admirable; up to the point of the 1848 abandonment, there is fairly broad consensus as to the disposition of the ships and their crews. Two elements of Inuit testimony, however, offer conflicting alternatives as to teh destiny of the last groups of survivors, and it is these that Galaburri wisely focusses upon. The first is the testimony of one Kok-lee-arng-nun, and old man who gave Hall two spoons with the Crozier crest and told a remarkable tale of visits to the commanders of two ships, who seemed to be Franklin and Crozier, under the names 'Too-loo-ah' and 'A-gloo-ka.' He described 'Too-loo-ah' as "an old man with broad shoulders, thick and heavier set than Hall, with gray hair, full face, and bald head. He was always wearing something over his eyes (spectacles, as Too-koo-li-too interpreted it), was quite lame, and appeared sick when they last saw him. He was very kind to Innuits -- always wanting them to eat something. With this man was his second officer, 'Aglooka' ... after the first summer and first winter, they saw no more of Too-loo-ark, and then A-gloo-ka was the Eshemutta (captain)."

This story, as Galaburri observes, cannot be explained away (as Hall himself and others have tried) as a reminiscence of Sir John and James Ross; the elder Ross had a luxutriant head of hair until the day he died, which was a quarter-century after his expedition, not during it. I believe there's really no other way to explain this testimony other than to posit that some Inuit bands did indeed visit the ships prior to the abandonment, prior indeed to Franklin's death. The dating is even accurate: after the first summer (that of 1846) and winter (1846-47) was precisely when he died.  Still, this evidence has been handled gingerly by some experts, most notably David Woodman, who points out that there is no other evidence that Inuit knew about or visited the ships in the pack ice off King William Island, and that this story must therefore refer to a later event when the ships were further south; in his version Too-loo-ark is Crozier, and thus it is Crozier who dies and is replaced by a subordinate. Galaburri takes the Kok-lee-ang-nun story at face value, and vividly recounts it, along with Hall's (eventually skeptical) response.

But this for Galaburri is just the turning point for his second hypothesis, which is that the "Aglooka" described here and in other Inuit testimony is indeed Crozier.  His argument is based on Crozier's character and Arctic experience, and is of course an appealing one; I myself always find that when I imagine the elusive Aglooka I tend to picture Crozier.  There is no concrete evidence, however, and given that the name was also applied to Ross and Rae and other strangers, the identification of Crozier here must fairly be called conjectural. Given that, however, the rest of his theory is reasonable and well-argued; he believes that Crozier and his men headed east rather than west, apparently making for Igloolik.  He thus credits (as does Woodman in one of his theses in Strangers Among Us) the sighting of strange white men on the Melville Peninsula to this group. There is a conflict here, though, since in the tales of Tooshooarthariu and others, Aglooka told them he was going to "Iwillik" (Repulse Bay) and not to Igloolik.  Clearly, these must be different groups, unless Aglooka changed his mind at some point, and/or there may have been two Aglookas.  Nevertheless, it's a strong argument that one of them was Crozier, since many of the Inuit told Hall that a man who had been with Parry at Igloolik in 1822 was among this group of last survivors -- and that could only be Crozier.

It still seems a bit of a stretch to imagine that a Crozier-led group would march all the way to Igloolik rather than to nearer resources, such as the supplies remaining at Fury Beach, or Repulse Bay, where contact via whalers was possible. Still, since he had been there before, the familiarity of the place and the possibility of finding some familiar Inuit faces must have been strong attractions. Some of the "strangers" were indeed seen by Inuit in the area of Igloolik, but mistaking them for "Etkerlin" (sub-Arctic Indians), they avoided them. It would be ironic indeed if Crozier guided his men this far, but was unable to communicate with any Inuit. If this was his route, he and his companions must have perished just short of their goal; nevertheless their struggle, as Galaburri recounts it, is one that elicits considerable admiration.

There are a few minor shortcomings to the volume: Galaburri did not consult the original Hall papers, relying only on those Nourse transcribed, and he did not make use of Woodman's Strangers Among Us, wanting to avoid any undue influence on his own theories. Nevertheless, his book offers a brisk and lucid possible solution, one which judiciously notes where and how it departs from others; by choosing a single strand of possibility, Galaburri is able to make his account a far more readily readable one. I'd recommend it to anyone commencing their own Franklin search, and hope that it will be more widely available in the near future.