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Ice Ghosts: The Epic Hunt for the Lost Franklin Expedition
     

Ice Ghosts: The Epic Hunt for the Lost Franklin Expedition

by Paul Watson
 

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The spellbinding true story of the greatest cold case in Arctic history—and how the rare mix of marine science and Inuit knowledge finally led to the recent discovery of the shipwrecks.Spanning nearly 200 years, Ice Ghosts is a fast-paced detective story about Western science, indigenous beliefs, and the irrepressible spirit of exploration and discovery. It

Overview

The spellbinding true story of the greatest cold case in Arctic history—and how the rare mix of marine science and Inuit knowledge finally led to the recent discovery of the shipwrecks.Spanning nearly 200 years, Ice Ghosts is a fast-paced detective story about Western science, indigenous beliefs, and the irrepressible spirit of exploration and discovery. It weaves together an epic account of the legendary Franklin Expedition of 1845—whose two ships, the HMS Erebus and the HMS Terror, and their crew of 129 were lost to the Arctic ice—with the modern tale of the scientists, researchers, divers, and local Inuit behind the recent discoveries of the two ships, which made news around the world.The journalist Paul Watson was on the icebreaker that led the expedition that discovered the HMS Erebus in 2014, and he broke the news of the discovery of the HMS Terror in 2016. In a masterful work of history and contemporary reporting, he tells the full story of the Franklin Expedition: Sir John Franklin and his crew setting off from England in search of the fabled Northwest Passage; the hazards they encountered and the reasons they were forced to abandon ship after getting stuck in the ice hundreds of miles from the nearest outpost of Western civilization; and the dozens of search expeditions over more than 160 years, which collectively have been called “the most extensive, expensive, perverse, and ill-starred . . . manhunt in history.”All that searching turned up a legendary trail of sailors’ relics, a fabled note, a lifeboat with skeletons lying next to loaded rifles, and rumors of cannibalism . . . but no sign of the ships until, finally, the discoveries in our own time. As Watson reveals, the epic hunt for the lost Franklin Expedition found success only when searchers combined the latest marine science with faith in Inuit lore that had been passed down orally for generations.Ice Ghosts is narrative nonfiction of the highest order, full of drama and rich in characters: Lady Jane Franklin, who almost single-handedly kept the search alive for decades; an Inuit historian who worked for decades gathering elders’ accounts; an American software billionaire who launched his own hunt; and underwater archaeologists honing their skills to help find the ships. Watson also shows how the hunt for the Franklin Expedition was connected to such technological advances as SCUBA gear and sonar technology, and how it ignited debates over how to preserve the relics discovered with the ships.A modern adventure story that arcs back through history, Ice Ghosts tells the complete and incredible story of the Franklin Expedition—the greatest of Arctic mysteries—for the ages.

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Ian McGuire
While there have been many previous books about the Franklin expedition and its mysterious fate, the notable originality of Ice Ghosts lies in the fact that it brings the story right up-to-date, covering not only the discovery of the Erebus in 2014, but also the discovery of the Terror…in 2016. The first half of the book tells the story of the original 1845 expedition, and of the many unsuccessful rescue efforts undertaken subsequently by the British government…It is a great story, but readers already familiar with it are unlikely to find much that is truly new or surprising here. The book moves up a gear, however, when Watson turns to the more recent past…he is at his vigorous best when describing places and people he has met and talked to. He provides sharp and entertaining portraits of the various Franklin obsessives…[Ice Ghosts is] quick, enjoyable and sometimes gripping reading. Franklin aficionados will certainly want to add it to their libraries…
Publishers Weekly
02/13/2017
Watson (Where War Lives), a Pulitzer Prize–winning Canadian photojournalist, recounts a failed 19th-century attempt to find the fabled Northwest Passage and the 21st-century search that succeeded in locating vessels that had been missing for 168 years. On May 19, 1845, John Franklin began his fourth and final journey in search of the Northwest Passage. Despite his soiled reputation and advancing age, Franklin was made commander of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror and their combined crew of 128 men. Fitted with the latest technology, Erebus and Terror set sail from England to the Arctic Ocean. During the winter of 1845–1846, three men died, the ships were twice trapped in sea ice, and Franklin’s health declined precipitously. Franklin died on June 11, 1847, and Watson reveals that during the subsequent winter the ships were once again trapped, forcing the remaining crew to relinquish the ships in search of safety. Numerous attempts were made to find the ships as well as the burial sites of crew and commander. Through the diligence of self-trained Inuit historian Louie Kamookak and an array of researchers, scientists, and divers, the sunken ships were found in pristine condition. Watson’s meticulously researched tale finely weaves together the many voices and experiences of those who sought Franklin’s long-missing ships. (Apr.)
Gemma Tarlach - Discover Magazine
“[A] thrilling tale of science’s hunt to solve one of naval history’s greatest riddles. . . . [Watson’s] intimate familiarity with key players and places gives the reader an insider’s view of the operations.”
Matthew Price - Boston Globe
“An incredible yarn.”
Bill Streever - Dallas Morning News
“Fascinating.”
Ken McCoogan - Toronto Globe & Mail
“A splendid achievement.”
Booklist
“Riveting.”
Ian McGuire - New York Times Book Review
“Intriguing [and] enjoyable. . . . While there have been many previous books about the Franklin expedition and its mysterious fate, the notable originality of Ice Ghosts lies in the fact that it brings the story right up-to-date. . . . Franklin aficionados will certainly want to add it to their libraries.”
Library Journal
03/15/2017
Pulitzer Prize winner Watson (Where War Lives) scores again with this vibrant and thorough history of Sir John Franklin's (1786–1847) doomed 1845 expedition to discover the Northwest Passage. The author delves into Franklin's background and life to explain how he came to captain this voyage, also shedding light on Jane Franklin's relentless badgering of the Royal Navy to send rescue missions to aid her husband. Jane welcomed any and all ideas about where to search, with some of the most accurate locations coming from contacts with the "spirit" world. Also detailed is Inuit Louis Kamookak's attempts to preserve his people's oral history and traditional knowledge, which proved vital in locating Franklin's ships, and Parks Canada's expeditions that found the HMS Erebus and Terror in 2014 and 2016, respectively. Watson was aboard the vessels that discovered Franklin's ships, which makes this reporting especially crisp. There are still plenty of mysteries surrounding the expedition, such as did the sailors abandon their ships, only to later return to them and sail on? VERDICT Watson is an excellent writer with a dry wit and concise style that makes this a must-read for Franklin aficionados as well as for researchers and readers of Polar history and exploration.—Margaret Atwater-Singer, Univ. of Evansville Lib., IN
Kirkus Reviews
★ 2017-01-24
Intriguing narrative of English explorer Sir John Franklin's fatal fourth expedition to the Arctic in 1845, emphasizing the ongoing drive to uncover the mystery of the icy unknown.Obsessed with the discovery of a Northwest Passage since the 16th century, British explorers weren't going to give up simply because it hadn't been found yet. In this engaging work by Vancouver-based journalist and photographer Watson (Where War Lives, 2007, etc.), a winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the George Polk Award, among other honors, the expedition by Franklin, an aging explorer hoping to reclaim lost glory, becomes less visceral and significant than the myriad attempts to find his body and the two lost ships, the Erebus and the Terror. In 2014, Watson accompanied the Canadian Coast Guard Victoria Strait Expedition, which ultimately found the Erebus some 168 years after the initial sinking and broke the news in the Guardian. The disappearance of Franklin and his 129-member crew on the Royal Navy-sponsored expedition of 1845 was full of mysteries, and it constituted the worst disaster in the Admiralty's polar exploration history. After getting stuck in the ice, the ships were eventually abandoned just north of King William Island. A few groups set out across the ice, some men already dead perhaps by botulism from tainted tin cans of food (rather than by lead poisoning, a theory discounted) and others disoriented by starvation and cold. Watson offers a sympathetic account of the Inuit who encountered some of the shipwrecked men and offered them food and supplies, as well as the native shamans who later were able to locate the wrecks (the Terror was discovered in 2016) with remarkable accuracy—if the English had only listened. Watson's narrative also closely involves the dogged attempts by Franklin's widow, Jane, who never gave up trying to fund and launch recovery expeditions during her lifetime. A keen, entertaining chronicle of the various attempts to locate a sensationally doomed expedition.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780393249385
Publisher:
Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
03/21/2017
Pages:
384
Sales rank:
28,054
Product dimensions:
6.30(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.50(d)

Meet the Author

Paul Watson worked as a war reporter for more than twenty years, covering conflicts in Angola, the Balkans, Eritrea, Rwanda, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Somalia. He is the author of Where War Lives and Magnum Revolution, and the recipient of the Pulitzer Prize, the National Headliner Award, the George Polk Award, and the Robert Capa Gold Medal. He served as Asia bureau chief for the Los Angeles Times and covered the Arctic for the Toronto Star. He holds a master’s degree in international affairs from Columbia University. He lives in Vancouver, British Columbia.

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