Monday, August 18, 2008

Franklin is dead, man, he's dead.

This thing about John Franklin, I've never quite gotten it.

Can scores of non-fictions, novels, songs, stories, museum exhibitions, and suchlike be wrong? I suppose not, but they cannot get around the fact that this is the story of a toffee-nosed English twit who committed suicide by stupidity and took 145 crew members with him. It's an English story, not a Canadian one. Try integrating Franklin into a history of 19th century Canada sometime.

And this new effort to solve the Franklin "mystery"? (Um, ah, the answer to the mystery? They died, they all died right there around King William Island, some after eating some of the others. You are welcome, don't mention it.) It turns out to be some insane northern sovereignty quest. The Harper government may be cutting every arts-and-culture expenditure and trying to control whatever artists say, but hey, gotta blow the archaeology and heritage budget in some high-tech search for Franklin (But he's dead, see above) because that will really demonstrate Canadian sovereignty in the rapidly de-icing arctic waters.

But doesn't Franklin's voyage mostly prove that foreigners have always been intent on travelling those waterway? If he could try it in the teeth of the ice, aren't Russians and Yanks and whoever just as entitled now it's a pleasure cruise?

If we want to assert northern sovereignty, would we not be better actually being there and doing stuff and properly administering the terrain?

I can only think of only one really good Franklin book. David C. Woodman published Unravelling the Franklin Expedition: Inuit Testimony with McGill Queen's in 1991. It's a good book because it's about the Inuit, about the people who actually lived there and knew what was going on, and told their children, who remembered. Maybe if we spent the money on an Inuit expedition....
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