Monday, 20 September 2010

On the Proper Use of Stars

Another day, another Franklin story. The latest news is that TV adventurer Bear Grylls claims to have found human bones, the remnants of huge fires built from ship timber, and tools carved from whale bone, which may help to explain the fate Sir John Franlin, his 129 men and their two ships. Grylls and his crew made the discovery while on a mission to enter the record books as the first team to navigate the treacherous Northwest Passage through the Arctic Ocean in inflatable boats. More details here.

Meanwhile, On the Proper Use of Stars, a novel about Franklin's doomed expedition has just been published. An English translation of Quebec writer Dominique Fortier's Du bon usage des etoiles (2008), it focuses on Francis Crozier, Franklin's second-in-command who turns a sceptic eye on the ambitions of his leader.

Life moves on and Grylls has just tweeted "off to start filming new Degree deodorant commercials today".


  1. Do you know if King William's Island is protected as a site in any way? I would think that with all these efforts to find artifacts, the sites are probably being significantly disturbed.

    Russell Potter and William Battersby have been following this story too.

  2. I haven't come up with anything yet but sure an expert will soon reveal whether or not it is protected. Talking of experts, I follow Russell Potter's blog but thanks for the Hidden Tracks link.

  3. I'm waiting for my copy of Fortier's book, and hope to post a review soon ... but although I did try to reach him, I'm not going to hold my breath until I hear back from Bear Grylls. His twitter feed, to my mind, suggests that this claim was just a sort of afterthought, and that he's more concerned with his personal profile than the historical significance of what he may (or may not) have found ...

  4. I'm halfway through Fortier's book and it is enjoyable and a really good translation.

    It is sometimes difficult for me to read it as literature when I know so much about the history, but Fortier clearly has done her homework.

    She creates more of a love interest story between Crozier and Sophia Cracroft than probably bears out in history, but that is fair poetic license and it otherwise seems pretty faithful to history.

    And as a novel, it is compelling.

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. I just got my copy of Fortier's book in the mail this morning -- so far it seems both well-researched and well-imagined, and it's beautifully written (I haven't seen the French original, so can't vouch for the translation one way or the other).

    And Michael, to answer your question: yes, Nunavut has some very strict rules about how to deal with archaeological finds -- in some circumstances, even taking a photo can be illegal! You certainly can't touch anything, and to actually investigate a site such as this requires permits, the agreement of local Inuit communities, and the involvement of territorial authorities, such as Doug Stenton, who is Nunavut's chief archaeologist.

  7. Thanks for the comments. Plan to order Fortier's book.