Friday, 28 January 2011
|Australian MP Greg Hunt has written to the Dr Liam Fox, the British Defence Secretary, asking for his assistance and has started a petition calling for the return of the map to Australia. However, the Daily Telegraph reports that UKHO's response to the request was to say: "Matthew Flinders was a Commander in Her Majesty's Royal Navy on board the HMS Investigator and, as such, the UK Government holds it as a public record and [it] is officially part of the UK National Archives."|
Friday, 21 January 2011
As ever, I was interested to see what contemporaneous news reports had to say about the man. Following the Guardian Book of Mountains thesis that at the beginning of the 20th century the Manchester Guardian was the paper of record for all things climbing, I was expecting at least something on the 1905 Kangchenjunga expedition. Unfortunately there was little apart from a few mentions. There were though some amusing reports of court cases, plus the following story about Crowley being banned from talking about the 15th century poet Gilles de Rais at Oxford University. Perhaps it was a quiet news day but the issue was thought important enough to warrant a leader column in the paper on February 4 1930. (Click images to enlarge)
Wednesday, 19 January 2011
While the British can seem obsessed with the exploits of Scott and Shackleton in Antarctica, Canadians are fascinated with the fate of the 1845 Franklin Expedition that set out in search of Northwest Passage, an Arctic waterway connecting the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Two ships, HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, plus 129 crew members disappeared and little is known as to what happened - other than there is evidence that some of them survived for a number of years, along with lurid tales of cannibalism and lead poisoning.
The author recently talked about how he came to write Fitzjames's biography at Kennington's Durning Library, as a guest of the Friends of the library. He explained that as someone working in institutional investment marketing he travelled incessantly, often to San Francisco. On one flight the financier found himself reading Barrow's Boys while travelling above the Arctic, the area where the grisly events contained in the book took place. He became obsessed with the Franklin expedition and after leaving his job during Lehman Brothers bank collapse, decided to pursue this interest, resurrecting his original training as an archaeologist.
Battersby was aware of the many theories about the expedition but found himself irritated by numerous inconsistencies. So he decided to start from scratch and look at the subject afresh. Initial research led him to deciding to concentrate on the life of Fitzjames.
The talk consisted of a romp through the sailor's relatively short life (he was 32 when he joined the expedition). Previous references to the man usually had him down a fast-rising adventurous glamour boy of the British navy. He took part in the first steamer trip down the the Euphrates River and fought China during the first Opium War. Then, at the age of 29, he was promoted from lieutenant to commander. This has usually been attributed to an aristocratic background. However, after trawling through a mountain of archive material, Battersby discovered that Fitzjames was illegitimate and a self-made man, plus many more facts about the man.
This was a fascinating talk that brought Fitzjames and navy life in the 1840s alive. It was illustrated with such newly discovered details as unseen paintings by the sailor and the fact HMS Erebus and HMS Terror can, on close inspection, be seen reflected in the band around his hat (picture above).
There were plenty of questions but, inevitably, the one that generated the most interest was over a slide featuring the skulls, minus jawbones, of some of the Franklin expedition members. There's no getting away from the fact that all talk of this failed voyage from over 160 years ago will always turn to cannibalism.
Thanks to the Friends of Durning Library for organising such an illuminating evening. Mention must also be made of the fact that they are fighting hard to prevent sections of the service being closed down as part of the current UK spending cuts. The talk was yet another example of the varied services public libraries provide for the community.
Monday, 17 January 2011
Sunday, 16 January 2011
The yeti industry includes everything from books by the likes of Reinhold Messner, serious studies by cryptozoologists (students of unknown or undiscovered animals) to all manner of appearances in popular culture, including Dr Who.
One of the most recent investigations comes from Mike Allsop, a mountaineer who is hoping to locate and return the supposed hand and skull of a yeti that were stolen from a monastery in the village of Pangboche in 1999. Allsop was so taken with the story that he has worked with a film prop firm to produce replicas and in April he will present them to the monastery. However, he is willing to fly anywhere in the world to collect the originals. Much more information can be found on the returnthehand site.
Saturday, 8 January 2011
However, a combination of the air temperature rising to balmy 10C and curious to see what the repainted pool looked like, saw me once again poolside, waiting to take the winter plunge with fellow South Londoners. And it was great. I really enjoyed the swim (rather than it being an ordeal and excuse for a drink) plus, unlike last year, the atmosphere was very relaxed.