|Nothing can prepare you for...The Franklin Conspiracy|
By Jeffrey Blair Latta
(With an introduction by John Robert Colombo.)
Sample One / Sample
is the single most enigmatic mystery in Canadian history.
In 1845, the British Royal Navy sent two ships, the Erebus and the Terror, into the unexplored Arctic
to seek a passage to China. They were the most advanced vessels of
their day, fully outfitted with state-of-the-art scientific equipment.
On board were 129 sailors and scientists, led by the legendary
explorer, Sir John Franklin. It seemed nothing could go wrong.
Neither ship was ever seen again.
Years of searching uncovered grisly evidence of unparalleled disaster, but, to this day, the experts remain mystified. What really happened to the Lost Franklin Expedition? Now, for the first time, The Franklin Conspiracy presents an astonishing new theory, one that attempts to follow all the clues—no matter where they may lead.
Exhaustively researched, compellingly reasoned, The Franklin
Conspiracy tries to answer all the
many mysteries surrounding the Lost Franklin Expedition. For example:
Conspiracy is a fully documented quest for the answers to these
questions, and many more. The result is a chilling odyssey of disaster
and corruption on a par with the infamous Roswell UFO crash or the JFK
conspiracy theory. It is a meticulously researched historical
treatise which reads like a bestselling horror novel. A shocking
saga of conspiracy, cover-up
and the paranormal. And an astonishing secret which sealed the
fate of 129 men.
Igniting a storm of controversy during its initial release, it is an
experience you will never forget, with a final line which will linger
in the mind for years to come.
PROLOGUE: THE VANISHING SHIPS
Will you, won't you, will you, won't you,
Will you join the dance?
Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
It always begins the same way.
No matter who tells the tale, no matter the reason for the telling, it always begins the same. It begins with four ships meeting amongst the towering, sapphire-and-ivory icebergs of Baffin Bay, west of Greenland, east of Canada. The smaller two of the four were whaling vessels, the Prince of Wales and the Enterprise. They had come upon the two larger vessels purely by chance, stopping out of courtesy and because, in the lonely icy wastes of the Arctic whaling grounds, human contact was treasured above all else. To Captain Dannett, master of the Prince of Wales, the initial sight of the larger ships must have made him wonder if his eyes were playing tricks on him, as was so common in those waters where ghost ships were frequently seen hanging in the air and mysterious mountains might be sighted one trip, but be gone the next.
Both ships were black as coal, but with yellow along the weather works above the water line. Each sported three masts, barque-rigged, painted white. The shape of their hulls was like no other craft, their sides being so thick and fortified with wood, their prows being so strengthened by solid bulwarks of sheet iron as to give them the look of two black bricks with the forward edges rounded just enough to suit their purpose. Clearly they were not built for speed. They were built for ice. They were built to take all that Nature could deliver. They were built to succeed.
If their black hulls and iron shod prows were not reason enough to give Captain Dannett pause, the names painted on their sterns must surely have. The one was named Erebus; in Greek mythology, this was the darkest part of Hades, the underworld. Those who had named her could never have imagined how appropriate that name would come to be in later years; though never so appropriate as her sister's. This one, the smaller of the two, was christened Terror.
Captain Dannett found the Erebus and Terror secured to an iceberg, atop which their crews had constructed a temporary observatory. Having successfully managed the one month voyage from England, they were merely waiting for favourable weather before commencing their journey of discovery into the unknown waters of Arctic Canada in search of the final link in the chain which would complete the fabled Northwest Passage. In the meantime, Captain Dannett invited their expedition's commanding officer, Sir John Franklin, aboard, along with some of his officers.
Dannett must surely have known who Franklin was. Franklin was a living legend. Honours had been bestowed upon him countless times for his exploratory expeditions into the north. He had attempted to reach the Orient by ship travelling east over Spitzbergen (as opposed to westward over Canada as he now intended). He had trekked overland to the northern rim of mainland Canada, not once, but twice, suffering from cold and starvation, and returning with tales of unspeakable hardship. Now, in his twilight years, he had become a giant among explorers. Others of his calling had honoured him by bestowing his name on innumerable land features as they pushed further and further into the chill, forbidding Arctic reaches.
To the people of the time, it must have seemed they were seeing history in the making; as if the great voyages of exploration into the north would carry the names of their explorers down through the ages, just as, in a later time, people would speak of a "Space Age" and imagine their astronaut heros would live on in legend forever. Thus, such names as John Ross and Edward Parry, James Clark Ross and George Back, Peter Dease and Thomas Simpson seemed imperishable and eternal. And, of all of them, none seemed more eternal than the name of Sir John Franklin.
But the memory of time is fickle and there is no one so important, so worthy, that he or she cannot pass away with the years, dimming in popular memory and finally taking refuge in the pages of history books and classroom texts. When Captain Dannett invited Franklin aboard his whaler in July of 1845, Franklin was an old man, his legend created, his imperishable achievements already carved in stone. Or so it seemed. Dannett must have been honoured.
He could never have understood that all these events, all these names, the Rosses and the Parrys and the Backs would one day pass away. All the exploring, all the hardships and achievements, would slip away and all that would remain would be this one chanced moment when his whaler, the Prince of Wales, and a companion vessel, the Enterprise, encountered Her Majesty's Ships Erebus and Terror in the pack ice of Baffin Bay. He could not have known that it was Franklin alone, of all his contemporaries, who would pass into legend. And that it would not be for what the great explorer had already accomplished, but rather for what was yet to come.
Captain Dannett could not have suspected any of this because, as the changing winds forced the Prince of Wales and the Enterprise too soon to part company with the naval expedition, and as he caught one last glimpse of the two black and yellow vessels secured to their iceberg before losing sight of them in the blue-white haze, he had no way of knowing no one would ever see either the Erebus or the Terror again.
This is how it always begins...
An Attack That Never Came
And then there were the bodies.
Only two skeletons were found in the boat and, when a search for graves failed to turn up any, it became evident the two men had been left behind by whoever had helped haul the boat this far. The youngest man was in the bow of the boat, in a "disturbed state" which McClintock [one of the searchers] attributed to "large and powerful animals, probably wolves..." The older man, in a better condition, lay under the after-thwart, his body surrounded by clothes and furs. Leaning upright against the side of the boat were two shot-guns, one barrel in each carefully loaded and cocked, in Owen Beattie's words, "as if ready to fend off an attack that never came."
But as strange as all this was, McClintock was even more astonished to find the sledge-mounted boat was pointed toward the north instead of the south. For some reason, this sledge party had been headed back toward Victory Point and the abandoned ships, rather than toward the Great Fish River. The only explanation he could come up with to solve this puzzle was to assume that some of the crewmen, finding the journey south more than they had bargained for, had turned back, finally abandoning even their boat (and two comrades) when their strength was nearly gone. It was an unlikely scenario, but the only one imaginable. If the crewmen hoped to find the ships still beset in the ice on their return, why did they attempt to drag the ship's boat with them? If they thought they would have to cross water, the ships themselves would have either sunk or floated away.
Yet, the evidence was irrefutable. Some of the crewmen at least had turned back. Why?
The pieces of the puzzle lay scattered like ice-floes in Lancaster Sound, jostling and meeting, then just as suddenly breaking apart again. A picture is hinted at, but never fully resolved. McClintock based his conclusions according to certain seemingly self-evident assumptions. He assumed the ships were abandoned because the expedition was faced with starvation. He assumed they trekked down the west coast of King William Island, weakened and racked with scurvy. He assumed their greatest enemy was their own fading strength and gnawing hunger. Thus, he assumed they turned back because they couldn't go any further. It never occurred to the searcher that the crewmen might have turned back because escape had been cut off, that they had been forced to retreat back to the north for the reason that they were trapped, with nowhere else to run but north.
And yet, the evidence was there, though mute and circumstantial. Two bodies lay in the boat, one badly mauled. Two shot-guns stood by, loaded and cocked. If they perished of starvation, why did they leave forty pounds of chocolate behind? If their strength was failing, why didn't they jettison all the extra weight? McClintock was amazed to find that the ponderous boat had been partially knocked off its sledge. He proposed the deed had been done by "a violent north-west gale". It was a powerful gale indeed which could lift an 800 pound boat.
And finally, the eeriest clue of all: of the two bodies discovered, McClintock wrote: "No part of the skull of either skeleton was found, with the exception of the lower jaw of each."
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