By Steven Fouchard, Army Public Affairs
Gjoa Haven, Nunavut — An Inuit Canadian Ranger calls an invitation to take part in the opening of a new exhibit of artifacts from the storied Franklin Expedition a sign of appreciation for the role of the Inuit community in expanding the knowledge of it.
Master Corporal Sammy Kogvik, Second in Command of the Gjoa Haven Ranger Patrol, part of 1 Canadian Ranger Patrol Group (1 CRPG), was invited to the opening of the exhibit, entitled “Death in the ice: the shocking story of Franklin’s final expedition” that took place July 14 at the National Maritime Museum (NMM) in Greenwich, England.
“Yeah, I’m looking forward to it,” he said, speaking from Gjoa Haven shortly before departing, along with 1 CRPG’s Sergeant Sean Murphy. “I was thinking it is a sign of appreciation.”
The Franklin Expedition left England in May 1845 in hopes of completing the charting of the Northwest Passage to allow ships faster access to Asia from Europe. Led by Sir John Franklin, the expedition consisted of 128 men and two ships – His Majesty’s Ship (HMS) Erebus and His Majesty’s Ship (HMS) Terror.
Both ships and their crews were lost several months later, having been last seen in Baffin Bay in July of 1845. More than 30 searches mounted between 1847 and 1880 failed to turn up any evidence of what had gone wrong.
A team led by Parks Canada discovered HMS Erebus in 2014 off Victoria Island in Nunavut. HMS Terror was found only last year in a search mounted by the non-profit Arctic Research Foundation.
MCpl Kogvik was part of that search and guided the team to the wreck of HMS Terror. In an odd twist to the story, he and a friend had actually found HMSTerror six years earlier while on a fishing trip. Though they took photographs of its mast sticking up out of the ice at the time, the camera was lost before they could be shared and MCpl Kogvik feared his story would not be credible without them.
The new exhibit is a collaboration between the NMM, Parks Canada, the Nunavut government, The Inuit Heritage Trust, and the Canadian Museum of History (CMH).
“It is impossible to overestimate how information on the Franklin Expedition preserved in Inuit oral accounts has contributed to a better understanding of what happened,” said CMH’s Dr. Karen Ryan, the exhibit curator. “Important finds were made beginning in 1859 and continue to the present day with the discovery of Erebus and Terror, all based largely upon information preserved in Inuit accounts.”
The exhibit includes listening stations where visitors can hear Inuit speakers on the topic in both English and Inuktitut.
“Inuit speakers discuss the continued importance of oral histories to Inuit culture,” Dr. Ryan explained. “There are oral histories relating to the environment in the area of King William Island where the Expedition ships were first trapped by ice, and descriptions of meetings with Franklin crewmen after they had deserted their ships.”
“I’ve been familiar with the Expedition’s story and have followed the research that has taken place on it for a long time,” she added. “So seeing some of those iconic Franklin artifacts was pretty thrilling. I hope that visitors who are familiar with the Expedition’s story have their own theories about what went wrong and those who are not will be similarly thrilled.”
“Death in the ice: the shocking story of Franklin’s final expedition” is on show at the NMM until January 7, 2018. The exhibit will move to the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Quebec in March, 2018.
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