econintersect.com
       
  

FREE NEWSLETTER: Econintersect sends a nightly newsletter highlighting news events of the day, and providing a summary of new articles posted on the website. Econintersect will not sell or pass your email address to others per our privacy policy. You can cancel this subscription at any time by selecting the unsubscribing link in the footer of each email.



posted on 23 September 2016

HMS Terror Wreck Found - But What Happened To Her Doomed Crew? Here's The Science

from The Conversation

-- this post authored by Keith Millar, University of Glasgow

It remains one of history's best-known naval tragedies - and mysteries. The loss of all 129 men of the 1845 Royal Navy expedition led by Captain Sir John Franklin to navigate a north-west passage through the Arctic remains an enigma. The only informative document to be recovered from the expedition was a single page that reported initial good progress through 1845 to 1847, but then the desertion of the ships in 1848 by which point nine officers - including Sir John Franklin - and 15 other ranks were reported to have died.

Franklin's two ships, HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, became trapped in ice off King William Island in 1846, where it is known that Franklin died in June the following year. But what happened to the rest of the crew? We know that they deserted their ships in 1848 - after two winters trapped in the pack ice - and all eventually perished over the next two or three years. Three permafrost preserved bodies were found in graves at the expedition's winter quarters of 1845/46 on Beechey Island in the northern Arctic. Forensic examination suggests that their deaths may have been caused by tuberculosis.

Skeletal remains of some other members of the crew have been found further south on King William Island and adjacent parts of the Canadian mainland. Their deaths occurred after desertion of the ships and were probably due to starvation and exposure. Some of the remains show evidence that cannibalism occurred in the last desperate throes of the expedition.

However, both of the expedition's ships have now been discovered - HMS Erebus in September 2014 by Parks Canada, and most recently the "pristine" HMS Terror in September 2016 by the Arctic Research Foundation. Their locations and contents may provide new insights into the fate of the crew.

Early historians supposed that scurvy had caused widespread incapacity, while more recent research proposed that the men were poisoned by lead from the solder that sealed their canned provisions.

Scurvy did occur in Arctic crews but research by Simon Mays of Historic England concluded that samples of the crew's skeletal remains show little clear evidence of the disease. Levels of lead in the remains of some of the crew are high relative to today, but it is debatable whether those levels would reflect incapacitating lead poisoning. The difficulty is the lack of normative data for levels of lead in the British population from which the crew was recruited in the 19th century. That population ingested high levels of lead from water pipes, pewter cooking utensils and drinking vessels, lead-based medical treatments and many other sources. In general, levels of lead in their bodies would have been high anyway.

Uncovering medical records

The supposed roles of scurvy and lead poisoning in the disaster would be answered if the expedition's medical records had survived - but they have eluded discovery, as have all the formal logs and journals. So our team at the University of Glasgow College of Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences and the College of Science and Engineering proposed that the medical records of those in the Royal Naval ships sent in search of Franklin and his crew might serve as a proxy for the health problems encountered by the expedition. Those ships were similarly equipped and provisioned to Franklin's vessels and met similar conditions. Consequently, the illnesses and deaths that occurred on them might reflect those of the lost crew.

Old map of Arctic region charting Sir John Franklin's Northwest Passage exploration. Created by Erhard and Bonaparte, published on Le Tour du Monde, Paris, 1860. Shutterstock

After examining the illnesses seen in almost 1,500 medical cases across nine search crews, we concluded that Franklin's men would have suffered similar common infections, gastro-intestinal disorders and injuries. They also will have suffered exposure, and some deaths might have occurred from respiratory, cardiovascular and tubercular conditions. Scurvy was evident but was not so prevalent as to affect the operational efficiency of the crews: if the same pattern occurred in Franklin's men then it would not have been significant, which would support Mays' findings.

The search crews had similar canned provisions to Franklin's men but their medical records showed no evidence of lead poisoning despite the relatively high exposure to lead that was inevitable on ships of that time. Unless a unique source of lead was present on Franklin's ships, there is no clear evidence that lead poisoning played a part in the disaster. This conclusion supports the outcome of our earlier published reappraisal of the evidence for lead poisoning.

The continuing enigma

What then was the most likely fate of the crews, and particularly the officers who had a disproportionately higher death rate? Based on the evidence from the search ships, we proposed that the deaths of Franklin's officers were probably due to non-medical factors such as accidents and injuries sustained when officers took on the dangerous task of hunting for wild game to supplement provisions, and continued the attempt, on foot over difficult terrain in a harsh climate, to discover the route of a north-west passage. Ironically, the expedition's success in reaching a remote part of the Arctic resulted in entrapment that precluded escape or rescue.

Sir John Franklin. Created by Morin and Trichon, published on Le Tour du Monde, Paris, 1860. Shutterstock

The discovery of the Erebus and Terror many miles from their initial desertion might confirm that they were re-manned and navigated to their new locations. It would be further evidence that a majority of the crew were in sufficient health to operate the ships, and counters popular portrayals of a sickly rabble staggering to their deaths in 1848. Such an end did come but David Woodman's thoughtful analysis suggests that it was not until 1850 or 1851.

Initial exploration of the Erebus has retrieved items including the ship's bell, bearing the date of the expedition's departure "1845", cannon, ceramic plates, buttons from tunics and a sword handle. The Terror appears much more intact but her discovery is too recent for an attempt to have been made to recover any contents, although the bell has been seen lying on the deck. We understand from our colleagues in Parks Canada that if any written records were stored on board the ships then they may remain legible and provide first-hand evidence of the events leading to disaster.

If any medical records have survived they will show whether health factors led to the failure of the expedition and put an end to further speculation, including our own. Whether they are ever recovered, however, remains to be seen. It is likely that the ships' significant records would have been taken with the officers when deserting the ships so the reality is that they may now be irretrievably lost. Like all good mysteries, the Franklin saga may continue to withhold answers.

The ConversationKeith Millar, Senior Research Fellow, Institute of Health and Wellbeing, University of Glasgow

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

>>>>> Scroll down to view and make comments <<<<<<

Click here for Historical News Post Listing










Make a Comment

Econintersect wants your comments, data and opinion on the articles posted.  As the internet is a "war zone" of trolls, hackers and spammers - Econintersect must balance its defences against ease of commenting.  We have joined with Livefyre to manage our comment streams.

To comment, using Livefyre just click the "Sign In" button at the top-left corner of the comment box below. You can create a commenting account using your favorite social network such as Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn or Open ID - or open a Livefyre account using your email address.



You can also comment using Facebook directly using he comment block below.





Econintersect Contributors


search_box

Print this page or create a PDF file of this page
Print Friendly and PDF


The growing use of ad blocking software is creating a shortfall in covering our fixed expenses. Please consider a donation to Econintersect to allow continuing output of quality and balanced financial and economic news and analysis.


Take a look at what is going on inside of Econintersect.com
Main Home
Analysis Blog
Proud to Be a Nihilist: Bill Mitchell on Econometrics and Numerical Prediction
Fixing Obamacare - Why It Won’t Be Easy
News Blog
Why Your Phone Battery Gets Worse With Time
25 November 2016: ECRI's WLI Growth Index Improves
November 2016 BLS Jobs Growth Continues To Be OK, Just Not Great
Rail Week Ending 26 November 2016: Another Positive Week
It Will Take More Than A Wall To Solve Border Crime
Infographic Of The Day: How The Power Grid Actually Works
Early Headlines: Asia Stocks Down, Oil Eases, More Trump Noms, May Rebuked At Polls, Italy's 5 Star Movmt, Assad's Treachery, India's Currency Mess, Canada's Housing Bubble Popping? And More
30 Years Of American - German Trade Relations
How To Measure Audience Engagement Online
Chinese Smartphones On The Rise
Why Journalistic 'Balance' Is Failing The Public
75,000 Children In Nigeria At Risk Of Starving To Death
What We Read Today 01 December 2016
Investing Blog
Anticipating The Trend Change Makes For The Lowest Risk
It's Early Winter - Watch Out For Thin Ice
Opinion Blog
What Would It Take For Inflation To Surge - Or Even Just Emerge?
How Can China's Renminbi Deal With The Rising Dollar Risk?
Precious Metals Blog
Silver Prices Rebounded Today: Where They Are Headed
Live Markets
02Dec2016 Market Update: WTI Crude Climbed Back Up To Previous 51 Handle, US Dollar Index Trading At The100 Level, Oil Rig Count At 10-Month High
Amazon Books & More






.... and keep up with economic news using our dynamic economic newspapers with the largest international coverage on the internet
Asia / Pacific
Europe
Middle East / Africa
Americas
USA Government



Crowdfunding ....






























 navigate econintersect.com

Blogs

Analysis Blog
News Blog
Investing Blog
Opinion Blog
Precious Metals Blog
Markets Blog
Video of the Day
Weather

Newspapers

Asia / Pacific
Europe
Middle East / Africa
Americas
USA Government
     

RSS Feeds / Social Media

Combined Econintersect Feed
Google+
Facebook
Twitter
Digg

Free Newsletter

Marketplace - Books & More

Economic Forecast

Content Contribution

Contact

About

  Top Economics Site

Investing.com Contributor TalkMarkets Contributor Finance Blogs Free PageRank Checker Active Search Results Google+

This Web Page by Steven Hansen ---- Copyright 2010 - 2016 Econintersect LLC - all rights reserved