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Ice Ghosts
Cover of Ice Ghosts
Ice Ghosts
The Epic Hunt for the Lost Franklin Expedition
Borrow Borrow
The spellbinding story of the greatest cold case in Arctic history—and how the rare mix of marine science and Inuit knowledge finally led to the recent discovery of the shipwrecks.
Spanning nearly 200 years, Ice Ghosts is a fast-paced detective story about Western science, indigenous beliefs, and the irrepressible spirit of exploration and discovery. It weaves together an epic account of the legendary Franklin Expedition of 1845—whose two ships, the HMS Erebus and the HMS Terror, and their crew of 129 were lost to the Arctic ice—with the modern tale of the scientists, researchers, divers, and local Inuit behind the recent discoveries of the two ships, which made news around the world.
The journalist Paul Watson was on the icebreaker that led the expedition that discovered the HMS Erebus in 2014, and he broke the news of the discovery of the HMS Terror in 2016. In a masterful work of history and contemporary reporting, he tells the full story of the Franklin Expedition: Sir John Franklin and his crew setting off from England in search of the fabled Northwest Passage; the hazards they encountered and the reasons they were forced to abandon ship after getting stuck in the ice hundreds of miles from the nearest outpost of Western civilization; and the dozens of search expeditions over more than 160 years, which collectively have been called "the most extensive, expensive, perverse, and ill-starred . . . manhunt in history."
All that searching turned up a legendary trail of sailors' relics, a fabled note, a lifeboat with skeletons lying next to loaded rifles, and rumors of cannibalism . . . but no sign of the ships until, finally, the discoveries in our own time. As Watson reveals, the epic hunt for the lost Franklin Expedition found success only when searchers combined the latest marine science with faith in Inuit lore that had been passed down orally for generations.
Ice Ghosts is narrative nonfiction of the highest order, full of drama and rich in characters: Lady Jane Franklin, who almost single-handedly kept the search alive for decades; an Inuit historian who worked for decades gathering elders' accounts; an American software billionaire who launched his own hunt; and underwater archaeologists honing their skills to help find the ships. Watson also shows how the hunt for the Franklin Expedition was connected to such technological advances as scuba gear and sonar technology, and how it ignited debates over how to preserve the relics discovered with the ships.
A modern adventure story that arcs back through history, Ice Ghosts tells the complete and incredible story of the Franklin Expedition—the greatest of Arctic mysteries—for the ages.
The spellbinding story of the greatest cold case in Arctic history—and how the rare mix of marine science and Inuit knowledge finally led to the recent discovery of the shipwrecks.
Spanning nearly 200 years, Ice Ghosts is a fast-paced detective story about Western science, indigenous beliefs, and the irrepressible spirit of exploration and discovery. It weaves together an epic account of the legendary Franklin Expedition of 1845—whose two ships, the HMS Erebus and the HMS Terror, and their crew of 129 were lost to the Arctic ice—with the modern tale of the scientists, researchers, divers, and local Inuit behind the recent discoveries of the two ships, which made news around the world.
The journalist Paul Watson was on the icebreaker that led the expedition that discovered the HMS Erebus in 2014, and he broke the news of the discovery of the HMS Terror in 2016. In a masterful work of history and contemporary reporting, he tells the full story of the Franklin Expedition: Sir John Franklin and his crew setting off from England in search of the fabled Northwest Passage; the hazards they encountered and the reasons they were forced to abandon ship after getting stuck in the ice hundreds of miles from the nearest outpost of Western civilization; and the dozens of search expeditions over more than 160 years, which collectively have been called "the most extensive, expensive, perverse, and ill-starred . . . manhunt in history."
All that searching turned up a legendary trail of sailors' relics, a fabled note, a lifeboat with skeletons lying next to loaded rifles, and rumors of cannibalism . . . but no sign of the ships until, finally, the discoveries in our own time. As Watson reveals, the epic hunt for the lost Franklin Expedition found success only when searchers combined the latest marine science with faith in Inuit lore that had been passed down orally for generations.
Ice Ghosts is narrative nonfiction of the highest order, full of drama and rich in characters: Lady Jane Franklin, who almost single-handedly kept the search alive for decades; an Inuit historian who worked for decades gathering elders' accounts; an American software billionaire who launched his own hunt; and underwater archaeologists honing their skills to help find the ships. Watson also shows how the hunt for the Franklin Expedition was connected to such technological advances as scuba gear and sonar technology, and how it ignited debates over how to preserve the relics discovered with the ships.
A modern adventure story that arcs back through history, Ice Ghosts tells the complete and incredible story of the Franklin Expedition—the greatest of Arctic mysteries—for the ages.
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About the Author-
  • Paul Watson covered world events and wars for nearly two decades. While at the Toronto Star he earned three National Newspaper Awards for foreign reporting and photography. Watson earned international acclaim and the 1994 Pulitzer Prize for his photograph of a dead American soldier being dragged through the streets of Mogadishu. In 2007, he won the Hal Boyle Award from the Overseas Press Club of America for his reporting on Afghanistan. His first book, Where War Lives, was named a Globe and Mail best book of the year. The author lives in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    February 13, 2017
    Watson (Where War Lives), a Pulitzer Prize–winning Canadian photojournalist, recounts a failed 19th-century attempt to find the fabled Northwest Passage and the 21st-century search that succeeded in locating vessels that had been missing for 168 years. On May 19, 1845, John Franklin began his fourth and final journey in search of the Northwest Passage. Despite his soiled reputation and advancing age, Franklin was made commander of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror and their combined crew of 128 men. Fitted with the latest technology, Erebus and Terror set sail from England to the Arctic Ocean. During the winter of 1845–1846, three men died, the ships were twice trapped in sea ice, and Franklin’s health declined precipitously. Franklin died on June 11, 1847, and Watson reveals that during the subsequent winter the ships were once again trapped, forcing the remaining crew to relinquish the ships in search of safety. Numerous attempts were made to find the ships as well as the burial sites of crew and commander. Through the diligence of self-trained Inuit historian Louie Kamookak and an array of researchers, scientists, and divers, the sunken ships were found in pristine condition. Watson’s meticulously researched tale finely weaves together the many voices and experiences of those who sought Franklin’s long-missing ships.

  • Ken McGoogan, Globe and Mail "A splendid achievement."
  • Booklist "Riveting. . . . An engrossing chronicle of a legendary doomed naval voyage and the nearly 200-year effort to bring the Franklin Expedition to a close."
  • Discover Magazine "[A] thrilling tale of science's hunt to solve one of naval history's greatest riddles. . . . [Watson's] intimate familiarity with key players and places gives the reader an insider's view of the operations."
  • Boston Globe "An incredible yarn."
  • Dallas Morning News "Fascinating."
  • Reader's Digest "A must-read for anyone fascinated with the history--and future--of Arctic exploration."
  • Kirkus (starred review) "Engaging. . . . A keen, entertaining chronicle of the various attempts to locate a sensationally doomed expedition."
  • Publishers Weekly "Watson's meticulously researched tale finely weaves together the many voices and experiences of those who sought Franklin's long-missing ships."
  • Quill & Quire "A thorough and entertaining account of the efforts to locate the ships. . . . Watson's great descriptive prose is on full display."
  • The Chronicle Herald "It's one of those history books that are nearly impossible to put down: The story is riveting and incredibly suspenseful, and the writing is superb."
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Ice Ghosts
Ice Ghosts
The Epic Hunt for the Lost Franklin Expedition
Paul Watson
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