Since the last report on 13 September my principal activities have included the following:
1. Carrying out four weeks' research at four archival repositories in England, specifically, the National Archives at Kew, the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, the Royal Geographical Society in London, and the Scott Polar Research Institute at the University of Cambridge.
2. Carrying out the first interview for the interpretations section of the Franklin mystery, on 24 September in London with Professor Andrew Lambert of King's College London, author of the recent biography Franklin: Tragic Hero of Polar Navigation.
3. Participating in two teleconferences of the Franklin project team (17 October and 31 October) and teleconference of the core team on 25 October, both to report on research findings and to refine the draft site plan for the Mystery.
4. Revising the site plan in line with the direction of the other team members for the 31 October meeting. The revised site plan received strong support at the latter meeting.
5. Participating, on 29 October, in a teleconference with Ruth Sandwell and Roland case to address the planning requirements for the MysteryQuests, and follow-up on Ruth's plan outline.
The National Archives research focussed on Admiralty collections including ADM 187/7, the principal Franklin collection; ADM 199, containing the reports and correspondence of John Rae relating to his search expedition; ADM 200, containing extensive correspondence on Rae's findings and reactions of Lady Jane Franklin and others relating to the award to the discoverer of the fate of the Franklin expedition, and ADM BJ3 18, comprising correspondence of Franklin and Edward Sabine concerning the expedition. Other collections examined included correspondence between Sabine and James Fitzjames, captain of the Erebus, who was in charge of magnetic observations for the Franklin expedition, which yielded valuable insights into the objectives of the Franklin expedition,
At the National Maritime Museum, I have consulted several outstanding collections, especially the Admiral Francis Leopold McClintock collection, which is housed there on loan from the owners in Ireland. Owing to the agreement with the owners, no materials from this collection can be electronically copied so I have taken copious handwritten notes for transcription. It includes a fascinating series of letters from McClintock and Clements Markham, president of the Royal Geographical Society seeking to refute John Rae's interpretations of cannibalism by the Franklin party.
Among other documents I have copied several diaries and journals of lower ranking officers or ordinary seamen serving on arctic expeditions in the franklin era, which should give students insights into work and daily life aboard the ships and the challenges of overwintering and sledging in the severe weather and ice conditions of the Arctic.
One terrific find was the set of letters of James Fitzjames, one of Franklin's two ship captains, which Fitzjames wrote aboard the Erebus in the spring and summer of 1845, ending with the last transfer of letters when the ships stopped at Greenland en route to the arctic archipelago. They provide fascinating observations on other officers including Franklin, detail on shipboard life, and comments on unruly behaviour by crew members, among other interesting commentary.
The materials copied at the Royal Geographical Society included important correspondence between Sir John Franklin and Lady Franklin following the departure of the expedition in 1845, documents in the Captain Ommaney collection relating to shipboard routines for ordinary sailors, and ephemera such as a 1850 poster offering the 20,000 pound reward for the Franklin Search.
I researched and copied many valuable documents at the Scott Polar research Institute, including correspondence between Franklin and Lady Franklin in the months leading up to his last expedition, letters from Franklin and Captain Crozier following the departure of the Franklin expedition, and letters documenting Lady Franklin's indefatigable efforts to promote the search and her observations of where the party might have sailed based on her discussions with her husband. They are fascinating and very useful materials for our purposes.
Overall, I took about 1500 camera exposures of documents, in addition to my handwritten notes, scanned copies and photocopies of documents obtained during the trip. Overall, the research generated a great deal of interesting and original material for the Mystery, including materials that do not appear in other treatments of the Franklin story. I feel confident that we will develop a first-class mystery with elements that students, researchers and interested members of the public will not find anywhere else.
I also feel that we have an excellent site plan that will serve us well in the months ahead. The thoughtful comments of the research directors, general team, and executive director Merna Forster have been greatly appreciated throughout. The next two months will be devoted to organizing and editing the research materials and images in collaboration with research associate Peter Gossage, and entering the metadata n collaboration with Stewart Arniel.
31 October 2013