Erebus

The Franklin Expedition to find the Northwest passage occupies a big space in the history of exploration in general and Canadian History in particular. Archaeology buff were thrilled last year with the discovery of the wreck of one of Franklin’s ships, The Erebus in the Victoria Straight.

The find was not without controversy, given the support thrown behind it by the normally an notoriously anti-science government in power in Ottawa. But it was an amazing achievement, made possible by the scientific community finally giving due weight to the Inuk oral historical record of the event, and in particular the work of Louie Kamookak.

I was honoured to be invited to play two songs at the reception to celebrate the expedition and the awarding of IMG_4882the newly minted Erebus medal. I was there at the invitation of John Geiger, CEO of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society. (Geiger and Owen Beattie’s book, Frozen in Time had a huge influence on me.)

 

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The attendees included hundred of fellow of the Royal Society, the commanders of the Coast Guard and the Royal Canadian Navy, The Prime Minister and Louie Kamookak amongst others.

It was one of the most moving experiences of my life.

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Just at the beginning of the first, you hear a bell. That’s the ship’s bell from HMS Erebus.

Just at the beginning of the first song, you hear a bell. That’s the ship’s bell from HMS Erebus.

 

 

Posted in personal history, Places.

2 Comments

  1. Hello. Was that truly the bell from Erebus that was rung at the beginning of your lovely performance? It gave me shivers. I would have thought that the bell would be too fragile for such use. Was it a case of the occasion meriting a single ringing of the bell? I’m fascinated by this and would be delighted to hear more. Thank you so much for posting this, and for your performance.

  2. I’m delighted to see that Tagak Curley will be there to reeprsent the Inuit people at these events, which I gather are related to the new “Northwest Passage” exhibition at the National Maritime Museum. He is right, of course — although given that, in John Walker’s film, Curley accepts the apology of Dickens’s great-great-grandson, I do think it would be fair to say that some rapprochement has been achieved. The Maritime Museum, and nearly all scholars I know, accept that some groups of Franklin’s men resorted to cannibalism.Curley himself, though, is a somewhat odd choice. He’s not really an expert on Inuit oral traditions about Franklin, and his own domestic political record includes an evangelical Christian agenda which is, among other things, hostile to gay marriage and equal rights. So I guess I wouldn’t say he’s the most inclusive politician on the Nunavut scene, nor one with much in the way of previous ties to the Franklin matter. I’d have preferred to see someone like Louie Kamookak, James Qitsualik, or others from the Gloa Haven community there instead. Nevertheless, it is a welcome historical moment, all things considered!

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