The Wreck of HMS Erebus
September 15, 2015 6:27 PM   Subscribe

"The Franklin shipwreck is one of the biggest, most celebrated discoveries in 21st-century marine archaeology. It also cleaved open a nasty dispute over the facts of — and credit for — the historic find. As the news went public, the civil servants, researchers, and others who played major roles in the discovery said they found themselves elbowed to the sidelines as the political messaging machine kicked into gear."

John Geiger, CEO of the charitable Royal Canadian Geographical Society (publisher of Canadian Geographic, which has close ties to Canada's energy industry) was awarded a Polar Medal for his part in finding the wreck of HMS Erebus. Paul Watson explores the close ties between Geiger and Prime Minister Stephen Harper, how the discovery of the wreck was spun to support Canada's sovereignty claims in the arctic, and the frustrations of muzzled scientists .

Watson recently quit the Toronto Star after they declined to publish this story.

The Franklin Expedition Previously 1 2 3
posted by wollaston (23 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite

 
> “There’s been a level of control around this project that strikes me as odd,” Balsillie told BuzzFeed Canada.

Well, yeah. That's Stephen "Tightly Scripted" Harper for you.
posted by The Card Cheat at 6:35 PM on September 15, 2015 [5 favorites]


Could pay for this but couldn't pay for anything actually useful eh Harper?

#fuckharper
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 6:43 PM on September 15, 2015 [4 favorites]


Harper is infatuated with arctic explorers. It might be his only personal interest and the only thing that differentiates him from some sort of conservative android with a lego minifig haircut.

(His being a Leafs fan is his other know interest but that can't be counted as evidence he's not an evil robot built by Canada's version of OCP)
posted by thecjm at 7:03 PM on September 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


Needs "fuckharper" tag.
posted by Fizz at 7:03 PM on September 15, 2015 [4 favorites]


So this is the same Sir John Franklin who was governor of Tasmania, and that the Franklin River is named after. I didn't realise he was such a Canadian historic figure as well.
posted by other barry at 7:35 PM on September 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


Stephen Harper is a bad man.
posted by the uncomplicated soups of my childhood at 8:02 PM on September 15, 2015 [6 favorites]


Parks Canada and others, including the nonprofit Arctic Research Foundation, had been on the hunt for years. They were also at the table, but it was Geiger’s voice that would dominate the early media coverage

You know, so rather than it being a discovery that could be considered a piece of national history, it had to be a partisan showpiece.

Oh, and then:

The moment the ship was discovered this past weekend, said Geiger, “we were surrounded by ice — we were in a noose of ice — and so it was a real sense of connection, of immediate connection to Franklin and the men on those two ships.

“A few of us said a prayer to sailors lost at sea at that moment because we felt a real personal bond.”

Except Geiger was not there. He was on a different ship roughly 65 nautical miles away from the vessel that discovered the wreck.


What a jackoff.

As the news went public, the civil servants, researchers, and others who played major roles in the discovery said they found themselves elbowed to the sidelines as the political messaging machine kicked into gear.

And you know what? These are people who deserved recognition for toiling away in obscurity (and tough weather conditions) for years. Just maybe a "Our public scientists and researchers have..."

But noooo....

Documents obtained from these sources, as well as from access to information requests, show Geiger was not present when Parks Canada marine archaeologists found the shipwreck.

Oh, but wait! There's more! Even the CORPORATE GUY who funded part of this...

Expedition partner Jim Balsillie, who founded and was the major funder of the Arctic Research Foundation, became so frustrated with what he saw as a misrepresentation of the RCGS’ role in the find that he sent a letter of objection to Aglukkaq and copied it to the Prime Minister’s Office.

[...]

“The narrative, as currently presented, attempts to minimize the role of the Government and its respective agencies and private partners,” he wrote, referring to Parks Canada and other key players. “It also creates new and exaggerated narratives for the exclusive benefit of the Royal Canadian Geographic Society and its own partners.”


As noted in the FPP, Watson wanted to go on the record with this story in the Toronto Star - bear in mind that this is the same paper that sat on the Rob Ford crack story until Gawker pulled the trigger first.

Instead, after leaving and taking the story to Buzzfeed, Watson got one of Canada's corporate titans to go on the record thusly:

Balsillie says he was warned by civil servants involved in the expedition that his decision to go public with his concerns could lead the Prime Minister’s Office to try to “destroy” him and his friends."
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 8:03 PM on September 15, 2015 [7 favorites]


The perceived meaning of Erebus is "darkness"; the first recorded instance of it was "place of darkness between earth and Hades"

May the Conservatives find themselves contemplating this for a long time.
posted by nubs at 8:06 PM on September 15, 2015 [4 favorites]


Balsillie says he was warned by civil servants involved in the expedition that his decision to go public with his concerns could lead the Prime Minister’s Office to try to “destroy” him and his friends.

"Sure would be a shame if something happened to this here mobile messaging engineering company, eh?"
posted by infinitewindow at 8:11 PM on September 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


For a media watchdog site, Canadaland sucks moose schlong on mobile.
posted by mephron at 8:24 PM on September 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


For a media watchdog site, Canadaland sucks moose schlong on mobile.

Jesse Brown, while well intended, is a bit of a dilettante.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 8:46 PM on September 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


I didn't realise [Franklin] was such a Canadian historic figure as well.

It's a foundational story for us, and one that has a lot of romance and mystery. As Atwood puts it: "In every culture many stories are told, (but) only some are told and retold, and these stories bear examining ... in Canadian literature, one such story is the Franklin expedition." See also Rogers, Stan.

This is, of course, why it's such a tempting target for those who want to use it for jingoism and political ends.
posted by bonehead at 9:12 PM on September 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


It's a foundational story for us, and one that has a lot of romance and mystery.

Indeed. The mystery is something like that of the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa, in that we all know what happened, but we have no idea what happened, and never will. What little is revealed only deepens the mystery. There is so much history involved in it, and even more retrospection on that history and colonial/racial attitudes as well.

And it's a mystery which, given the circumstances of the deaths of Franklin and his men, is something all Canadians can relate to on the coldest days of winter, the fragility of life against the relentless cold and isolation, something something.
posted by Capt. Renault at 9:39 PM on September 15, 2015


Great book over here
posted by Mr. Yuck at 10:37 PM on September 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


The situation is an interesting echo over that which faced the Scottish explorer John Rae when he relayed the first witness reports of the Franklin expedition's demise back in 1854. Suggesting that members of the expedition had engaged in cannibalism did not go down well with the establishment in Victorian Britain - Charles Dickens led a campaign to discredit him, for example - and claimed that the Innuit had attacked and killed the expedition members, as an alternative theory. Rae's role as the person who discovered the northwest passage (on the same expedition where he heard about Erebus) is accordingly rather downplayed in history.

Despite his vindication, Rae's unjustified obscurity seems to continue today. His name is mentioned nowhere on the Buzzfeed article and nowhere on a recent BBC documentary article on the subject.
posted by rongorongo at 12:18 AM on September 16, 2015 [8 favorites]


I've recommended this book like ten times here, but anyone interested in Franklin, the search for the Northwest Passage, etc. should read Barrow's Boys.
posted by The Card Cheat at 6:47 AM on September 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


The Terror is a good book despite the Magical Mystical Native Woman stuff that is all over it. But that's Dan Simmons for you...
posted by Kitteh at 6:51 AM on September 16, 2015


I've recommended this book like ten times here, but anyone interested in Franklin, the search for the Northwest Passage, etc. should read Barrow's Boys.

From the Amazon blurb:

Alongside tales of grueling endurance, gross incompetence, cannibalism, jealousy and dirty politics...

Is it a book about the Harper cabinet? Hah. I kill me.

Seriously, though, I just put a hold on this at the library. Thanks for the recommendation.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 7:20 AM on September 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


Some of my animus at the Harper Cons around this stems from the fact that my one and only piece of published fiction was a short horror story about the last days of the Franklin expedition.
posted by nubs at 8:12 AM on September 16, 2015


And it's a mystery which, given the circumstances of the deaths of Franklin and his men, is something all Canadians can relate to on the coldest days of winter, the fragility of life against the relentless cold and isolation, something something.


Atwood:

He stood, a point

on a sheet of green paper

proclaiming himself the centre

with no walls, no borders

anywhere; the sky no height

above him, totally unenclosed

and shouted:

Let me out!

posted by mandolin conspiracy at 9:13 AM on September 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


See also Rogers, Stan.

"Ah, for just one time I would take the Northwest Passage
To find the hand of Franklin reaching for the Beaufort Sea;
Tracing one warm line through a land so wild and savage
And make a Northwest Passage to the sea."
posted by Mental Wimp at 11:56 AM on September 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Still no sign of HMS Terror, eh? The Tuunbaq was thorough...
posted by snottydick at 6:31 AM on September 17, 2015


I was going to mention the parallels with John Rae, but rongorongo beat me to it - so I'll just suggest Fatal Passage as a book that tells his fascinating story.
posted by Vortisaur at 1:28 PM on September 18, 2015


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