Frozen in Time: The Fate of the Franklin Expedition - Owen Beattie;John Geiger The Franklin expedition was not alone in suffering early and unexplained deaths. Indeed, both Back (1837) and Ross (1849) suffered early onset of unaccountable "debility" aboard ship and Ross suffered greater fatalities during his single winter in the Arctic than did Franklin during his first. Both expeditions were forced to retreat because of the rapacious illness that stalked their ships.

Frozen in Time makes the case that this illness (starting with the Back expedition) was due to the crews' overwhelming reliance on a new technology, namely tinned foods. This not only exposed the seamen to lead, an insidious poison - as has been demonstrated in Franklin's case by Dr. Beattie's research - but it also left them vulnerable to scurvy, the ancient scourge of seafarers which had been thought to have been largely cured in the early years of the nineteenth century.

Fully revised, Frozen in Time will update the research outlined in the original edition, and will introduce independent confirmation of Dr. Beattie's lead hypothesis, along with corroboration of his discovery of physical evidence for both scurvy and cannibalism. In addition, the book includes a new introduction written by Margaret Atwood, who has long been fascinated by the role of the Franklin Expedition in Canada's literary conscience, and has made a pilgrimage to the site of the Franklin Expedition graves on Beechey Island.


Came to this book via Dan Simmons The Terror and not only was it excellent in its own right but it confirmed the depths of Simmons research – he virtually used every single fact that is known about the Franklin Expedition.
As Punk's review notes - right down to the polar bear …!
"The last resting place of three of Franklin's people was closely examined; but nothing that had not hitherto been observed could we detect. My companion told me that a huge bear was seen continually sitting on one of the graves, keeping a silent vigil over the dead."
Frozen in Time is a book of two halves: first part follows the history of the search for the North West Passage and the second is a masterpiece of forensic anthropology whose conclusion is shocking.

The Franklin Expedition was even more tragic than historians first realised; the food that was keeping them alive was slowly killing them. Eventually their ships frozen in place they took to the ice in desperation, hopeless and helpless,eventually giving up hope of ever being rescued and in the end reduced to cannibalising their dead comrades.

I found this a profoundly moving book; unbearably poignant as the scientist and the reader come face to face, literally, with John Torrington, John Hartnell and William Braine who died terrible lingering deaths 138 years ago.