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What Happened to the Doomed Franklin Expedition? These Are the Clues

January 3, 2020 in History

By Kieran Mulvaney

In 1845, two ships left England to navigate the fabled Northwest Passage connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Then they vanished without a trace.

On May 19, 1845, the HMS Erebus with its sister ship HMS Terror sailed out of the River Thames, carrying 128 officers and men under the command of Sir John Franklin. Their mission: to locate and transit the fabled Northwest Passage, the long-sought pathway from Atlantic to Pacific through Canada’s ice-strewn Arctic inlets.

It was a quest that had consumed some of Europe’s most accomplished mariners for almost four centuries, a generations-spanning obsession that chipped away at European understanding of North America’s high latitudes, sometimes at great cost to both vessels and lives.

With ice-strengthened vessels that had already proven their worth in the Antarctic, the Franklin Expedition was the best-equipped assault on the Passage ever launched. A little over two months after setting sail, the Erebus and Terror were spotted in Baffin Bay, just east of the Passage’s entrance; and then, they disappeared. None of the crew was ever seen by Europeans again.

What happened?

Sir John Franklin and his crew, illustrated for the London News, circa 1845.

A Series of Clues to the Fate of the Franklin Expedition

Rescue expeditions turned up tantalizing clues: A trio of graves at one site. A note at another site, dated April 1848 and indicating that Franklin and 23 others were dead, the ships had been trapped in the ice for 18 months, and the survivors were abandoning ship and striking out across land.

Other clues trickled in: An abandoned sled, with two skeletons and numerous personal effects. Letters from one of the men, some written phonetically and some backward and few fully deciphered. Stories from local Inuit of white men who had slowly perished; of ships that had been caught in, and then disappeared beneath, the ice.

Erebus and Terror Wrecks Found

For 170 years, such snippets were all that existed. And then, in September 2014, a search team found the wreck of Erebus, sitting in just 11 meters (36 feet) of water. Two years later, another team found the almost-pristine wreck of Terror, in deeper water to its companion’s northwest. And three years after that, the wreck sites’ first-ever visitors, passengers from the Adventure Canada-chartered ship Ocean Endeavour, watched as archeologists probed the Erebus for secrets.

The immediate and ongoing hope was …read more


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Yes, a Deal Between North Korea and America Is Still Possible

January 3, 2020 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

President Donald Trump wanted to reach an agreement with North Korea. After all, he believes in making deals. But in practice, he isn’t very good at concluding them. At least good ones.


He sets unrealistic expectations, exaggerates supposed problems and solutions, fixates on the wrong issues, personalizes political battles, confuses bluster with resolve, abandons America’s interests, offends potential allies, and treats everything as a victory. Looking back, only a miracle could have led such a person with such a record to a durable peace with the latest representative of the Kim dynasty.

Nevertheless, maybe the age of miracles is not over. Something looking like peace remains possible. But achieving it won’t be easy.

Kim Jong-un appears to be taking a much harder line toward the U.S. He could be bluffing, but that seems unlikely. He is no blowhard, at not quite 28 having taken over leadership of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea from his father. Despite his lack of experience, he secured power in one of the world’s premier political snake pits. Kim even had his uncle publicly humiliated and executed. Kim also established supremacy over the military, the one institution that could oust him.



The Korean Central News Agency related the report of Supreme Leader Kim, who “guided” the “5th Plenary Meeting of the 7th Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea,” of which he is chairman. There was a lot of agitprop, as would be expected. Nevertheless, he appeared to be fully in control and confident of his course.

First, he didn’t sound like someone prepared to negotiate away the North’s nuclear arsenal. Reported by KCNA, Kim noted the success in “developing the ultra-modern weapon system possessed only by the countries with advanced defense science and technology” which “means a great victory, and our possession of promising strategic weapon system planned by the Party one by one serves as a great event in developing the armed forces of the Republic and in defending and guaranteeing our sovereignty and right to existence.” These accomplishments …read more

Source: OP-EDS