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Unravelling the Franklin Mystery [Paperback]

David C. Woodman
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Oct. 3 2003 McGill-Queen's Native and Northern (Book 5)
David Woodman's reconstruction of the mysterious events surrounding the tragic Franklin expedition boldly challenges standard interpretations and promises to replace them. Among the many who have tried to discover the truth behind the Franklin disaster, Woodman is the first to recognise the profound importance of the Inuit testimony and to analyse it in depth. He concludes from his investigations that the Inuit probably did visit Franklin's ships while the crew was still on board and that there were some Inuit who actually saw the sinking of one of the ships. He maintains that fewer than ten bodies were found at Starvation Cove and that the last survivors left the cove in 1851, three years after the standard account assumes them to be dead. Woodman also disputes the conclusion of Owen Beattie and John Geiger's book "Frozen in time" that lead poisoning was a major contributing cause of the disaster.Much of the Inuit testimony presented in "Unravelling the Franklin Mystery" has never before been published. The earliest Woodman quotes was recorded by Franklin searchers only nine years after the disappearance of the Franklin team. Inuit testimony provided Woodman with the pivotal clue in his re-construction of the puzzle of the Franklin disaster: 'I proceeded from the assumption that all Inuit stories concerning white men should have a discoverable factual basis ...and managed to discover a scenario which allowed use of all the native recollections, solved some troubling discrepancies in the physical evidence and led to some significant new conclusions as to the fate of the beleaguered sailors'. Whether or not one agrees with Woodman's conclusions, his account is compelling and his analysis impressive.

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Review

"Undoubtedly the most authoritative, cool-headed and thrilling investigation so far" Jonathan Keates The Observer "Woodman has examined all the documentation on Inuit testimony with relentless thoroughness. He has made a vitally important, long overdue contribution ...It is a book anyone obsessed with Franklin will want to have" Toronto Star "Compelling reading" Books in Canada "Woodman is an indefatigable and creative researcher, and gifted in the ability to convey dauntless enthusiasm for the obscure hieroglyphs that Franklin's history left us in its wake." Arctic Circle "Woodman's book will be invaluable to those who can't get enough on the Franklin mystery." Montreal Gazette "Brilliant ... a joy to read ...it unfolds slowly like a good detective story. Some chapters are masterpieces, containing all sorts of interesting titbits and background material ...The time is ripe for a fresh, new, original book about John Franklin. This is it." C. Stuart Houston, University of Saskatchewan and editor of The Arctic Ordeal and To the Arctic by Canoe "[Woodman] has done an excellent job of gathering Inuit testimony and he presents a new emphasis which allows new interpretations and conclusions with regard to the Franklin epic. Such an approach should fit in with the new genre of book which seeks to look back into history and present a native perspective." Dorothy Harley Eber, author of When the Whalers were up North

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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good example of causes of controversy. Aug. 25 1999
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
Testimony from a number of contradictory sources over what happened to the ships and men; what they were told by ancestors of their beliefs of what may have happened to the men. Much debate over the names of men who were along on the trek. I found the degree of confusion and contradiction interesting in light of what is factually known of Franklin's travels to be very valuable in discounting what is "known" about his journey. While it resolves nothing for sure, it helps to explain why the degree of confusion among early searchers upon trying to get information from Inuits. For the true Franklin researcher, it is highly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Advanced reading for Franklin mystery detectives. Sept. 18 1999
Format:Paperback
David Woodman's research for this book is exciting to think about -- carefully turning the thousands of pages from journals written over a hundred years ago -- could he see the fear of frozen fingers (and more) in the marks of thick ink? Woodman's retelling of Sir Franklin's fascinating story is built upon an amazing act of pinning down the oral histories from another culture to the pages of ours. Above all, this book pays tribute to this wonderous art of the Inuit. And speaking of 'our' pages, my paper back edition has come unglued from its spine in just one month! Serious readers my wish to ante up for the hardcover.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By Amazon Customer TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This surely must the THE definitive work to-date on the Franklin Expedition. The inclusion of the Inuit testimonies changes the complexion of the sad Story quite a lot. And the stories they tell, lead us to different places, both with the leadership of the Expedition, the decisions made by them up to, and after being frozen in. The most exciting 'news' in this book leads us to explore for the wrecks, records and artifacts in (before now) ignored areas.
This is a marvelous work.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
Excellent book for the serious Franklin enthusiast.
I give the writing 5 stars but...... the physical construction of the
paper back book gets zero stars. My book started falling apart the moment
I took it out of the plastic wrapper! I would expect this from a two hundred year old book but not a new book. Mr. Woodman, your publisher/binder should issue a recall and replace these defective books. Obviously no quality control whatsoever was exercised.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Detailed and Thorough Investigation Jan. 16 2005
By tgfabthunderbird - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This book is one of the first to examine the Inuit stories, or "traditions" in detail, and it helps bring a clearer picture, in some respects to the lost Franklin Expedition.

Many of the Inuit and native stories were discounted by searcher and some historians, partly due to prejudice and because of the confused nature of them.

This is understandable; the Inuit have no real way of explaining time frames or dates, and the oral tradition of passing down stories and information does not give much of an idea as to when something happened. A storyteller can often only say whether this happened in their lifetime or not.

Charles Francis Hall's expedition, which lasted for years in the vain hope that someone from the Franklin crew were still alive did much to throw light on how much the Inuit knew about the area, and especially the presence of white explorers. He did not always take the word of those he spoke with, however and often came to conclusions that were later found to be false.

This book has put aside some of the long-held beliefs as to what happened to the expedition and how they tried to get out. It now appears that Capt. Crozier led a breakout of the remaining 105 crewmen, but that they didn't get far.

It appears some continued on in an effort to reach help, while others headed back toward King William Island. Some died on the way, while others died in other areas. A few even made it back to the Erebus and Terror, and one of those ships sailed further on, once it broke from the ice.

What the book does not do is answer a lot of questions, because still the physical evidence is not there. The Inuit appears to have destroyed most of the written records, not realizing their worth.

The scattered remains, graves, cairns and other material across the region are a sad epitaph. It does not appear anyone got out alive, despite their efforts and the rumors that Crozier might have survived.

There is still much investigation I think should be done...I'd like to see some high-tech examinations of the known areas where bones and other materials are, and I'd like to see a following of the various paths these men took to see what else can be found. Especially, I'd like to see what remains are left of the ships.

An exceptional work, though sometimes the Inuit names and the stories can get confusing.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Advanced reading for Franklin mystery detectives. Sept. 18 1999
By Warner Blake - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
David Woodman's research for this book is exciting to think about -- carefully turning the thousands of pages from journals written over a hundred years ago -- could he see the fear of frozen fingers (and more) in the marks of thick ink? Woodman's retelling of Sir Franklin's fascinating story is built upon an amazing act of pinning down the oral histories from another culture to the pages of ours. Above all, this book pays tribute to this wonderous art of the Inuit. And speaking of 'our' pages, my paper back edition has come unglued from its spine in just one month! Serious readers my wish to ante up for the hardcover.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good example of causes of controversy. Aug. 25 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Testimony from a number of contradictory sources over what happened to the ships and men; what they were told by ancestors of their beliefs of what may have happened to the men. Much debate over the names of men who were along on the trek. I found the degree of confusion and contradiction interesting in light of what is factually known of Franklin's travels to be very valuable in discounting what is "known" about his journey. While it resolves nothing for sure, it helps to explain why the degree of confusion among early searchers upon trying to get information from Inuits. For the true Franklin researcher, it is highly recommended.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Unravelling the Franklin Mystery July 18 2010
By Christine Wilson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is an absolutely fascinating topic for Franklin buffs and Woodman has been admirably thorough in exhaustively analysing the Inuit testimony about the fate of the expedition. He has turned up some intriguing nuggets of information. For instance, one body was discovered bedecked with watch chains and jewelry, and a small scrap of paper, alluding to the crew's fate, was discovered in the clothing of another corpse. However, it tends to be very repetitively written and I also found the maps, although well drawn, were often misleading in the placement of names of physical features and insufficiently large - it was often hard to put the areas drawn into the context of a larger area, without constantly referring back to the overall map on page 4. The overwhelming impression I was left with after reading this book was the absolute impossibility of finding any written records, given that every Franklin site has been thoroughly investigated and 'looted' by nineteenth century Inuit in search of usable materials, especially wood and metal.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a breakdown of primary source inuit testimony Oct. 12 2009
By Andrew J. Stella - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is a great book for obsessed Frankiln fanatics. It gives actual Inuit interviews of the time and then Mr. Goodman dies a dissection of the material explaining the truths and his hypothesis on them and leaves you the ability to do also. It is aslow read due to all the inuit names and places, so have a map and take notes. From the inuit testimony we have really the only way to piece together what happened to the Franklin Expedition and this book does give you almost a primary source as a look into the disaster that became the expedition. It is so very detailed and complete that I would surely have this as an absolute must read if you are a Franklin fan. To actually go deeper into inuit testimony you would have to find all of Hall's interviews and only Russel Potter has done so (as far as I know). Potter woull be great source of info and he needs to write on this sublect also. In cocnclusion - read this book after you read a more generalized Frankln book and you want more info. - Andrew Stella
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