13 April 2007

With another excellent day of travel on several inches of fresh snow, the SnowSTAR expedition moved ahead of schedule today for the first time since leaving Fairbanks 4 weeks ago. Today's travel took them across Rockinghorse Lake and into the barrenlands south of Contwoyto Lake. Here, one can't help but think of Sir John Franklin and the men of the first Franklin Expedition who explored this rugged country in 1819-22. From Camp 29, Matthew's dispatch tonight talks about traveling in the footsteps of Franklin.

Tonights camp is only 28 miles north of their next scheduled stop at the Daring Lake Research Outpost. Matthew's short soundclip (below) indicates that they will likely arrive there early tomorrow, a day and a half ahead of schedule. At Daring Lake they have a fuel cache waiting for them that was flown in from Yellowknife several months ago. And it is here that they will be joined by Canadian researchers Arvids Silis and Chris Derksen who will accompany them for the remainder of the trip. Arvids is currently at the Daring Camp. Chris is scheduled to arrive by plane on Monday April 16. The early arrival of SnowSTAR means the crew will have several relatively relaxing days of no travel while they await the arrival of Dr. Derksen.

Click Here for short Soundclip from Matthew

On Franklin's Retreat Route

On Franklin's Retreat Route near Yamba Lake, 13 April 2007

Camp 29 Location: 65º 18.1'N,   111º 29.6W

Weather Today: -10ºC (+13F).  Partly Cloudy with Sunny Patches in PM. 

Distance Trveled today: 150 km

Franklin's Disastrous Retreat:

 In September of 1821, Sir John Franklin and his men finished exploring the
Arctic coast to Bathhurst Inlet, then tried to return to their base at Fort
Enterprise overland.  Their canoes, which they used to boat down the
Coppermine River and along the coast, were too worn out to be used anymore,
necessitating the overland trip.  The overland return was a disaster, with 9
of Franklin's men dying from starvation or murder.

We purposely designed our route to coincide with Franklin's route
(reconstructed from his journals) for this stretch of the trip, but beyond
that our conditions and those of Franklin and his men were radically
different. We are well-fed and rested, warm, and driving powerful
snowmachines.  The lakes are frozen so we don't need to go around them.
Franklin's men were cold, hungry, footsore, and every lake (some very large)
had to be walked around, adding miles to their journey. They had to carry
all their possessions on their backs.

Due to the lack of food, Franklin's men tried to subsist on tripe de roche,
a lichen that grows on rocks here (see picture below).  They even boiled and ate
their boots and other leather items.  It was desperate.

With a little luck, things might have gone better for Franklin, but it was
not to be.  At several large lakes on the route, he chose to go left around
the lake, when right might have been shorter and quicker. Also, the
expedition was held up for 7 precious days at Obstruction Rapids while they
improvised a boat from willows (recall their worn-out canoes had been left
behind).  These 7 days of hunger cost several of the men their lives.  In
fact, even after the men got back to Ft. Enterprise, it was a close thing.
The Slave Indians brought them caribou meat that saved their lives.  After
the expedition, in England, Franklin was know as the man who ate his boots.

Kids: We were wondering when we would see our first Inuksuk (IN-OOK-SHOOK). We finally saw one today and here is a picture of it. (See Trail Tales for January 30 for more on the Inuksuk.)





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