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PODCAST: Ken McGoogan’s theory on the Franklin Expedition’s demise

TODAY IN B.C.: Barney Bentall’s Arctic adventures and Franklin Connection

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Host Peter McCully chats with Ken McGoogan, author of Searching for Franklin. McGoogan shares insights into his exploration of the Franklin Expedition, discussing the challenges of writing history and the significance of on-site research.

The podcast explores the psychological and physical hardships faced by Franklin and his crew during their Arctic expeditions, emphasizing the harsh conditions, confinement on ships, and the challenges of wintering in the ice.

Lady Jane Franklin’s pivotal role in the story was explained.

“She was still heavily involved in sending out expeditions, but she also mythologized Franklin,” said McGoogan. “He had already been acclaimed as the man who ate his boots, but now he became the discoverer of the Northwest Passage, which was not true.”

McGoogan reflects on surprising discoveries during his research, notably proposing a theory related to trichinosis from eating infected polar bear meat as a possible cause of the expedition’s tragic end.

“Take those barrels that I’m saying they used to transport me. Maybe there’s still some traces of meat in those barrels that could be tested, that would then corroborate my theory,” he said.

Barney Bentall, a frequent Arctic traveller, provides a unique perspective on Franklin’s legacy and the profound experiences one encounters in the desolate beauty of the Arctic.

“It’s pretty powerful when I get to Beachy Island, and I have had the good fortune of going there probably six times,” said Bentall. “This is a place where it is extremely difficult to get to. I’ve had the good fortune to be there, and it’s a very moving place. It really hits you, just the desolation and the beauty of the place, but my God, how hard it would be to survive there.”

McGoogan also draws contemporary lessons from Franklin’s story, emphasizing the balance between determination and hubris, and the importance of listening to local knowledge.

The author is returning to the arctic in 2024 on an Adventure Canada Tour. The company is currently sponsoring a contest to win a $5,000 travel credit.

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Peter McCully

About the Author: Peter McCully

Peter has been a broadcaster and publisher on both of Canada’s coasts and has owned a small newspaper and run an advertising agency along the way.
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