So today I got an email alert from Google (good of them, as always), telling me they’ve found some new stories about the ill-fated Franklin Expedition. When I read through all four stories I discovered it was the same story duplicated four times. How dull. So I am not going to duplicate it again here on this blog. Instead I will merely summarise and express my fury as to why I believe the scientists involved have just given up all hope of truly finding out what happened to Benjamin Franklin and his two crews from the HMS Erebus and Terror.
Okay, so the article basically states that upon extensive research, scientists involved can conclude that lead poisoning was not the cause of the deaths and confusion upon the two ships during the expedition; their evidence being that the first three men to die (God rest the souls of John Torrington, William Braine and John Hartnell) had died within 3 months of setting sail and therefore could not have been exposed to the dangers of short-term ingestion of lead (which was well known to be used in the canning of preserved goods which were in mass supply on board). At that time, lead was a common substance used in most things in everyday life so it was likely that one would be exposed to high volumes of lead throughout ones’ life. Even so, this would not result in mass deaths at around the same time, as was the case of the Franklin Expedition.
The three aforementioned sailors however, died before the expedition really even took off, as a result of tuberculosis and therefore cannot be used as evidence as to what the sailors on the two ships eventually succumbed to. It is unfair to use these three men as final evidence that lead poisoning did not kill the crews as yes, they did not ingest enough lead in that short space of time for us to say that that was the cause of death, however the ship’s doctor confirmed the causes of death to be tuberculosis, therefore these men should be exempt from the investigation altogether.
It is highly likely that the research taken place in the 80’s is correct in that the quantities of lead discovered in bones found, whilst not completely causing deaths within the crews, were likely to have contributed significantly in that lead poisoning is known to cause confusion and bordering insanity – which would explain the bizarre actions of the men during the days after abandoning the ships (for example a lifeboat was found containing two skeletons dressed in officer garb, hoarding nothing more than a ton of silverware and expensive chocolates). This confusion could have led the men to cannibalism and/or starvation. A contributing factor could also be scurvy, which is also well known to have the same effects, leading the men to lose all consideration for their well-being and that of their comrades.
I feel that the scientists no longer wish to devote any more time to this mystery and just want to write it off as such. As a Fortean follower, I find this unacceptable and whilst I appreciate that the actual cause of the deaths is probably very far from Fortean and is most likely due to the above beliefs, I still feel let down by science and hope that there is someone out there who wishes to continue to delve into one of the greatest mysteries in history.