Alice Lowe

Creative Nonfiction

Alice Lowe reads and writes about life and literature, food and family. Her personal essays have appeared in numerous literary journals, including Crab Creek Review, The Millions, Permafrost, 1966, The Tishman Review, and Lunch Ticket. Her work is included among Notable Essays in the 2016 Best American Essays, and has been nominated for the 2016 Best of the Net Anthology. Alice is the author of numerous essays and reviews on Virginia Woolf’s life and work, including two monographs published by Cecil Woolf Publishers in London. Alice lives in San Diego, California and blogs at www.aliceloweblogs.wordpress.com.

 

The Idea of North

The ice was here, the ice was there,
The ice was all around
— Rime of the Ancient Mariner

It started with a song—

I’m not drawn to cold and snow. Or to water—immersion in it, that is—though I can’t imagine not living near an ocean. I don’t ski or sail or do anything you could call adventurous. I’ve never been a fan of action stories, explorations into uncharted territory, exploits on the high seas. I live in the perpetual summer of Southern California and have ventured no farther north than Vancouver, British Columbia. And yet, on the basis of a plaintive tune I first heard in the beery warmth of an English pub on a weathery spring evening more than 15 years ago, I’m infected by a strain of “Franklin Fever.”

It was folk night at the Royal Oak in Lewes, East Sussex. My husband and I visited the region almost every year over a period of twelve years, so while details of specific trips blur in my mind, I’ve pinpointed this particular night to April 2000. We would have ridden the bus that rainy evening from our self-catering flat in the nearby village of Rodmell. We’d have dined at one of Lewes’ two Indian restaurants or two pizza parlors before heading down steep, narrow Station Street to the Royal Oak. Don is a folk and blues guitarist, and he was excited that Martin Carthy, an icon of the British folk revival of the 1960s, was performing that night.

People congregated every which-way in the damp and stuffy upstairs room, leaving a small clearing for the musicians. The evening started with a warm-up session open to anyone with a fiddle, a squeezebox, or a song. They played and sang traditional folk tunes about the eternal themes of love and loss, work and woes, comedy and cuckoldry, doom and death.

After a genial break and a visit downstairs for another pint, we took our seats as Martin Carthy stepped up front. I was captivated right away by his clear and authentic voice, his easy way with an impressive repertoire. Midway through the set he introduced “Lord Franklin.” In a mournful melody and five poignant verses, Carthy told the story of John Franklin’s 19th-century expedition to find the Northwest Passage sea route from the Atlantic to the Pacific, a failed venture from which Franklin, his crew, and his two ships never returned. I don’t know what it was that reeled me in, but it led me onto a quest of my own. I parse and probe to feed my curiosity, to connect the dots. It becomes a jumping-off point for further exploration.

“Concerning Franklin and his gallant crew”—

It was in the month of May, the song tells us, in 1845, that Franklin and his crew of 133 men set out from the southeast coast of England in two ice-proofed and well-fitted ships, the Erebus and the Terror, with provisions for three years. Franklin’s reputation as an intrepid explorer had been established in two earlier Arctic explorations. The first, in 1819-1822, earned him the sobriquet, “the man who ate his boots,” after half of his party died of starvation and the rest were reduced to eating lichen soup and chewing on shoe leather. Now, with knowledge gained from his own and others’ exploits, he was certain of success. They sailed off to cheers and waving flags, expecting to return the following summer after having traversed the long-sought Northwest Passage and claimed it for Britain.

They were declared missing in 1848 when there had been no word or sight of them for three years. Since then more than 90 search expeditions have set out to unearth data and detritus that would lead to answers about their disappearance. Lady Jane Franklin personally offered rewards and sponsored several expeditions. She devoted the rest of her life to the quest for information about her husband’s demise. The song “Lord Franklin,” more widely known as “Lady Franklin’s Lament,” memorializes her undertaking: “Ten thousand pounds I would freely give / To know on earth, that my Franklin do live.”

Three graves dated to early 1846, less than a year after the ships’ departure, were found in 1850. An official naval record containing two messages was found several years later on an island above the Arctic Circle. The first one declared “All well.” The second reported Franklin’s death in 1847. The remaining crew was believed to have headed south on foot after the ships had been mired in year-round ice through the two previous winters, provisions almost gone. One search expedition encountered Inuits carrying personal items they’d found at abandoned camps that were traced to Franklin’s men. The natives also claimed to have seen kettles with cooked human remains. Lady Franklin refused to believe the claims of cannibalism, and Charles Dickens publicly dismissed them as “the vague babble of savages.” The Inuits’ sightings and reports—and who more likely to shed light on the mystery?—were continually disregarded.

Fragments were uncovered at every turn, what one writer called “a trail of Victorian breadcrumbs strewn across the tundra.” More than 400 relics were collected from 19th-century searches alone, including boots and books, a toothbrush, a cap band, a telescope, combs, soap, chinaware, pieces of clothing, and part of a backgammon game given to Lord Franklin by his wife. The fateful voyage with its tantalizing unknowns—facts and findings intertwined with rumors and speculations—caught hold of the public imagination and haven’t let go. Franklin’s own remains were never found, but new developments and discoveries have erupted over time and continue to stoke the fires of Franklin Fever.

The legend in song—

“A Ballad of Lord Franklin” was published in Sartain’s Magazine in 1850, before the expedition’s fate was officially acknowledged. Its 30-some verses paint a picture of an arrogant sea captain who urges his crew on, ignoring their fears as his glorious hopes go awry.

“Twas cruel to send us here to starve,” they cry.

He replies that whether they survive or not, “We have done what man has never done—We passed the Northern Sea.”

The song that started it all for me originated as an 1855 broadside ballad, “Lady Franklin’s Lament for Her Husband.” Allegedly written by Lady Franklin, it’s told in the voice of a sailor recalling a dream. Martin Carthy’s “Lord Franklin” arrangement is one of the best known, but there are many variations of the ballad’s lyrics as well as additional titles in the more than 40 recorded versions. Sinead O’Connor said she initially thought of it as “a boys’ song,” but it grew on her, as evidenced by her poignant rendition. Bob Dylan adapted the lyrics to tell his own story of “Dylan’s Dream.”

Franklin and his crew and ships hailed from England, but their resting place in what would soon become Canadian waters elevated the expedition’s mystery and myths in Canada. “Northwest Passage” (Stan Rogers, 1981) is a rousing contemporary ballad that some consider Canada’s unofficial national anthem. The poignant choral refrain gives me chills:

              Ah, for just one time, I would take the Northwest Passage
              To find the hand of Franklin reaching for the Beaufort Sea
              Tracing one warm line through a land so wide and savage
              And make a Northwest Passage to the sea.

Recent musical homages include Fairport Convention’s “I’m Already There,” James Taylor pleading Lord have mercy on “The Frozen Man,” and Iron Maiden’s “Stranger in a Strange Land.” I hadn’t listened to heavy metal since my daughter’s teens (and not willingly then), but thorough research demanded I hear this through, not once but twice. The lead singer’s theatrical gyrations amplify the story’s supernatural aspects: “. . . land of ice and snow / Trapped inside this prison / Lost and far from home.”

Word-bound literary journeys…

. . . is what Adam Gopnik called polar voyages, “fueled by fiction, supported by stories, and ending in memoirs.” Fictional treatments of the Franklin expedition have been ongoing since Wilkie Collins and Charles Dickens wrote The Frozen Deep, a play first performed in 1857. The protagonist of Jules Verne’s 1866 Journeys and Adventures of Captain Hatteras traces Franklin’s path on his way to the North Pole.

Since the 1980s we’ve seen numerous adaptations by contemporary authors above and beyond the extensive body of historical and scientific accounts: re-imaginings of Franklin’s life and Arctic expeditions, fictional takes on actual and invented search voyages, tangential juxtapositions in crime and science fiction, and metaphorical flights. The most recent fictional treatment of the 20 or so I’ve uncovered is Cormac James’ The Surfacing, published in 2015, in which a group of European sailors looking for Franklin get lost in the Arctic with a pregnant stowaway on board.

To my surprise, I learn that the first 20th-century literary treatments of the Franklin expedition, and a number thereafter, were written by women. Terror and Erebus is a verse drama by Canadian Gwendolyn MacEwen, originally broadcast in 1965 with electronic music and eery sound-effects. It invokes the voice of the Danish explorer Knud Rasmussen, the first European to cross the Northwest Passage by dogsled: “Now the great passage is open / The one you dreamed of, Franklin, / And great white ships plough through it / Over and over again . . .” The same year saw the publication of Australian Nancy Cato’s North-West by South, a novelization of Franklin’s life from his time in Tasmania through the fateful voyage.

As I seek to unravel my own interest in this—for me—esoteric topic, I’m intrigued by whatever it is that has drawn women to these alien adventures. Margaret Atwood lectured and wrote in “Linoleum Caves” about the place of women as authors and protagonists in the written Canadian North, noting some of the significant contributions in light of the fact that women didn’t enter significantly into the mythology itself. They weren’t the explorers and prospectors, but over time women seem to have appropriated a stake in the ownership of these male bastions in fiction, whether the adventures themselves or their metaphorical subtleties.

Andrea Barrett invaded the boys-only territory of seafaring adventure with The Voyage of the Narwhal, about a fictional 19th-century expedition in search of Franklin’s lost ships and crew. Barrett says she was inspired by reading in her youth about Peary, Shackleton and others, “longing so fiercely to be those explorers and not grasping for years that they were men, and I wasn’t; that the forces and desires driving them could never be mine.” While her longings were frustrated, she put them to use in her writing. Her epigraph for Narwhal is from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, also set in part in the Arctic: “I try in vain to be persuaded that the pole is the seat of frost and desolation; it ever presents itself to my imagination as the region of beauty and delight.” It appears as if Shelley too, in the early years of the 19th century, was drawn to tales of adventure, invoking her creativity to sidestep the constraints of gender.

In Margaret Atwood’s story “The Age of Lead,” the Franklin tale is subtext as a young woman watches a documentary about the recovery of the body of one of the sailors. “The idea of exploration appealed to her then: to get onto a boat and just go somewhere, somewhere mapless, off into the unknown. To launch yourself into fright; to find things out.” These perspectives force me to confront the limited vision of my own early reading, my readiness to dismiss others’ experiences unless I could relate to them in the light of my own life. I like to think that this venture is my effort to steer another course, to start catching up.

Canadian novelist Helen Humphreys uses the expedition’s vast stores of books, more than 1200 volumes on each ship, as the inspiration for her story “Franklin’s Library.” She imagines one sailor’s reflections while reading his way through the volumes. Instead of listing the dead, Humphreys lists books she believes to have been brought on board for the crew’s entertainment, education, and moral edification, including bibles for all among the hundreds of books devoted to religion, and the “The Seaman’s Library,” mandatory on all British ships at the time, with the likes of Robinson Crusoe, Gulliver’s Travels, and Oliver Twist, books of birds, fishes and shells, and a volume titled Bathing and Personal Cleanliness.

On the Proper Use of Stars by Dominique Fortier relates Franklin’s voyage, the personalities and their stories in fictional accounts by a chorus of voices and forms: the diary of senior officer Francis Crozier, entries from John Franklin’s official log, a narrative of Jane Franklin’s life during those years, and late-night bunk-to-bunk conversations between two seamen. It includes a play purportedly performed during the journey, a poem written by Franklin’s deceased first wife, sketches and diagrams (some from factual records, some contrived), and a recipe for plum pudding.

The woman behind the man—

Lady Jane Franklin turns out to be the hero of her own story and a focus of my fascination. Historic accounts show her efforts to find her husband and then his remains, to pursue his trail and solve the mystery of the expedition’s demise. In addition to the rewards and expeditions she underwrote, she appealed with relentless energy to the British Admiralty, to U.S. president Zachary Taylor and Russian Czar Nicholas I, and to others of influence, instigating more rescue efforts and keeping the cause alive. But Jane Franklin was an adventurer in her own right at a time when women rarely left the comforts of home.

She was 37 and no blushing bride—well-educated, widely traveled, strong and independent—when she married Captain John Franklin in 1838. Her biographer speculates that had she been male she would have attended Oxford or Cambridge and gone on to a distinguished career in science and exploration. As it was, her only means of achievement was through marriage. Franklin wasn’t wealthy, but he would open doors to the travel and exploration she craved. After he was knighted, her title and marital status gave her the freedom she never could have exercised as a single woman. She accompanied him on military assignments to the Mediterranean and Van Diemen’s Land (now Tasmania), and would certainly have gone to the Arctic if permitted. His command posts became her launching pads for solo explorations (accompanied by servants) to places where few women had traveled in the Middle East, Asia, Africa and Australia. She climbed Mt. Olympus and sailed the Nile, crossed hazardous terrains and forded perilous waters, taking satisfaction in the “firsts” she recorded as a women.

As the more intelligent and ambitious of the two, Jane became the impetus behind Franklin’s career, guiding his choices with an eye to his and their future distinction. Some believe it was remorse over urging her husband to make the fated voyage that spurred her rescue efforts, but she doesn’t strike me as the kind of person who would rue past decisions or be plagued by guilt. Her own standing was at stake as she sought to ensure that search efforts weren’t prematurely abandoned and then to see that Franklin’s reputation was preserved, that he received his deserved place in history. Her efforts saw memorials erected to Franklin in his hometown of Spilsby as well as in London and in Australia. Her coup was an inscription crediting Franklin with the discovery of the Northwest Passage, an achievement hotly contested and ultimately disproved. Lines from Tennyson adorn a bust in Westminster Abbey:

              Not here! The white North has thy bones; and thou,
              Heroic sailor-soul,
              Art passing on thine happier voyage now
              Toward no earthly pole.

Jane Franklin’s concerted efforts in the face of strong and powerful opposition resulted in advancements in Arctic discovery that might have taken decades longer without her intervention. When she died in 1875 a newspaper editorial provided a fitting epitaph for her life: “What the nation would not do, a woman did.”

Margaret Atwood said there was no female Franklin, but it appears there was—or might have been, given opportunity. In A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf imagines that Shakespeare had a sister, Judith, equally gifted but kept at home, deprived of education, groomed for marriage. She ran away to London to go into the theatre, where she was ridiculed. Seduced and abandoned, pregnant, she killed herself. Jane Franklin faced similar limitations but chose the more practical path and made the best of it. Still, when I consider her potential, I’d say she too was thwarted.

Franklin fever—

We have a peculiar fascination with voyages and exploits taken to physical or mental extremes, whether failed or successful. An insatiable appetite for the unknown and untried, a magnetic pull to danger, to personal challenge and conquest, survival against the elements and our own expectations. Adam Gopnik sees the search for the poles as “the model of all exploration for exploration’s sake … the ultimate testing place of man’s hubris.” Franklin Fever appeals to all that and more: the idea of people who have dropped out of sight in a place that in itself is mysterious, exotic, otherworldly. The Franklin saga is an irresistible combination of rumor and legend, risk and menace, romance, heroism, symbolism, unsolved yet still unfolding mystery.

I’ve become infected with the bug as I engage in binge researching, first online and then in the public library. My resources are scattered throughout the library’s nine floors in historical accounts, scientific analyses, environmental treatises, novels and poetry, biographies and memoirs, from scholars and scientists, nature enthusiasts, voyagers and dreamers. The vast quantities of material help me define my limits and narrow my focus, eliminate the paths I won’t pursue at this time: the land itself (awesome as it is), indigenous human and animal life, scientific exploration, military and political maneuverings. But what about Antarctica? It’s hard to draw the line. I bring home armloads of books from each visit, order more through cooperative lending with university libraries, buy what I can’t otherwise find. I come back to the Franklin expedition and the inestimable Lady Jane. To the North in literature and to women’s fascination with and metaphorical possession of its myths and mysteries. To that haunting song that started it all.

I scan the biographies, looking for stray nuggets about my Franklins (almost obscured in the glut of works on Benjamin Franklin). At the back of a bio of John Franklin, a particularly old and musty one, I find a map of the Northwest Arctic, identifying the islands, straits, and sounds that help me trace Franklin’s path and those of the search parties and other expeditions. It’s hanging on by a wisp of a worn-through fold; when I open it up, the map comes loose. Yes, I could have tucked it safely into the middle of the book, but the volume didn’t appear to have been touched in ages. Blame it on Franklin fever—reader, I stole the map.

What about Antarctica?—

While there’s little crossover among explorations North and South, I’m drawn from the one to the other, their similarities and differences. They share the ice and cold, of course, treacherous terrain and life-threatening conditions, mysteries of the unknown. And the poles—those beckoning far reaches of the planet. Yet negotiating and conquering each presented unique challenges, illuminated by the observation that the Arctic is an ocean surrounded by continents, whereas the Antarctic is a continent surrounded by ocean.

The Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration—f rom the late 19th to the early 20th century—is peppered with the successes and failures of explorers seeking to claim “firsts” (farther south, farthest south; magnetic pole, geographic pole; by land, by sea, by dogsled, on skis) for their countries and their egos. British Navy Captain Robert Falcon Scott reached the South Pole in January 1912 only to find that the Norwegian Roald Amundsen had beaten him by five weeks. Then Scott and his four companions died of starvation and exposure on their return to base camp. In his diary he wrote, “Great God! This is an awful place!” Ernest Shackleton led three harrowing British expeditions to Antarctica only to die of a heart attack on the return voyage from the third.

The land mass of Antarctica, though mostly covered in ice, has become a valuable site for scientific exploration, and its accessibility has resulted in inroads for women. First to break the ice were wives of expedition members in the 1930s and ‘40s, but women were excluded from participation in American and British Antarctic programs until the 1990s.

English novelist Jenny Diski interwove a journey to Antarctica in 1995 with an examination of her past in the memoir Skating to Antarctica, the two strands meshing as both exterior and interior exploration. Her research into the expeditions of Shackleton and Scott mirrored my probes into Franklin and the Arctic, only she made the physical voyage to her destination, her goal just “to be there, in a white, empty, unpeopled, silent landscape.” She booked passage on a small cruise ship after being rejected by the British Antarctic Survey project: she wasn’t a scientist engaged in specific research—what could a writer contribute?

Ten years later Jean McNeil was invited to be a writer-in-residence on an Antarctic scientific expedition, the value of writers having by then been recognized. She wrote a memoir, Ice Diaries, in which she observed that women were 30% of the base population, including all of the doctors. Still, one old-timer aboard ship told her, “I don’t approve of it, really, women here.”

There are numerous accounts of women’s travel experiences in the Antarctic. They describe the hardship and the exhilaration of the challenge, the wonders of discovery. For me they represent a point of entry denied me in northern exploration. It stokes my imagination to wonder what Jane Franklin would have made of the opportunity to accompany her husband on his voyage. Her astute assessment of the situation may have led Franklin to alter the route and the expedition to succeed.

The search continues—

The search for the Franklin expedition took on more importance than Franklin himself for a time. The ventures that followed—for the missing ships and crew, for the elusive passage, and to chart unknown territories—assured ongoing interest in polar exploration. In 1904, several years before his Antarctic coup, Roald Amundsen was the first to sail the Northwest Passage. Frederick Cook in 1908 and Robert Peary in 1909 both claimed to have been first to reach the North Pole. At issue was the specific location of the pole; as it turned out, both were close and both fell short.

Arctic exploration continued, but searches for the Franklin party and ships ceased after resources had been exhausted and nothing conclusive found, after Jane Franklin was no longer around to fuel the fires, after explorers went off on other quests. In the mid-20th century, hopes and odds were revived by the potential of enhanced geographical and scientific knowledge. Renewed and reinvigorated searches were undertaken. In 1984 the three graves discovered in 1850 were exhumed by Canadian archaeologist Owen Beattie. The bodies, preserved in permafrost, were identified as seamen John Torrington, John Hartnell, and William Braine. All Canada was electrified and “Franklin Fever” re-ignited when photos of the remarkably well-preserved bodies appeared in newspapers and on the evening news. Autopsies revealed elevated levels of lead in their bones, and the finger was pointed at the 8,000 cans of food the ships carried and the crews consumed. Canning of food was a new procedure at the time, and the tins were sealed with lead. Beattie and John Geiger, now CEO of Royal Canadian Geographical Society, made the case in the 1987 Frozen in Time that acute lead poisoning caused many of the deaths.

New information and artifacts continued to be discovered on subsequent searches of the region over several seasons of explorations undertaken by teams of researchers and divers headed by Parks Canada. Then in September of 2014, the Victoria Strait Expedition found a ship in 33 feet of water in Queen Maud Gulf, just north of the Canada mainland. It was immediately recognized as one of Franklin’s ships and later identified as Franklin’s flagship, the Erebus. The ship was upright and intact, and though ice conditions prevented divers from exploring it thoroughly at the time, they recovered the ship’s bell, long considered the soul of a vessel.

Earlier reports had claimed that Franklin’s ships were last seen off Baffin Island, some 850 miles from where the Erebus was found, but the authors of these accounts neglected to add “by white people.” The Inuits had for generations passed down stories that demonstrated knowledge of the Franklin party and the abandoned ships, but the natives’ first-hand testimony had been dismissed since the beginning. Now Inuit historian Louie Kamookak compared historical records with elders’ stories and was able to point searchers to likely spots.

Frozen in Time was updated and released soon after the discovery, with a new introduction by Margaret Atwood, A NOVA documentary was produced in 2015. The find was a major event worldwide, but for Canadians it has been compared to Americans finding the hull of the Titanic and the original flag of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Parks Canada has announced a five-year plan to explore the interior of the Erebus—maybe they’ll find the remains of Franklin himself—and to continue searching for the Terror. They have narrow windows of opportunity for diving, what has ranged from a few days to a few weeks during the brief Arctic summers. Now, though, with global warming, the melt season is continually lengthening.

Ice melt has led to greater accessibility and expanded trade routes, and now cruise ships and private yachts sail through the Northwest Passage. Tourist travel in the Arctic and Antarctic is almost commonplace, even trendy. A recent New Yorker cartoon shows a fur-clad native saying to another: “We may not have enough ice floes for the boomers.” It gives new meaning to both physical and metaphorical quests.

The Idea of North—

I started with a song and branched out, becoming more absorbed than I ever would have expected. I have no plans to book passage on an Arctic voyage, no desire to test my fortitude against the elements. I can see, however, how one might find the symbolism in polar exploration that makes it conceptually analogous to other challenges while at the same time bringing it closer to ordinary life experience. As a runner, the half-marathon I completed last month tested my physical endurance. As a writer, this essay has been an expedition into new territory and stretched my mental capacities. I’ve overcome some obstacles in my life that qualify me as a survivor. And as one who values solitude, I can identify with the attraction of vast, barren spaces.

“The Idea of North” was the first of Canadian pianist Glenn Gould’s ‘90s radio documentary series, The Solitude Trilogy. It consists of overlapping monologues by several speakers who offer diverse views of Northern Canada. Gould believed that for most Canadians, including himself, the North represented “a convenient place to dream about, spin tall tales about.” His response was a conceptual meditation anchored to a geographical reality and the experiences of concrete people.

The ice and the still-mysterious north—both polar regions to some extent—often represent emotional or spiritual journeys rather than geographic destinations, what Adam Gopnik calls “philosophical snowdrifts.” Jean McNeil’s goal in Ice Diaries was to explore winter “as a concept and an experience,” to comprehend ice “in its more metaphorical meanings.” Jenny Diski homed in on the starkness of her journey as a counterpoint, both real and symbolic, to her bleak and painful youth. In “An Expedition to the Pole,” Annie Dillard tells about a visit to the Arctic, where there was “no recognizable three-dimensional space . . . no time.” She writes: “The days tumble with meanings. The corners heap up with poetry; whole unfilled systems litter the ice.”

The North is a tangible place, but those in search of it are usually looking for more, something bigger perhaps, within its unknown vastness and nothingness. In Northwest Passage, a 1937 historical novel by Kenneth Roberts, we read that “On every side of us are men who hunt perpetually for their personal Northwest Passage, too often sacrificing health, strength and life itself to the search, and who shall say they are not happier in their vain but hopeful quest than wiser, duller folks who sit at home, venturing nothing.”

I approached my project as an outsider, captivated by a topic utterly foreign to me, by the aura and the allure of the mysterious, reeled in by a song. I entered in a spirit of open inquiry rather than to answer specific questions; I sought to engage with the lore and the literature and to draw a sense of understanding and of personal meaning. “The North” for me is a metaphor for solitude, for an unfettered mind, for the passage of time, the quest for knowledge and clarity. My exploration steers me around the byways of my own personal Northwest Passage.

I could write another chapter, because the saga continues and “Franklin fever” flourishes. In September 2016 the second ship from the Franklin Expedition—the Terror—was found, two years and one day after the Erebus and some 60 miles from it. I had just completed my essay and decided not to break back into it for the latest discovery. Last fall as well, another Franklin-related novel was published in England. I couldn’t wait for the U.S. release so acquired it from Amazon UK and found it to be a creative reimagining of the expedition in juxtaposition with a story about a contemporary Arctic quest. Minds of Winter by Ed O’Loughlin would have warranted a mention, but the fact is there will be more discoveries and more books because there’s still so much unknown and yet to be unearthed. And I’ll be following it closely, mopping my feverish brow.