Conan Doyle’s Arctic journal published

This video is called To the Arctic Official Trailer #1- 3D Documentary Movie (2012) HD.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Arthur Conan Doyle and the mystery of the medical student’s Arctic adventure

Sherlock Holmes author’s journal of his runayear away as a ship’s doctor on a whaler aged 22 to be published

Maev Kennedy

Monday 6 August 2012 19.29 BST

On Sunday 4 April 1880, a young medical student called Arthur Conan Doyle was wrestling with a two-iceberg rather than a two-pipe problem: he had yet again fallen overboard from a whaler called the Hope, into the icy Arctic.

“I fell into the Arctic Ocean three times today, but luckily someone was always near to pull me out,” the 20-year-old Doyle wrote.

“The danger in falling in is that with a heavy swell on as there is now, you may be cut in two pretty well by two pieces of ice coming together and nipping you. I got several drags, but was laid up in the evening as all my clothes were in the engine room drying … after skinning a seal today I walked away with the two hind flippers in my hand, leaving my mittens on the ice.”

Doyle’s illustrated journal, a riproaring account of his adventures as ship’s doctor on the Arctic whaler Hope – for which he ran away for most of a year from his medical studies in Edinburgh – is to be published for the first time by the British Library, in a facsimile edition.

Although Doyle had already published his first short story, Sherlock Holmes would not sweep in through the fog for another seven years – but the experiences of the voyage, including the brutal slaughter of the seals, would give him material for life.

He described the young seals as making a noise “between the mew of a cat and the bleat of a lamb”, and on 3 April 1880 wrote: “It is bloody work dashing out the poor little beggars brains while they look up with their big dark eyes into your face. We picked the boats up soon and started packing, that’s to say all hands getting over the ship’s side and jumping along from floating piece to piece, killing all they can see, while the ship steams after and picks up the skins … I was ambitious to start but in getting over the ship’s side I fell in between two pieces of ice and was hauled out by a boathook.”

Most of his medical work onboard was patching sailors up after falls, but some of it was traumatic. The oldest member of the crew died in his arms, of peritonitis not helped by a last meal of plum duff. “Poor old man. They were very kind to him forwards during his illness, and certainly I did my best for him. Made a list of his effects in the evening. Rather a picturesque scene with the corpse and the lanterns and the wild faces around.”

On 22 May it was Doyle’s 21st birthday, though there was no cake. “I come of age today. Rather a funny sort of place to do it in, only 100 miles or so from the North Pole. Had rather a doleful evening on my birthday, as I was very seedy for some reason or another. The Captain was very kind and made me bolt two enormous mustard emetics which made me feel as if I had swallowed Mount Vesuvius, but did me a lot of good.”

Emetics apart, he was unmistakably having the time of his young life. He wrote gleefully to his mother: “I don’t think you would have recognised me as I came into the cabin just now – I’m sure you wouldn’t. The captain says I make the most awful looking savage he ever saw. My hair was on end, my face covered with dirt and perspiration, and my hands with blood.

I had my oldest clothes on, my seaboots were shining with water and crusted with snow at the top. I had a belt round my coat with a knife in a sheath and a steel stuck in it, all clotted with blood. I had a coil of rope slung round my shoulders, & a long gory poleaxe in my hand. That’s the photograph of your little cherub, madam.”

• The British Library will publish Dangerous Work, Diary of an Arctic Adventure, on 26 September. Extracts © Conan Doyle Estate Ltd

6 thoughts on “Conan Doyle’s Arctic journal published

  1. Bones, artifacts found from Franklin expedition but, so far, no ships

    By Dene Moore, The Canadian Press September 9, 2012

    Archeologists involved in the hunt for the wreckage of the Franklin Expedition in Canada’s Arctic have discovered human remains they believe are from a member of the doomed crew.

    Despite bad weather that has hampered some of their plans, the journey has been a productive one so far, says the chief of underwater archaeology for Parks Canada, and it should get even better with the addition of an automated underwater vehicle from the University of Victoria.

    “Work is going well… (but) we haven’t found the ships yet,” Marc-Andre Bernier said in a telephone interview after leaving the Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker Sir Wilfrid Laurier last week.

    What they have found in a search on land are more artifacts from the ill-fated expedition. At Erebus Bay, where at least a dozen members of the Franklin crew are known to have died, more human remains have been recovered.

    “They did find a human tooth, and some bone and a toothbrush,” Bernier said. “These were really exciting finds.”

    Sir John Franklin set out from England on May 19, 1845, on a mission to find the Northwest Passage through the Arctic. He had two Royal Navy ships — the HMS Erebus and the HMS Terror — a crew of 135, and provisions for what was expected to be a three-year journey.

    In August 1845, two European whaling ships had a chance meeting with the Franklin Expedition as they waited to cross Baffin Bay to Lancaster Sound. That would be their last contact with the outside world.

    In 1859, a search party hired by Lady Jane Franklin found a message left in a cairn on Victory Point, King William Island. The ships had become trapped in the ice in Victoria Strait in late 1846, and remained there for a year and a half.

    The message said Sir John Franklin died on June 11, 1847, and by the following spring another 24 members of the crew had perished. In April 1848 the rest of the crew left a note saying they were to set out on foot, for a destination they would never reach.

    There have been many efforts to find the lost ships, to no avail.

    The 2012 Expedition being led by Parks Canada is a continuation of surveys conducted in 2008, 2010 and 2011.

    Bad weather in recent days has hampered this year’s search somewhat, but the addition of the automated underwater vehicle from the University of Victoria will help, Bernier said.

    “Because of the nature of the environment, they had to do a lot of testing. That testing is done so it’s ready to join in the search,” he said Friday. “We’re in full operation now, and things are going well.”

    Dr. Colin Bradley, director of the University of Victoria’s Ocean Technology Lab, said the torpedo-shaped robotic vehicle is equipped with downward-looking sonar to map the sea floor and detect anything of archeological interest. At about the half-way point, things are going well, he said.

    “From time to time we’ve had to pull the vessel in because the weather’s been very rough,” he said. “It’s been an interesting couple of weeks.”

    The high-tech equipment has had to be adapted to the realities of the Arctic.

    “There’ve been some minor problems but nothing that has halted progress, so we’re very happy about that,” Bradley said.

    “The team has to be resourceful and creative in dealing with problems and it is a bit of high-technology. For anybody who owns a computer and software, you know that they fail, they crash. This vehicle has several computers on board and sophisticated data acquisition systems and sensors, so all of this has to be integrated and managed and the potential for bugs obviously increases with the higher levels of sophistication.

    Whether or not the ships are found, there is a lot of progress being made in mapping the sea floor in that region — an important task of the expedition, he said.

    “As we know, unfortunately, with the variability and the changing of the climate in the North, the ice coverage seems to be diminishing which means that there are more areas becoming exposed that are uncharted,” Bradley said. “And with more vessels being used in the North, the requirement to map the sea floor becomes even greater.

    The Sir Wilfrid Laurier is expected to continue with the search until the middle of this week, while the Martin Bergmann, a research vessel belonging to the private, non-profit Arctic Research Foundation, will continue.

    “We’re going to continue on for hopefully another 10 days, but the weather will decide when we stop, if the weather gets really nasty. We’re in September in the Arctic, so it could get dicey,” said Bernier.


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