4 September, 1997
This morning we're trying to move through Parry Channel to get to our 14th station, I doubt we've traveled more than a mile in four hours. Normally the ship tries to follow leads through the ice pack but sometimes, like now, there isn't one from where we are to where we want to go. When that happens an ice observer flies over the pack and plots a course that the ship can negotiate. Losing one of our five engines didn't help the situation and we hung up for about an hour in multiyear ice. With all engines operating the ship can generate 35,000 horsepower to drive her four-inch thick steel hull onto the ice. It doesn't make for quiet or a smooth ride!
It's difficult to be here and not think of the original explorers who made their way through these waters in sailing ships. The challenge in the early and mid 1800's was to find the Northwest Passage, a corridor from the Atlantic to the Pacific that would bring the treasures of the Orient to Europe. Our course has tracked that of John Franklin and his crew of 128 who were last seen in June 1845. Between 1848 and 1859 fifty expeditions were mounted to search for him. As we passed Beechey Island, where the bodies of three of his crew were exhumed in 1984, there was lots of speculation about the fate of the lost expedition. Some felt they died of lead poisoning since many of their provisions were in cans sealed with lead. Others felt they died of scurvy because their staple was meat that had been preserved with salt, a process now known to destroy vitamin C. There was even the thought that some were saved by the Eskimo's and their offspring still live among the natives.
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