Ice Blink Essay
Due Sept. 15th 2008
Fit For the Job
The Franklin Expedition was equipped with two top notched ships, the HMS Erebus, and HMS Terror. According to Cookman, these ships were considered “space shuttles of their day; built to go, quite literally, where no ship had gone before.”(36).
The Erebus and Terror were bomb ships built to endure “crushing recoil of 5 ton mortars firing 13 inch shells packed with 200 pounds of explosives.”(37) These two ships were the best fit for Franklin’s polar expeditions of the Northwest Passage because they had been at sea before, and were designed with the best technology and crafting techniques to assure the men a safe voyage.
“Erebus was a Hecla class bomb ship, the largest and last purpose built bomb vessel commissioned by the Royal Navy. Launched at Pembroke Dockyard in 1826, she was the biggest ship Barrow had sent in search of the Passage. Some 372 tons, 105 feet long with a 29 foot beam. Terror was an older (launched 1813), smaller Vesuvius class bomb ship of 326 tons, 102 feet long with a 27 foot beam. (Among its other distinctions, Terror had participated in the attack on Ft. McHenry in the War of 1812; so the “bombs bursting in air” in the “Star Spangled Banner” quite likely came from Terror.”(37)
Both the Erebus and Terror had been at sea before, and were best known for their Antarctic voyage in 1839-1843. On this voyage they planted the English flag farther south then anyone had ever traveled. The HMS Terror was also known for surviving in the Arctic while being beset in ice. After losing its rudders it still managed to detach itself from the ice’s lifeless
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grip and sail Commander George Back and his men to safety. Being able to escape the ice with no rudders was a huge potential benefit for Franklin’s exploration. With reputations like these there is no wonder why the Erebus and Terror were chosen to sail Franklin and his men on their voyage.
Sir John Barrow was the man who designed and reconstructed the Erebus and Terror for Franklin’s journey. He made sure that these boats would be built to their highest capabilities, and be able to withstand the three year voyage through ice and harsh weather conditions. He planned to equip the two ships with Victorian England’s latest technology and make them indestructible to the ice. He started by building the frame and supports out of very strong English Oak. By doing so he also created a very flat bottom for the ships, which made them ideal for balance and cargo. Cargo space was very important in the plans of building these boats. The crews would be on both ships for three years so each one needed to store as much food and supplies as possible. In order to withstand and survive the ice packs, Barrow made it his mission to strengthen the ships up so they could endure the hundreds of pounds per square inch of pressure. He did so by “doubling the three inches of English oak with two layers of African oak, each 1.5 inches thick, wrought diagonally against one another for even greater strength. This in turn was overlaid with two layers of Canadian elm, each 2 inches thick, wrought diagonally against the African oak. This amounted to 5 belts of timber fully 10 inches thick.”(37) By doing this Barrow assured the crew and Officers safety on each boat and prevented the ice packs from destroying the ships.
Along with protecting the ship’s outsides from damaging ice packs, Barrow also focused on protecting their insides. Barrow insulated the ships with cork, and created an internal heating system that ran through each one. Lining a ship with an internal heating system had never even been heard of at the time which goes to show how dedicated Barrow was to protecting these men.
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Towards the end of the book Cookman criticizes the ships for not having enough coal for fuel and heat. Before this dilemma, both veteran cooks, Richard Wall and John Diggle made sure to prepare the foods at a high enough temperature to kill bacteria. As the voyage continued the ships began to run out of coal and did not have enough to heat the food properly and run the ship. As a result both cooks were unable to heat the food at the appropriate temperature to kill bacteria. This caused the bacteria in the food cans to spread even more. Due to the bacteria spreading and becoming even more lethal a lot more men aboard the ships became sick. Cookman blames this on the ships lack of coal supplies but I disagree. If Stephan Goldner, the food supplier for both ships, had prepared and packaged the food properly then they would have never ran into this fatal problem. Goldner focused on making the most amount of money while doing the least amount of work necessary. Preparing the foods properly cost Goldner more money so instead he used poor metal and arsenic to manufacture the cans, and passed off scraps of old meat found at Boucher shops for meatloaf. That wasn’t all Goldner did not cook the foods long enough and he prep stations were contaminated with cholera and other pathogenic bacteria.
The Erebus and Terror were built to their best ability, and for one purpose to safely transport the men on their voyage. Barrow had no idea the food would be spoiled before it even left the harbor. Therefore he had no way of preventing it. He provided the ships with enough coal to fuel and run them, he wasn’t focused on heating the food because for all he knew the food was properly prepared. It was Goldner’s fault the men became sick and died.
Cookman criticized the Erebus and Terror for the lack of fuel supplies, and claimed it lead to the men becoming sick. This would have never happened though if the food was properly prepared. The Erebus and Terror were the two best ships for this voyage. They were not designed to cook diseased food. The ships were designed to withstand the ice packs, and protect the men on this exploration. They were done so with new age technology such as internal heating and reinforced beams and frames. There were no other ships before these two were built that could endure this voyage. Barrow completely revolutionized the production of ships with these two which is therefore why they were the best fit for Franklin’s Arctic Exploration.
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