Beyond the gorge
there is the lower river, still fine, wild country, traveled a month before but
not seen so well because of running after ghosts. A mile above Great Slave, the
Yellowknife passes under the extension of the Mackenzie Highway. As if it were
a Florida causeway, there is an elderly man leaning on the bridge railing,
taking the sun, fishing.
"There it is,
John. The Road."
really thought you could go beyond The Road."
know. You've been there."
at Fort Enterprise, Franklin and his party proceeded northward, reaching the
polar sea at the Coppermine on July 18, 1821. There the Indians and some of the
voyageurs turned back, while Franklin and 19 men continued eastward for another
500 miles, sailing and paddling their canoes along the shore. They reached
Bathurst Inlet in August. From there, because of storms, they had only one
choice—to return to Enterprise by an overland route and proceed from there to
Fort Providence. In the heart of the Barren Lands they were overtaken by
winter. They went without food, were frostbitten and lost their way. They
staggered westward. Seven men died of exposure and two of the bodies were
That any of the
party survived was due largely to the exertions of Midshipman Back. With
Franklin and the others on their last legs, Back pushed ahead through the
winter and near the Carp Lakes found Akaitcho and sent back a sledge load of
meat that saved his companions' lives. What was left of the expedition limped
into Fort Providence in December 1821.
In the summer of
1845, then nearly 60 years old, Franklin returned to the Arctic in command of
two vessels, hoping to solve once and for all the Northwest Passage puzzle. No
one in the expedition returned. Fourteen years later, as a result of a massive
and continuing search (which did discover the Northwest Passage), the fate of
the men was confirmed. They had followed a freakishly open lead far into the
ice pack. The lead closed and the ships remained locked in the ice for 2�
years. The weakened men finally set out to walk across the ice. They left their
dead to the wolves and foxes along their route. Franklin himself died in June
1847, having carried—or having had carried—to the end his silver place setting.
Finally, the 40 strongest did reach the mainland, but too late. They all died
of starvation and exposure in the summer of 1848.
As for the 1973
expedition of six, our history since the retreat from the Carp Lakes has been
unremarkable, our fates as yet unknown.