The Franklin expedition was not alone in suffering early and unexplained deaths. Indeed, both Back (1837) and Ross (1849) suffered early onset of unaccountable "debility" aboard ship and Ross suffered greater fatalities during his single winter in the Arctic than did Franklin during his first. Both expeditions were forced to retreat because of the rapacious illness that stalked their ships. Frozen in Time makes the case that this illness (starting with the Back expedition) was due to the crews' overwhelming reliance on a new technology, namely tinned foods. This not only exposed the seamen to lead, an insidious poison - as has been demonstrated in Franklin's case by Dr. Beattie's research - but it also left them vulnerable to scurvy, the ancient scourge of seafarers which had been thought to have been largely cured in the early years of the nineteenth century. Fully revised, Frozen in Time will update the research outlined in the original edition, and will introduce independent confirmation of Dr. Beattie's lead hypothesis, along with corroboration of his discovery of physical evidence for both scurvy and cannibalism. In addition, the book includes a new introduction written by Margaret Atwood, who has long been fascinated by the role of the Franklin Expedition in Canada's literary conscience, and has made a pilgrimage to the site of the Franklin Expedition graves on Beechey Island.
The discovery of the wreck of British explorer Sir John Franklin's ship The Erebus in the fall of 2014 is likely to renew interest in this book, first published in 1987 by forensic anthropologist Beattie and Geiger, now CEO of the Royal Canadian Geographic Society, and fortuitously reprinted before the shipwreck was discovered. Franklin was appointed to lead an expedition to discover the Northwest Passage from the Atlantic through the Arctic to the Pacific, but the expedition was lost in 1848. A number of relief expeditions revealed only scant information about the fate of Franklin and his crew, and the mystery remained for almost a century. This historical retelling is complemented by an account of the expedition led by Beattie in the 1980s, during which the remains of some crew members were found. It provided important evidence to answer questions about what ultimately killed the men and whether in desperation they resorted to cannibalism. The authors present a richly researched history of the expedition and the following relief expeditions and seamlessly merge the worlds of forensic anthropology and 19th-century history. Reading almost like a whodunit page-turner, Beattie and Geiger capture the thrill of making new scientific discoveries and finding important clues to solve a haunting mystery.