Hunters on the Track: William Penny and the Search for Franklin: Ross, W. Gillies
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Hunters on the Track: William Penny and the Search for Franklin

Author(s): Ross, W. Gillies

Copyright: 2019, Canada
Specifications: 1st, 8vo, pp.viii, 519, 8 bw photos, 4 maps, red cloth
Condition: dj & cloth new

Captains of whaling vessels were experienced navigators of northern waters, and William Penny was in the vanguard of the whaling fraternity. Leading the first maritime expedition in search of Sir John Franklin, he stood out not just for his skill as a sailor but for his curiosity about northern geography and his willingness to seek out Inuit testimony to map uncharted territory.

Ross describes and analyzes the efforts made by the Scottish whaling master to locate Franklin’s missing expedition. He provides an in-depth history of the first Franklin searches, bookended by an account of Penny's whaling career, including the rediscovery of Cumberland Sound, which would play a vital role in British whaling a decade later. He reconstructs the brief but frenetic period when the English-speaking world was preoccupied with locating Franklin, but when the means of that search - the ships chosen, the route taken, the evidence of Franklin's traces - were contested and uncertain. Ross details the particularities of each search at a time when no fewer than eight ships comprising four search expeditions were attempting to find Franklin’s tracks. He focuses on the work of Penny as commander of HMS Lady Franklin and Sophia, while also outlining the events of other expeditions and interactions among the officers and crews.

William Penny is respected as one of the most influential and innovative figures in British Arctic whaling history, but his brief role in the Franklin expedition is less known. Using primary sources, notably private journals from each of the expeditions, Ross places him at the forefront of a critical chapter of maritime history and the geographical exploration that began after Franklin disappeared.

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