The first volume of this explorer's memoir is fine, typical exploring stuff, looking for the Northwest Passage, la de dah. Partway through this secondThe first volume of this explorer's memoir is fine, typical exploring stuff, looking for the Northwest Passage, la de dah. Partway through this second volume, though, when they run low on supplies and turn back, things get awesome.
There are few animals around for them to hunt, and even when the party does get meat, there's no wood around to cook it with; so they're subsisting mainly on weeds. As they grow weaker and weaker they need to drop their equipment, and some jackanapes throws away their fishing gear, so even after they reach a river they can't fish. Finally, some grow too weak to travel on, so they form a desperate plan: to split the party. They're only 40 miles from a trading post they know of, so the plan is for Dr. Richardson to stay behind in the tent with the weakest while John Franklin pushes on with the rest, lightly encumbered (no tent!) and at rapid clip, to the trading post. From there they'll be able to send a relief expedition back to Richardson's party.
Franklin sets off, but after a quarter mile or so two of his party prove to be so enfeebled by hunger that they can’t keep up, Franklin send them back to Richardson. No sooner are the pair out of sight than one of them, Michel, kills his comrade and eats his flesh. While he’s doing this, a third weak straggler, who has also been sent back to by Franklin, comes across Michel at his repast: so Michel kills him too. He then goes back to Richardson, and offer some meat, which he says he obtained from a wolf carcass he found. Everyone eats; but Michel's story starts to unravel. Another who returns bears the story of how many should have come back; where are the others? Michael hints they may have lost their way. But no one believes him. And so Michel, by far the most robust in Richardson's party (he’s eaten the best recently!) starts SECRETLY KILLING THEM ONE BY ONE.
Meanwhile, Franklin's party, weak and dying, stumbles into the trading post, and is horrified to find it abandoned and stripped clean. Barely able to move, they start ripping up the floorboards of the building to burn. When they can crawl outside, they go and dig through garbage heaps, looking for bones they can burn and then grind up and eat as powder. They've already eaten their shoes. As they lie there, waiting to die, they are racked with guilt, because they know that they are the only hope for Richardson's party, just as weak and far colder than they – unaware that Richardson's party is in far greater peril than from hunger.
I won't spoil the ending. What a great book!...more
Argh! This poorly-scanned, never-proofread OCRed imitation of a book turns out to be ONLY VOLUME ONE OF A TWO PARTER even though it says that nowhereArgh! This poorly-scanned, never-proofread OCRed imitation of a book turns out to be ONLY VOLUME ONE OF A TWO PARTER even though it says that nowhere in the book at all. It just ends. I knew I was going to be in trouble when the remaining pages were slipping away and they hadn't 1. gotten any where near the Polar Sea and 2. perished miserably.
The narrative itself was good. The Narrative Press should be collectively shot....more