Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Ice Ghosts: The Epic Hunt for the Lost Franklin Expedition” as Want to Read:
Ice Ghosts: The Epic Hunt for the Lost Franklin Expedition
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Ice Ghosts: The Epic Hunt for the Lost Franklin Expedition

3.6  ·  Rating details ·  826 Ratings  ·  196 Reviews
“Intriguing. . . . The notable originality of Ice Ghosts lies in the fact that it brings the story right up-to-date. . . . [Watson] provides sharp and entertaining portraits of the various Franklin obsessives whose experience and expertise fed into the 2008 initiative.” (Ian McGuire, author of The North Water, New York Times Book Review)

“A splendid achievement.” (Ken McCoo
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published March 21st 2017 by W. W. Norton Company
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.
Endurance by Alfred LansingThe Worst Journey in the World by Apsley Cherry-GarrardThe Ice Master by Jennifer NivenThe Endurance by Caroline AlexanderArctic Dreams by Barry López
To the Poles
90 books — 45 voters
In the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel PhilbrickEndurance by Alfred LansingThe Perfect Storm by Sebastian JungerA Change of Plans by Donna K. WeaverA Night to Remember by Walter Lord
82 books — 83 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
Rating details
Sort: Default
Diane S ☔
Feb 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: lor
I am fascinated by anything to do with the Arctic, a place I will never go, truth to tell probably not even want to go, but I love reading about this extremely cold, ice packed place. Add in the Franklin Expedition and the very long effort it took to find the wrecks of Erebus and Terror, and I'm all in.

Starts in 1845 with the expedition itself, for John Franklin, now in his seventies this is his last ditch effort to find and complete the northwest passage and to redeem his shattered reputation.
May 11, 2017 rated it liked it
So, you’ve had a bad day?


But consider yourself lucky that your boss wasn’t Sir John Franklin, and that your day job wasn’t as a sailor on Franklin’s mid-19th century, multi-year Arctic expedition. Because no matter what, your day at work probably didn't involve getting stuck fast in the ice, disappearing from outside human contact, and dying agonizingly in the frozen wastes, numbed by cold, ravaged by hunger, perhaps brought low by botulism, forced, by inches, to contemplate the unthinka
Jan 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
In 1847 Sir John Franklin left England and his adoring wife Lady Jane to seek the fabled Northwest Passage. He was 59 years old and it was his fourth journey to the Arctic. He had survived starvation on his second journey. This expedition was prepared with three years of food, included new-fangled canned foods. He had powerful, heated ships. The explorer Ross promised to rescue Franklin if he did not come home.

Nothing went as planned. Extreme ice stranded the ships. Their canned food was tainted
Oct 21, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2017, can-con, nonfiction
No chain of islands on Earth is more vicious than the Arctic Archipelago. Like teeth lining colossal jaws, some ninety-four large islands, and 36, 469 smaller ones, stretch across a territory about half the size of the contiguous United States. They can bite down and swallow ships whole. Even the earliest, most hopeful, searchers, who mapped large parts of the archipelago as they looked for Erebus and Terror and their crews, knew it would take a miracle to find anyone in that gigantic maw.

In his
The oceans always have some great unsolved mystery disappearances. In the mid- 1840s the Royal Navy bomb ketches, HMS Erebus and HMS Terror disappeared in the Arctic of Canada.
Paul Watson tells the story of their loss and discovery in his book “Ice Ghosts: The Epic Hunt for the Lost Franklin Expedition”. The two ships and every member of their crews-129 officers, seamen, and marines under the command of the Admiralty’s third choice for the job, Rear Admiral Sir John Franklin-were lost somewhere
A compelling read that nevertheless has a few issues. This type of book, a popular narrative history, is always fraught with a number of pitfalls. Watson plays fast and loose with the facts in the historical first half of the book. As many historians do, he gets to pick and choose which facts to emphasize in order to make his read more exciting and make the failures more tragic. A particular example is of the many crackpot psychic explorations of the expedition's fate, Watson focuses on the Weez ...more
Susanna - Censored by GoodReads
The author has won a Pulitzer.

I regret to say that I am less than 10% in and can report at least one sentence fragment, and multiple spliced sentences.

The topic is fascinating - but the writing is getting on my nerves. (My parents are English professors, and I feel the urge to pull out a red pen.)
Nick T. Borrelli
Jan 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I received an ARC from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review of this title. So, the failed Franklin Expedition of 1845 has been a subject that I have been obsessed with ever since reading The Terror by Dan Simmons. For those not familiar with the lost expedition, Sir John Franlin set out from England in the mid 19th century to find the elusive Northwest Passage. The purpose of the expedition was to shorten the amount of time it would take to conduct trade between Europ ...more
Jun 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, own
Having both read Dan Simmon's book The Terror and watched the AMC show based on it, I wanted to know a bit more of the history of the Franklin Expedition. This was an excellent way to learn about the expedition, the search for survivors, and what was happening in the world at the time.
Dan Simmon's novel, The Terror, was my introduction to the failed Franklin Expedition in 1845--a voyage of discovery to find that elusive Northwest Passage that would like Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Since then, I've read several books that relate to Arctic (and Antarctic) exploration, both fiction and nonfiction, and now that I think back, I wonder if Andrea Barrett's fabulous Voyage of the Narwhal touched on Franklin as well. The snow and ice almost always win, but really when you've named yo ...more
Angelique Simonsen
Oct 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I only picked this up because of the author being a Pulitzer prize winner. Turned out to be a fascinating read. A lesson about how you treat the natives of the land in this book too. Highly recommended even though I'm not usually one for nautical wrecks.
As I discussed some of the events of this book, my husband pointed out that I'm a little obsessed with the Arctic. Yes, that is true. Why that is, I cannot say. I can't see myself going there, unless it's on a cruise from Norway to check out Svalbard, where Christianne Ritter lived with her husband for an entire polar winter, as told in her memoir A Woman in the Polar Night. I did check out a few articles about the events of this book online, such as the graves of some of the Franklin men on Bee ...more
May 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
One of the things that separates us humans from the animals is our stubbornness. That stubbornness is at the heart of this 150 yr old mystery. The British Navy sent ship after ship into the Artic to hunt for a shortcut to the Pacific, a brand new trade route. The problem was all that ice, the ships that went there could end up stuck in the ice for years or as with the Franklin expedition they might not come back at all. Makes me think what was the point, if they found a route it would only be us ...more
Aug 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is a well written book about the lost Franklin Expedition. The book is broken down into three parts, which gives an overview of the expedition, the hunt over a hundred and sixty some years and then the discovery. The follies and arrogance of humans can be seen in this history. It was pleasing to see a peek of Inuit culture in this book. Overall, an enjoyable and interesting read.
Jan 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I found this history of the Franklin Expedition, and the search for its lost ships and crew, absolutely fascinating!

The book does a very good job outlining the mission of Franklin and his crew in exploring the Canadian Arctic in search of the Northwest Passage. It also details the experiences of those left at home, most notably Lady Jane Franklin, who kept the hope of finding her husband and his crew, alive or dead, for many decades to come.

Watson is a great writer, and investigator. I really ap
Jul 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
Paul Watson's "Ice Ghosts" brings the long, often confusing, muddled, politically bungled attempt of the search for the answers to what happened to the Franklin expedition into a sharper focus. Since both the "Erebus" and "Terror" have been found, Watson is able to cast a critical eye on both why the search took so long and, ultimately, what lead to the final discovery of both ships.

First, the Inuit of the North finally get the credit they rightfully deserve. Both in the early days of the search
Rob Neyer
Jul 25, 2017 rated it liked it
The first half of the book is a solid account of the doomed Franklin Expedition, and the 19th Century efforts to locate survivors, although the three maps included before the text simply aren't detailed enough. The second half of the book is a meandering, discombobulated, more-than-occasionally confusing account of the late-20th and early 21st Century searches for Franklin's two ships. I wish the last 170 pages of the book had been more like 70 pages, and focused on just a few of the key figures ...more
Aug 10, 2017 rated it it was ok
I kept telling myself I should be impressed by this book or maybe enjoying it because this guy won a Pulitzer. But the book was so poorly structured, I was adrift with the flotsam from other times, places, people, and had to paddle desperately to keep track of the narrative line, not to mention to make sense of his needlessly convoluted sentences.

I'd give this one star for its sheer annoyance value, but I did manage to learn things, so here's a grudging two.
Feb 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nature, history
Much has been written about the lost Franklin expedition, but I have never read a book that so seamlessly weaves what is known about this history with the history of those who traveled to explore the mysteries of the men who disappeared. A well-researched and intriguing read!
Warren Benton
This book falls right into the wheelhouse of my favorite type of book.  Mixing what happened in history to modern day discoveries this book captures your imagination as you ponder what happened to the Franklin expedition on their search for a Northwest Passage.

Sir John Franklin set out to find the Northwest Passage.  He had been a captain more than once in the artic and was a well-trusted officer of the Royal Navy.  He was a little older than most when taking on what would be his final explorati
Gilda Felt
May 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
I’ve been interested in the Franklin expedition since reading Dan Simmons’ The Terror, several years ago. And I’d long wished that the two lost ships would someday be found. So I was very excited when they actually were, and looked forward to reading about that search.

I rather naively thought that the finding of each ship was done by a small, but dedicated group of archaeologists, combing the vast arctic sea for the remains of these two ships. Well, I got part of it right.

The book goes into deta
Jul 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
Andrew Lambert's "The Gates of Hell" has set the standard for me for several years, but Watson's book benefits from a bit of good research and a dogged expedition's findings last year. The research involves Inuit sources that highlight the survivors' last days. The research involves the expedition's discovery of both the "Terror" and the "Erebus," and the further discovery that the Franklin expedition survivors actually found a Northwest Passage before they died.
Jul 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Interesting history of Sir John Franklin’s doomed attempt to find the Northwest Passage and his wife’s battles with the British Admiralty to go find him. As usual the white men refuse to believe that anyone other than them, including the Inuit that live in the Arctic, could ever know more than they do. I do wish the book made more detailed maps — lots of locations mentioned that were not on the maps provided. Could also have used a glossary of characters — too many names over 150+ years.
David West
Pretty good. The story of an Arctic search which lasted over 160 years. And parts of the mystery are still unsolved.
Jun 03, 2017 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Dire-hard followers of the Arctic
Recommended to Gail by: Other reviewers
Shelves: mediocre
I love reading about polar exploration and every time a new book comes out on this subject, I immediately reserve it at the library. Ice Ghosts was one that I couldn't wait to get my hands on. Unfortunately, it wasn't that terrific and I almost quit reading the book but decided to persevere. It started out keeping my interest and then began to deteriorate. There's too much peripheral excess that can be rambling and plodding. I don't like metaphors and the author uses plenty of these which are de ...more
Mar 20, 2018 rated it it was ok
This book was an impulse pickup, and it turned out to be disappointing. Partly that's because Watson is by far the most interested in post-2010 searching for Franklin, the section concerning which is roughly as long as the books first two sections (one recounting the expedition itself, another an account of the 19th-century searches) put together. Alas, the recent stuff was the phase I was least interested in.

"This isn't the book I wanted to read," though, isn't really a fair complaint, and if
Liz De Coster
A well-researched adventure narrative focusing on one of the big mysteries of Arctic exploration. Watson adds considerable value to a frequently debated story by providing ample information on Inuit involvement in British exploration of the Arctic by detailing oral histories, cultural practices, etc.

The narrative thread does get bogged down in a few places, both when the author is filling in backstory for dramatis personae that muddles the timeline and in some of the detailed description of ear
Genevieve Burgess
Mar 07, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2017
This was an excellent book in terms of the factual information and history covered, but I think it suffered a bit from the sheer span of time involved. There's almost 200 years worth of British Naval and Arctic history to get through from the time the Franklin Expedition departed England to the time that the HMS Erebus and HMS Terror were discovered in the frigid waters of Nunavut. Not only do we cover the Franklin expedition up to about the time they're entombed in ice, but we also cover severa ...more
Mar 27, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Maybe 2.5 Stars.

Fascinating story, but this telling left me disappointed. The best section is the first part of Part III, but the author digresses back to his tendencies to over-dramatize, speculate, and repeat himself (perhaps to make up for the at times scattershot/tangential story telling). Probably could have dropped half the book and told a more concise and meaningful story.
Bonnye Reed
Sep 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-2017
Ice Ghosts is the 160 plus years history of the lost Franklin Expedition, from preparation and loading of stores and sailing north (1845) from the Thames round Scotland to 'find' the northwest passage to the Pacific from Europe, until the discovery of the sunken ships HMS Erebus (2014) and HMS Terror (2016) from the Arctic floor. Many Dozens of missions searched for these lost ships, though most were much too late to save the 129 sailors aboard, and Arctic natives were basically not consulted un ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Goodreads Librari...: ICE GHOSTS Paperback 5 12 Jan 10, 2018 02:24PM  
Polar Explorers: * Ice Ghosts by Paul Watson 4 12 Aug 05, 2017 06:36PM  
map info in ARC 2 3 Apr 29, 2017 11:46AM  
Goodreads Librari...: Incorrect author bio and unrelated book links 4 24 Dec 29, 2016 01:16PM  
Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name.
“European explorers ignoring indigenous geographical names and creating their own was all about ego, honor, and power, and some sense that having someone speak your name while pointing to an island or a strait was the closest one could get to everlasting life on Earth. In the relentless drive for discovery, the planet seemed to be their plaything.” 1 likes
More quotes…