• CMTU History

Episode #10 Ice Ghosts

My guest this week is Paul Watson. Paul's career in investigative reporting and photo journalism has spanned thirty years and has taken him across the globe. As a war correspondent, Paul has written for the Toronto Star as well as the Los Angeles Times where he served as South Asian Bureau Chief. He has won numerous awards for his work including the Freedom of the Press Award from the National Press Club for his reporting during the Kosovo war, Daniel Pearl Award from the South Asian Journalist's association for his coverage in Afghanistan, and most notably a Pulitzer Prize in news photography for his work during the Somali Civil War and the 1993 UN peacekeeping mission in Mogadishu. There is even a permanent display on Paul's work in the Newseum, a museum dedicated to the history of journalism and the press, in Washington, D.C.


Paul joins me today from western Canada via Skype to talk about his book Ice Ghosts: The Epic Hunt for the Lost Franklin Expedition.Paul was present on board the ship that discovered the wreckage of HMS Erebus in 2014 over 150 years after the expedition was beset by arctic ice and lost to history. Today we cover what motivated Sir John Franklin and his crew, how the quest to find the lost expedition became an international fascination, and how Inuit oral history was pivotal in solving this century old mystery.


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Key Points in Today's Podcast

Some of the major topics I discuss with Paul in this episode are:


  • What motivated Sir John Franklin and his crew to explore the Canadian arctic

  • Paul's firsthand experience of the arctic and the kinds of conditions the expedition would have faced

  • The efforts made to find the lost expedition after it became clear something had gone wrong

  • How 129 missing crewmen became an obsession among spiritualists and occultists

  • What an Inuit oral historian was able to discover about the final resting places of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror that western researchers had missed

  • Why the story of the lost Franklin expedition has endured for so long.


Images of Interest:

  • 'They forged the last link with their lives: HMS Erebus and Terror, 1849-50', William Thomas Smith, 1895

  • Franklin Expedition gravesite, Beechey Island, Nunavut, Canada

  • Note recovered by McClintock Arctic Expedition, 1857


Personal Reflections For m, there was a clear lesson in Paul's book, and we did talk about it a little bit in the episode. We need to start listening to the Inuit. When the British Royal Navy began exploring the arctic, they saw the people who lived there as backwards, unintelligent savages. The naval officers and crewmen who interacted with the Inuit refused to value the practices that enable them to live in such hard conditions, and ultimately the crews of Erebus and Terror paid a price for their elitism, egoism, and racism when they encountered the wrath of the arctic. When subsequent voyages arrived in search of the lost ships, their crews dismissed the testimony of the people who live in the area everyday and in some cases had even been on the derelict ships. As a result, the whereabouts of Erebus and Terror became a "mystery" for nearly 170 years. This kind of willful ignorance is the height of hubris. Now, we face a similar circumstance, where those who call the arctic home are noticing drastic changes in their environment and their food supply. As has been the case for two centuries, the Inuit are trying to communicate something important to westerners, but now it is our turn to to decide if their wisdom fall on deaf ears a third time?


For the Ever Curious

If you are interested in learning more about this topic, consider checking out these resources:


Books by Paul Watson


www.arcticstarcreativity.com - Paul's website offers his biography, up-to-date news on reviews of his work, a schedule of upcoming events and media appearances, and links to his past interviews.

Under Fire: Journalists in Combat (Documentary, 2011)

With wartime journalism becoming increasingly dangerous, this Peabody Award winning documentary, which includes an interview with Paul Watson, looks at the human and psychological costs of being a war journalist.


Portrayals of the Lost Franklin Expedition in Popular Culture:

  • Journeys and Adventures of Captain Hatteras by Jules Verne, 1866

  • "Some Learned Fables for Good Old Boys and Girls" by Mark Twain, 1875

  • The Rifles by William T. Vollman, 1994

  • The Walker in the Wastes, campaign supplement for the Call of Cthulu RPG

  • "Erebus", BBC Radio 4

  • The White Passage by Kassandra Alvarado, 2013


The Terror by Dan Simmons, 2007 - In this fictional account of what happened to Sir John Franklin and his crew, HMS Erebus and HMS Terror are beset by arctic ice and are stalked by an ancient creature.


Ridley's Scott's The Terror, AMC - Produced by Ridley Scott and the team behind The Walking Dead, this horror drama adapts Dan Simmons' novel to television.

Listen to Ice Ghosts with Paul Watson on Podbean:

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