To me, the Franklin Expedition is the most interesting of the topics we’ve covered in this course by a fair margin. It isn’t because of the information available on it or the relative importance of it compared to other subjects in essence, because all topics covered have had a fair bit of background and context to them. Rather, it’s more about just how recent the Franklin Expedition is compared to other topics we’ve covered that makes it more personally understandable and draws me into understanding it further. Compared to the topics covered such as Egypt which are over a millennia old, and even the Maya and Andean civilizations being several centuries old, the Franklin Expedition is only over a century ago now, and we are both still finding relevant info on it and engaging in a discussion on the causes and effects of it.
I think the Franklin Expedition shows a great, recent example of how archaeology can show us the understanding of human behavior, and the causes that leads to tragedies such as the fate that befell Franklin and his crew. While many other sites such as Mesoamerican city states and Stonehenge tell us much about human behavior and how societies form, the Expedition is recent enough that the crew of the HMS Terror and Erebus’ motives and lives are more understandable to our time. That such a great expedition in size and purpose also turned into disaster for the ships and their crews is akin to a tragic comedy of sorts, so that added layer of drama and also appeals to me as someone who has a niche for stories and tales such as that.
Along with that, the sheer amount of personal info we have on the sailors in the expedition really struck me as significant I remember in the lecture when Professor Watrall showed off the note Franklin made that was then covered by his crew, and that stuck out to me as a horrifyingly personal look into the past. The contrast of Franklin’s note of things be ‘ok’ with the desperate, forced scribbles of his remaining crewmates telling of his death and their leaving the ship is such a starkly dark moment of reflection and the inevitable fate of the expedition, that I was immediately enamored with the site as a personal tale of human ambition and failure in turn due to hubris and other factors. To me, the Franklin Expedition is one of the prime examples of using the past as a way to study human behavior and the conditions men will turn too in times of crisis, and that is why I liked learning about it so.