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The Franklin Ship Myth, Verified

[ 2014-10-14 16:56] 来源:中国日报网     字号 [] [] []  
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Two weeks ago, as Americans were preoccupied playing Groundhog War in Iraq, a significant discovery was announced in Canada. Yes, yes, of course this is an accepted ground for joking—“Worthwhile Canadian Initiative Yields Results” being the world’s most boring headline, and so on—but in this case the initiative in question really was worthwhile, at least to anyone with an appreciation for Victorian mystery, the winter sublime, and the far north. What had taken place was the discovery, intact and underwater, of one of the two ships of the Franklin expedition, the British naval voyage that went out in search of the Northwest Passage, in 1845, got stranded in the Arctic ice, and was never seen again. (There’s a good, ghostly video of the wreck here.)

The finding of the Franklin ship—there were two, the H.M.S. Erebus and the H.M.S. Terror; no one is yet sure which has been spotted down there—is, for Canadians, a very big deal (“Canada’s Moon Shot,” the Toronto Star called it), since the Franklin expedition has long provided the single most eventful mythological moment in Canada’s admittedly not-exactly-limitlessly mythologized history. Margaret Atwood, in her essay “Concerning Franklin and His Gallant Crew,” from 1991, identifies it as a kind of origin myth of disaster in the Canadian experience. To translate it from Canadian into American terms, it is as if someone had found, in a single moment, the hull of the Titanic, the solution to the mystery of the lost colony at Roanoke, the original flag of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” and the menu for the Donner Party’s last meal.

The basic outlines of what happened to Franklin and his crew after they foundered in the Victoria Strait had long been surmised from various kinds of evidence, chiefly the testimony of the local Inuit people, who, in 1854, told an explorer named John Rae of a group of around thirty-five Europeans who had died of starvation while struggling south. Graves and other remains of the Franklin crew also turned up on two Arctic islands, and have over the years been subject to scientific examination, revealing, or seeming to, that the men of the expedition had already been self-poisoned by badly tinned food. But the details of what had happened remained murky, at times horrifying, and often bowdlerized. One of the significant things about the Franklin expedition, as I wrote in my book “Winter,” is that, though the voyage was a failure, the relentless search for its relics gave polar exploration the existential accents that it would keep well into the time of Scott and Shackleton. Every expedition that went out in search of Franklin, through the next decades, threatened itself to become lost, and sometimes did. It was a form of throwing good explorers after bad. The search for Franklin became far more significant than Franklin, leading to much newly mapped territory and many frozen English faces.

One of the spark plugs of the discovery of Franklin’s boat was the Canadian philanthropist and Arctic lover Jim Balsillie, who, working closely with the scientists of Parks Canada, the Prime Minister’s office, and the Royal Canadian Navy made it possible to build a “platform”—a big and hardy ship, called the Martin Bergmann, in honor of a colleague killed in a plane crash, in 2011—which could be used as a kind of floating home base for the dedicated and frequently chilly searchers. Balsillie, who made his fortune as one of the founders of Research in Motion, the firm that gave the world the BlackBerry, now devotes himself to an array of good and sometimes quixotic causes. (A friend of mine, he was also our own Malcolm Gladwell’s roommate at Trinity College, in Toronto; Canada can be a very small nation.) “I’d like to pretend we had a prescient and beautiful plan,” he said the other afternoon from Toronto. “In truth, it was all improvisation and a bit of luck. It’s mostly just doggedness that counts when you’re dragging sonar equipment across the ocean floor. I call it mowing the lawn, and the questions are mostly who has a bigger mower and who mows longer.

“There were two areas we planned on searching, one northern and one more southern, and we were hoping to do the northern search first. But there was more ice there than there had been in twenty years, so we had to look south. It was like, you know, the old joke about the drunk looking for his car keys outside, even though he lost them inside, because the light is better there. But, in this case, that’s where the car keys were.”

During that southern search, a helicopter pilot named Andrew Stirling, working under the guidance of the archaeologist Doug Stenton, began a “walk survey” of a previously unsurveyed island. “And that’s where they found it: a davit,” Balsillie said—a pulley system for deploying lifeboats. “So anyway, they looked at it and—a heart-stopping moment this was—it had the little arrows of the Royal Navy on it. So they said, ‘Let’s get over to this island and start searching right now.’ They redeployed within hours and—well, they found it.

“The basic take is that it is pretty clear now. These guys [the Franklin crew] went down Victoria Strait, they got stuck—irrefutably, I think—in the most forbidding, awful part of the Arctic, where the ice pushes down—they just got stuck in the ice. They got stuck really bad. And then what happened was that they were voyaging from Victoria Island, and they came back to the vessel and the ice broke and they actually sailed again, for a while. I think the ice broke and they sailed it down, and then they were moving around and they got close to shoals. And they said, ‘Let’s leave the ship and see if we can catch a Hudson’s Bay [trading] post.’ I think that’s what happened. Where they were sailing there’s incredible potential for near misses in shoals—the Bergmann was mowing the lawn in forty metres of water. The boat must have been caught up and stuck, or near stuck, and they found the best place they could to land. And they started walking.” Balsillie explained that these new findings made sense of many other puzzling details in the pieced-together accounts—including Inuit lore of a “ghost ship” seen sailing south, presumably the relaunched Franklin vessel.

Part of the mythology of the Franklin expedition—the Donner Party bit—involves their apparent descent into cannibalism. “From the mutilated state of many of the corpses, and the contents of the kettles, it is evident that our wretched countrymen had been driven to the last resource—cannibalism—as a means of prolonging existence,” John Rae reported—a conclusion which for some reason infuriated the great Charles Dickens, who collaborated with his friend Wilkie Collins on a Franklin-themed play, “The Frozen Deep,” and fixed some of the responsibility on the guiltless Inuit themselves. “We have yet to learn what knowledge the white man—lost, houseless, shipless, apparently forgotten by his race, plainly famine-stricken, weak, frozen, helpless, and dying—has of the gentleness of the Esquimaux nature,” Dickens wrote.

“I think the cannibalism stories are irrefutable,” Balsillie said. “The way they hacked up fingers, and the marks on the different bones [among the discovered remains], and how the bones were scattered. So, using Rae’s testimony and the forensics, one can’t mount a credible case that there was not cannibalism.” Another famous Franklin-inspired image of the Victorian period was Edwin Henry Landseer’s astonishing painting “Man Proposes, God Disposes,” which shows man proposing in the form of a shipwreck, and God, or Nature, disposing in the form of two rather vulpine polar bears feasting on a human rib cage and the remains of a mast. “It always had to be someone else doing the eating,” Balsillie said. “British gentlemen in service to Queen and country don’t eat each other. Eskimos and polar bears do.”

No one is certain whether the ship found and photographed is the Terror or the Erebus. If it is the Terror, as many suspect, it would give the story a peculiarly American and ironic angle—for, in a turn that would stump even a historical novelist, the Terror was one of the ships that bombarded Baltimore on that famous night when, in the dawn’s early light, despite the rockets and bombs, our flag, if nothing else, was still there. Survival, it is often said, is the key trope of Canadian prose, and so the discovery would once again link Canadian and American history—with the Americans triumphing, sort of, and singing loudly about it, while the Canadian boat (or at least a British ship, adapted by soul rights into Canadian myth) simply survived, deep and frozen, all these years.

On the other hand, by far the most memorable of the many recyclings of the Franklin mythology in Canadian literature occurs in what many regard as the closest thing there is to the Great Canadian Novel, Mordecai Richler’s “Solomon Gursky Was Here.” In it, Ephraim Gursky, a Jewish mischief-maker escaped from London, slips aboard the Franklin expedition—and, while the honest Britishers languish with their lead-poisoned tinned rations, he and his friend Izzy fatten up on a diet of kasha and schmaltz herring, surviving to pass on their faith, and a smattering of Yiddish, to a select community of Inuit. So far, at least, no trace of the Gurskys, their herring, or the Yiddish-speaking Inuit has been found.


两周以前,美国人正忙着空袭伊拉克玩“打地鼠”的时候,一个重大的发现在加拿大宣布。当然,这是句玩笑话。“意义非凡的加拿大倡议有了重大发现”等等是史上最无聊的头条了。但是,这个备受质疑的倡议确实有意义,至少对痴迷维多利亚时代未解之谜、冬季壮丽景色以及北极探险故事的人来说,此次发现非比寻常。在1845年,英国皇家海军远征队派出富兰克林远征队探索西北航线(Northwest Passage)。远征队的两只探险船后来受困在北极冰层中,从此以后就消踪匿迹。加拿大在水下发现了两只探险船的其中一只,船身基本保存完好。

富兰克林远征队出发时有两艘探险船,分别是“恐怖号”(the H.M.S.Erebus )和“黑暗号”( the H.M.S. Terror),后均失踪。现在尚未确定探测到了哪一艘,但无论怎样,这对加拿大人来说都是一件大事。(《多伦多星报》(Toronto Star)称其相当于‘加拿大登月’),因为富兰克林远征队在加拿大那公认的“并非拥有很多未解之谜”的历史上是最神秘的谜团了。1991年,玛格瑞特·艾特伍德(Margaret Atwood)在她名为《关于富兰克林和他英勇的船员们》(Concerning Franklin and His Gallant Crew)的论文中把这当做是加拿大人历史上神秘灾难的故事的起源。富兰克林船队失踪之谜是加拿大版的“泰坦尼克号事件”,这次发现就像某人在某一时刻发现了泰坦尼克号的船身,揭开了罗诺克(Rpample)部落神秘失踪之谜、找到了最初的那一面星条旗,或者是揭晓了“当纳聚会”最后一餐一样。(Donner Party,即在美国历史上爆发一次到西部淘金的移民大潮中,人们前往加利福尼亚的又一次长途跋涉之旅,也是惨烈的“死亡之旅”。译注)

1854年,维多利亚海峡(Victoria Strait)当地的因纽特人告知一个名叫约翰·雷(John Rae)的探险者有关富兰克林远征队的事故。当时约翰所在的返南探险队有35人左右,饱受饥饿困扰,生命垂危。此外,再加上各种各样的证据,富兰克林远征队全军覆没悲剧的真相逐渐浮出水面。人们在北极两个海岛上发现了富兰克林船员的墓和遗骸,并用了多年时间对其进行仔细研究。研究结果表明,或是可能表明了,远征队队员们因为罐装食品严重地铅中毒了。但具体发生了什么尚未可知,有时一些研究结果得出的细节骇人听闻、有伤风化。我在我的书《冬》(Winter)中曾写过,有关此事最重要的一点是虽然探险失败了,但是人们仍然不断地派出搜寻队,让极地探险迎来了斯科特和萨克里顿(Scott and Shackleton,极地探险家,译注)的时代。在富兰克林探险队失踪之后的几十年里,每一支搜寻舰队都曾面临过迷路的危险,有的最后不幸失踪。这就可以说是派出优秀的探险家去搜寻失败的探险家。富兰克林远征队搜寻之旅比富兰克林远征队本身要重要的多,由于前者,英国绘制了很多新航海图,也有很多英国人也因此命丧北极。

此次富兰克林沉船探索活动是由加拿大慈善家、北极爱好者吉姆·巴尔斯列(Jim Balsillie)等人发起。他本人也和加拿大公园的科学家、总理办公室以及加拿大皇家海军(the Royal Canadian Navy)一起合作,建立了一个“平台”——一艘巨大而坚固的船,为纪念在2011年遭遇空难的同事而名为“马丁·博格曼号”(Martin Bergmann)——作为那些在寒冷的环境中专注工作的搜寻人员漂流根据地。巴尔斯列靠创立Research in Motion公司发家——黑莓公司的前身。他现在投身于众多的慈善事业,有时甚至有点儿堂吉诃德的味道。(我有一个朋友也是马尔科姆·格拉德维尔在多伦多三一学院的大学舍友,加拿大真是小国家)“我本想假装我们原本就有一个有预见性的、完美的计划,”一天下午他在多伦多说道。“但实际上,一切都是碰巧有点运气罢了。当你拖着声纳在海床上搜寻时,你得有一股倔劲。我把这过程称为‘修理草坪’,问题就在于谁的割草机要大一些、谁割得久一些罢了。”


南面搜索过程中,一位名叫安德鲁·斯图灵(AndrewStirling)的飞行员和在考古学家铎格·司登顿(Doug Stenton)的指导下工作,开始“巡察”一个以前没有研究过的海岛。“他们就是在那里找到了一个吊艇架,”巴尔斯列说道。吊艇架是一个下放救生艇的滑轮装置。“因此他们仔细看了看,接着——一个惊心动魄的时刻到了——吊艇架上有一些标有皇家海军标记的小型箭状物。他们就说:‘我们马上到这个岛上去搜吧。’他们在数小时内有重新部署——然后他们就找到了。

“悲剧发生的基本过程基本清楚明了了。这些人(即富兰克林的船员们)到了维多利亚海峡,然后他们困住了——我认为,这是毫无疑问的——在北极最危险、糟糕的地方,冰紧逼而来——他们就被困在冰层里面。他们完全无法脱身,然后,他们本是从维多利亚岛航海过来,后来他们回到船上时,冰化了,他们又开始航行了,不过走得不远。我认为冰破之后他们继续北航,接着他们靠近浅滩四处在转。然后他们说,‘我们下船吧,看能不能搭上哈德逊湾(Hudson's Bay)邮船。’我认为这就是事情的经过。他们后来航游的地方触礁的可能性很大——博格曼号在40米深的地方探测。他们的探险船肯定被卡住了,或者是几乎卡住了,他们找到登陆最佳地点了,然后他们开始步行。“巴尔斯列解释说这些新发现能解释其他很多拼凑起来的细节问题。——其中包括因纽特人口口相传,说看见一艘“幽灵船”往南行驶,应该就是重新起航的富兰克林探险船了。

富兰克林远征队失踪之谜还有一部分和当纳聚会相似——那些船员显然被逼到了自相残杀食用的地步。“从尸体上凹凸不平的表面以及壶里的残留物,我们能得知我们走投无路的同胞们不得不转向最后的食源——自己的同伴——以求能够活得久一些。”约翰·雷报告道——这个结论不知为何激怒了伟大的查尔斯·狄更斯,他和他的朋友威尔吉·柯林斯以此案为原型写了一部剧:《冰渊》(The Frozen Deep),然后强行把一些罪名安在无辜地因纽特人身上。“我们从未听说过白种人有食人的天性,即使这些白人面临着迷路、无家可归、无船可行、被同族遗忘、饥寒交迫、虚弱无助、和死亡的情况,我们也从未听说过。”狄更斯写道。

“我认为那过程中食人的情节是无可否认的,”巴尔斯列说道。“他们撕开手指的方式以及不同人骨上(以前发现的遗骸)的痕迹,以及骨头散布的方式都说明了这一点。因此,凭借雷的证词以及辩论术,没人能证明食人事件没有发生。”另一个受富兰克林事件启发的维多利亚时期的图画是埃德温·亨利·兰西尔(Edwin Henry Landseer)令人惊奇的画作《谋事在人,成事在天》(Man Proposes, God Disposes),画中一个男人被画作船的残骸样,而上帝或者是大自然,被画作两只狡猾的北极熊正在啃食一个人类的胸腔以及一根残败的桅杆。“他们认为,不管怎样,吃人的总是其他种族的人或动物,”巴尔斯列说道。“效忠女王和大英帝国的英国绅士是不会食人的。只有爱斯基摩人和北极熊才吃人。”

尚未能确定找到并已拍摄的船是“恐怖号”还是“黑暗号”。但若如很多人猜想的那样是“恐怖号”,整个故事就会可以和美国挂上钩,并极具讽刺意味——因为剧情反转得太厉害了:在1814年9月12日,英国海军曾通宵炮击美国巴尔的摩(Blatimore),然而在黎明将至时,美国国旗依然飘扬在巴尔的摩的上空。人们常说幸存是加拿大散文的主要修辞手法,那么此次发现再次将加美两国的历史联系在一起——两者相比,美国胜出,并且还大声地一直唱了下去(美国人弗兰西斯·斯考特基(Francis ScottKey)目睹了英国海军对巴尔的摩的Fort McHenry的炮击后写下了后来称为美国国歌的《星条旗永不落》(The Star-Spangled Banner),译注),而这艘加拿大船(至少也是英国船,永远地沉入到了加拿大谜海中),就这样在海底百年来冰冻着,幸存了下来。

另一方面,在加拿大文学界中不断重现富兰克林未解之谜的文学作品中,最值得纪念,也是最贴近事实的是伟大的加拿大小说,由摩德卡·瑞驰勒(Mordecai Richler)撰写的《所罗门·古尔斯基在这里》(“Solomon Gursky Was Here.”)。文中的艾福瑞·古尔斯基,一名从伦敦逃出的爱搬弄是非的犹太人偷偷登上了富兰克林远征队船上——当诚实的英国人不情愿地吃着含铅量高的罐装口粮时,他和他的朋友伊兹乐滋滋地吃着荞麦粥和液油鲱鱼。他们最后活了下来,并且把他们的信仰和一些意地绪语传给了一些因纽特人。但是,到目前为止,人们还没有发现古尔斯基、鲱鱼或者是说着意地绪语的因纽特人的痕迹。

(译者 Amyyy312 编辑 Julie)


十八世纪北极探险沉船重见天日 十八世纪北极探险沉船重见天日