All Posts Tagged With: "Canadian History"
Ships vanished in the Arctic in 1845
A long-standing Arctic mystery has become even more baffling with research that appears to debunk a common theory about the demise of the Franklin expedition.
Chemists at the University of Western Ontario used an array of the latest analytic techniques to conclude that poorly made cans of food were probably not responsible for the lead that poisoned the officers and crew of the doomed 19th-century voyage to explore the Arctic.
“We’ll probably never know what happened to the crew of the Franklin (expedition), so it will remain one of the great mysteries of Canadian history,” said Prof. Ron Martin.
“Our resources fail to support the hypothesis that the lead in the bones came from tins, and I certainly believe it didn’t.”
The Franklin expedition headed north, never to return, in 1845. Although some remains of the 129 crew have been discovered, along with ghastly evidence of cannibalism, the two ships Erebus and Terror have never been found despite a century and a half of searching.
Their mystery and legend remain to this day.
Three graves of Franklin crew members discovered on Beechey Island were exhumed in 1984 and their corpses analyzed in an attempt to shed light on the disaster.
While diseases, including pneumonia and tuberculosis, are believed to have been the immediate causes of death, high levels of lead found in the sailors’ bones are thought to have weakened the men and clouded their judgment. Looking for a source of the lead, scientists concluded it probably came from the solder used to seal the cans of food in the ships’ stores.
Martin’s work, published in February in Applied Physics A, re-examined some of the bones using techniques developed since the original analysis. Martin and his colleagues concluded there was so much lead in the bones, and it was distributed so widely, that it couldn’t have accumulated during the few months the men were at sea before they died.
Nor did he find areas where lead was concentrated, as there would be if the potent toxin had only recently been ingested.
“The wide distribution and high concentrations of lead in the measured bones is indicative of long-term exposure before the start of the expedition,” says the paper.
“The lead distribution is essentially uniform as might be expected from lifetime lead ingestion. There is no evidence for a sudden massive increase in lead during the latter part of any individual’s life.”
Martin points out the sailors buried on Beechey Island had died only three months into the voyage. At that point in the expedition, the crew is unlikely to have even dug into the cans.
“They ate everything that was fresh first,” he said. “They wouldn’t have started on the tins yet.”
Martin said evidence — including early results from tests on bones from a pioneer cemetery outside London — suggests that high lead levels were common in those times.
“All the bones we looked at there, the lead levels would have been pretty much the same,” he said.
“In that time period, there was lead everywhere. They had lead coming out their ears.”
Martin’s work would also appear to exonerate other sources of lead that some researchers have proposed as a source, including the ship’s water system. Water pipes on Franklin’s vessels were made of lead.
Lead is toxic to the heart, bones, intestines, kidneys and reproductive and nervous systems. Symptoms of lead poisoning include confusion, which makes it an attractive explanation for some of the decisions made by Franklin and his crew after their ships were stuck in the ice, such as dragging heavy lifeboats over the tundra laden with non-essentials such as silverware.
Martin’s team concludes that if Franklin and his men were poisoned by lead, it probably began long before they set sail for what is now the Canadian Arctic.
The mystery, which has inspired Canadian artists from folksinger Stan Rogers to novelist Mordecai Richler, persists.
— By Bob Weber in Edmonton
Artist Deanna Bowen says work is meant to be provocative
Three Ku Klux Klan banners prominently displayed in the vitrines overlooking York University’s Accolade East colonnade are causing people who pass by everyday to literally trip over themselves.
These pieces are part of a daring art exhibition at the Art Gallery of York University entitled Invisible Empires, which presents a collection of archival material that shows how the violent white supremacist organization had a role in 20th century Canadian history—not just American history as many Canadians likely believe.
Hanging such banners on campus seemed likely to cause an uproar among people of colour, and some were indeed initially upset. However, it seems to have sparked a conversation.
“They’re not put up to be harmful,” says Deanna Bowen, the black Toronto artist behind the exhibit. The banners are “meant to get you inside to hear more about this history.”
A pipeline protest, a really bad cartoon & black cats
1. Critics of the Northern Gateway pipline project are hoping at least a thousand people will turn up today for a protest rally at the B.C. legislature in Victoria, reports The Canadian Press. The protests have been endorsed by unions such as the the Canadian Auto Workers, the B.C. Teacher’s Federation and the Canadian Union of Public Employees, plus celebrities including actor Ellen Page and singer Dan Mangan.
2. A student newspaper cartoonist has been fired from the Arizona Daily Wildcat after an anti-gay comic strip prompted thousands of complaints. The comic shows a father telling his son that if he’s gay, he will be shot with a shotgun, rolled into a carpet and thrown off a bridge. The boy says, “Well I guess that’s what you call a ‘Fruit Roll Up.’”
3. Animal welfare advocates say they no longer ban adoption of black cats at Halloween—a practice that stemmed from fears the animals would be harmed. In fact, the Ontario SPCA is now offering a discount on the adoption of black, orange and calico cats, reports The Canadian Press. How cute.
Skateboarding, Shell, eSports, Indian booze and 1812
1. The University of British Columbia’s Vancouver campus may be the first big campus in Canada with a skateboard and BMX bike park. The final park designs are here.
2. Citing printing difficulties and a monthly schedule that turned it stale, The Cadre, one of Canada’s funniest student newspapers, has gone online-only. Arshy Mann of the Canadian University Press worries that ink-and-paper expertise will dry up, that the paper will lose most advertising revenue and that students read it less since they can’t take it on the bus.
3. A Conservative MP says Canada’s largest union of federal public servants, which represents people who work for the Canadian government in Canada shouldn’t have endorsed the separatist Parti Quebecois that wants to leave Canada. Pierre Poilievre is calling for new rules to allow members to opt out of paying union dues.
It’s redundant, it’s unfair, and coercion causes resentment
A third-year student from First Nations University wants to force all students at the nearby University of Regina—and eventually everywhere—to take mandatory Indigenous Studies courses.
The idea is gaining steam more quickly than Julianne Beaudin-Herney, 20, had imagined.
More than 1,000 people have signed her petition entitled Students Initiative to Change On-Campus Systemic Racism. Administrators have offered support, student union presidents across the country have fallen over themselves to sign. NDP leadership candidate Niki Ashton added her name.
The only people who have dared to publicly question the proposal are a few U of R engineering students. They don’t want to lose the single humanities course they get out of 45 classes in 4.5 years. Engineering undergrads are already so busy that only 64 per cent of them finish in six years.
Journal shines light on pre-Confederation history
Recent history grads may be forgiven for not knowing the significance of the 1st Baron of Dorchester, or that his 1774* Quebec Act was once known as Canada’s Magna Carta. They don’t teach much pre-Confederation history in school. “In high school, we had to take one history course and all I learned about was World War One, World War Two—maybe we touched on the Depression,” says Amy Legate-Wolfe, the 22-year-old co-president of the University of Toronto’s History Students’ Association. She didn’t choose any Canadian history courses in university either, preferring to learn about British monarchs and the origins of Hong Kong.