In December 1880, after reading about the discoveries made by Franklin searcher Lt. Frederick Schwatka, Robert Anstruther Goodsir wrote his Beechey Island memories down in an article for The Australasian newspaper.
He did so under a pseudonym – “An Arctic Man of Two Voyages”. He never once mentions the name of the beloved brother he was in search of: Henry Duncan Spens Goodsir, the assistant surgeon and naturalist on HMS Erebus.
Nevertheless, the text of the article matched up with fragments found by Allison Lane and myself, and known to have been part of a manuscript written by Robert.
I made this discovery in 2018, but I’m presenting an illustrated and annotated five-part version of it here for the first time. My notes draw in more details of 1850-51 expedition, put the events into context, and touch on many discoveries made in the years since Robert’s death in 1895. I hope you enjoy it.
Part one: Australia 1880
In his home in Gippsland, 57-year-old Robert Anstruther Goodsir thinks back “30 years and three months” to his second Arctic voyage in search of the Franklin Expedition.
Part two: Humble headstones, painted black
In part two, Robert remembers the excitement and fear he felt when shipmate Carl Petersen spots three shapes in the distance. Could these be survivors of the Franklin Expedition?
Part three: Silent for four long winters
Three graves have been found, and now almost all of the 1850-51 search ships are at Beechey Island, desperately looking for clues that will unravel the mystery.
Part four: “Cabined, cribbed, confined“
In part four, Robert introduces the reader to the many dashing heroes, old rogues and bright young stars who were on the search with him.
Part five: Unreliable memories
In the final part, the pain of losing his brother is clear, as is the stress of two very dangerous and ultimately unsuccessful Artic search expeditions. But is he remembering the details correctly?