cladach an bhÁis

“May, 1845, two ships under the command of Sir John Franklin sailed north to solve the last great problem in Arctic travel…the North West Passage, connecting the Atlantic and the Pacific across the top of North America. But Franklin and his expedition of 128 men disappeared in the Arctic ice.

“Years later, traces of the expedition were discovered along the coast of King William Island. After the ships were frozen into the ice and Franklin himself had died, the crew had marched south towards Canada under the command of Francis Crozier, an Irishman. One after another they perished on the journey.

“Evidence from the bodies and the bones indicates that some overcame the final taboo and resorted to cannibalism. Ignorant of the Arctic, badly equipped, contemptuous of the Inuit, the entire expedition was swallowed by the ice.

“The only account of the expedition ever found was a brief and tragic note buried in a rock-cairn on King William Island shortly after Franklin’s death. What happened during the disastrous expedition? What did the men do and see? How did they face the final conclusion in the ice?

 

“Bealtaine, 1845, sheol dhá long ó thuaidh faoi cheannas Sir John Franklin chun an fhadhb ab achrannaí i dtaisteal an Artaigh a réiteach – An Bealach Siar ó Thuaidh. Ach d’imigh Franklin glan as amharc san oighear, céad is a fiche hocht fear ina theannta.

“Blianta ina dhiaidh sin, fuarthas iarsmaí an tascair tréigthe ar imeall Oileán Rí Liam. An dá long sáinnithe san oighear agus Franklin féin marbh, mhairseáil an criú ó dheas i dtreo Cheanada faoi cheannas an Éireannaigh, Francis Crozier. Cailleadh iad ar an mbealach, ina nduine is ina nduine.

“Léiríonn fianaise na gcorp is na gcnámh gur sháraigh cuid acu an gheis ba bhunúsaí is go ndeachaigh siad i mbun na canablachta. Aineolach, cóirithe go dona, dímheas acu ar na hIonúitigh, níor tháinig oiread is fear amháin slán ó ghreim an Artaigh.

“Ní bhfuarthas riamh ó shin ach an t-aon tuairisc amháin ón tascar – nóta léanmhar a bhí fágtha i dtaisce i gcarn cloch ar Oileán Rí Liam. Cad a chonaic baill an tascair ar a mbealach? Cad a rinne siad? Cén chríoch ar fhulaing siad san oighear?

                       
-Dermot Somers

With these chilling words Dermot Somers introduced Tásc is Tuairisc in 2009, A composition which imagines the harrowing journey from the heart of an empire into isolation and madness; and eventually, cannibalism.

The Franklin exhibition -one of the most famous ship voyages of the 19th century- has been romanticised in folklore and song practically since it set out on its doomed course.