Ron Carlson Arctic Expeditions

Ron Carlson Arctic Expeditions
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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Forensic Findings Just Out

A new report from the Journal of Archeological Science has just come out shedding more light on the personal identification of a skeleton of a member of Sir John Franklin's doomed 1845 expedition to the Arctic.

Facial reconstruction from the skull

Some of the Franklin crew (Click to Enlarge)

These skeletal remains were sent back to England back in 1869 and interred beneath the Franklin Memorial in Greenwich. They were originally found and recovered by Charles Francis Hall when he was searching in vain for Franklin survivors.  It had since been widely accepted that the remains were that of Lieutenant Henry Le Vesconte.  But that is changing now.  In the process of  undertaking renovations to the monument in 2009, it had allowed for the opportunity to reexamine these artifacts with new and state of the art technologies and techniques.  And now that this new initial research is finished, which includes a facial reconstruction from the skull, it seems that it is doubtful that the bones are that of Vesconte after all.

One thing of particular interest is that one of the molars has a gold filing.  This drove conclusions that it had to be an officer, thus narrowing the field of prospects for identity.  But now, part of the new research includes isotope integrity testing of tooth enamel and those tests conclude that the type of drinking water this person had access to while growing up didn't match up with the area  that Le Vesconte had grown up, but rather Henry Goodsir.  Along with the facial reconstruction, this so far says that Assistant Surgeon of the Erebus - Henry Goodsir, leads the pack as being the identity owner of this skeleton.

Unfortunately, there are no surviving photographic artifacts of most of the officers and  none of the rest of the crew, so there can be no solid conclusions drawn from this work.  Only DNA testing from the descendants can help here.  And that work seems to be commencing.  We will stay tuned.

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