November 24, 2008
Tipping Point blog
Watch the program: Part 1 - Part 2

On the evening of Friday, July 11, I get a close up look at the barren Arctic landscape.

Chris, the chopper pilot, is doing some forward reconnaissance before the Louis arrives at Resolute Bay tomorrow morning. The captain agreed to let Neale, Doc and me go along for the ride.

To our incredible delight, Chris tells us he is going to briefly land at Beechey Island, the spot where Sir John Franklins’ doomed Artic expedition spent their last winter all together in 1845.

When we touch down, we step out onto a place so desolate it defies belief that anyone could stay here a day, let alone a year or more. It is just a mass of broken up shale rocks. I couldn’t see even a speck of lichen although there may have been some further down the beach.

The graves of three of Franklin’s crew are marked with wooden crosses and plaques that were put up during the big commemoration in 1995. It is a bleak, sad sight, perhaps in part because so many accounts of the expedition today seize on Franklin’s folly, not his heroism.

Franklin’s final resting place is still a mystery. We know his ships, the Erebus and the Terror, left Beechey in search of the Northwest Passage but were trapped by the sea ice and ultimately Franklin and 129 men died.

It feels bizarre too, coming here reporting a story about perils of the sea ice retreating only to be so starkly reminded of how these early explorers feared the sea ice as a deadly force that could crush their boats like a nut in a cracker.

Just before midnight, the Louis is pushing its way through the sea ice, headed for Resolute Bay. The big melt, the focus of our story, has got a way to go yet. It’s still only July and we won’t know until September if this year the sea ice will shrink so much it matches last year’s record. But every experienced Arctic watcher we have interviewed tells us to look at the long-term trend – and that shows sea ice is shrinking at a rate that they never thought possible.

-- From producer, Marian Wilkinson
World’s Untold Stories showcases courageous correspondents telling intimate stories of society's most vulnerable people. Often gritty, always powerful tales that open our eyes to a world that is at times disturbing and captivating. Storytelling that is raw and unyielding in its impact. World’s Untold Stories will bring the viewer tales from all corners of the world, and shine light on activities almost never exposed.

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