Author: Heather McGregor
Editor: Warren Woytuck, Ruth Sandwell
Series Editor: Roland Case
A critical thinking challenge for students, ages 11-14
Many people are curious about the stories of explorers in extreme places such as the cold Arctic, the wet jungle and the hot desert. Explorers in the past often faced conditions that made trips difficult or life-threatening. Usually they did not have the resources, tools or skills to make daily life comfortable or safe. Learning about the daily lives of explorers-such as what they ate, what they wore and how they travelled-can help us understand why expeditions succeeded or failed. If we want to learn about the daily lives of explorers and the people they encountered, we must try to piece together the events of a journey from a variety of sources.
In 1845, a British Navy Admiral named Sir John Franklin and his crew set off on a journey to explore the Arctic and find a way to sail from England to the Pacific Ocean. Franklin was an experienced and smart leader. His crew had the best tools and technology available at the time and thought they were well prepared, but none of the explorers returned home or lived to explain what happened on the trip.
Since 1847, many explorers and researchers were sent by England, and later by Canada, to find Franklin's body, his crew members, the ships, and any other evidence of what happened on the journey. In addition to finding some artifacts, people searching for Franklin asked Inuit families who lived in the area where Franklin went missing what might have happened to the expedition. The Arctic was a difficult place to live because of the climate, but Inuit families had successfully lived there for several thousand years. Why couldn't Franklin and his crew survive a short trip?
In this MysteryQuest, you will look at historical sources about Franklin's last expedition and the lives of Inuit in 1845 to answer the question: Why were Inuit able to successfully live in the Arctic when the European explorers were not? You will learn about conditions in the Arctic and how these might make aspects of daily life challenging. Next, you will compare how the Franklin explorers and Inuit lived in the Arctic, explaining what made each group successful or unsuccessful. Finally, you will identify the three most important resources, tools or skills the Franklin expedition could have learned about from Inuit.
Environmental conditions in the Arctic are different from most other parts of Canada and the world. These conditions can create challenges for daily life. To learn more about the conditions in the Arctic, read Background information: Arctic conditions (Activity Sheet 1).
As you read about these conditions, think about what it would be like to travel or live in the Arctic. Use column 1 of the chart Daily life in the Arctic (Activity Sheet 3) to write down ideas about what challenges the Arctic might create for each area of life. For example, reading about Arctic conditions might lead you to suggest that it would be challenging to find food. Record at least one challenge that Arctic conditions might present to each area of daily life. You may also add another area of daily life in the section "Other" at the bottom of the chart.
Read about the story of the Franklin Expedition by reviewing The Mysteries of Franklin's Last Voyage. As you read, begin to think about what daily life must have been like for the European explorers in the Arctic more than 150 years ago.
Now use the Evidence list (Activity Sheet 2) and the Daily life in the Arctic chart (Activity Sheet 3) to help guide your reading of historical sources about the daily lives of the explorers. As you use these historical sources ask yourself: "What do they reveal about the resources, tools and skills the explorers had for each area of daily life?" In column 2 of the chart note any detail you discover. For example, if you saw a picture of Franklin's crew wearing light jackets, you might note that detail in the "clothing" section of the chart. Complete the chart with as much information as you can. You may not be able to find answers to everything: that is okay.
After reviewing what resources, tools and skills the explorers had for daily life, you are ready to use column 3 of the chart to rate how prepared they were to survive in Arctic conditions. For example, if you found evidence that Franklin and his men had clothing unsuitable for Arctic conditions, you might check the "not at all prepared" box. Rate how well the Franklin Expedition was prepared for each aspect of daily life in the Arctic.
Use the Evidence list (Activity Sheet 2) and the Daily life in the Arctic chart (Activity Sheet 3) to identify the resources, tools and skills Inuit had for daily life in Arctic conditions. Write any details you find in column 4 of the chart.
After reviewing what resources, tools and skills Inuit had for daily life, you are ready to use column 5 of the chart to rate how prepared they were to survive the Arctic. Rate how well Inuit were prepared for each aspect of daily life.
Now you are ready to explain why Inuit were able to successfully survive in the Arctic and the members of the Franklin Expedition were not. At the bottom of the Daily life in the Arctic chart, write down your top three reasons that explain why the explorers were not able to survive. Then, write down your top three reasons that explain why Inuit were able to survive. When you write down your reasons, remember that a strong explanation should have several pieces of evidence or strong evidence (information from historical sources) to support it.
Based on what you learned about the daily lives of Inuit, what were the three most important resources, tools or skills the Franklin expedition could have learned about from Inuit? Think about how Inuit daily life compared to the daily life of the Franklin explorers, and what three things might have helped the explorers survive. Using the outline provided in the activity sheet Lessons in daily life letter (Activity Sheet 4), write a letter about what you would recommend to the Franklin expedition about daily life in the Arctic. Be sure that all of the parts of the activity sheet are included in your letter so that the Franklin explorers would find your recommendation convincing.
The Assessment rubric Assessing the evidence and recommendations may be used to assess the plausibility of recommendations.
Activity Sheet 1: Background Information
Activity Sheet 2: Evidence List
Activity Sheet 3: Daily life in the Arctic
Activity Sheet 4: Lessons in daily life letter
Assessment Rubric: Assessing the evidence and recommendations
Compare what is different and similar between daily life on an expedition in 1845 and daily life today. Review what you learned about the environment in Step 1 by reading "Background Information: Arctic Conditions", and what you found out in Step 3 about the ways Inuit and the explorers lived in 1845. Notice how what you have available to you now (e.g., technology, tools, resources) is different from what explorers had available to them in 1845.