Captains of whaling vessels were experienced navigators of northern waters, and William Penny was in the vanguard of the whaling fraternity. Leading the first maritime expedition in search of Sir John Franklin, he stood out not just for his skill as a sailor but for his curiosity about northern geography and his willingness to seek out Inuit testimony to map uncharted territory. Hunters on the Track describes and analyzes the efforts made by the Scottish whaling master to locate Franklin's missing expedition. Bookended by an account of Penny's whaling career, including the rediscovery of Cumberland Sound, which would play a vital role in British whaling a decade later, W. Gillies Ross provides an in-depth history of the first Franklin searches. He reconstructs the brief but frenetic period when the English-speaking world was preoccupied with locating Franklin, but when the means of that search — the ships chosen, the route taken, the evidence of Franklin's traces — were contested and uncertain. Ross details the particularities of each search at a time when no fewer than eight ships comprising four search expeditions were attempting to find Franklin's tracks. Reconstructing events, relationships, and decisions, he focuses on the work of Penny as commander of HMS Lady Franklin and Sophia, while also outlining the events of other expeditions and interactions among the officers and crews. William Penny is respected as one of the most influential and innovative figures in British Arctic whaling history, but his brief role in the Franklin expedition is less known. Using primary sources, notably private journals from each of the expeditions, Hunters on the Track places him at the forefront of a critical chapter of maritime history and the geographical exploration that began after Franklin disappeared.
W. Gillies Ross is professor emeritus of geography at Bishop's University.
"A significant new study that gives us the first clear overview of a complex, contentious, and vitally important period in the search for Franklin, Hunters on the Track is extraordinarily detailed and well researched, and will be of great value to anyone with an interest in the Franklin era." Russell Potter, Rhode Island College and author of Finding Franklin: The Untold Story of a 165-Year Search