Saturday, August 17th, 2019

The New Yorker needed more proof through the night


Adam Gopnik in the New Yorker has an article about the discovery of one of the ships from the doomed Franklin expedition to find the Northwest Passage. He described the discovery as, “a very big deal.”

To translate it from Canadian into American terms, it is as if someone had found, in a single moment, the hull of the Titanic, the solution to the mystery of the lost colony at Roanoke, the original flag of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” and the menu for the Donner Party’s last meal.

Somebody should let Gopnik know that the location of the original Star-Spangled Banner is not only known, it’s on display at the Smithsonian. It’s one of the most emotionally moving exhibits at the museum.

(As for the hull of the Titanic, at least it was lost, but was found in 1985.)

Ironically, Gopnik seems to know a little of what happened at Ft. McHenry:

No one is certain whether the ship found and photographed is the Terror or the Erebus. If it is the Terror, as many suspect, it would give the story a peculiarly American and ironic angle—for, in a turn that would stump even a historical novelist, the Terror was one of the ships that bombarded Baltimore on that famous night when, in the dawn’s early light, despite the rockets and bombs, our flag, if nothing else, was still there. Survival, it is often said, is the key trope of Canadian prose, and so the discovery would once again link Canadian and American history—with the Americans triumphing, sort of, and singing loudly about it, while the Canadian boat (or at least a British ship, adapted by soul rights into Canadian myth) simply survived, deep and frozen, all these years.

The Terror is gone, but the Star Spangled Banner is still there.

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