Minds of WinterBy Ed O’Loughlin
In 1845, the Erebus, an Arctic exploration vessel captained by Sir John Franklin was lost to the harsh conditions of the North. Neither man nor artifact was ever recovered from this expedition and there has been much speculation about what happened to the ship and its crew. However, historians were stunned by the 2009 discovery of an Arnold Chronometer that was known to be on board the Erebus for this Arctic exploration. The chronometer mysteriously surfaced in London disguised as a carriage clock.
Such is the premise for the novel, Minds of Winter, by Ed O’Loughlin, who brings us to the North through two modern day characters, Nelson and Fay, each on their own northern expedition of sorts. Nelson is searching for his brother, who has mysteriously committed suicide, but has left extensive research and notes on the various expeditions that set out to find answers to Franklin’s end. Fay comes to Inuvik to trace the life of her grandfather, who has some secretive ties to Northern exploration history.
The novel switches back and forth between Fay and Nelson’s research and the many expeditions to find the Northwest Passage. Most of the expedition tales are written from the perspective of someone who was on the voyage, which makes it seem more vividly real. I found myself checking from time to time to see if any of the historical characters did in fact live- and many of them did!
In this in depth read, O’Loughlin has conducted a thorough research on the history of these Arctic expeditions and weaves a tale that effectively puts the reader on the ice, experiencing the loss of sanity that must have regularly occurred on these journeys that were so far from civilization in such harsh conditions. The story’s end comes quickly and leaves the reader with a sense of mystery and a sense of wonder at what just happened.