By Frederick Winthrop Faxon
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12 Hakluyt’s account reveals what soon became a recognizable trope and a strange logic associated with Arctic exploration: the misapprehension of Arctic experience in the metropole. Far from being successful, Henry Hudson’s last mission resulted not in the discovery of the Northwest Passage, but in his death. Hudson’s crew mutinied, and put Hudson, his son, and five others to sea in a small boat without provisions. 36 WHITE HORIZON While Hudson is remembered for his heroic leadership, it is the mutineers—those disrupters of naval order—who bring back the certainty (later debated) of a Northwest Passage, escaping prosecution only by volunteering their geographical knowledge of previously uncharted space in return for amnesty on their return to England.
Indeed, although more women participate in these endeavors than did in the nineteenth century, they remain largely the domain of (white) men. Following the lines of the argument set forth in this introduction and examined in the following pages, it may be possible to see that our fascination with these accounts and the pursuit of ever-more-extreme experiences in forbidding climates is a response to anxieties about contemporary articulations of imperialism and/or globalization. The very global positioning systems, Goretex, neoprene, and 28 WHITE HORIZON satellite phones that enable adventures make it yet more impossible to have the unmediated relationship with nature that the explorer seeks.
Eleanor Porden, for example, in her first published poem The Veils, envisions an imagined geography that places Britain’s women at the center not only of the globe, but of the cosmos. Porden, who would later be John Franklin’s first wife, explores similar themes in poems including The Arctic Expeditions written in praise of departing exploration ships and the 1822 Coeur de Lion. Porden shares her sense of Britain’s destiny as an imperial power with her contemporary, Anna Seward. In contrast to the Arctic of The Veils, Shelley’s Arctic is a place where science and humans find their limits.
A Bibliography of the Modern Chap-Books and their Imitators by Frederick Winthrop Faxon