While illness prevented George Hobson from collecting his 2014 Sir Christopher Ondaatje Medal for Exploration at The Royal Canadian Geographical Society’s College of Fellows Dinner this year, the 91-year-old retired geophysicist and former director of the Polar Continental Shelf Project was, through his wife Arlie Hobson, able to answer a few questions about his career and connection to the hunt for Sir John Franklin’s lost ships.
How did your husband first come to be involved in the search for Sir John Franklin?
It was in 1960, during his first trip across the Sverdrup Basin [in Nunavut], while looking for oil and gas. He started to read up on the history of the Franklin expedition, and just became really interested in it. He and a colleague both used to read as much as they could about it, and once a week would meet for brown-bag lunches and talk about Franklin. [In the summer of 2000, Hobson narrowly missed seeing the graves of some purported Franklin crewmembers on Keeuna Island, just off Gjoa Haven, Nunavut — Ed.]
What were his thoughts upon learning about the discovery of HMS Erebus last summer?
He was elated to hear about it, and excited that it was Erebus, because that was the ship Franklin was on. George has always been particularly interested in what happened to Franklin himself, and whether he might have been buried somewhere on King William Island, which George has walked a great deal of.
What was his relationship with the Inuit like?
He’s always been interested in what they said, whether about Franklin or anything else, and suspects that they knew much more about the ships than they ever let on. He’s always said that you have to use the local knowledge, and when he was working up there, he’d always go to the local communities to talk to them and let them know what he was doing.
What advice would he give to young Canadian explorers today?
To read their books, keep and study their maps and follow their dreams as much as possible.