Bookham Australia

signonlyIt is interesting to know that there is another Bookham in the world, this time in Australia . The Surrey Bookham is not such a large village but the one in Australia is several orders of magnitude smaller with a population of just 100. It is in New South Wales between Sydney and Melbourne. It has a village hall not quite up to the standard of the Old Barn Hall and two churches, the Uniting Church and Catholic Church. It is close to a town called Tumbarumba whose name is supposed to come from the sound of kangaroos thumping on hollow ground.

In 1839 Lady Jane Franklin became the first woman European woman to travel overland from Port Phillip to Sydney and stayed in the area called Bogolong in a small village originally called Cumbookambookinah which for convenience and quite understandably was shortened to Bookham.

johnfranklinHer husband, Sir John Franklin, was Lieut-Governor of Tasmania between 1837 and 1843 and there still is a village there named after him. He was a Royal Naval Officer and also an Arctic explorer who had earlier mapped perhaps two thirds of the North American coastline. His final expedition in 1845 was to chart the Northwest Passage to connect the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean through the Arctic region. Two ships set off laden with provisions capable of sustaining the crews for some two to three years with high hopes of success as there were only some 300 miles of Arctic coast still to be charted. Unfortunately nothing further was heard of them.

davidking1Traces of the expedition were later been found, including notes that indicate that the ships became ice-locked in 1846 near King William Island , about half way through the passage, and were unable to extricate themselves. From the notes that were found Franklin died in 1847 and the last of the party in 1848, after abandoning the ships and attempting to escape overland by sledge . Death would have been caused by starvation and scurvy but a further cause is relevant. The expedition was supplied with some 8,000 tins of food which had been sealed with a lead-based solder . The lead appears to have contaminated the food and the crew may well have had lead poisoning which would have made them weak and later led to insanity and death. The remains were examined in 1981 and at that time high concentrations of lead was found in the bodies.

The examination has also revealed that some of the remains seem to have been savaged by blades suggesting perhaps that at the end desperation of the remaining members of the crew led to cannibalism.

It would have been nice to have found that the Surrey and Australian Bookhams had a closer connection but unfortunately it is not true.

Martin Warwick

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