John Torrington (1825-1846) died mysteriously during John Franklin’s expedition to find the Northwest Passage. He was exhumed one hundred and thirty-nine years later.
* * *
We separate names from bodies after death, a verbal severance that preserves an essential aspect of personality. To write that John Torrington was exhumed feels, initially, like less of an impropriety: his frost-bitten and emaciated face shows exhausted relief. Under our gaze, he is finally able to unburden himself of his name, becoming at long last, a corpse.