David Woodman's reconstruction of the mysterious events surrounding the tragic Franklin expedition boldly challenges standard interpretations and promises to replace them. Among the many who have tried to discover the truth behind the Franklin disaster, Woodman is the first to recognize the profound importance of the Inuit testimony and to analyse it in depth. He concludes from his investigations that the Inuit probably did visit Franklin's ships while the crew was still on board and that there were some Inuit who actually saw the sinking of one of the ships.
Woodman maintains that fewer than ten bodies were found at Starvation Cove and that the last survivors left the cove in 1851, three years after the standard account assumes them to be dead. Woodman also disputes the conclusion of Owen Beattie and John Geiger's book Frozen in Time that lead-poisoning was a major contributing cause of the disaster.
Much of the Inuit testimony presented in Unravelling the Franklin Mystery has never before been published. The earliest Woodman quotes was recorded by Franklin searchers only nine years after the disappearance of the Franklin team. Inuit testimony provided Woodman with the pivotal clue in his re-construction of the puzzle of the Franklin disaster:
I proceeded from the assumption that all Inuit stories concerning white men should have a discoverable factual basis ... [and] managed to discover a scenario which allowed use of all of the native recollections, solved some troubling discrepancies in the physical evidence, and led to some significant new conclusions as to the fate of the beleaguered sailors.
Whether or not one agrees with Woodman's conclusions, his account is compelling and his analysis impressive.