HMS Resolute & Intrepid in 1853 The Widening Search

The Fate of HMS Resolute & Intrepid in autumn 1853

After Kellett sent his report to Belcher the Resolutes and Intrepids had to wait for the sledging party’s return.

(From my manuscript)
During this time the officers organised races and wrestling matches. Kellett, with McClintock on his back, raced Pim and, rather suspiciously, won easily. Richard Roche described the festivities in his journal:

8 Aug 53 All hands from both ships went on shore…where a race course had been measured off. Various matches were made, the men running for sweepstakes of 1, 2, and 3 pounds sterling. Several (both officers and men) stripped and ran in drawers and stockings so eager were they for the winning. The Captain ran 50 yards, carrying Captain McClintock on his back, while Pim ran 100 yards in 14 seconds and 300 yards in 46 seconds. Most of the officers ran 150 yards for sweepstakes and Nares (being  a long legged young fellow) carried off the first prize. We returned on board by 2 o’clock, the Captain, in a fit of generosity, and in consideration of the fatigue we had undergone, served out a pint of beer all round. I realised 1 pound 10 shillings by the above transactions.

In mid August the ice broke up and Kellett prepared the ships for sailing. With anticipation of an open run, everyone’s spirits filled with soaring joy but, just as the sails were set, the winds shifted and the floe ice solidly blocked the channel ahead of them from Melville Island to the northernmost tip of Byam Martin. The men pretended a philosophical indifference to this turn of events, but most couldn’t hide their disappointment. These fits and starts continued to plague them as they kept trying to make headway towards Beechey Island. But by the beginning of September they began doubting they could reach their goal. Kellett shifted supplies between the ships in case he’s have to order them to separate. He planned to send Intrepid ahead alone if it looked like Resolute wouldn’t get through.

The lookout in Resolute’s crows nest on 11 September saw nothing but ice in all directions. Kellett’s ships were in danger of having to make winter camp drifting in the pack ice. The only consolation was the pack kept moving slowly eastward. If it didn’t crush them, by spring they should be closer to Beechey Island. The pressure of the ice all around caused many eerie and startling sounds, putting the men on edge. Though written about the Antarctic, the Resolutes and Intrepids would’ve recognised Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s description of ice in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner: 

And now there came both mist and snow,
And it grew wondrous cold:
And ice, mast-high, came floating by,
As green as emerald.
And through the drifts of snowy cliffs
Did send a dismal sheen:
Nor shapes of men nor beasts we ken-
The ice was in-between.
The ice was here, the ice was there,
The ice was all around:
It cracked and growled, and roared and howled,
Like noises in a swound! 

The days passed with a succession of storms while the pack continued to move ESE. Some days they could sail, others a sudden squall would force them to reduce canvas. On 9 September at 01:30 a strong westerly quickly moved the ships along, but in less than an hour a mass of thick, icy sludge stopped Resolute. This time Intrepid towed her out of the nearly impassable ice soup to stable land ice where the men secured both ships. 

Kellett sent out hunting parties after spotting a herd of thirty-five muskox. They successfully killed eleven, yielding 1,970 pounds of meat.  The day after the hunt Kellett called McClintock and McClure into his cabin to review options. A few hours later, Kellett took the Intrepid aheadto check the state of the ice. Before leaving, Kellett ordered enough supplies brought out of Resolute’s hold to supply seventy men through 1 June 1854 and put them onboard Intrepid. McDougall interpreted this order to mean Kellett would leave Resolute behind if it looked like only the steamship Intrepid could get through.

Later that afternoon McDougall received the signal that he should sail Resolute east to join Intrepid. Only a few minutes after reaching the steam tendera slurry of young ice stopped them again. This time Resolute didn’t budge. They lit Bickford’s fuses, Resolute didn’t budge. They rigged hawsers from both her sides sides to pull and rock her. Resolute didn’t budge. Kellett ordered lines to Intrepid. Resolute made an modicum of progress. But around midnight the ice formed up and stopped our gallant ships.

By 20 September Kellett accepted they had to prepare winter camp on the floe ice. They stowed the topgallant yards and furl the jibs and trysails. As other camp prep took place, some Resolute’s were taken completely by surprise, only a short time after being beset, to find the ice was already 20 feet deep.

Wintering in the pack was dangerous: its instability and movement put the ships at great risk of being crushed. if the floe headed southward and they had to abandon ship, they’d have a much longer trek to North Star. Kellett faced a claustrophobic winter with Resolute and Intrepid so overcrowded. Without secure surrounding land, he couldn’t off load supplies, leaving the deck cluttered with equipment.

Space was so cramped that McClure and Kellett, sharing a tiny cabin, found that one man had to stay in bed while the other washed and dressed; there wasn’t room for two to stand upright. And when the steward came to tidy the room, both [Kellett and McClure] had to go out onto the cold deck…

26 April 2021 blog post:
[From my manuscript: as always italicised print indicates material quoted in the ms]

The Resolutes and Intrepids had initially greeted the Investigators with enthusiasm, and the Investigators, on their part, returned this with their own heartfelt gratitude. Investigator’s translator Johann Miertsching, a Moravian Brothers missionary who could speak Inuit, recorded their initial reception:

I was conducted to the Captain’s cabin, where for the first time in sixteen days I had a decent wash and put on clothes and linen leant me by Captain Kellett. After breakfasting with the two captains [Kellett and McClure], and drinking my first cup of coffee in two and a half years, I went to rest and enjoyed a refreshing sleep until 2 o’clock when I was called for lunch. The ship Intrepid- two hundred paces from the Resolute- has been set up as a hospital for the sick, and twenty two men of our company placed there immediately.

(McClure had told Miertsching to leave his journals behind, but on Resolute he wrote a new one using paper, pens, and ink Kellett, Domville, and DeBray gave him.) 

Space was seriously short on both ships:

As for comfortable quarters on board, they lie beyond our sphere of knowledge…On the Intrepid our lot…[is bad] for we have neither the necessary bedding nor warm cabins. Our beds consist of two woollen blankets (coverlets) , one of which each man brought in his sleeping-bag from the Investigator, and the other issued to us here; more cannot be given us for there is no more to give; and our cabins, framed of canvas instead of plank, are so cold that the temperature never rises above freezing point.

Nerves had started fraying before the ice formed up around the ships; then Kellett had to initiate reduced rations. The Investigator’s carpenter George Ford had already begun complaining before summer ended:

We have no place to sit down or wash and but for [Resolute’s carpenter] Mr. Dean’s kindness no place to get our food. All that we have to sleep on is a blanket and buffalo robe we brought with us in a haversack. The men have been doing all the most servile work while this ship’s company does nearly nothing, and part of them officers’ servants. We have never received the least extra to renew our strength, noting but barely the ship’s allowance whilst the traveling parties of this ship on returning got preserved milk, Normandy pippens (sic).

Every Resolute and Intrepid had donated portions of their rations and any extra blankets, but felt their sacrifices weren’t appreciated. When the Investigators excluded them from their celebration it added insult to injury. Miertsching recorded the unpleasant mood in both ships, claiming his shipmates’d been nothing but amiable. But their actions spoke louder than his words as the Investigators followed their captain’s lead in showing no gratitude.

Resolute had a serious condensation problem this winter, probably due to the extra men. Kellett lit all the stoves before building the snowbanks around her to try drying her out as much as possible. It didn’t really help. During October the men alternated between winterising jobs and playing games like rounders on the ice. By the end of the month they’d built a snow depot alongside Resolute, cleared most of the main deck and had secured the tent over it. 

The Resolutes, Intrepids, and Investigators welcomed in November by celebrating Guy Fawkes Day. As morning dawned on 5 November masked, blacked-up and disguised Resolutes played music and drew a sledge with their Guy on it to Intrepid, where their stuffed Guy waited upon her deck. They sang, delivered an address to McClintock, played more music then returned to Resolute. An hour later the Intrepids did the same. As night fell Kellett lit an enormous bonfire and the men threw both ships’ gunpowder-filled Guys onto it. The Arctic resounded to explosions, fired rockets and loud huzzahs. Kellett served up double rum rations to close the festivities. Although the Investigators had been included, Ford wasn’t happy: his only words about the celebrations were complaints about the Investigators still being subjected to punishment for their Northwester Day.

HMS Resolute & Intrepid in 1853 The Widening Search

Captain Kellett’s Spring 1853 Report to Belcher

From my manuscript: Kellett’s report “…began in autumn 1852, covered the voyage from Beechey to Dealy, making camp, autumn sledging, and Mecham’s discovery of McClure’s message. Kellett described their winter theatricals and lectures, explaining he’d sent Pim as early as possible in the spring to Investigator, where Pim’d arrived just as McClure was preparing his weakest men for a cross-Arctic death march. He described the Investigators’ arrival at Resolute, medical conditions, and ultimately his order for the abandonment of Investigator.

Kellett wrote up his plans for the upcoming summer and autumn, then detailed what he would do if Resolute and Intrepid broke free from the ice in August. He informed Belcher he intended to send Intrepid to Beechey Island with all the Investigators, so they could sail to England on the first available ship. He asked Belcher to send Intrepid back the following year with another vessel carrying food, clothing, and fuel. If it was necessary to leave Resolute they would head east for Beechey after leaving a depot for Collinson. He added, at the time of writing, he knew nothing about the Enterprises.

Don’t think of waiting for me yourself. Leave me a vessel at Beechey Island, and a good depot, sufficient to place us on full allowance when we get there, and to sustain us for a winter. It will be necessary for North Star to have her water complete, and as  many casks as she can fill besides, in readiness to supply any vessel that may reach her…and all the provisions she can spare landed in a secure depot…and all will be well. All my traveling parties left in the highest spirits, in the best possible condition, and admirably equipped. I am most anxious for the results of their journeys. If Sir John Franklin’s ships are ever to be found, I think they will [be] now….It is very painful for me to be obliged to send away Mr. Roche with this party; it looks as if I wanted to get rid of him, or that I could most easily spare him. On the contrary, he is one of my most efficient officers…His crew think they are disgraced by being sent away; not so, they are all excellent men; their only fault is they eat. You will be pleased to hear…they have all vied with each other in performance of their duty, and also in pleasing me. My next letter will show what stuff they’re made of.

Kellett signed and sealed the report, and gave it to Roche, who departed with the report, Beauty, Cresswell, Wyniatt, and ten men that same day, headed for North Star.

The Widening Search


16 MARCH 2021 Today we continue on from the previous post as we follow Mecham’s spring sledging party after the celebration of William Humphrey’s 21 years of service. [From my manuscript:]

On Mecham’s third day they reached Fife Harbour, but couldn’t find the depot until they’d dug through several layers of snow and ice. Once uncovered they took pemmican and 2 casks of food for Nares to deposit in further depots. They next picked up more pemmican from the Winter Harbour Cairn, where a storm forced them into tents for several days: ‘…everyone very much cramped; tent most miserable. Crew amusing themselves with occasional songs and most amusing yarns.’
On the 11TH travel resumed overland across Dundas Peninsula. The terrain was challenging, but the weather fine and clear and they were able to dry out all their clothing, bedding, and tents. Three days later, at the Lidden Gulf Coast Cairn they re-provisioned the sledges with 45 days’ supplies, and collected 100 pounds of coal they’d found in abundance. When they headed NW for Barry Bay the bright sun caused some men to complain of painful eyes. Mecham gave them ‘wine of opium’ but by the evening of the 17TH most of the men were so affected by snow blindness Mecham switched to night travel, and placed the snow blind men at the rear, keeping their eyes bandaged and following those in front. For two nights they were able to use their sails again, and the sledges ran at a great pace over smooth, bare ice. However, this made the sledges difficult to control, and at times the racing sledges were dragging the men along behind them. When they reached the shore they headed SW, arriving at Cape Hoare on the 20TH.

Mecham’s magnetic compass was now virtually useless, as it showed Cape James Ross as being to the NE-by-E when in reality it was to the SW. The men, though gaining in general strength, now began to suffer various health issues: Thomas West got blistered shoulders, and John Bailey suffered so greatly from swelling in his legs he was unable to stand. Mecham stopped to make camp. By 25April Bailey was able to walk, though his leg was sore and swollen. Only three days later, however, he had to ride again. They arrived at Warring Bay in four days, then headed WNW along the base of a high range of steep cliffs. Unfortunately, on the 28TH the sledges couldn’t mount the immense hummocks, especially the one carrying Bailey. Nares found a lookout on a high cliff, where he could see the hummocks extended all the way to the headland and were virtually impassable. So the following day they skirted them by hiking along the shore and by the 30TH they had passed the worst. 

Splitting his party on 3 May, Mecham left Nares to complete the depots and cairns along the coast, then headed westward across Kellett Strait and Crozier Channel with the rest of his men…

17 March 2021 St. Patrick’s Day
Captain Henry Kellett was an Irishman from County Tipperary. The closest towns to his home, Clonacody, were Fethard to the north and Clonmel to the south. There were many Irish serving in the British Royal Navy, and several of them were involved in the searches for Franklin and his men… [From my manuscript:]

“The rescue of the Investigators was a thoroughly Irish affair. McClintock, from Dundalk, County Louth, had left  the message at Winter Harbour for McClure when part of the Austin Expedition. McClure, from County Wexford, then found McClintock’s message in 1852. His reply was found by Mecham, from Cove, County Cork, in the autumn of 1852, and it was Mecham’s Irish captain, Henry Kellett, hailing from County Tipperary, who sent this relief party. In 1853 almost ⅛  of the Royal Navy were Irish, and a disproportionate number of them were Arctic explorers.”

So Happy St. Patrick’s Day to one and all!

23 March 2021 Blog Post
Today we return to the remarkable spring sledging journey of First Lieutenant George Mecham, after he split his party in May 1853:

From my manuscript:
“Skirting the southern coast of Eglinton Island they reached Cape Hay on Prince Patrick Island’s southern coast. Mecham climbed an outcrop and saw the coastline to the NE was buried in deep snow. He left a depot of eight days’ supplies to facilitate its later exploration, then, the weather having turned fair and warm, the men offloaded their heavy winter clothing, making each sledges 290 pounds lighter. Mecham then headed W along the southern shore, strewn with almost impassable hummocks which slowed their pace again. On the 12TH, upon inspection, Mecham found the hummocks were seriously damaging the sledges: he had 19 broken rivets on his runners alone. However, after effecting temporary repairs, they carried on. 

The season was changing, and they all noticed the game around them was increasing dramatically. One daily count was seventeen reindeer, scores of ptarmigan, and two bears (who wisely took off in the opposite direction). Whenever they could they set their sails, and on the 19TH they reached the shoreline which turned toward the north. On Queen Victoria’s birthday, the 24TH, Mecham gave the men an extra half gill of rum to celebrate. Despite the earlier increase in game, it was scarce again along this monotonous shoreline, and they started running short of food. Their dog, Buffer, was sadly reduced to just licking clean the pannikins for his sustenance. 

The next day, Mecham took the boat off his sledge, placed the game traps and all their remaining gear under it, fixed a flag to it, and left it behind. Taking only the tent, stove, fuel and food, his sledge weight was now down to 65 pounds per man. With renewed effort they set off again to the NE. The traveling continued being slow, difficult, and filled with obstacles. It was so tiring many of the men fell asleep, snoring loudly, before their meals were even ready. By 28 May Mecham only had nine days’ provisions left, and he was 150 miles from his last depot.

[He wrote] ‘Had the country been at all favourable for game I should certainly persevere to the NE for another day or two, but that not being the case, particularly as these northerly winds have set in with the change of moon, [I have] determined to steer across the land to the southward. Trusting that my supposed longitude is relatively correct, I shall endeavour to make the coast a little to the westward of Wolley Bay, by which I may escape the high and steep land seen in the vicinity of Walker Inlet.’

He led his men back to the boat and supplies, then headed across country under sail at a brisk walk. In fact the sails were driving them along at such a pace they had to occasionally heave to in order to catch their breath. This clear run ended on 30 May when they again confronted rough terrain, and they had to take their sails down. The next day they made camp at the head of Walker Inlet.

While hunting in the surrounding ravines Mecham was standing on top of a steep bank when it suddenly collapsed and he fell thirty feet. Fortunately the snow was deep and soft, and he sustained no injuries. Others went out hunting, returning to camp with most welcomed fresh meat and fowl. 

Interestingly, when Mecham tried trekking into the interior, the men were so completely disoriented by no longer seeing the sea they couldn’t figure out where they were. Even though Mecham told them their location they were so completely flummoxed they didn’t believe him, and broke out into arguments.” 

28 March 2021 (1853 Mecham’s sledging trip continued from my manuscript)
…The following night Mecham shot a buck deer which made a great feast for all…By 4 June the bay opened out and they could see Eglinton Island. Mecham led his men NE to pick up their provisions from the cairn they had filled earlier. Continuing along the unexplored shore the men still hoped for some evidence of Franklin or Collinson, but found nothing. The following day Mecham saw a hump in the snow which he thought might be a cairn, and upon getting closer he picked up sledge tracks. After digging through the snow, and opening the cairn he discovered it was one of McClintock’s. Mecham was a bit put out by this, because he had been looking forward to exploring land unseen by European eyes.

Disappointed, Mecham headed east toward Melville Island. At Eglinton Island he discovered more of McClintock’s month old records. After climbing a cliff to peer over the fog and mist which had suddenly surrounded his party, Mecham discovered he couldn’t see Melville Island at all. Despite this, he led his men across Kellett Strait and reached it on the 11TH. There he found another McClintock cairn. When the weather cleared it was almost too hot for the men to sleep inside the tents during the day, and by 12 June they started sleeping on a sail outside. Even the nights were so warm the men stripped to their flannel long underwear when hauling the sledges.

With the snow melting Mecham’s men were knee deep in water in many places. On the 14TH they reached a Nares cairn alarmingly surrounded by wolf tracks. It was undisturbed, however, and contained a notice saying Bailey’ health was improving. The men took welcomed provisions, bathed for the first time since leaving the ship, then shared a veritable feast.

What had been a dull and monotonous coast was now alive with streams and the calls of ptarmigans, plovers, and geese. Mecham rested the men for a day, then set out around 19:30 the following evening. The melting ice was making their travel almost impossible, but they continued on trudging through deep water and wading through thick sludge. When Mecham’s sledge broke in two while crossing a hummock they had to use a Spanish windlass to pull the broken parts together, lash them securely with hide, then strengthen the sides with spare battens. Luckily, the following day they hoisted their sails and didn’t have to pull the sledges at all. Turning eastward along Melville Island’s southern coast they approached Warrington Bay, but there deep sludge forced them inland onto bare earth where they couldn’t pull their sledges. Disappointingly, they had to return to the compressed ice hummocks along the shore.

The southern coast of Melville Island was deeply indented, but Mecham had to search its entirety to be certain he didn’t miss any evidence of the lost men. On 21 June the weather warmed up enough that the precipitation was rain, not snow. This made travel worse by increasing the number, size, and force of the streams racing down to the sea, where the ice was covered with 14 inches of water. On the 23RD Mecham wrote: 

The water here is…covered with strong young ice, which together with the sharp wind occasioned great pain to the feet and ancles [sic], also ruination to the boots.’ 

It took his men eleven hours to cover only 22 miles. On a positive note, game was more plentiful and their hunting successful. In one morning they shot 3 hares, and killed two muskox. While some men built another cairn and filled it with supplies, Mecham walked the shoreline and discovered they would soon have to haul their sledges across torrential rivers and through water four feet deep.

Despite such setbacks Mecham’s party reached Bushman Cove by 27 June. There they examined another McClintock cairn located next to the remnants of a cart left by Sir Edward Parry in 1820. Mecham returned McClintock’s documents to the cairn while the men set up camp. The next day they camped at Nares’ main depot, which contained a good quantity of lime juice and fresh vegetables. The best items Nares left in this cairn were new leather boots for each man so they could replace the remnants of theirs that had rotted away, leaving most of them nearly barefoot. Nares also left a cart that had wheels instead of the sledge runners. With bare ground increasing daily this should have been a welcomed relief. However, after they had loaded all their traps in the cart they…

…were obliged to unload again and proceed with half the traps. The country here is a perfect swamp, the wheels sink down to the axel trees in the mud; so that we are hardly able to move the cart along, and occasionally it drags off our boots. [At 11:00 we] pitched the tent and lunched; sent the crew back with cart for the remaining traps. P.M. Went on to examine the road beyond; found no improvement, but it is intersected with deep and rapid streams. At the large ravine the stream is about fifty yards wide, four feet deep, and running with great fury. Built occasional cairns as guides for tomorrow’s route. [At] 6: cart arrived; encamped. The men dead tired. Raining hard all the afternoon…[after the night’s rest] 8: started with cart, carrying half our traps. 8:30. It stuck fast in a swamp close to a snowy patch. Loaded the sledge and proceeded, winding about to keep on small patches of snow, which obliged us to go over about four times the distance; indeed we were put to a wits’ end to get along at all.’

Mecham found the most hazardous aspect of crossing the fast rivers was breaking through weak surface ice and being suddenly immersed in four feet of rushing water, soaking them to their armpits… 

10 April 2021 blog post:

[From my manuscript]…On 3 July Mecham finally reached Winter Harbour, and encamped on the site of Sir Edward Parry’s observatory. Mecham deposited their charts of discovery under the big sandstone boulder where the Investigator had left their information. Mecham also found the notification of the Investigators’ rescue. 

On Wednesday the 6TH at 13:00, after 91 days covering 1,173 miles, 785 of which were new discoveries, the Mecham party arrived alongside the Resolute.Kellett was away surveying, but the remaining officers welcomed them home with flags flying. The weary travellers were heartily cheered by their ships’ companies. Mecham wrote to Kellett:

[I am] deeply grateful to the Almighty for the preservation of our health and strength during this journey. We much regretted our unsuccess [sic] in its primary object; but on our arrival at the lagoon depot, I with pleasure read your letter relating the success of another party of our shipmates in the discovery of HMS ‘Investigator’and the safe arrival of them all onboard the ‘Resolute’; also the general welfare which had attended all the parties detached from the expedition in execution of your orders…The amount of game procured, together with the care displayed by James Tullett in issuing the provisions and fuel, would have enabled me to have extended the journey for several days longer had I not been stopped short by finding the coast had been searched by Captain McClintock. In justice to the men of my party, I beg to refer you to my chart, which will I feel convinced, show the amount of labour it cost them in tracing a coast exposed for such an extent to heavy old pack [ice]. The constant wet traveling and swampy state of Melville Island during the summer was equally labourious. Throughout the journey their conduct excited my warmest admiration. We all arrived onboard in excellent health, though I regret to say Charles Nisbett had lost the sight of his right eye since the 10TH of June. 

The Widening Search


After Roche returned to Resolute from Pim’s Investigator rescue mission, Kellett began strength training the men while carpenter Dean completed the finishing touches on the captain’s sledge, HM Sledge Erin. (All of the sledges had names, flags and mottos.) Kellett had the men haul gravel on their sledges to the ships. Not only did this increase their strength but, with the new ballast in the holds, it also prepared the ships for sailing later in the summer.

Additionally, Kellett distributed extra travelling clothes to the men. Roche recorded some thoughts about his in an unpublished journal:

“For a short party of twenty or thirty days, the spare drawers, flannel shirt, one pair of stockings, one pair of wrappers, towel and soap, may be dispensed with…I never wore myself a single particle of cloth whilst traveling, a suit of chamois leather answered the purpose of keeping out the wind and was not near so heavy….In the severest cold two pair of woollen drawers and one pair of duck overalls are quite sufficient…In the warm months one pair of drawers and the chamois drawers will be ample. In lieu  of the thick flannel waistcoat a thin chamois leather waistcoat worn outside two thick flannels with or without a shirt, over which in cold weather [one can add] a duck overall jumper. On the feet one pair stockings, one pair blanket wrappers, boot hose and moccasins soled with leather [were] the usual ‘rig’ of the travellers. With these I used to wear a pair of sealskin boots (hair inside) soled with leather. I found these very comfortable. They seldom required cleaning inside. and I never had cold feet with them.”

He did not have cold feet, but I would hazzard a guess that very few of his shipmates got within a few feet of him if they could help it! In their shared tents they may have fallen asleep quickly to avoid the results of Roche’s cut-back wardrobe.

Continued tomorrow!

Word Press seems to have lost my last update, so I am redoing it here Sunday 7 March 2021, from my manuscript:

On the morning of departure day, 4 April, Kellett raised a flag on Dealy Island’s summit, then the officers joined him for a large breakfast. Afterward everyone assembled on the ice. The sledges, arranged in divisions, pointed toward their directions of travel. With flags fluttered in the breeze Kellett gave a rousing speech, followed by enthusiastic cheering. He wasn’t an overly religious man but after the cheering died down he offered a prayer. 

1853 HMS Resolute & Intrepid Spring Sledging Begins

McClintock and De Bray led the largest team, headed NW for Hecla and Griper Bay. McClintock’s Star of the North, carried a smaller satellite sledge. McClintock’s men were: Captain of Sledge George Green, Ice Quartermaster; Henry Giddy, Bo’s’u’n’s Mate; John Salmon, Fo’c’sle Captain; Royal Marine Privates John Hiccles and Jeremiah Shaw; Richard Kitson, John Drew (replacing Thomas Hood) and Richard Warne, Able Bodied Seamen.

McClintock’s orders from Kellett were to carefully examine the NW coasts…

…for traces of the missing, and depositing records in conspicuous places for the combined purpose of a search for traces of Sir John Franklin, and of depositing notices in conspicuous places as to where supplies are left (for any parties that might reach such positions from Captain Collinson’s [ships]…you will keep ample notes, or remarks on the new coast you will have to travel along, a journal of your proceedings, and obtain data for putting on paper the coast or islands you may discover. To assist the memory in protracting your walking journey (and future navigators), you will name on your skeleton chart all capes, bays, islets, &c, if possible, from something characteristic of themselves. On the same chart you should lay off daily the true course you have been steering, and the estimated distance you have marched, leaving for your return the correction of this dead reckoning by the astronomical observations you may be enabled to obtain, and without sacrificing to them time might be occupied in marching.
Possessing as you do the same opinion with myself, that yours is a most important direction for search, I feel confident that your personal exertions will be equal to the importance of your mission, and that those under your command will vie with each other in seconding you. 
It now only remains for me to assure you of the deep interest I feel for your own personal welfare and success, as well as of those under your command.

De Bray had the sledge Hero and eight men: Captain of the Sledge John Cleverly, Gunner’s Mate; James Miles, Leading Stoker; Samuel Deane, Carpenter’s Mate; Alexander Johnstone, Steward; William Walker, Stoker; Robert Ganniclift and Thomas Hartnell, Able Bodied Seamen.

In De Bray’s orders Kellett indicated his high regard for McClintock, an active officer…‘…whose example you will do well to follow… and I feel assured that from the zeal you have manifested in the equipment of your sledge as well as in the other matters connected with traveling, you will do great credit to the distinguished service to which you belong.’

Kellett accompanied McClintock for seven days, with Erin, and Richard Hobbs, William Johnson, Frederick Brooke, William Kluth, James Cornelius, Thomas St. Croix and John Halloran to create a cairn of supplies…

Hamilton headed to NE Melville Island, then he would circle round to Hecla and Griper Bay, with George Murray, Ice Quartermaster; William Colwill, Blacksmith; Royal Marine David Ross, Abraham Surry, Cooper. Joseph Bacon, cook, and Able-Bodied Seamen John Coglin and Thomas Wilson on the sledge Hope. So few men remained the departing men could hardly hear their enthusiastic cheers. Mecham and Nares, heading due west, had the advantage of a favourable easterly wind and raised their sails. The other teams had to struggle without help from the wind gods. As a result, after traveling nine hours, McClintock’s team only covered 10 ½ miles. By the evening the weather improved, but rough terrain, ‘cheerless and forbidding in the extreme…’ dashed their high hopes the next morning. When a northerly wind worked itself into a full gale on the 6TH, it caused the temperatures to drop to -10°F, blowing right into their faces and the snow reduced their visibility to only 20 – 30 yards. The men struggled to erect their tents in deep snow drifts. They remained in them for four days, where -11°F and cramped conditions meant… 

‘...our sleeping bags and furs [were] very wet, the snow-drift having penetrated from without, and the condensed vapour from our provisions, our breath, and the evaporation from our bodies, from within.‘ 

The gale ended on the 11TH allowing the men to spread their bags and furs in the bright sunshine. When they broke camp they found the snow had filled the deep ravines making their work much more difficult and dangerous. But the intrepid explorers carried on and eventually reached their autumn cairns. These men navigated hummocks and ravines, battling thick fog and raging snow storms while the rugged terrain chewed up their wooden sledges, keeping the carpenters busy. To augment their diet they hunted muskox and reindeer, hares and ptarmigan, which boosted both their strength and morale.

  On 11 April Kellett and his men returned to camp, where the remaining Resolutes and Intrepids had spring cleaned and repaired both ships. Although Kellett had set his shoulder to many an arduous task over the past 30 years, he admitted sledge hauling was the most difficult labour he’d ever undertaken. Working along side his men had given him greater sympathy for them, and valuable insight into the effort required. Seeing his willingness to pitch in increased the men’s regard for Kellett too. 

McClintock and Hamilton parted ways on 13 April. McClintock and De Bray continued heading NW and Hamilton, after depositing provisions, turned back south. Hoisting sails had its own dangers…”

9 March 2021 Blog Post: 1853 spring sledging continued, from my manuscript (italicised passages are quotes within my ms):

“Sometimes the wind was too strong: one day a sledge turned turtle three times. When McClintock reached the Camp Nias Cairn the provisions, thankfully, were still in good condition. McClintock took apart Captain Parry’s nearby 1822 monument to check for any recent records. Finding none he left the usual notices, and then headed toward Cape Fisher. Once again a gale forced them to make camp, though this time for only one day. The 17TH was calm and they continued towards the cape, making good time until two days later when their sledges started falling apart.

Out of 68 rivets in my sledge, 32 were found broken and 14 rivets were broken in the Hero, in fact, all the rivets in the dead flat of both sledges are gone, but near the extremes where there is little or no spring in the runner they are as firm as ever. 

McClintock and De Bray reached Cape Fisher on 19 April at midday. The ice there was much easier to traverse. They saw a herd of 15-16 muskox, but all the wily beasts escaped. The following day they had better luck and McClintock shot a bull. His two female companions remained with him, resolutely facing the men. In order to carry away the dead ox the Intrepids had to chuck stones at them to drive them off.

As the days lengthened, and the bright sunshine began melting the snow, the danger of snow blindness grew. McClintock would soon have to begin night traveling. Passing Grassy Cape, the men made good progress sledging on the easy and level shore ice. They reached the most northwesterly point of Melville Island on the 30TH at Sandy Point, after which the coast lead off to the SW. Sadly, Thomas Hood’s health began deteriorating: he had severe pain in his side and began spitting blood. On 1 May McClintock made the difficult decision to send Hood back to Resolute, and the following day De Bray and several others departed with him on Hero. En route Stoker John Coombs, having been in perfect health, suddenly sank to the ground and was dead before anyone could reach him. De Bray wrapped his body in canvas and continued east, arriving at Resolute midday on 18 May.

Meanwhile McClintock continued south. By 5 May he was just north of Terrace Cape where he sent Star of the North to search Ibbett Bay. Then, taking six days’ supplies with his small satellite sledge, and Giddy and Drew, McClintock headed south into much rougher terrain, hoping to cross paths with Mecham. The small sledge allowed him more manoeuvrability as he headed toward Cape Terrace. From the top of a hill on the following day McClintock named the bay below him Purchase Bay, for Intrepid’s senior engineer. Continuing south McClintock built another cairn on a conspicuous spot, leaving a message for Mecham. Then, finding no traces of any missing men, his team headed north again and on the 8TH camped near Ibbett Bay. Crossing it McClintock met the rest of his men led by Green on Star of the North, who reported finding no Franklin or Collinson traces anywhere around the bay. The men feasted on McClintock’s fresh muskox in such quantity that, had they been back home they… 

…couldn’t eat half so much…as they can here, and even if they could, they would be ashamed to do so.

The reunited team travelled toward Cape De Bray, reaching their depot on the 11TH at 03:15. After resupplying, they headed across the strait toward unexplored land. Their heavily laden sledges and newly fallen snow made headway extremely difficult. When McClintock checked the weight on Star of the North he found, to his horror, each man was hauling 65 pounds over the 215 pound limit. He helped unload half the gear, took the sledge four miles ahead, where they offloaded the rest. Returning to the provisions left behind, they reloaded and brought them forward. Continuing this time consuming process they gradually made their way across the strait hauling manageable weight…

11 March 2021 Spring Sledging 1853 continued:

The men hauling their sledges used up a great deal of fuel. From the Arctic Blue Books we can see an example of what the men were eating:

We now consume a kettle full of stewed venison for supper, and ⅔ of a pound of pemican each for breakfast, besides a pint of chocolate; we also have ¾ pound of bacon for luncheon, and ¾ pound of biscuit daily. The kettle is capable of holding 13 pints of water, and is always crammed full of meat for supper, yet, this we consider a ‘light meal’ when divided amongst the nine of us. If we had the fuel to cook with, we wouldn’t restrict ourselves, now the fresh meat is abundant; and I think still more liberal allowance than we enjoy at present would be beneficial to the men.

By mid May McClintock was exploring along the coast of Prince Patrick Island, and some smaller islands along its northern shore. From my ms:
“When [McClintock] arrived at Resolute and Intrepid on 18 July [he and his men had] been away an unprecedented 105 days, covering 1,408 miles averaging 10½ miles daily, of which 768 miles were new territory. McClintock didn’t, however, connect with Mecham or Nares, who were completing their own extraordinary journeys.”

First Lieutenant George Mecham had the sedge Discovery, and was away for 91 days, from 4 April to 6 July. Born in 1828 in Cove, County Cork Mecham was an Irishman like Kellett .  His men were James Tullett, Bo’s’un’s Mate; John Weatherall, A.B.; Charles Nisbett, A.B.; James Butler, A.B.; William Manson, A.B.; William Humphries, Private Royal Marine; Samuel Rogers, Private Royal Marine. Discovery carried 40 days’ provisions and 100 days’ equipment, and Kellett’s orders for Mecham were to complete:

…the most persevering and extended search along the SW coast of Melville Island for our missing countrymen, or traces…you will take command of HM Sledge Discovery, manned with seven men, and…Perseverance also manned with seven men…[and] will proceed to Winter harbour, and from thence across the land to Lidden Gulf, following the coast of Melville Island westerly as far as practicable, returning to this ship without fail by 15th of July…You and Commander McClintock are both marching west…[and if you meet with] time and provisions left…you will consult with him, and do what you think best for the advancement of the object of our mission…Yourself being a veteran in Arctic traveling, and also some under your command, I have great expectations from your journey; I feel confident that you will attempt anything for the good of the service you are about to be employed on. 

12 March 2021 Blog Post:
Kellett always made his men feel valuable members of the team. His orders to Nares, who was young and inexperienced, are a perfect example of Kellett’s leadership style:

[From my manuscript] George Nares was in charge of Perseverance. His men wereThomas Joy, Ice Quartermaster; Thomas West, Captain of the Main Top; George Kelly, Captain of the Fore Top; James Le Patsurel, Captain of the Hold; William Griffiths, A.B.; William Bailey, Private Royal Marine. Perseverance was out 58 days, until 1 June. Nares completed a detailed survey of Cape Bounty and environs on his return, brought back the game he’d hunted en route. Kellett’s orders included morale boosting words:

Lieutenant Mecham…in the autumn, spoke so highly of your exertion, zeal, and care of your party…[I am] confident that you will ably and efficiently second him in this very important line of search.

What follows is another example of Kellett’s ability to manage his men. His way filtered down through the ranks, as his officers tended to treat the men in their charges in similar ways:

[from my manuscript] If the parties crossed paths Kellett didn’t place Mecham under the command of the superior officer, instead he trusted Mecham and McClintock to reach agreement together on a way forward. Departing on 4 April and heading SW, and steering for Cape Bounty, Mecham and Nares searched the entire south coast of Melville Island, thick with bays and inlets. They then crossed the same strait as McClintock had, to explore the southern area of the newly named Prince Patrick Island. The deep snow made for heavy traveling, and unlike the parties heading due west, Mecham’s team couldn’t use their sails this first day. That afternoon James Butler fell from the hauling ropes to collapse in exhaustion. However, like a true Brit, he revived after a rest and a cup of tea. On the second day they raised their sails. After making camp, Mecham issued grog all round to celebrate William Humphries’ 21 years of naval service.