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HMS Resolute Christmas 1855

HMS Resolute in the Arctic sun

I love this image of HMS Resolute making her way across sun-spangled Arctic waters. It has nothing to do with Christmas, since by December the Resolutes and Intrepids, along with the other men in the Belcher Expedition and the indigenous Arctic peoples, had already said goodbye to the sun. Their long, dark winter was upon them, but now, as then, keeping the memory of light ever present in our hearts is the best remedy for surviving the darkest of times…

Today I am continuing on from my earlier post about Resolute’s 1855 Christmas:
Much later in his life (on 28 November 1906 and only 2 years before he died) James Buddington described the scene that greeted him as he arrived in New London. His memory was beginning to fade and he contradicted the contemporary accounts in 1855 of George Henry’s arrival before Resolute’s subsequent return:


“It was one of the worst winters I ever experienced – either up north or here. They told me they had uncommonly fine weather…until a few days before I arrived. If they had, I never met it. It was bitter cold. In those days the snow came down and stayed. No one went out without having ears covered. The men wore shawls outside of their coats and the women, and the men, too, used to put stockings on outside their shoes to keep them from slipping.
“When I got into the harbour the news spread and there was the shore crowded with folks wondering what the ship was. I had our colours flying, of course, but, out of politeness to the Britisher, I had his flying, too.
“The harbour froze over solid the very night the Resolute lay there, about opposite Fort Trumbull, with the George Henry on the west side. I used to say that the Resolute brought the ice with her. Crowds came out on the ice and visited her. [the river froze so solid] the folks used to walk across to Groton, and horses and teams went over, well ladened, too. No winter ever like it before or after.”

I have taken this from my new manuscript, quoting from For Oil and Buggy Whips by Barnard L. Colby, P. 80. Sadly, although Mr. Colby has a great deal of valuable information about New England whaling in this well researched book, his account of Resolute’s story has a number of inaccuracies in it. Over the years I have encountered quite a few mistakes, largely…but not exclusively…on the internet. I am creating a page as part of this website where I can correct the mistakes I find.

By Elizabeth Matthews

Leading authority on HMS Resolute

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