During the winter of 1852-1853 Captain Kellett took daily walks with his second in command Lieutenant Commander McClintock (HMS Intrepid). I note in my ms: “McClintock described his captain as a ‘very communicative and pleasant companion, in full sympathy with all of [my] ideas and plans.’”
Since I did not blog about Resolute’s 1852-1853 theatre performances earlier, only those on Assistance, this is what I wrote about the winter activities in my manuscript, beginning in November:
“The Resolutes elected Kellett as head of their Theatrical Committee, a role he gladly took up, serving with Domville and McDougall. The Resolutes began rehearsals in preparation for their first performances after the sun disappeared. The Theatre Committee also oversaw the stage’s completion on Resolute’s main deck, the organisation of a series of lectures to be given by the officers and men, and a series of classes taught by those willing to share their knowledge and expertise to those willing to learn. McDougall gave the first talk on the history of Arctic expeditions during the 1800s, and taught eight students the principles of navigation. Kellett lectured about astronomy: outlining its history from the earliest times, including the many theories which led to astronomers’ current expertise. Domville gave two talks about chemistry, surprised that almost all of the Resolutes and Intrepids attended. He illustrated his points with simple experiments, and concluded with how thermometers and barometers work. Nares lectured about winds: how they are created, including monsoons, land and sea breezes, and the Tradewinds…
“The Resolutes and Intrepids willingly attended the lectures and classes, but their greatest enthusiasm was reserved for the eagerly anticipated theatre performances, the highlight of the season’s activities. Much hard work went into learning lines, and the imaginative creation of costumes and scenery. McDougall was Resolute’s primary set designer and painter, and in charge of creating costumes. Finding the ensembles for the female parts significantly difficult to make, even though some items had been brought from Britain for this purpose, he had to rely on his considerable ability to improvise…
“Finally, on 23 November, the great day came to raise the curtain on Resolute’s Arctic Theatre Royal, the first in that region since Parry’s 1822 performance. After a quickly devoured early supper, the actors completed their finishing touches: the ‘ladies’ shaved, and De Bray applied their makeup, which consisted of magnesium to whiten their faces, and Chinese rouge to bring some colour back onto their cheekbones. Kellett was given the best seat in the house: an armchair set against the mainmast with a canopy made from flags and Kellett’s family coat of arms. Resolute’s and Intrepid’s officers sat in the front row.
“The evening began precisely at 18:30 with the orchestral performance, consisting of six fifes, an accordion, a drum and a triangle. Dressed as the Hyborean King, Dr. Domville read out McDougall’s prologue in a strong voice:
‘Tis now some two and thirty years ago,
This region of eternal ice and snow
Was first discovered by one Edward Parry,
Who near this spot eleven months did tarry;
Icebound as you are now, like you in hope
Next season’s summer sun the ice might ope.
Their coming here I deemed a great intrusion,
And thought to cover all with dire confusion:
Frostbites I sent, and covered them with scars;
They murmured not, but laughed, like jolly British tars.
I then forgave them, for I couldn’t feel resentment,
‘Gainst men who midst privation had contentment.
You’re welcome for their sakes, I can’t dissemble,
For you, your persevering predecessors do resemble
In everything-including killing deer and even my musk-oxen
You cooly shoot, and then with musket knock ‘em
Down: their carcasses next skin and bear off,
Whilst not a particle of meat I get a share of.
But I o’erlook it all. You see I’ve come today
To join you as of old in forwarding the play.
Well! ‘tis a splendid house, quite equals Parry’s,
And far surpasses that of Mr. Barry’s
Houses of Parliament, for you I see don’t need
The ventilating process used by Doctor Reid.
And Brothers, for such we are by common consanguinity,
Let’s live as such, in constant unanimity.
Take exercise, be cheerful, and care throw aside,
Cold, darkness, and monotony you may thus deride:
For even here that cherub sweet, with heart both kind and soft,
The life of Jack holds dear; she’s watching now-aloft!
Last spring a herald from the Tehoutschi’s king
Told me this season to my realms would bring
A ‘Resolute’ and ‘Intrepid’ band, and bid me tell it,
In order to surprise his friend, their leader-Captain Kellett.’
[A bell rang]
‘But hark – a bell! Ah! That’s a hint to close my long oration;
They’re anxious to appear, my friends, to gain your approbation;
But remember they’re beginners, for I know they’ve fondly reckoned,
On your kindness to gloss lightly o’er the faults of
Charles the Second.‘
“The first of the two plays was the historical drama Charles II…A group serenaded the audience during the intermission with amusing songs, followed by the programme’s second half: the comedy, Who Speaks First…When the final curtain fell, chorus followed chorus of heartfelt cheers over the pounding of profuse clapping. Everyone stood and removed their hats for a rousing rendition of ‘God Save the Queen’, then all fell upon the refreshments that Kellett had provided. Though the temperature was 0°F, having a most powerful effect on the ‘women’ in their petticoats, nonetheless McDougall opined they would’ve been well received on any London stage.”
After the theatre was packed away and December began I continued…
“Now the men began looking forward in earnest to Christmas, which was soon upon them. By Christmas Day, in both ships, the men had decorated their mess tables with flags and festive centrepieces, and Kellett and McClintock ordered the men extra food allowances. The Intrepids hosted the luncheon for all the officers, which consisted of muskox, hare, ptarmigan and reindeer. Everyone dug in with gusto. Afterward the Resolute officers prepared the evening dinner. At 17:00 they gathered in Resolute’s gunroom for an even more elaborate feast, which included roast beef and Arctic hare. However, the twenty-one pound haunch of Arctic venison was everyone’s favourite. After dinner they played Mecham’s game called Quack. No details survive about this, but they apparently had a grand time playing it with their enjoyment, no doubt, heightened by their consumption of alcohol-based festive drinks.”