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


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. 

Rescue of HMS Investigator's men


26 February 2021: To do otherwise McClure’s fiction would fall…McClure was an ambitious man. He had engineered his solo entrance into the Arctic by ignoring Kellett and pretending he really thought his superior officer, Collinson on HMS Enterprise, who led their two ship Franklin search expedition, was already ahead of him. His whole situation, which was now endangering and killing his men, was based on pretending. He couldn’t stop pretending now, or it would all be for naught. To be facing rescue from the man he had dismissed in 1850 just added irony to the mix.

McClure left first for Resolute with a small party, then Pim set off on the morning of 8 April. The Investigator’s surgeon, Armstrong, intercepted him out of earshot of his traveling party, and engaged him in a long conversation. Then Pim headed for Domville’s camp at Cape Dundas, arriving on the 14th. After he told Domville about the abysmal conditions onboard Investigator Pim sent Domville back to Resolute alone to make the quickest time. Unbeknownst to him Domville would catch up with McClure and they would arrive at Resolute together. Back at Investigator the weakest men set out on the 15th, instead of McClure’s original intended route to the eastern Arctic, he kindly let them instead sledge to Resolute. This would still be a phenomenally difficult trek.

From my manuscript:
“…the weakest Investigators departed under Cresswell’s command on 15 April…All 29 suffered from advanced scurvy, including assistant surgeon Piers…When two Investigators collapsed, Cresswell ordered them walk alongside their sledge instead of pulling it. Everyone had to double up on their drag-ropes when they encountered hummocks, being too weak to pull their sledges over. On 22 April, just as they sighted Melville Island, they discovered one of their number was missing:

[From Cresswell:] ‘It was a poor fellow who showed symptoms of mental imbecility…[They] sent back to search for him, and found him in a pond of melted snow. From that time great difficulty was experienced in getting him along; he was always throwing himself on the snow to lie down; they dared not put him in one of the sledges, as already the weight was great enough for their enfeebled party, with one man totally unable to walk…’

During extremely fine weather and visibility, the men back at Dealy Island camp saw their own black dots moving in the distance, which [were] Domville and McClure’s party. Eager to hear their news, the officers hurried out to them…The rest of the Investigator group arrived throughout the afternoon, and the Resolutes and Intrepids were grateful at least now their efforts hadn’t been in vain. They’d saved a full ship’s compliment from a torturous death. To mark this, Kellett used red ink for this section in his letter to Barrow:

‘This is really a Red-letter day in my voyage and shall be kept as a Holy Day by my Heirs and Successors for Ever. At 9 o’clock of this day our lookout man made the signal for a Party coming in from the Westward. All went out to meet them and assist them in…Dr. Domville was the first person I met. I cannot describe to you my feelings when he told me that Captain McClure was amongst the next party. I was not long in meeting him and giving him many hearty [hand] shakes.’

At 18:00 the Investigators sat down to their first full meal in years. Though impatient to hear their stories Kellett allowed no one to pester them until they’d eaten their fill.”

-To be continued on Monday 1 March 2021-

By 30 April 1853 the sledging party of Investigators, whom McClure had originally ordered to cross the entire Arctic, were still en route to HMS Resolute. On this day, to their great surprise, they saw two men headed their way. They turned out to be Pim and another Resolute. They helped them sledge the final miles, arriving at Resolute on 3 May. The difficulty the Investigators had managing this 160 mile trek proved, if proof was needed, that most of them would not have survived a death march to Beechey Island.

Despite having had his men on starvation rations for a long time, McClure continued to claim to Kellett that he did not need rescuing.
From my manuscript: “Although McClure continued asserting he needed no rescue, Kellett knew his true measure, and listened with his eyes instead of McClure’s words. Within only a day or two Kellett had to put several Investigators onto Resolute’s sick list due to their continued deterioration, graphically contradicting McClure’s written answers to Kellett’s queries…Wisely, Kellett put little trust in McClure’s report, and sent Domville back to Investigator to do a detailed medical survey of the remaining men. As Armstrong noted later in his journal, referring to McClure’s distain for Kellett’s advice to wait for Collinson, Kellett had already had a…
‘…specimen of our diplomatic skill in Behring’s [sic] Strait, in 1850 – the remembrance of which, may, doubtless, have influenced him, in receiving Captain McClure’s verbal report of our state of health and efficiency with great caution, as he had ample reason to distrust us. (Dr. Armstrong’s emphasis) 

Kellett knew three ships’ companies would have to vie for space onboard Resolute and Intrepid if he ordered McClure to abandon Investigator, and that the bitterly disappointed captain would be living cheek-by-jowl with the object of his distain. But these considerations didn’t dissuade Kellett, whose only object was to preserve the lives of as many men as he could. Kellett told McClure that if Domville found 20 men fit enough to stay on Investigator, and only if they volunteered to stay, would he refrain from ordering McClure to abandon the ship. McClure was now nothing more than a supernumerary onboard Resolute, and this time he would have to obey Kellett, who said:

‘To make the Passage [via sailing] would be highly creditable, and redound to the national honour. It is only, in my opinion, now that the existence of the Passage is actually known, a second consideration to that of the safety of your crew.

On 21 May Domville and McClure arrived back at Investigator. During divisions the following morning Domville read aloud Kellett’s orders concerning the medical survey and call for any volunteers to stay. Unfortunately, there were only four such volunteers, and McClure didn’t take this well. Carpenter George Ford recorded in his journal what McClure said, then did: 

‘every man had done his duty, and if he wouldn’t volunteer we were to bear it in mind it would be thought no disgrace whatever as we had done all that was expected of us but as it would contribute to the honour of our country to get the ship home, if  20 men on the examination from the doctor of the Resolute [were] found fit to stop they may volunteer, if not it would be no dishonour…[When I] told him that under the present circumstances [I] would rather go home, he told me in a harsh tone I had deceived him & ‘you can go, Sir. I’ll not keep you’…On leaving the ship he addressed all hands saying that what they had done was barely their duty & that barely, as they were going to desert their ship & captain & [he] repeated several times that all hands had barely, barely done their duty…a pretty yarn to tell people about to undertake to travel [to the Resolute] & half-starved.’

When Domville began his survey, on Monday 23 May, he found the men were suffering from scurvy, some in its most advanced stages. In his medical judgement he felt no one would be capable of sailing Investigator within a year if they stayed. Domville confirmed the abandonment. The crew prepared their ship by reducing the standing and running rigging, battening down all hatches: leaving her a fit refuge for Collinson, should he find or need her.”

2 March 2021 Blog Post
Today I am ending my review of Kellett’s rescue of McClure and the men from HMS Investigator with the following short passage from my manuscript. Then tomorrow I will resume recounting the Resolutes’ and Intrepids’ spring searches for the Franklin Expedition (HMS Erebus and Terror) and Collinson and his men (HMS Enterprise).

“When determining who should receive the reward for finding the Northwest Passage, McClure lied to the Select Committee saying his men were in perfect health, and he had sufficient food onboard to maintain them for another year. At least Kellett acted honourably and selflessly with the health and wellbeing of the Investigators uppermost in his mind. McClure’s later account of his ‘discovery’ of the Northwest Passage, all on his own, amounts to nothing more than a whitewash of the true story of Investigator. And, of course, he completely omitted the role Kellett played in keeping almost all of the Investigators alive, thereby enabling them to complete the passage.”

Rescue of HMS Investigator's men


At last we have the wifi up and running reliably, though this took quite a bit longer than expected. It feels good to return to HMS Resolute’s blog page! I was recounting Kellett’s rescue of McClure and his Investigators from Mercy Bay, to which I shall now return using passages from my new manuscript:

“Pim began training his men in February, using long walks to build up their strength. His orders were to sledge to Mercy Bay on the northern coast of Banks Island. If he didn’t find the Investigators there, he was to head down the coast along the Prince of Wales Strait to Nelson’s Head at the island’s most southern tip. Along their entire route they were to keep an eye out for Collinson and his Enterprises. Kellett ordered Resolute’s Dr. Domville to accompany Pim, then immediately return with a report on the Investigators’ medical condition.

Pim left camp on Tuesday 10 March 1853. But, after covering less than a mile, his large sledge broke while descending an ice hummock, and he sent Roche and all the dogs back to camp for a replacement. Just after Roche arrived at Resolute a severe gale, which created huge snowdrifts, delayed his departure for six days. When Roche finally caught up with Pim about five miles south of Cape Bounty, Pim sent him ahead to Point Hearne to build a cairn of supplies and then return to Resolute. Encountering another gale on the way Roche wrote in his journal: 

‘This, my first essay at traveling, was not a very agreeable one, not withstanding my having dodged the first gale so nicely. The patented spirit lamps were a dead failure…the engineers repairing them afterwards found they had been put together in a most rascally manner…We had preserved meats all the cruise and I must say that I didn’t fancy them at all.’ 

This short entry indicated just how successful the Resolutes and Intrepids had been in their hunting, which allowed them to eat only fresh or freshly frozen meats while onboard.

Pim’s party made slow but steady progress. Overcast weather diminished their visibility, making it difficult to discern advantageous routes, but on 29 March an easterly wind cleared the sky and they raised sails. Their good fortune didn’t last. When John Barrow broke a runner crashing down a glassy hummock Pim sent Domville back to Cape Dundas with it telling him, ‘Remain there snuggly encamped behind some hummock and await my return.’ Pim then took the James Fitzimans in all due haste with every dog and two men. As he crossed Melville Sound both the weather and the state of the ice improved.” To be continued tomorrow!

(“Tomorrow” was pick-up-our-new-puppy day, so I am returning to the rescue of the Investigators today, Monday, instead!)

On my birthday, 6 April, but 101 years before I was born, McClure and a couple of his men were looking for a place in the solid ice for the location of the grave for their shipmate Boil, who had recently died of scurvy and dysentery. While they were engaged in this endeavour one of the Investigators came running to them, pointing toward a black spec on the horizon…

“At first their spirits rose thinking about the possibility of muskox for dinner. However, as the black dot got closer resembled a man running towards them. McClure thought it might be one of his men being chased by a polar bear, but the other Investigators saw more dots running towards them and cried out…‘They are men!’ 

If so, they must be Inuit. Might they share their precious winter food with starving men? The Investigators held their collective breath until one of the strangers, with such a blackened face they had absolutely no doubt he was an  Inuit,‘…began [to] screech and throw up his hands.’ 

McClure demanded, ‘In the name of God, who are you?’ as the stranger stepped forward, he uttered words which ran through the Investigators like an electric shock: 

‘I am Lieutenant Pim, late of the Herald, now of Resolute. Captain Kellett is with her at Dealy Island.’ 

Could they dare believe in miracles? The carpenters working on Boil’s coffin and the men digging his grave dropped their tools where they stood. Onboard Investigator the weak men rose from their sickbeds and jockeyed with the healthy to get to the deck quickly to see what wonderment was causing such excitement, clearing the lower deck within minutes. Other Investigators ran toward their deliverers. Some, not trusting their own eyes, actually touched the Resolutes’ faces to make sure they were real.”

24 February: (the rescue of McClure continued)
Pim’s greeting may seem rather odd…until you know a bit more about the history between Kellett and McClure. Pim had been serving under Kellett on HMS Herald, surveying the Pacific coasts of North and South America. When Kellett became one of the very first officers sent by the Admiralty to look for the Franklin Expedition in 1848, and was ordered to head north, to what would become Alaska, Pim was still serving onboard Herald. A year later Pim was present when McClure, on Investigator, charged headlong into the Canadian Arctic alone, against Kellett’s advice and without the companionship of his superior officer, Collinson (on Enterprise). Talk about McClure probably ran through the men on Herald and it was, most likely, uncomplimentary (to say it mildly).

Pim, though on a mission to rescue as many of the Investigators as possible, seemingly could not resist letting McClure know, right off the bat, that he had the measure of the man…and knew about the shenanigans McClure had pulled to get his ship into the Arctic unaccompanied. If all McClure had been interested in was the glory of discovering either Franklin or the Northwest Passage, Pim was letting him know that he knew McClure was now paying for that glory, as were all of McClure’s men. In my manuscript I wrote:

“[After ignoring Kellett’s advice, and…] By hurrying on in this impulsive and precipitous manner, the ambitious McClure achieved independent command for his Arctic search, while trying to lay on Kellett’s shoulders any blame for negative consequences. McClure effectively split Collinson’s two-ship expedition into two one-ship expeditions, thereby putting all the Investigators and Enterprises in greater danger.”

After all the Resolutes arrived at the Investigator: “Shocked at the Investigators’ conditions, the Resolutes watched them draw lots for the evening meal, which consisted of a pannikin of tea and a very small biscuit. Seeing this ‘…their manly cheeks became moistened with tears.’ The following morning Pim was equally shocked at the meagre fare the Investigators shared for breakfast: merely a weak cup of cocoa without sugar and a moiety of bread…
‘…his feelings overcame him; he rushed to his sledge…brought a large piece of bacon, placed it before us, and gave us the only breakfast we had known for many a long day.’  
This reaction so touched Armstrong [McClure’s surgeon] he subsequently wrote: ‘The remembrance of this, and his other acts of kindness to us then, will I hope, never be effaced from our recollection.’
“Pim conveyed Kellett’s order for a medical report on the Investigators’ health which Domville had to take immediately to Resolute, unless the Investigators needed urgent medical care. Pim’s instructions were to request McClure’s intended movements, quantity of provisions, and any information he had about Enterprise. Since Domville wasn’t there, McClure compiled the medical report himself with his own spin. Armstrong, Investigator’s surgeon, noted in his journal McClure never asked him to corroborate anything, and only learned Kellett had requested a medical report after he was home and read the Parliamentary Papers…

During the few days Pim remained onboard he helped however he could. He also shared the major world events of the past three years, and the Investigators devoured every detail. Extremely reluctant to admit he needed Kellett’s help, McClure had spun the tall tale he had intended to continue searching eastward. To support this fiction he continued having his weakest men prepare their sledges. The only impact Pim’s arrival had was on their destination, McClure sent them on their own to Resolute instead of the eastern Arctic. He also ordered the Investigators remaining onboard to stay on starvation rations, even though their rescue was at hand. To do otherwise his fiction would fall.”

To be continued…

Rescue of HMS Investigator's men


From my new manuscript:

“By spring 1853 McClure and the Investigators were in real trouble. After leaving Kellett in 1850, McClure had navigated around the southern coast of Banks Land, then north into the Prince of Wales Strait. After reaching the end of Prince of Wales Strait, McClure sledged westward onto Banks Land, arriving at its highest point on the 26TH, naming it Point Russell. His discovery consisted of his merely gazing north across Melville Sound to Dundas Peninsula on Melville Island in the far distance. He neither sledged nor sailed across, just bragged in a letter to his uncle he’d ‘discovered’ the Northwest Passage, “You will, I am certain, be very happy to learn that the Northwest Passage has been discovered by the Investigator, which event was decided on the 26th of October, 1850…” 
It was too late in the season to send men to the Winter Harbour Cairn to leave messages, but should’ve at first opportunity in spring ’51, especially if he truly believed Collinson was there ahead of him. Had he done so sledging parties could’ve relieved him in summer 1851.

On 14 August 1851 Investigator broke free, and McClure retraced his passage down the Prince of Wales Strait, and sailed around Banks Land’s west coast, but the pack ice defeated them in Mercy Bay on 24 September. During autumn 1851 McClure put his men on ⅔ rations, and then further reduced the food to ½  rations in December. By the end of January 1852 McClure flogged three of his half-starved men for stealing some of Mongo, the dog’s, grub. Finally, in April 1852, McClure took a party of Investigators, including John Calder, Captain of the Fo’c’s’le, to Winter Harbour, reaching it in 18 days. [There he learned about provisions which had been left in a cairn too far away for him to access.]…McClure returned to Investigator on 9 May 1852. Learning about provisions too far away to collect must have been demoralising. But…he never uttered a word of complaint, no matter how dismal the circumstances…To his credit, McClure exhibited a great deal of this during the following disheartening months….

“By January 1853 conditions deteriorated further: one of the crew was in such mental torment he had to be restrained to keep him from injuring himself or anyone else, and the ship’s baker received 2 dozen lashes on his bare back for stealing meat, flour, and dough, having eaten bits whilst preparing a meal. As the provisions got ever shorter, and more cases of scurvy presented, Calder recalled they were in a bad way, saying ‘Things looked pretty bilious.’ McClure even rationed the candles, which caused the extremely hungry men to endure fourteen days of winter darkness with only enough tallow to illuminate a total of eighteen hours. The school was closed despite having been so popular earlier, leaving the Investigators to sit in darkness with nothing to distract them from their gnawing hunger. This blackness contributed to the mental deterioration of the starving men.

Desperate times called for desperate measures, and McClure devised a contingency plan for the spring which he would put into action if Investigator was still solidly encased in ice. He decided to split his men, keeping twenty of the strongest onboard Investigator, and sending away those too weak or ill to last another winter. Half of these would head for Prince Royal Island’s cairn of supplies and boat, then head south to the Mackenzie River. The other half he’d send east to Port Leopold on Somerset Island near Baffin Bay, where Ross had left a boat in 1833. McClure expected these men to either sail for Britain or meet another ship which would carry them home. 

Even to the casual observer it was obvious that McClure was sending these Investigators on a death march. McClure’s plan, however, wasn’t designed to save them, but to give the Investigators remaining onboard the strongest chance of survival, including himself…[He decided to] put the traveling men on full rations for a month before their expected departure in mid-April. This helped raise their spirits a bit, and fill out their gaunt faces; but did little to alleviate their underlying debility. Ironically, the men McClure proposed sending away seemed happy at the prospect while those staying behind appeared despondent. When one veteran earmarked for the death march was interviewed in his old age he said they were all quite certain they were going to die on the march, but they preferred to die trying to get out rather than dying doing nothing and just waiting in Investigator for the inevitable.

On 5 April, one of the crew, Boil, died of dysentery and scurvy…Despite Boil’s death McClure ordered the Investigators to load their sledges.

Across the strait, Resolutes had started their spring travels, including the use of dogs. Kellett had brought his ever faithful dog with him to the Arctic. Napoleon, called Naps for short, was an Irish retriever and a favourite amongst the men. Even McClintock had a soft spot for him. Although he would remain a steadfast proponent of man-drawn sledges McClintock supported Kellett’s decision to pick up dogs for pulling teams when they were still at Lively. After one was lost, the remaining dogs were: Lion, the team leader; Jenny, Skaings,  Oosky, and Sophie, named after one of the women from Lively who had joined the men for their impromptu ball. Both Sophie and Jenny had had litters of pups in the late autumn of 1852, four of which survived. The dogs soon proved their worth on the trip to the Investigator

Lieutenant Bedford Pim was tasked with contacting the Investigator in March 1853. His sledge was John Barrow and his men were Joseph Parr, gunner’s mate; Joseph Gibson, carpenter’s mate; William Hannan, able seaman; John Silvey, ice quartermaster; and able seamen Thomas Northhouse, John McClean, and Henry Richards. They expected to be gone for 41 days, until 19 April.

Anticipating a need for medical help, Kellett selected Dr. Domville to go too with the James Fitzimans, expecting to be away 41 days, 10 March – 14 April. His men were Robert Haile, sail maker; Emanuel Bidgood, able seaman, and five dogs. They were to be assisted by Roche’s satellite sledge, Beauty, which had the very appropriate motto ‘my God is my rock’. He’d be away for only ten days with James Cornelius, bo’s’n’s mate; Philip Thomas, fo’c’l captain; Royal Marine Sergeant Richard Hobbs; and able seamen Thomas Manson, William Power, William Culver, George Bell, William Savage; five dogs and one puppy.
Pim began training in February, using long walks to build up their strength…”

To be continued next week when we have wifi at our new home!


Onboard Activities


The hearty explorers fighting to keep their spirits up throughout the dark months of the winters remind me of how we are all trying to keep our spirits up through our dark Covid winter. From my new manuscript:
“Between Christmas and New Year’s Eve the men and officers resumed daily chores including working on their spring traveling gear. The carpenters rigged an electric telegraph between the ships so, even in the worst of snowstorms, they could stay in contact with each other. Midweek Nares gave his lecture about wind. On New Year’s Eve, Kellett invited the officers to his cabin for supper, where they toasted the health and happiness of their wives and sweethearts, families and friends. At midnight everyone from both ships gathered at the highest point of Dealy Island where they raised a flag and set off two rockets.

The Resolutes and Intrepids greeted New Year’s Day with a band of flutes and fifes, accordion, drum, tambourine and triangle. The warmth of the celebrations was in direct contrast to the falling temperature: the lowest reading yet ushered in the new year. On 2 January 1853 the mercury froze, and by the 4TH the thermometer stood at -48°F. McDougall cheered the men by giving his geology lecture in a humorous manner. (Anyone who’s capable of making such a dry subject funny must be quite a wag.) On 14 January the Intrepids entertained everyone again with songs and recitations, accompanied by conjuring tricks and followed with a gunroom supper. On 1 February, after much anticipation the Arctic Theatre Royal reopened with two plays: King Glumpus, performed by the officers, and Raising the Wind, performed by the men. De Bray recalled in his journal he had never been so cold as when he performed in ladies’ clothes with his feet in thin satin slippers.
The costumes of Miss Durable and Peggy in Raising the Wind were truly admirable; all the articles were manufactured onboard, from the stays of number eight canvas, and laced with marline, to the black silk mantle and hood, with its crimson silk lining vying with the rouge on their cheeks. Miss Durable was perfection’s self, barring the ankles…Peggy was also capital, as far as costume and appearance went, and could she only have remained still, would perhaps have been the better of the two; but alas! There was a certain swagger and rolling in her gait, which would have brought down roars of applause…but certainly didn’t add to the ladylike appearance of a lovely, retiring, and accomplished girl yet in her teens, particularly when backed by a hitching up of the frock with both hands, as sailors occasionally do to the waistband of their trousers.

King Glumpus by John Barrow, Jr. followed an interlude of songs and recitations. The ‘women’ in this play wore masks and extravagant dresses, complete with bustles. McDougall’s ‘…faithless spouse [De Bray] wore a bloomer costume, such as is…worn by decoy bar girls in London as an inducement to very young men to expend a certain amount of capital in a glass of beer.’ [From McDougall’s Eventful Voyage of HMS Resolute]
Many thought Nares’ Queen, complete with coronet, could’ve been mistaken for Boadicea. The men truly suffered for their art: even within five feet of the stove the temperature was -5° F. The ‘women’ felt it the most and drank hot whiskey punch to keep warm. Off stage their unladylike postures included extending their legs over the heating stove. After the last curtain-call the officers dined in Intrepid’s gunroom, and the men’s supped in the mess. 

After the carpenters dismantled the stage, the men returned to spring sledging preparations. The shoemakers made boots, the sailmakers robes and tents; each man made his traveling costume. The lectures resumed with McDougall’s about Arctic exploration, Nares’ lecturing on mechanics and how pulleys and levers work. Men studied various subjects alone like navigation and maths. One noble soul planned to read the whole ten volume Encyclopaedia, but gave up after the first two. Some men played games of draughts (checkers) and chess; and of course, Kellett required daily exercise. No Arctic hardship was more strongly felt than the loss of light for months. The plays, work, lecture games, exercises,…all lightened that burdensome darkness.”

30 January 2021 blog post carries on from above:
The Resolutes and Intrepids spent the rest of the dark winter attending lectures and preparing their travelling gear, while Kellett and McClintock organised the spring sledging parties. Over the course of the spring and summer they would spread across Melville Island, painstakingly searching every coastal indentation for any signs of the Franklin men, or Collinson and his Enterprises. However, the very first sledging party Kellett would send out was going to find McClure and his men on Investigator. He hoped they were still where their 1852 message had said they were. This is a passage from my manuscript which describes the finding of that message in autumn 1852:
“Most excitingly, Mecham and his men arrived at camp six days after Pim with great news. After being away twenty-two days laying out cairns, Mecham found a cylinder from McClure under a sandstone boulder. Containing a chart of his discoveries, it informed whomsoever found it the Investigators were wintering in Mercy Bay. With no updated materials Kellett correctly assumed they were still there. Resolutes and Intrepids wanted to leave immediately, but, because it was too late in the season, Kellett made the extraordinarily difficult decision to keep everyone in camp. McClure’s Investigators would have to survive till spring before receiving help from him. Kellett vowed to send the very first team to Mercy Bay in spring.”

McClure and his men were indeed still in Mercy Bay, and their plight was worsening by the hour. In tomorrow’s blog I will address McClure’s efforts to find Franklin and their desperate situation, and following that how Kellett rescues them in the spring of 1853.

Onboard Activities


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.”

Grinnell & HMS Resolute


Henry Grinnell’s involvement in Resolute’s story is frequently misrepresented. Some accounts even say he is responsible for proposing the 1856 resolution in Congress for the US to buy Resolute from the Perkins and Smith whaling firm, refurbish her at a USN yard, then send her back to England as a gift. His role in the Franklin searches in general is also one that gets represented differently in various sources. So my next blog posts will be about him, his role in the Franklin searches, and his involvement in the life of HMS Resolute.

In 1850 Grinnell pledged $5,000 towards an American search expedition to find Franklin. After a poor response to a public subscription he increased this pledge to $10,000. Eventually he used $30,000 to buy the two ships Advance and Rescue. However, the rest of the expedition’s costs fell upon the US Congress. On the recommendation of President Zachary Taylor, Congress provided naval personnel, and covered their pay, food and equipment costs. This American Expedition shared with the British 1850 Austin Expedition the discovery of Franklin’s 1846 winter camp on Beechey Island. Both Advance and Rescue and their crews came home safely. The ships were then returned to Grinnell. Although he put his capital at risk, in effect Grinnell’s financial contribution was exactly $0,000, and the American taxpayers footed the rest of the bill. He reaped the benefit on both sides of the Pond during his lifetime for being a philanthropic person and forever by having this 1850 expedition named after him as the 1st Grinnell Expedition to search for Franklin. For many years after this suited his financial shipping industry interests, which included whaling.

a photograph of shipping and whaling magnate Henry Grinnell in the blog about his role in the searches for Franklin and in HMS Resolute's story
Henry Grinnell

Buddington's Salvage


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.