Thursday, 10 December 2009

Drinks in Memory of James Fitzjames

There are several reasons why I refer to James Fitzjames in my book as the ‘Mystery Man’ of the Franklin Expedition. For example, it is strange that for a public figure of some importance there is no true record of his birth and no record at all of his death.

We know that all 129 men on the Franklin Expedition died, but we only have the dates and times of deaths for four of them. Sir John Franklin died on 10th June, 1847, almost certainly on board HMS Erebus off the coast of King William Island and two sailors and one Royal Marine died in the winter of 1845-1846 off Beechey Island. The dates of their deaths are given in my earlier blog posting.

Fitzjames was baptised at the church of St. Mary-le-Bone in London on 27th February, and his birth was recorded there as having taken place on 24th July, 1813. But the father and mother whose names appear on this, ‘James Fitzjames, gentleman’ and ‘Ann Fitzjames’ his wife, simply do not appear in any other records anywhere else in the world. As my book will make clear, these were false names.

Who knows when anyone last commemorated the life of James Fitzjames or mourned his death? Well, in 2010 I will. Just around the corner from the Church of St. Mary-le-Bone is a particularly splendid pub. One hundred and ninety five years to the day after Fitzjames’ christening, I shall be standing in this pub and I shall raise a glass of beer to the memory of this fine man. That’s Saturday, 27th February, 2010. This is entirely the correct commemoration for a man who wrote from HMS Erebus, out in the Atlantic on Wednesday 11th June, 1845: “the sea is of the most perfect transparency — a beautiful, delicate, cold-looking green, or ultramarine. Long rollers, as if carved out of the essence of glass bottles, came rolling towards us; now and then topped with a beautiful pot-of-porter-looking head”. A man who can come up with such a wonderfully alcoholic description of the sea does not deserve to be forgotten.

Something else will make this occasion special. Fitzjames gave a single rose to Elizabeth Coningham when he left England. She kept it all her life and it remains in the hands of her family to this day. It was to her that he wrote the letter I have quoted from. Earlier on Tuesday 27th February, I will have made a solitary pilgrimage to the grave of the man who I now know to be Fitzjames’ real father. This man’s grave is the closest thing we have to a grave for Fitzjames. I shall lay a single rose on it in memory of his son James Fitzjames. But the identity of Fitzjames’ father will remain private until the book is published in July.

Anyone who wants to join me for this rather special day – in the pub, that is – is most welcome to email me or contact me via the blog and I will send you an invitation.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

The remarkable background of Lt. Graham Gore

While my research recently has focused on James Fitzjames, Graham Gore is another of Franklin’s officers whose story has been obscured. There are some parallels between the two men. It is often said that aristocratic privilege played a great part in the selection of officers for the Franklin Expedition, yet Gore’s father seems to have been illegitimate and to have started his career in the merchant marine rather than as a 'young gentleman Volunteer'.

The story starts with Graham Gore’s grandfather John Gore. John Gore was born in America, possibly Virginia, in 1729 or 1730(1). John Gore senior entered the Royal Navy in 1755 and in 1764 had sailed around the world in HMS Dolphin(2). In 1766, he sailed again in the Dolphin to "discover" the island of Tahiti. With this experience he was naturally selected by Captain Cook as one of his two Lieutenants on HMS Endeavour(3) for his famous first voyage to Tahiti in 1768 to observe the transit of Venus. During this voyage Gore senior become friends with Joseph Banks the scientist. In 1772, while on half pay, Gore senior and Banks had made a private scientific expedition to Iceland together(4).

This private expedition to Iceland prevented Gore senior from serving on Cook’s second expedition, but in 1776 he sailed again with Cook on Cook’s third and final expedition, as First Lieutenant of HMS Resolution(5). The expedition's secret instructions were to trace the west coast of the North American continent northwards as part of the search for the North-West passage. After exploring the Bering Straits, Cook returned to the Pacific and was killed at Hawaii. On his death Captain Clerke took command of HMS Resolution and Gore senior transferred to command HMS Discovery. On Clerke’s death in turn from TB on 22nd August 1779, Gore senior transferred back again to HMS Resolution and took command of the entire expedition. Thus Graham Gore’s grandfather actually ended his sea-going career as commander of Cook’s Third Expedition.

On his final return to England Gore senior retired as a Captain of Greenwich Hospital, where he lived in the rooms Cook had occupied. He died there in 1790 at the age of sixty.

John Gore senior’s son was also called John. This John Gore was born on 7th March, 1774. Cliff Thornton of the Captain Cook Society has confirmed that he was born at Barking in Essex (other genealogical researchers had transcribed this as 'Boking') although the Royal Navy records his place of birth as London(6). There seem to be well-seated doubts as to whether this son’s birth was legitimate or not. When Gore senior sailed again he placed the two year old boy in the care of the Rev. Firebrace of Braintree in Essex with Sir Joseph Banks acting as his guardian(7).

John Gore first went to sea at the age of eleven, in 1785. This was not service in the Royal Navy, but a commercial venture arranged by a friend of his father called Nathanial Portlock. Portlock had served on Cook’s third voyage of exploration as an Able Bodied seaman on HMS Discovery, although he was soon appointed master's mate. Portlock’s 1785 voyage in the ‘King George’ and the ‘Queen Charlotte’ was a fur-trading venture to the American north-west coast which returned to England in 1787(8) having twice over-wintered twice in Hawaii and traded at Macao before returning home round the world(9).

Thus it was that when John Gore first entered the Royal Navy on HMS Guardian in 1789 at the age of fifteen he had already sailed around the world. O'Byrne's Naval Directory states that he was entered as an Able Bodied Seaman(10) but Cliff Thornton of the Captain Cook Society has told me that the Muster Book for HMS Guardian, (ADM36/11005) shows that he was entered as a Midshipman. HMS Guardian was commanded by Lieutenant Edward Riou, another former shipmate of John Gore senior who had served on Cooke’s third expedition – Riou had been a Midshipman on HMS Discovery(11).

The Guardian was Riou’s first command. HMS Guardian was a Royal Navy frigate which had been converted into a transport and was engaged in a vital task – bringing vitally needed supplies from England to the struggling penal colony which Britain had established in 1788 at Sydney Cover, New South Wales(12). The story of the ‘First Fleet’, which established British settlement in Australia is well known. The Guardian sailed from Spithead on 2nd September 1789 loaded with over a thousand tons of supplies, including a ‘garden’ of plants and seedlings selected by Sir Joseph Banks as being of use to the newly established colony on the other side of the world and livestock. On Christmas Eve, 24th December, 1789, HMS Guardian was off Marion Island, 1,300 miles from the Cape of Good Hope and short of fresh water when the lookout spotted an iceberg. Riou decided to pick up ice to replenish his fresh water tanks, which were being depleted at an alarming rate not just by his crew but also by the plants and livestock he was trying to keep alive. Despite towering seas and terrible weather conditions, the ship’s jolly boat was launched to collect ice from the berg. While it was doing so the Guardian collided violently with the iceberg, losing her rudder and being holed below the water-line. Riou seems to have had great difficulty controlling his crew and the convicts under these desperate conditions and on the following day, Christmas Day, gave an ‘every man for himself’ order. Some of the crew left in five ships’ boats. Only one, with fourteen survivors, was ever seen again. Some drunken men and convicts simply jumped into the sea, so imminent did it seem that the Guardian would sink. ‘I am inclined to think’ Riou wrote ‘they could but have survived a few minutes’. Riou was the only commissioned officer. John Gore was among the men who stayed with Riou and helped him eventually bring the stricken Guardian back to the Cape. During the voyage Gore seems to have been promoted to Master’s Mate. Under these dire circumstances ability and leadership counted for more than accident of birth. Although this epic story of survival has since been all but forgotten, it created a sensation at the time(13).

O’Byrne’s Directory says that he was next ‘attached, from July 1791, until September 1793, to the Assistant armed tender, Lieut-Commander Nathaniel Portlock ... engaged, in company with HMS Providence, in carrying the bread-fruit plant to the West Indies’. HMS Providence was captained by William Bligh and the Assistant was her escort. Bligh had already returned from the Pacific following the mutiny on HMS Bounty in 1787. The voyage of the Providence and the Assistant in August 1791 was to complete his original mission. The ships sailed for the Pacific and successfully conveyed breadfruit to the West Indies, returning to England in February 1794. I am grateful again to Cliff Thornton of the Captain Cook Society for clarifying this. [Incidentally, I live just down the road from Captain Blight's London town house which externally is unchanged since he lived in it. I think about the interplay between past and present whenever I pass it on the 159 bus.]

After this service he was entered into HMS Namur on 31st March, 1795 and promoted to Lieutenant only five months later on 19th August 1795. From then he served more or less continuous on a succession of ships until coming ashore from HMS Marlborough at the age of thirty-four on 20th September, 1808(14), newly promoted to the rank of Commander. His service was distinguished. Under Captain Moore of the Indefatigable, he was strongly commended for bravery during the capture of three Spanish frigates laden with treasure and the destruction of a fourth off Cape St. Mary on 5th Oct, 1804(15).

While First Lieutenant of HMS Fame, Gore had married Sarah Gilmour at Portsmouth on 15th May, 1806. She was from Alverstoke in Southampton. The couple had six children who survived into adult-hood. The eldest was a boy, inevitably named John, who was born in 1807 and followed by a younger brother Graham, born in 1808 or 1809. After these two there were three daughters Anne, Charlotte and Eliza and a further son, Edward, who was born in 1817. Evidence suggests the family settled in the Plymouth area. Graham’s Royal Naval records give his place of birth as Plymouth(16) and a letter from John Gore to the Admiralty says of Graham, aged eleven, that he had been “educated by myself and Mr. Bridge, Schoolmaster of Barnstaple”(17). When not in London or at sea, Gore wrote from an address at Bickington which was then a small village only two miles from Barnstaple, so this evidence is all consistent. It seems therefore that Gore was at home on half pay partly to educate his family and help his wife Sarah bring up the family.

Gore certainly attempted to gain further seagoing appointments(18) but only went to sea again once as Captain of the sloop HMS Dotterel from 12th February 1818 until 20th July, 1821. The first voyage of the Dotterel under Gore was part of the resupply convoy for the British garrison at St. Helena. St. Helena was hard pressed to support the large establishment which was guarding Napoleon, exiled for life there. It must be presumed therefore that John Gore had the opportunity then of meeting the exiled former Emperor. Another officer who must have made the acquaintance of Napoleon was a twenty two year old Irishman serving as a Mate on the Dotterel: Francis Crozier(19). After this voyage the Dotterel settled down to a relatively quiet routine of patrols in the Irish Sea and the coastal waters of Britain. Gore was presumably able to stay in touch with his family during this time. Crozier seems to have become bored with this promotion dead-end and volunteered for Arctic duty. Perhaps he was inspired to do so by hearing his Captain’s retelling of the stories of his youth in the Southern Ocean and the far northern Pacific, and of Cook's attempts to enter the North West Passage? Either way, Crozier was accepted by Edward Parry and was discharged from HMS Dotterel on 13th February, 1821 before the Dotterel’s commission ended. He joined HMS Fury, the bomb-ship specially converted for Arctic exploration. This was Crozier’s first step towards his ultimate death on the Franklin Expedition more than twenty-five years later.

Crozier was not the only member of the Dotterel’s company to die on the Franklin Expedition. We have seen that Gore had taken at least partial responsibility for the education of his family. On 24th November, 1819, he had entered his elder son John onto HMS Dotterel. The records suggest that the thirteen year old John may have first been entered as an Able Bodied seaman and then transferred to the rank of Midshipman as a Volunteer of the first class. Perhaps this was done to enable John Gore to take the lad to sea without having to obtain Admiralty authority to enter him as a Volunteer? One of the responsibilities of a Captain in relation to his ‘young gentleman Volunteers’ was to supervise their education so, although life for all members of the early nineteenth century Royal Navy was tough, this position was a natural one for Gore to arrange to continue his family’s education. At the end of the Dotterel’s commission on 20th July, 1821, Gore senior was promoted to Captain and arranged for his son John to attend the Royal Naval College, then at Portsmouth, where John passed out with a prize for mathematics(20).

The sloop had a complement of three Volunteers of the First Class(21). At the beginning of 1820, Gore had a vacancy for one. He wrote to the Admiralty from his anchorage at Cork on 2nd January, 1820, to say that ‘being a vacancy in the sloop I command for a volunteer of the first class boys, I have to request you will be pleased to move their Lordships to permit me to enter Mr. George Rawe Hallett, aged 15 years (son of Mr. John Hallett, surgeon of the Royal Navy) who has been educated by Mr. Godber of Fowey’(22). Permission was granted, but George Hallett was taken ill so Gore wrote again on 26th April 1820 ‘to permit me to enter my son Graham Gore, age 11 years, educated by myself and Mr. Bridge, Schoolmaster of Barnstaple’(23). The Admiralty had doubts about permitting such a young boy to be entered, but granted permission on 28th April, which was just as well as his father had already entered Graham on the books of his ship on the previous day(24).

Thus the three Gores, father and two sons, served together with Francis Crozier and the rest of the Dotterel’s company for nearly a year until Crozier’s appointment to the Fury. The three Gores remained aboard the ship until she paid off on 20th July, 1821. Graham seems to have lived at home for a further year, presumably with his now promoted father continuing his education, until he followed his elder brother to the Royal Naval College in 1822. John Gore senior, despite petitioning the Admiralty, never went to sea again and his eldest son John, having reached the rank of Lieutenant, was later drowned at sea.

Graham Gore next went to sea as a Midshipman on 10th April, 1824 and served until 31st August 1828 successively on HMS Ocean, HMS Albion and HMS Mosquito(25). On HMS Albion he fought in what was to prove to be the last ever battle between Nelson-era wooden sailing ships, the Battle of Navarino on 20th October, 1827. He passed for Lieutenant in 1829.

He made a hair-raising voyage to the Arctic from June 1836 to August 1837 as Mate on HMS Terror under the command of Captain Sir George Back. The Terror was badly damaged in this attempt to reach Repulse Bay, where it had been hoped to land a party to explore the Arctic coast of North America. The ship only just made it back across the Atlantic and had to be beached at the first land it reached in western Ireland. Such was the damage that the Terror was only held together by chains passed around the hull.

Graham Gore was then promoted to Lieutenant and entered HMS Modeste on 22nd November, 1837, followed by HMS Volage. On the Volage he took part in fighting in the first Anglo Chinese, or Opium War.

While in India he was posted to HMS Herald in Australia. But arriving in Sydney, Gore could not locate the Herald. Instead he found the famous HMS Beagle, of Darwin fame and volunteered to join her. He sailed on the Beagle from November 1840 until October 1843 under Captain John Lort Stokes on her famous third voyage, during which large parts of the Australian coast were accurately surveyed for the first time. It was during this voyage that the city of Darwin was named. Gore was a talented artist and served as unofficial artist on this voyage. One of his paintings hangs today in the National Library of Australia, depicting Burial Reach on the Flinders River in Queensland. Bizarrely, the Flinders River was named after Captain Matthew Flinders, who had been accompanied on some of his voyages of discovery in Australian waters by one Midshipman John Franklin.

Graham Gore narrowly escaped death at a place the Expedition subsequently named ‘Disaster Inlet’. He was shooting Cockatoos for food from a gig, in the company of Captain Stokes and some sailors. The mangrove trees in the inlet were ‘literally whitened with flocks of noisy cockatoos, giving the trees an appearance as if they were absolutely laden with huge flakes of snow—a somewhat remarkable aspect for a scene in such a clime to wear’, according to Stokes, who continued ‘soon the huge masses of white plumage began to float from tree to tree across the reach, whilst their screams as they flew by seemed a fair challenge to the sportsman. Mr. Gore accordingly resolved to secure a few of them for dinner, and put out his gun for the purpose’. When Gore fired, ‘ere the report of the gun had ceased to roll over the waters of the reach ... something whizzed past my ear, deafening and stupefying me for a moment--the next I saw my much-valued friend Gore stretched at his length in the bottom of the boat’. Gore’s gun had burst, leaving only a small portion of the barrel which fell back into the gig. Gore's hand was lacerated but he suffered no worse injury. According to Stokes, Gore himself broke the shocked silence with the immortal words ‘killed the bird...’ which Stokes described as ‘an expression truly characteristic of a sportsman’(26).

When the Beagle’s commission ended, he was entered onto the steamer Cyclops before arriving back in England in time for his next, and last, appointment to the Franklin Expedition in 1845. Sadly, that sealed his fate.

We can now see that his links with the Franklin Expedition were far deeper than hitherto have been understood. His grandfather had been a close associate of Sir Joseph Banks, who acted as the eminence grise to a whole series of British scientific expeditions. He himself had served with Crozier on the Dotterel. He had served under Stokes on the Beagle, and Stokes was a candidate the Admiralty considered to command the Expedition if Franklin declined it or had been declared unfit. It also transpires that Graham Gore’s father had a link with Fitzjames although that must remain under wraps until the publication of ‘James Fitzjames, the Mystery Man of the Franklin Expedition’. Lastly, the Gores can be seen to be much less of an ‘establishment’ family than is supposed. Technically speaking, both Graham and his father seem to have gone to sea first as sailors rather than as 'young gentleman Volunteers' and the senior Gore seems to have been illegitimate.

So what happened to Graham Gore’s family? With his eldest son dead and Graham at sea, at the age of sixty John Gore emigrated to New South Wales in 1834 with his wife Sarah, their three daughters Ann, Eliza and Charlotte and youngest son Edward on board 'City of Edinburgh'(27). The family first lived at Parramatta, then a small farming settlement near Sydney. Later they acquired 1,165 acres of land near Lake Bathurst in southern New South Wales where they settled in a house which they named 'Gilmour'. John Gore lived to know that he had been promoted by rote to Rear Admiral in 1852 and died in 1853(28). Sadly, before he died he would also have realised that his second son Graham would not be coming back from the Arctic. We now know from the Victory Point note that Graham Gore died sometime between June 1847 and April 1848 in the ice off King William Island. It is ironic that ice, the ultimate cause of his death, had almost caused the death of his father over half a century earlier in the great Southern Ocean.

Descendants of John Gore, and therefore relatives of Graham Gore, live to this day in Australia. While two of Graham Gore’s sisters, Ann and Charlotte, died unmarried, his sister Eliza married George Stewart in 1839 and had seven children and his brother Edward married Eliza Strang, who had two sons and a daughter. At least one descendant fought in the First World War, the appropriately named Private Rupert Franklin Gore Gallaway of the Australian 2nd Light Horse Regiment.


(6) ADM 37/1208 says he was born in London
(10) O’Byrne, William - Naval Biography 2 vols. 1848.
(14) ADM196/4
(15) London Gazette, 1804, p1310
(16) ADM107/74
(17) ADM1/1864, Letter Cap G53
(18) ADM1/1864, Letter Cap G25
(19) ADM37/6204
(20) ADM1/1864, Letter CapG53. In this letter John Gore writes from Barnstaple to say that ‘being apprised by the Lieutenant Governor of the Royal Naval College that a medal has been awarded to my son Mr. John Gore as the second best student that was discharged during the last half year, and that I should apply to the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty for the same - I have therefore to request that you will be pleased to move their Lordships to cause the same to be forwarded to me’. This was refused. A dismissive note on the letter says that it should ‘delivered to any one who calls for it’.
(22) ADM1/1864, Letter CapG17
(23) ADM1/1864, Letter CapG31
(24) ADM37/6204
(25) ADM107/74
(26) Discoveries in Australia, with an Account of the Coasts and Rivers Explored and Surveyed ...’ Volume 2, Stokes, John Lort.
(27) Information from Janet Syme, ibid

Sunday, 15 November 2009

James Fitzjames book update

Well, we have a title now. The book will be called "James Fitzjames: The Mystery Man of the Franklin Expedition" and I'm busy now editing, correcting, labelling maps and all the other manifold tasks that go into trying to make a book readable.

I thought it would be worth putting on the blog the draft text of the 'flyer'. People who read this blog already have an interest in James Fitzjames, which is of course because of his role on the Franklin Expedition. But having now researched his life I know that there is a lot more to James Fitzjames than the circumstances surrounding his death. He was a remarkable man and I prefer to celebrate his life rather than his death. The flyer is intended to reflect this. Anyway, here's the text and I trust it whets the appetite...

James Fitzjames was a rising star in early nineteenth century exploration. Apparently an establishment figure, he was tipped for great things and was talked about as possibly to be the first man to reach the North Pole. He had served with distinction on Colonel Chesney’s incredible 1830’s Euphrates Expedition, culminating in his own remarkable trek across 1,200 miles of desert and marsh in Iraq and Syria. By thirty he was both a war hero and a published poet. But his career and life were ended prematurely after he joined the disastrous 1845 Franklin Expedition as second in command of Sir John Franklin’s ship HMS Erebus and was never seen again.

William Battersby, archaeologist and leading historian of the Franklin Expedition, has comprehensively researched this remarkable man’s life of adventure and recounts his gripping story in his new book ‘James Fitzjames: Mystery Man of the Franklin Expedition.’ Fitzjames has been described as ‘well-educated, aristocratic, wealthy, of good family, Church of England, fast-rising in the service - and thumpingly, lispingly English to the core’ (Scott Cookman, Ice Blink), but Battersby’s book reveals that almost every word of this, and almost everything else written about Fitzjames, is wrong.

The real James Fitzjames was:

  • Educated at home by an eclectic group of unconventional intellectuals.
  • Flat broke nearly all his life.
  • Baptised into the Church of England although almost certainly fraudulently.
  • Not the beneficiary of a fast-track Royal Naval career but an outsider who exploited his superior education and personal flair to use loopholes in the rules which were designed to keep people like him out.
  • Not 'thumpingly, lispingly English to the core’ but actually, in his own words, ‘thrown ... on the world by circumstances over which I have no control, without one friend in it … through no fault of my own’

James Fitzjames overcame all the prejudices against him and made a success of his life in a thoroughly modern way. He combined bravery and learning with a remarkable sense of fun - some of his wisecrack and jokes are still funny today. During his adventurous life he:

  • Visited Babylon no less than three times
  • Dived into the Mersey fully clothed to rescue a drowning man
  • Adjudicated in a fight between merchant seamen on a gigantic island of dung off the coast of Namibia.
  • In a Middle Eastern war first jokingly impersonated the aides of a Jewish millionaire engaged in a hostage rescue attempt and then landed in the midst of the Egyptian camp at night to harangue the enemy soldierly to desert.
  • Escaped from this adventure with a price put on his head, personally, by the enemy General.
  • Was severely injured while leading a highly unconventional street-fight in China – with rockets.
  • Then with his pet cheetah sailed back to England via the Persian Gulf as captain of a Royal Navy sloop.

William Battersby’s book will reveal for the first time the truth of this charismatic man. You are unlikely ever to come across such an unusual biography. It will be required reading for all Franklin Expedition students, for anyone with salt-water in their blood who has read Forester or O’Brien, and indeed anyone who appreciates a rattling good yarn about a witty, engaging and talented outcast who makes good against prejudice.

More on Daguerreotyes

When the Illustrated London News published engravings of officers from the missing Franklin Expedition on 13th September, 1851, they did so with this note:

“The portraits upon the preceding page have been engraved from photographs by Mr. Beard. Previous to the sailing of the Erebus and Terror, Mr. Beard was commissioned to supply Sir John Franklin with a complete Daguerrotype apparatus, to take out with him; and with which, on board one of the ships, the accompanying Portraits were taken. Lady Franklin possesses one case of these likenesses, and Mr. Beard has another, which he has kindly permitted our artist to copy.

"The Erebus and Terror, it will be recollected, sailed from Greenhithe on May 18th, 1845. A portrait of Sir John Franklin, with views of the vessels, and two cabins of the Erebus, appeared in the ILLUSTRATED LONDON NEWS for May 24".

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

A 'new' Franklin Expedition Daguerreotype

Now here is some exciting news: the Wills family, relatives of Lt. Henry Le Vesconte of the Franklin Expedition, has identified a Daguerreotype of their lost relative previously unknown to Franklin Expedition researchers. The Daguerreotype remains in the hands of the family. They have kindly sent me a photo of it which is reproduced above.

This Daguerreotype appears to be either a similar or identical image to that of Le Vesconte held in Cambridge at the Scott Polar Research Institute. It appears therefore that either the pictures were taken immediately one after the other without the sitter altering his pose or, perhaps more likely, the 'photographer' Richard Beard had a Daguerreotype camera which could expose two plates at the same time. But the frame and case of this Daguerreotype is completely different and it obscures more of the original image than the Daguerreotype at Cambridge.

Let's now reassess where we know about the Franklin Expedition Daguerreotypes. We can now locate thirteen original Daguerreotypes from the Franklin Expedition: twelve in the SPRI collection and one in private hands. There are fourteen copies of Franklin Expedition Daguerreotypes in the Derbyshire County Archive at Matlock which appear to have been copied at an early date. Modern photographic copies of these 'Matlock' images are held by the National Maritime Museum. Most of the images at Matlock appear to be copies of the Daguerreotypes in Cambridge while others are copies of Daguerreotypes now lost. In no particular order then, here is the status of each one with a note about other portraits of each man:

  1. Henry Le Vesconte, Lieutenant, HMS Erebus – there is a single Daguerreotype at Cambridge with a second identical Daguerreotype in his family's hands. There is a reversed copy of what appear to be the Cambridge image in the collection at Matlock.

  2. Sir John Franklin, Captain, HMS Erebus – there is a single Daguerreotype at Cambridge with a reversed copy of what appear to be the Cambridge image in the collection at Matlock. There are quite a number of other portraits of Franklin in existence, including paintings and engravings.

  3. Harry D.S. Goodsir, Assistant Surgeon, HMS Erebus – there is a single Daguerreotype at Cambridge with a reversed copy of what appear to be the Cambridge image in the collection at Matlock. A very early photograph of him also exists.

  4. Charles Hamilton Osmer, Purser, HMS Erebus – there is a single Daguerreotype at Cambridge with a reversed copy of what appear to be the Cambridge image in the collection at Matlock.

  5. Stephen Samuel Stanley, Surgeon, HMS Erebus – there is a single Daguerreotype at Cambridge with a reversed copy of what appear to be the Cambridge image in the collection at Matlock.

  6. Henry Foster Collins, Second Master, HMS Erebus – there is a single Daguerreotype at Cambridge with an identical copy of the same image in the collection at Matlock.

  7. Edward Couch, Mate, HMS Erebus – there is a single Daguerreotype at Cambridge with an identical copy of the same image in the collection at Matlock.

  8. James Walter Fairholme, Lieutenant, HMS Erebus – there is a single Daguerreotype at Cambridge with an identical copy of the same image in the collection at Matlock.

  9. Graham Gore, Lieutenant, HMS Erebus – there is a single Daguerreotype at Cambridge with an identical copy of the same image in the collection at Matlock.

  10. James Reid, Ice Master, HMS Erebus – there is a single Daguerreotype at Cambridge with an identical copy of the same image in the collection at Matlock.

  11. Charles Frederick Des Voeux, Mate, HMS Erebus – there is a single Daguerreotype at Cambridge with a copy of a different Daguerreotype in the collection at Matlock

  12. James Fitzjames, Commander, HMS Erebus – there is a single Daguerreotype at Cambridge with a copy of a different Daguerreotype in the collection at Matlock. A beautiful chalk sketch of him is also held by the National Maritime Museum.

  13. Francis Rawden Moira Crozier, Captain, HMS Terror – there is no surviving Daguerreotype but an early copy of one exists in the collection at Matlock

  14. Robert Orme Sergeant, Mate, HMS Erebus – there is no surviving Daguerreotype but an early copy of one exists in the collection at Matlock.

It is clear that every officer on HMS Erebus was Daguerreotyped and in three cases - Fitzjames, Des Voeux and Le Vesconte – we now know that two Daguerreotypes were taken of each subject. I have heard it said that at one stage Graham Gore's family believed they held an original Daguerreotype but I have not been able to confirm this. If true that would a fourth confirmed 'double-Daguerreotype' and it would suggest that two were taken originally of every officer.

The two Daguerreotypes of Fitzjames and Des Voeux are clearly different images while the two of Le Vesconte seem to have been taken either simultaneously or immediately one after the other. The Le Vesconte images are also unique in that he is shown standing at the ship's wheel holding what appears to be the ship's log, whereas all the other officers were Daguerreotyped seated in what appears to be a curtained booth on the dock-side. Presumably the ship Le Vesconte was Daguerreotyped on board the Erebus and perhaps the Erebus was also the ship which can be seen in some of the reflections in the other Daguerreotypes, notably those of Gore and Fitzjames.

The only evidence that any Daguerreotypes were taken of Terror's officers is the single one of Crozier which survives as a copy at Matlock with the original now lost. It is possible that Crozier was the only officer on Terror to to be Daguerreotyped, although it may be that the accident of passing through Lady Franklin’s hands preserved the Erebus officers' Daguerreotypes. It is still possible that Daguerreotypes of some of Terror's officers may survive unrecognised in the hands of their families or of Daguerreotype dealers. A number of Terror's officers were social acquaintances of their counterparts on Erebus including Hodgson and Helpman so it would be a little surprising if they were not also Daguerreotyped.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Exciting times

These are exciting times in Franklin Expedition studies, especially if you live in or with access to London.

On Tuesday 20th September at 6:30 pm, the National Film Board of Canadian is showing the film 'Passage'. Unfortunately I wasn't smart enough to register for a ticket and they seem to have sold out now. Still, I'm going to show up and see if there are any returns...

On Friday 23rd September at 7:00 pm, Robert Grenier will be giving a talk entitled 'The Search for Franklin's Lost Ships' at the National Maritime Museum. The link is here:

I'm sure there will be lots of exciting news to hear.

Lastly, Captain James Fitzjames, RN, has now acquired a facebook page. The serious reason for this is to help me co-ordinate links to Fitzjames in the count-down to the release of his biography in July 2010. I hope also it is appropriately respectful to his memory, which still retaining a light touch. When I can work out how to put a link to it in this blog I'll add it. Until then I'm sure you will be able to find it by searching facebook.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

'Tom Bowline'

James Fitzjames is the subject of my forthcoming book, with a publication date targeted at July 2010. With the date on which the text will be frozen fast approaching (my publisher would point out that actually we have pased that date already...), I continue to find out more and more links with Fitzjames in all sorts of unlikely places. Here's one of them.

It is well known that Fitzjames fought in the First Anglo-Chinese War, or First Opium War as it is better known. This was a shameful episode in British history when the machinery of the state was manipulated by unscrupulous drug smugglers into forcing the Chinese government to allow the British to trade Opium with their subjects. Setting aside the morality of the War it was a brilliant demonstration of British military and naval superiority. As well as Fitzjames, a number of people who would become well-known in the Franklin story took part in it including Sir Edward Belcher, Henry Collinson and Richard Kellett.

It is fascinating to trace some of the different threads of the story over time. Fitzjames was a great humourist and a talented writer. During the War he served on HMS Cornwallis and he wrote a huge 10,000 word poem, 'The Cruise of the Cornwallis', which described the war in verse. I guess it was written in stages and recited over dinner for the amusement of his brother officers. After the War it was published anonymously in the Nautical Magazine where it can be found still to the general bemusement of its occasional reader. It was too long to include in my book, more's the pity, so when I've worked out how to do so I'll put it on the web with a link from this blog. Fitzjames was a fine poet but I don't think he would have claimed this as his best literary work. The subject matter can be extremely bloodthirsty but has flashes of quirky humour. Like this couplet, for example:

'We get plenty of rice, fowls, egg and chow-chow;
But no milk to our tea, though so near to My-cow'.

An asterisk at the bottom of the page explains that 'My-cow' means 'Macao'. Traditional Chinese cuisine does not include dairy products, so there we have it: 'No milk in Macao (= my cow)".

He published the poem anonymously and chose 'Tom Bowline' as his pseudonym. At that time 'Tom Bowline' was a generic name for a sailor like 'Jack Tar' is and like 'Tommy Atkins' would become for British soldiers. The name was popularised by a famous song "Poor Tom Bowline" by Charles Dibdin. Dibdin wrote it for his elder brother Tom who had been killed when he was struck by lightning at sea. This was not such an unusual occurrence then, as the traces of lightning conductor rod from the Erebus and the Terror found at Crozier's Landing will testify. But what extra-ordinary links with the past and the future Fitzjames' use of this name brings!

Dibdin was an eighteenth and early nineteenth century composer and actor who had written the music for Garrick's play 'The Padlock' which opened as far back as 1768. Dibdin had also acted in this play under the direction of Garrick. So Fitzjames' use of this pseudonym takes us back to the eighteenth century London of Garrick and Samuel Johnson. The mournful song remained popular throughout the nineteenth century, although at some point it changed its name from 'Tom Bowline' to 'Tom Bowling'.

Then in 1905 Sir Henry Wood put together his "Fantasia on British Sea Songs" to celebrate the centenary of the Battle of Trafalgar. He performed this every year at the last of his Promenade Concerts in London. Since then the 'Proms' have become world-famous as one of the greatest music festivals of the world and the "Fantasia on British Sea Songs" has been performed every year until 2008 when, sadly, the BBC dropped them. And Sir Henry was not the only twentieth century composer to use this song: it was a favourite of Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears and an arrangement by Britten has also been published.

The tradition at the Proms was for the song to be played slowly with much weeping and mourning from the Proms audience. What a bizarre link this is to James Fitzjames! For those who are not familiar with this strange British tradition, here are two links. The first is to a simple recital of the song as originally composed and sung by Robert Tear:

For those who prefer the more irreverent touch, here is a characteristic performance from the ninety-ninth season of the Proms in 1993 sung by John Tomlinson with the BBC Symphony Orchestra under Barry Wordsworth:

Reminds me; must find an occasion to wear my white tux soon.

Friday, 4 September 2009

Was this the trap which caught the Franklin Expedition?

In an earlier post I made the suggestion, which I have not seen proposed elsewhere, that the conventional interpretation of the Victory Point note may be wrong. I pointed to the ambiguities in its wording. The conventional interpretation is that in it Fitzjames says that the Franklin Expedition made their voyage NORTH from Beechey Island to 77 degrees north in the summer of 1845. They then wintered at Beechey Island before making a second attempt on the North West Passage to the SOUTH down Peel Strait before becoming beset to the north of King William Island in 1846. I suggested that an equally plausible interpretation of the Victory Point note would be that their voyage in 1845 was only as far as Beechey Island and that their two attempts through the Passage, first NORTH and then SOUTH, both took place in 1846.

Unfortunately the Victory Point note really is ambiguous on this and until new evidence emerges there really is no way to be sure one way or another. The more I think about it, the more my personal suspicion is that the conventional interpretation is wrong and that both voyages DID take place in the summer of 1846.

Take a look at this image (

It is a NASA image created by Jesse Allen, using data provided courtesy of the MODIS Rapid Response team. It shows an ice pattern EXACTLY as you would expect if the alternative interpretation is correct. You can see that from Beechey Island the channels north either side of Cornwallis Island are open and would just about permit the ships to sail as far as 77 degrees north and then return by the west side of Cornwallis Island. Just as described in the Victory Point note. From that position there it would have been comparatively easy for the Franklin Expedition to have found the open entrance to Peel Straight. Notice also that the ice there becomes heavy north of King William Island, more or less where the Expedition DID become beset.

This image was taken on 27 August, 2009. Was this exactly how the ice looked in August 1846?

Monday, 17 August 2009

Making money out of the Franklin Expedition

Just thought I should let you all know that I am no longer a disinterested researcher into the Franklin Expedition. I'm now making money from the global interest in the Franklin Expedition. A couple of months ago I decided to 'monetise' my account by allowing google to place appropriate advertisements on my blog. I've just checked through my account and in the last two months I have been paid £0.0137 for this.

Does that make me, academically speaking, no longer an archaeologist but merely a Treasure Hunter?

Incidentally 1.37 pence in today's money is equivalent to slightly more than theepence in the pre-decimalisation currency which the Franklin Expedition would have known. Still not a huge amount of money even in 1845.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

My biography of James Fitzjames

I am now getting very close to finalising my biography of James Fitzjames, Sir John Franklin's second in command on the doomed HMS Erebus of the Franklin Expedition.

One of the most rewarding things about this book for me has been peeling back the decades of neglect and uncovering the truth about the life of this remarkable man James Fitzjames. One thing that has never entirely been forgotten was his bravery in rescuing a man from drowning in the Mersey in 1834. Even in Dan Simmons' 'The Terror' this is mentioned, although Simmons has him being presented with 'a plate' as a reward for this.

Here is an extract from my book which tells what really happened and gives us a remarkably fresh connection with James Fitzjames:

'By February 1835 the 'George Canning' was ready to sail from Liverpool Docks. Fitzjames was optimistic, writing that ‘we are all in good health and spirits at the prospect of embarking in an undertaking which, if it succeeds according to our expectations, will be the most useful as well as the most delightful and interesting expedition ever sent from the shores of England.’ The last material to be taken on board was the substantial stock of gunpowder. While the dockyard workers and the ship’s company were loading this dangerous cargo on 1st February, 1835, Fitzjames distinguished himself with almost wanton bravery.

'The gunpowder was brought to the George Canning on a steamer tied up next to the ship. A Tidewaiter, or Customs official called James Dickinson slipped on the wooden gangplank between the two ships and fell into the fast moving and filthy waters of the Mersey. The tidal waters of the Mersey are very fast – Charlewood claimed the tide was running at six knots – and in a few seconds the man would be swept out of sight. Given that Dickinson could not swim his fate seemed sealed, especially as the weather was cold and there was a strong wind blowing. Without pausing for a second Fitzjames dived overboard into the Mersey after the man, not even stopping to take off his heavy greatcoat. Despite being encumbered by his clothing and boots, he was able to swim after the floundering man and reach him before he drowned. He seized him by the hair and trod water, holding the man’s head above water and preventing him from drowning. Fitzjames’ life and that of the man he had committed himself to now depended on the steamer tied up to the ‘George Canning’ casting off and steaming quickly enough to reach the two men in the water before exposure overcame Fitzjames. The crew of the steamer reacted fast, but it did not reach them until the tide had swept them at least half a mile along the Mersey estuary. Charlewood said that ‘never have I seen anything done so nobly’ and he ‘never felt so happy as when we saw him, once more safe on board.’

'Fitzjames’ clothing was ruined as was the very expensive pocket-watch which he had been carrying. In recognition of his bravery he was granted the Freedom of the City of Liverpool at a dinner in his honour and presented with a silver cup by the Corporation of Liverpool.

'Fitzjames seem to have been genuinely taken aback by the overwhelming response to his bravery. He wrote ‘it was quite extraordinary to see the kindly feelings that everybody entertained towards me after the affair in the Mersey. I was on shore all day afterwards and was stared at most tremendously; everybody I heard wanted to see me'. Modestly he added, 'the feat is I think said rather too much about it in the papers’.

'After the dinner, he brought the cup back to the ‘George Canning’ where ‘we filled it with mulled Port on board and the chaps drank my health’. Fitzjames cannot have been entirely sober as he had already been toasted at the dinner. The drinking of his health on board the ‘George Canning’ was a high-spirited affair and ‘by the by it [the cup] got a slight (sic) knock at the bottom in drowning and leaks a little there’. He asked Robert Coningham to look after the cup while he was away, and he arranged for Mr. Laird to send it to Rose Hill. He suggested Coningham might be able to mend the damage as ‘a little bit of solder would fill it up’.

'One hundred and seventy four years later, the cup is in the collection of the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich. I wrote to the Museum to recount this story, and Barbara Tomlinson, Curator, wrote back to say ‘This is most interesting. The cup is on display, I had a look inside (with a mirror) and there is indeed a small soldered patch in the bottom’.

The cup can be seen today online at

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Glenn Stein, FRGS paper: "Scattered Memories and Frozen Bones"

Avidly reading Andrew Lambert's new book 'Franklin, Tragic Hero of Polar Navigation' (though I much preferred 'The Gates of Hell') I paused at the sentence on page 346: 'Further on McClintock found the skeleton of Harry Peglar or Thomas Armitage, a sick, cold, hungry man who simply fell over and died in the snow'.

This sentence stimulated me to contact Glenn Stein, FRGS, whose 'Scattered Memories and Frozen Bones' paper always struck me as a very well considered discussion of who this unfortunate sailor might be, and to be deserving of wider recognition. The problem is that it has only been published thus far on a forum which requires registration. I contacted Glenn and he very kindly permitted me to add it to my blog. So here, for the delectation of the reading public, is Glenn's very interesting paper:

Scattered Memories and Frozen Bones: Revealing a Sailor of the Franklin Expedition, 1845-48

by Glenn M. Stein, FRGS.

Copyright 2007, Glenn M. Stein, FRGS. To reproduce or distribute, visit: . NOTE: This paper was originally published in the Orders and Medals Research Society Journal (December 2007, Vol. 46, No. 4)


The British-dominated search for a North-West Passage (a sea link between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans via the Arctic) had been going on for over 300 years, when in 1845, the Royal Geographical Society coaxed the Admiralty into making one more attempt at finding the route. At age 59, Capt. Sir John Franklin1 was appointed to command HM Ships Erebus (Commander James Fitzjames)2 and Terror (Capt. Francis Crozier)3. These ships were no strangers to the ice; the Terror served in the Arctic from 1836-37, and both vessels were under the command of Sir James Clark Ross on three Antarctic voyages between 1839-43,4 during which time Crozier commanded the Terror.

After over two years passed and no word was heard from the Franklin Expedition, overland and seaborne search expeditions from 1847-55 determined that all 129 officers and men of the Franklin Expedition had perished somewhere near King William Island. The Erebus and Terror were never found. It was the 19th century equivalent of the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. From 1857-59, a private expedition, sponsored by Lady Franklin and public subscription, was sent to search the area of King William Island. Capt. Francis L. McClintock, RN,5 commanded the screw yacht Fox in an attempt to establish how the explorers died and to bring back relics.

McClintock's second-in-command, Lieut. William R. Hobson, RN,6 found a document signed by Capt. Crozier and Fitzjames in a large cairn (man-made stone landmark) near Victory Point, on the southwest coast of King William Island. The document was dated 28 April 1848 and indicated the Erebus and Terror were abandoned three days previous, having been beset in Victoria Strait since 12 Sept. 1846. 'Sir John Franklin died on the 11th June 1847 and the total loss by deaths in the Expedition has been to date 9 Officers and 15 Men.', ran the document. Further reference was made to 'the late Commander Gore'.7 Crozier's stated intention was to start with the survivors on 26 April 1848 for the Great Fish River (Back River) on the North American mainland.

Information in the document proved that Franklin and his men discovered a channel of communication between known points in Barrow Strait through to the northern coast of America, thus they became the first to discover a North-West Passage.

The document clearly shows that, when the ships were abandoned, Franklin, Gore and seven other officers were already dead, as were 15 men. Two of these men died in January 1846, John Torrington, Leading Stoker (Terror)8 and John Hartnell, AB (Erebus),9 while Pte. William Braine, RM, (Erebus)10 died in April that same year. All three graves were positively identified from carved inscriptions on wooden headboards found on Beechey Island by search expeditions in 1850. In the 1980s each body was exhumed for scientific examination.11

Since the expedition sailed into the central Arctic with 24 officers and 105 men in 1845, 15 officers and 90 men were still living at the beginning of the death march toward the Great Fish River. As the above document was signed by Crozier and Fitzjames, and Third Lieut. John Irving (Terror)12 is noted therein as being alive at the time of writing, three of the 15 surviving officers can be positively identified. A fourth may have been Second Lieut. Henry T.D. Le Vesconte (Erebus).13

Besides the three graves on Beechey Island (two sailors and a marine), the remains of only one other man were subsequently positively identified among the scattering of bones found up and down King William Island.


In 1869, an American expedition under Charles Hall found a skeleton on the south coast of the King William Island. It was taken back to the United States and sent to England in November 1872 by Rear Adm. Edward A. Inglefield, the Naval Attaché in Washington (and Franklin Search veteran).14 Though later identified by a gold filling, when the skeleton was interred under the floor of the vestibule of Greenwich's Painted Hall in 1873, it was described as 'One of Franklin's companions.' Subsequently, this place was converted into an officer's mess hall, and the remains reinterred at the base of the Franklin Monument, which is on the wall of the Chapel. During this process, an inscription was found on the lid of the container: ' This box contains Human Bones, conjectured to have been the skeleton of Lt. H.T.D. Le Vesconte', and a description of their finding by Hall.15

Those connected to Lieut. Irving came as the result of a keenly observant eye. During the 1878-80 expedition led by US Cavalry Lieut. Frederick Schwatka, the primary object of the search was to follow up on recent Eskimo reports that records and journals from the Franklin Expedition might still exist on King William Island. On the western shore of the island, a grave built above ground with flat sandstone slabs was discovered by Heinrich W. Klutschak.16 A skull and other human bones lay just outside it. On a rock at one end of the grave was a silver medal, estimated to be 21/2-23/4 inches in diameter and so thickly covered in grime that Klutschak did not notice it at first glance since it was the same colour as the rock. The solid silver medal bore on one side a bas-relief of the British king with the inscription 'Georgius IIII D.G. Britain. [sic-Britanniarum] Rex, 1820.' On the other side was a laurel wreath and around the outside of it was engraved the inscription 'Second Mathematical Prize, Royal Naval College,' and inside it 'Awarded to John Irving, Midsummer 1830.'17 The medal had been placed in the grave along with the dead man (lieutenant on board Terror) about thirty years earlier. During this long period it had even left a mark on the rock, and it provided definite proof as to the identity of the person buried here.18

On 7 January 1881, Lieut. Irving's remains were laid to rest with full military honours Dean Cemetery, Edinburgh.19 The full description of Irving's stone memorial is worth repeating:

Celtic cross carved with interlaced decoration. The inscription is placed on the shaft. Two carved rope bands run round the top of the base. The base is carved with a relief showing crew members preparing to bury Irving as his body is dragged across the ice to the shore. The two expedition ships are shown beset in the background. The two sides of Irving's silver mathematics medal are shown above. This was found near his original grave and was the principal means by which the remains were identified.20

Thus, out of 129 officers and men of the Franklin Expedition, human hands can so far only apply names to a mere four mortal remains--only four out of all those men.


One spring afternoon, I was challenged with resurrecting one of Franklin's frozen ghosts. A possible link to the Franklin Expedition was discovered on 13 May 1995; oddly, it was only six days prior to the 150th anniversary of the expedition's departure from England. On this day, I spied a China Medal 1842 to William Gibson, HMS Wanderer, on a dealer's list.21 Both the name and ship were familiar to me and my memory cells were set apace, aided by eager fingers clawing their way through bulky folders of accumulated notes.

In 1990 I had read a 36-year-old article by polar historians R.J. Cyriax and A.G.E. Jones 22 about a pocketbook containing papers found by McClintock near a skeleton on King William Island. The skeleton was undisturbed and had not been discovered by Eskimos. After returning home, the papers were examined and McClintock presumed the remains were those of Henry Peter (Harry) Peglar, Capt. Fore Top, HMS Terror, since there was a seaman's parchment certificate which bore Peglar's name and a narrative of his sea service. The papers are significant because they represent the only personal papers recovered from the Franklin Expedition.

I moved onto medallic matters and noted that Peglar served on the 16-gun brig-sloop Wanderer from 1839-44, and was thus likely entitled to the China War Medal 1842; the Wanderer participated in operations during the last stages of the Opium War. Research in early 1993 confirmed the entitlement and that a China War Medal was delivered to a woman with a different last name on 23 May 185723 (no doubt the married sister).24 According to the Arctic Medal 1818-1855 Roll, this medal was delivered to his legal representative on the same day (again his sister).25 As for the mysterious skeleton, it lay hidden in a crevasse in my mind, waiting to be reawakened by future revelations.

While reviewing the Wanderer's China War Medal Roll, a certain William Gibson, Ordinary Seaman, caught my eye. I was comparing names with those individuals entitled to Arctic Medals as listed in The White Ribbon, curious to know if any other "Wanderers" were so entitled. Two men named Gibson appeared: William T. Gibson, Carpenter's Mate, HMS Investigator (1848-49) and William Gibson, Steward, HMS Terror (1845-48). The first man was not a possibility, as he served an apprenticeship at Chatham Dockyard before volunteering for Arctic service, and was not connected to the Wanderer or the China War.26 The China Roll entry for the second William Gibson states: 'Gibson DD G.4146 William Ord Delivd. 28/2/56'.

This entry struck me as odd. By way of comparison, I had studied China War Medal entries for men aboard HMS Hazard and in every case where a man was Discharged Dead (DD), a specific month, day and year was noted--and there was no indication of a medal being issued to next-of-kin--so why was Gibson different? If this man was the same one who served on the Terror, the date of death could not have been known. I made a notation in my files that Steward Gibson was probably entitled to the China War Medal, but carried my research and theorizing no further. I had no real expectation of ever encountering this piece, as it was not listed on the (incomplete) Roll of "surviving" China War Medals compiled by naval collector and researcher Douglas-Morris.

Now Gibson's medal beckoned--but I was faced with a nagging concern I could not ignore. Assuming Ordinary Seaman Gibson was paid off the Wanderer with Peglar in June 1844, how could he regress to a domestic rating by the time he joined the Terror the following spring? What I needed was a comparable scenario, so I scanned the pages of Doulas-Morris' voluminous collection and found James Richman. His medallic trio, consisting of the Crimea (Sebastopol & Azoff), Baltic and Turkish Crimea Medals, provided the ''case law'' I sought. All three medals were engraved 'J.W. RICHMAN', but records revealed that Ordinary Seaman Richman served in the Baltic (1854) on the Stromboli, but afterwards became a Subordinate Officers' Cook on the same vessel in Crimean waters. Little did I know that the ensuing research trail would entangle me in a mysterious web of scattered memories and frozen bones.

A few copied pages from the Terror's Muster Books 27 solidified my hunch: Gibson's previous ship was indeed the Wanderer, which paid off 27 June 1844. He next joined the Terror on 11 March 1845. A bold notation in the 30 June 1845 Muster Book officially closed the crypt on the Franklin Expedition in a typically official laconic fashion:

By A.O.[Admiralty Order] 18 January 1854 No 263 inclosing Notice from the Gazette, it is directed that if they are not heard of previous to 31 March 1854, the officers & crew of HMS Terror are to be removed from the Navy List & are to be considered as having died in the Service--Their wages are to be paid to their Relatives to that Date--By A.O. 1 April 1854 No. 1638 all Books & Papers are to be dispensed with

The 'G.4146' notation by Gibson's name on the China War Medal Roll now acquired particular meaning, as it was a direct link to claims of executors and next-of-kin for back pay of ratings who died in service; 'G' stood for Gibson and '4146' was the claim number.28 The document revealed 'HMS " Terror " ' inscribed at the top. Bureaucratic wheels were set in motion on 11 April, when the Navy Accountant General took action on Stewart Gibson's claim for his son's arrears of pay--the very day it was received by that office. The result was a preliminary questionaire being sent to his residence at 12 Upper Rathbone Place, Marylebone, Middlesex (London).

Over the next three weeks, pay records were researched and a blank petition with a letter were sent to the minister of Gibson's parish, along with an instructional letter to Gibson. The following notation was made on 3 June: 'to Call with two Householders'. This snippet will have some significance, as the reader will soon see. The claim was admitted on the same day, and thirteen days later, the process was complete. A handwritten notation at the bottom, righthand side of the document refers to the general amount paid out to William's father, 'Seaman/under £200'. A search at St. Catherine's House for a possible will, through books covering 1842-52 inclusive, was unsuccessful29--not unusual for a working class individual.

William's entitlement to the Arctic Medal nudged open another portal in his family's life. The Arctic Medal Roll notes William's medal was, 'Delivd. to Charlotte D. James on behalf of the Father who is in Australia 24/6/57' 30--only six weeks after the London Gazette announcement authorizing distribution of the award. Hence, sometime between June 1854 and June 1857, Stewart Gibson, the London tailor, sailed to Australia. But why? Was he a traveler, convict or colonist? The first option was highly unlikely, as people of very modest means did not go globe hopping. If he was a convicted criminal and was sent to a penal colony, he cannot be traced, as the records for convicts and the like dwindle in the 1830s.31 Then I thought about his son's arrears of pay. Was this a clue? Remembering the 'two Householders' at the residence above, did Stewart use the money to emigrate and start a new life, leaving the married sister to claim the Arctic Medal?


Flipping the hourglass, I was all the while delving into William Gibson's life, and on the face of it, there were few leads to intimately resurrect the man. Born in London (Middlesex), he probably grew up in the same residence listed for his father, which was an impoverished area of east London. He volunteered at Sheerness in January 1840 as a first entry into the Navy, aged 17 years, 6 months, and was rated a Captain's Cook. However, within days he was rerated a Boy 1st Class. His first ship was the Wanderer, with a crew of approximately 110 souls--theirs was a close-knit wooden world, and the "Wanderers" lived up to their name.

During the next 4 1/2 years, the crew fought enemies of the British Empire as well as those who robbed their fellow human beings of dignity--these were the slave traders along the Gallinas River, on the west African coast. Commander the Hon. Joseph Denman was the senior officer on that part of the coast, and he and his "Wanderers" destroyed large slave barracoons (enclosures to confine slaves) in 1840. Wading through muddy brackish water and sleeping in damp clothes on swampy ground invited sickness and sixteen men were disabled by malaria.32 For the first time, instead of simply intercepting slavers as they entered or left harbours, direct action was taken to strike at the root of this barbaric trade.

This work had important repercussions. With the barracoons destroyed, the exportation of between 12,000-15,000 slaves per year had been checked at the very place that was long regarded as the heart of the trade. Denman's actions were strongly approved by the home government and he was promoted to Captain. Meanwhile, other naval officers followed his example.

By July 1842, Gibson had been an Ordinary Seaman for nine months and his ship now formed part of a squadron on the Yangtze River, participating in the last stages of the Chinese Opium War. A body of seamen and marines from the squadron accompanied a force of more than 6,600 soldiers attacking the city of Chingkiang on the 21st. A certain Lieut. James Fitzjames brought up some rockets and made good use of them during the assault; he was wounded afterwards, while attempting to get off a rocket during a street battle.33 Mate George Henry Hodgson, a shipmate from the Cornwallis, also distinguished himself that day.34 Promoted to Lieutenant in December,35 he went on from the Cornwallis to join the Wanderer on 5 April 1843.36
By February 1844, Hodgson was part of a 150-man boat expedition from the Wanderer, the sloop Harlequin and the East India Company's steamer Diana, attacking pirates in northern Borneo. Hodgson landed under heavy fire with his men in the Wanderer's cutter and carried a stockade mounting some brass guns; which were then embarked. This sharp affair resulted in eleven serious casualties, two of whom later died of their wounds. Among the severely wounded was the Wanderer's Gunner, Thomas Loar37, who was hit in three places by musket balls. After the ship arrived home, he was invalided to Haslar Hospital. The pirates lost between 50 and 70 killed, mainly at the stockade.38

When the Wanderer paid off on 27 June and the men who had seen so much blood letting and human suffering on two continents went their separate ways. Some of them would be reunited in less than a year's time to begin a very different journey--a journey to seek a North-West Passage. They were to be bonded again, not in life-and-death combat with other men, but in a struggle against a much more tenacious foe, one which ultimately demanded pitting their bodies and souls against overwhelming natural forces.


Three former "Wanderers" volunteered for the Franklin's Expedition--all for service in HMS Terror: Peglar joined the ship on 11 March, Hodgson the next day and Gibson on the 19th.39 Hodgson must have been Fitzjames' friend, or at least made an impression on him, as Fitzjames recommended Hodgson for an appointment to the expedition.40 One cannot help wonder if Hodgson and/or Peglar spoke up for Gibson upon the latter volunteering for the expedition?

William Gibson was rated a Subordinate Officers' Steward aboard the Terror, thus assuming a domestic role, rather than that of a seaman. This requires some explanation, which might be found in the custom of manning polar expeditions by the Royal Navy. As a general rule, ordinary seamen were not taken on as volunteers; adults had to be at least able seamen. It would appear that Gibson's sailorly experience did not come up to par, but he could join in a domestic capacity. Several able seamen joined the ship after Gibson, so his not being taken on in that rate had nothing to do with a lack of vacancies. His cabin was sandwiched between the seamen's mess and the Second Mate's quarters, on the lower deck's port side. Immediately across the way were the warrant officers' berthing space and their mess.41 It was these men, the Boatswain, Engineer and Carpenter, to whom Gibson was responsible.

And that was it - everything I knew about William Gibson. Like nearly all of Franklin's men, he simply vanished in the ice and snow. What happened to him? Something drew me back to Cyriax and Jones' article about the frozen bones found by McClintock in 185942 and that skeleton sheltering in the back of my mind slowly began creeping toward the light of new knowledge.


On 25 May 1859, McClintock came upon a partly-exposed skeleton on the coast of King William Island, east of Cape Herschel. His opinion was that the individual had fallen forward and gone to sleep, but Danish Interpreter in the Eskimo language Carl Petersen was of a different mind; he thought the man might have sat down to rest on the stone just behind the skeleton and fallen forward attempting to stand up. McClintock fitted together several fragments of uniform and clothing, and was able to determine exactly what the man had worn. These fragments convinced McClintock that the man had either been an officer's servant or a steward, right down to 'the loose bow-knot in which his neck-handkerchief was tied not being used by seamen or officers.' The man had succeeded in making it some 135 miles from where Erebus and Terror were abandoned on 22 April 1848. More than likely, he got separated from a larger party.

Cyriax and Jones questioned McClintock's assumption that the skeleton belonged to Peglar and their argument centered around the uniform. Peglar was never a steward or officer's servant in the Royal Navy and it seems highly improbable that a first class petty officer would don the uniform of a lowly domestic. McClintock stated that when the possessor of the pocketbook left the ship, he had 'dressed himself in his best shore-going clothes, the clothes reserved to be worn on the day of landing once more in England'. Jones commented that 'They may have used their best clothes as their working clothes were worn out after 3+ years.'43 Seemingly, the only other possibility is that the clothing situation was desperate and Peglar wore whatever was on hand.

The scene near Cape Herschel also divulged an important clue missed by Cyriax and Jones. Nearby the skeleton was a half sovereign dated 1844, a sixpence dated 1831, a horn pocket comb containing some light brown hairs, the pocketbook, and a small clothes brush. The last item has particular significance: a clothes brush is just the thing a real steward or officer's servant would have in his possession.

So if the skeleton was not Peglar, who was it, and how did that person come to possess Peglar's papers? There is no doubt that the remains were those of a Franklin Expedition member and Cyriax and Jones conjectured that he may have been a friend-- someone entrusted with Peglar's seaman's certificate. Such a certificate was very valuable, for it represented an official record by which the sailor could prove his naval service and thus gain further employment. Peglar would have only given this document to someone he trusted. Cyriax and Jones suggest that Thomas Armitage, Gun Room Steward in the Terror, may have been such a friend. He is referred to in official documents as Armitage or Harmitage.

Also among the papers was a narrative of Peglar's sea service, and though unsigned, there is little doubt it was written by Peglar; the handwriting is clear, though the spelling is poor. Another sheet dated 21 April 1847 has words of a sea shanty (song) and was written in the identical hand of the narrative of sea service.

All the handwriting on the remaining papers is in the same hand, which is entirely different from the above documents. Jones did not compare the handwritings for their article, as this was left up to Dr. Cyriax.44 Many of the words are spelt backwards and Jones commented, 'For half-educated people, writing backwards would have been quite an achievement. The sort of things we did as boys.'45 There is evidence that some of the writings were jointly produced by Peglar and one of his shipmates, and this is discussed below. Included in the fragmented and sometimes illegible lower deck doggerel are descriptions of sea creatures and places visited, with the latter providing clues as to the possible identity of the skeleton.

The question arose in the Author's mind as to whether or not sources exist that contain handwriting samples for Armitage and Gibson, so as to perhaps one day compare the writing in the papers written in a hand different from Peglar's. A source would be a will, but neither Gibson or Armitage left one. Most intriguingly, near the completion this article, the Author obtained a photocopy of Armitage's 1826 marriage certificate. This document bears out that, at that time, he was illiterate. The certificate simply has 'X his mark' (ADM 44/A10).

At the times Gibson and Armitage joined the Navy, sailors were only employed for as long as a ship was commissioned (usually three to five years), and had no long-term contract. A system of long-term contracts (Continuous Service) was not introduced for most ratings until 1853, and naturally, men had to sign these documents, or make their marks if they were illiterate. Consequently, there do not appear to be any sources of handwriting samples for either Gibson or Armitage.

At the end of their article, Cyriax and Jones suggested Peglar's friend may have been Armitage,46 and Jones reinforces this suggestion in his 1984 article.47 But I wondered - could it have been Gibson McClintock found? I began casting a wide net for more information.

I wrote to A.G.E. Jones, asking him if he made the connection between Peglar and Gibson. He replied, 'The Wanderer--I did not look closely at the muster book and description book, and did not list another of Franklin's men...tracing [ratings] backwards to previous ships is a labour, which I do not undertake unless I really want to complete a man's history.'48 To the extent surviving records permitted, I had the service careers of the remaining stewards researched (two on the Terror and four on Erebus), to determine if any of them crossed paths with Peglar during their time in the Royal Navy. None had any evident links to Peglar.

In writing about the skeletal remains, McClintock declared, 'This victim was a young man, slightly built, and perhaps above the common height...' and '...the limbs and smaller bones [were] either dissevered or gnawed away by smaller animals.'49 How did McClintock, a Royal Navy Captain without any medical background, determine the age, build and height of a skeleton lying down, particularly with its limbs either separated or eaten away?50 Neither Armitage or Peglar could be described as "young" when they died; in 1848, Armitage was about 40 years old and Peglar about 36 years of age. In 1834, Armitage was 5' 9" tall and Peglar was 5' 7 1/2" tall. In the end, the skeleton cannot offer any hard evidence respecting its identity.

The only other human remains were the light brown hairs in the horn pocket comb, which had gone through some 12 summer bleachings and winter freezes, apart from whatever shades of brown they were in the first place. They cannot offer any clues, since Peglar, Armitage and Gibson all had brown hair.


Evidence linking Peglar and Armitage:

(1) Both were on the Gannett between May 1834 and June 1837. She was an 18-gun brig-sloop, with approximately 130 crew.51

(2) The pocketbook found near the skeleton contained Peglar's seaman's certificate, a document that would only have been in the possession of a trusted friend.

(3) Some of the writings in a different hand made reference to a place called Cumanar (presumably Cumaná, Venezuela, where both men visited in the Gannett from late 1834 until January 1835). At one point, Jones wrote, 'I put my money on Thomas Armitage because of the connection with Cumana.'52

Evidence linking Peglar and Gibson:

(1) Both were on the Wanderer during January 1840 to June 1844, when the ship was paid off.53 This was a longer and more recent link with Peglar.

(2) Peglar's seaman's certificate. Gibson was a deck sailor on the Wanderer, rather than a domestic like Armitage on the Gannett. Gibson therefore would have had closer contact aboard the Wanderer with a first class petty officer like Peglar, in her boats and onshore, serving in any punitive operations against the slavers and pirates.

(3) One sheet of paper begins:

'O Death, whare is thy sting, the grave at Comfort Cove for who has any douat how. . .the dyer sad and whare traffalegar, etc.'

Most of the words are spelt backwards and many that follow are illegible, so the full meaning cannot be understood. The writer appears to have drawn parallels between the biblical verse shown below and current events, events of the recent past and an event from the distant past. To ease the analysis of the readable portion, it is best to break it down into three parts:

(a) 'O Death, whare is thy sting' was obviously taken from the Burial Service or the New Testament. The full verse is from the King James' Bible, 1Corinthians 15:55: 'O DEATH, WHERE IS THY STING? O GRAVE, WHERE IS THY VICTORY?'. The other side of the paper (see below) features words that are connected to the Terror (evidently in the Arctic), so 'O Death, whare is thy sting' may foreshadow the doom that was to overtake the writer and his shipmates.

(b) The segment 'the grave at Comfort Cove' is particularly noteworthy for two reasons: First, Peglar and Gibson visited Ascension Island in the Wanderer from August to September 1840 and again in 1841. The island became a base for ships' crews to rest and recuperate from anti-slave trade operations.54 Between the 1830s and 1860s, the site chosen to quarantine fever victims was known as Comfort Cove (also called Comfortless Cove, the name it retains today). Second, the reference to 'the grave' corresponds to little graveyards dotting that place.55 There were several sick crewmen among the "Wanderers" from anti-slave trade operations, so this could also be a reference to a dead shipmate or to the graveyards generally.

(c) The words 'whare traffalegar' are an apparant allusion to the historic 1805 naval victory off Cape Trafalgar, Spain. Every sailor knew this battle, so the reference could mean anything.

(4) On the other side of the paper are the only writings that can be directly connected with the Terror, presumably while in the Arctic. There is a reference to a 'camp clear'. It seems likely that this place was set up onshore, near where the Terror and Erebus were beset in the ice. Such temporary camps existed all along the coast of King William Island, along the line of retreat toward the North American mainland. With the references to Comfort Cove and the words 'you peglar', there is the strong suggestion of a joint writing effort.

Along with the various locations noted among all the papers, there is a reference to an Asham Bay, Trinidad. In Jamaican Creole, asham is parched, sweetened and ground corn,56 but I cannot find any place named Asham Bay (only the town of Asham, Nigeria). Asham Bay easily could have been a local name, or one made up by Peglar and/or his shipmate, and thus not found on any map.

Peglar spent several months at Port Royal, Jamaica, during 1825-26. Though he afterward visited most places on the West Indies Station, I have no evidence that he called on Trinidad. There is a year or two gap in his service in the early 1830s and he may have spent time aboard a merchant ship before again entering the Royal Navy. If he served aboard a merchant ship during this period, it would be impossible to trace him.

There is also no definite evidence that Armitage ever visited Trinidad or Ascension, but a seven-year gap in his service exists between 1827 and 1834, and he too may have served aboard a merchant ship during this time. He joined the Gannett in 1834, and from this ship went to the 16-gun brig Serpent in June 1837,57 serving at Port Royal. The time between Armitage leaving the Serpent and joining the Terror is another gap in his life that remains unfilled.

Because Gibson did not have seagoing experience when he joined the Royal Navy and served on only two vessels before he died, his movements can be tracked with even greater precision. His ships never called on Trinidad or Cumaná, but the Wanderer twice visited Ascension Island while Gibson was aboard.

Without more evidence, Franklin's sailor will never fully regain his identity. However, the Author admits a certain pride upon reading two comments Mr. A.G.E. Jones penned to him during the search for answers to this mystery: 'On the balance, it may have been more likely Gibson, not Armitage.'58 and afterward, 'Weighing up the tangible and intangible evidence, and the gaps in our knowledge, Gibson looks a better bet.'59

As a footnote to the Franklin Expedition tragedy, in May 1859 McClintock purchased a relic from the Inuit near Cape Norton, on King William Island's east coast. It was a silver tablespoon bearing Franklin's crest, with the initials 'W.G.' scratched upon it.60 Only two expedition members bore these initials, one was William Goddard, Captain of the Hold, HMS Terror--the other was our wandering young steward.

A final comment from Mr. Jones provides encouragement for future evdeavours by all: 'Carry on wondering, as that is the way to get to the bottom of a story that everybody has taken for granted.'


1 Franklin's NGS 1793-1840/Copenhagen 1801, Trafalgar and B.S. 14 Dec. 1814, was sold at Sotheby's on 26 November 1980 for £10,000 ($20,700US) to The Canadian War Museum. It is named SIR JOHN FRANKLIN, LIEUT. R.N.; Franklin's Arctic Medal 1818-1855 was issued and the Roll shows: '[signed] Edward Sabine 7/5/57 for Lady Franklin'. Edward Sabine (1788-1883) was a Royal Army officer and scientist who participated in three Arctic expeditions between 1818 and 1823. Arctic Medal 1818-1855 Roll (ADM 171/9); However, the NGS is displayed in a case with an Arctic Medal engraved: JOHN H. BUCHAN. MIDSHIPMAN. H.M.S. DOROTHEA. The Arctic Medal Roll shows Buchan's medal was issued.
2 Fitzjames' group sold at Glendining, 20-21 December 1927, lot 367, £2 17s 6d. I have not been able to find any trace of it after this date and it may be held by a private/public institution. It consisted of the NGS 1793-1840/Syria (Lieut./Ganges); China War Medal 1842 (Lieut./Cornwallis); Royal Humane Society's silver medal (Midshipman/Euphrates, Liverpool Dock/January 1835)-the catalogue description states 1836; St. Jean d'Acre Medal (silver). It seems likely his agent claimed his NGS while Fitzjames was on the Arctic expedition. The China Medal Roll (ADM 171/12) shows this medal was issued '6/3/51', evidently claimed by an agent. The Arctic Medal Roll does not show the issue of this medal.
3 The Arctic Medal Roll does not show the issue of Crozier's medal, but it was claimed by Mr. Rawdon Crozier, his great-great-nephew, and presented to him on 5 August 1988.
4 Ross qualified for the medal based on seven Arctic expeditions and was sent the award on 16 August 1857. That same year, he wrote to the Admiralty requesting the Arctic Medal for his crews who voyaged to Antarctica, but his request was refused.
5 McClintock signed for his original Arctic Medal on 13 May 1857 and was sent a duplicate on 16 December 1892. According to Poulsom & Myres, both medals are known to exist and are engraved.
6 Hobson signed for his Arctic Medal.
7 The Arctic Medal Roll does not show the issue of Gore's medal. Though he was a Midshipman onboard the Albion during the Battle of Navarino, nobody claimed his NGS/Navarino on his behalf. Gore's China service requires a bit of unraveling. According Markham (1875), Gore served as a Lieutenant on the Herald during the China War. Cyriax (1939) states Gore was a Lieutenant in the Volage during the conflict. He does not appear on the China War Medal Roll for the Herald and if he was aboard the Volage, that ship did not qualify for the China War Medal. The Volage did see action at the capture of Chusan and the Bogue Forts, but she left the Far East in December 1840 and returned to England. Qualification for the award was for participation in actions beginning in January 1841.
8 The Arctic Medal Roll does not show the issue of Torrington's medal.
9 The Arctic Medal Roll states 'D.D. 4th Jan. 1846.', but does not show the issue of his medal, even though the medal to his brother Thomas (also on the Erebus) was sent on 29 May 1857. Their descendants are in possession of several documents and letters, including one from the Department of the Accountant General, dated 1 May 1854, stating that 'John Hartnell...died on the 4th January 1846 in debt to the Crown £117.4.8'. Perhaps both medals were claimed, but John's was refused on account of this debt? At length, an Arctic Medal was issued to his great-great-nephew, Mr. Donald Bray, on 8 January 1986. John Hartnell's ship previous to the Erebus was the Volage, from which he was discharged on 1 February 1845. He may have served under Gore on this ship, but more research is needed to establish this connection.
10 The Arctic Medal Roll does not show the issue of Braine's medal.
11 Cyriax, op.cit.; Cyriax (1958); Beattie & Geiger (1987).
12 Irving's Arctic Medal was sent on 14 May 1857.
13 The Arctic Medal Roll does not show the issue of Le Vesconte's medal.
14 Cyriax (1939).
15 Owen (1978).
16 Heinrich Wenzel Klutschak (1848-1890) was born in Prague, but emigrated to the United States in 1871. He served as an illustrator and surveyor with the expedition. The following was reported in the Army & Navy Register of May 14, 1881: 'The Emperor of Austria has been the first foreign potentate to recognize the importance of Lieutenant Schwatka's expedition. Henry W. Klutschak, a member of the expedition, who has recently been lecturing in Germany on his Arctic experiences, was the recipient of marked attention from the Emperor, who decorated him with the Golden Cross of Honor.'
17 The subsequent custodian of Irving's prize medal came to light through at a special Royal Scottish Geographical Society meeting, held on 4 June 1895 and the following days. Among objects and images related to Irving lent for an exhibit was his prize medal, which was on loan from The United Service Institution, London.
18 Klutschak (1987); Gilder (1881)--Gilder was Schwatka's second-in-command.
19 The Illustrated London News, 8 January 1881.
20 Maritime Memorials (M552), NMM website.
21 The medal was advertised without any accompanying research.
22 Cyriax & Jones (1954).
23 Distribution of the China War Medal to officers and men of the RN and RM did not begin until August 1846, consequently, those intended for Franklin Expedition members evidently rested on the Navy Accountant General's shelves until being posthumously issued to family members. Douglas-Morris (1987); China Medal Roll.
24 Jones (1984).
25 Arctic Medal Roll.
26 According to his obituary in the Naval Warrant Officers' Journal (1894), Gibson retired as a Chief Carpenter in 1878. The Arctic Roll does not show the issue of his medal.
27 ADM 38/1962.
28 ADM 44/617.
29 Morris to Stein, 16 January 1996.
30 Arctic Medal Roll.
31 John to Stein, 12 March 1997.
32 Winton (1977).
33 Hall & Bernard (1847).
34 Clowes (1901).
35 Cyriax, op.cit.
36 Davis (2004). Though Hodgson appears on the Cornwallis' China War Medal Roll, there are no despatch details. The Arctic Medal Roll shows that Edward Sabine signed for Hodgson's and Franklin's medals on the same day (7 May 1857).
37 The China War Medal Roll shows that Loar's medal was sent/delivered to a Portsea address on 28 August 1846. Davis' website has a list of the Wanderer's officers, taken from the Muster Book, and the Gunner's surname is shown as 'Goar'. This is probably incorrect and the result of an error in transcribing handwritten records.
38 Course (1966); Rutter (1986).
39 ADM 38/1962.
40 Cyriax, op.cit.
41 Cookman (2000).
42 Cyriax & Jones, op.cit.
43 Jones to Stein, 28 September 1995.
44 Jones to Stein, 24 August 1995.
45 Jones to Stein, 16 October 1995.
46 Armitage's entry on the Arctic Medal Roll simply states "Sent", plus the date (which is indistinct). The Roll also indicates an alias which does not appear on the Terror's Muster List--Harmitage. However, according to Cyriax & Jones, both names appear in HMS Gannett's Description Book (ADM 37/9149).
47 Jones, 1984.
48 Jones to Stein, 24 August 1995.
49 McClintock (1859).
50 Jones to Stein, 24 August & 28 September 1995. Another example of a non-medical person making such a determination can be found in Heindrich Klutschak's Overland to Starvation Cove: '...we found a skull [at Franklin Point] which Lieutenant Schwatka immediately identified as that of a white man.'
51 Lavery (1989).
52 Jones to Stein, 24 August 1995.
53 Jones (1984).
54 Lloyd (1949).
55 Avis (2002); Weaver (2003).
56 Pawka (2002).
57 Cyriax & Jones, op.cit.
58 Jones to Stein, 24 August 1995.
59 Jones to Stein, 28 September 1995.
60 McClintock, op.cit.


Mr. J. Arnold
Mr. P. Attwood
Mr. R. Broad
Mr. E. Fernberg
Ms. J. Farrington
Ms. G. Hughes
Mr. P. John
Mr. A.G.E. Jones
Mr. D.A.E. Morris
Mr. D. Perkins
Mr. C. Pulsifer
Ms. M. Stein
Mr. D.C. Woodman

Published and Unpublished Sources

ADM 38/672. Muster books of HMS Erebus. 3 March to 19 May 1845.
ADM 38/1962. Muster books of HMS Terror. 3 March to 17 May 1845 & 30 June 1845.
ADM 38/9306. CDO books of HMS Wanderer. 18 Nov. 1839 to 27 June 1844.
ADM 44/617. Series EC. Claims of executors and next-of-kin for back pay of ratings who died in service 1800-1860.
ADM 171/9. Arctic Medal 1818-1855 Roll.
ADM 171/12. China War Medal 1842 Roll.
Avis, G. 2002. Ascension Island Historical Society.
Beattie, O. & Geiger, J. 1987. Frozen in Time: Unlocking the Secrets of the Franklin Expedition. New York: E.P. Dutton.
Chapman Brothers (publishers). 1886. Portrait and Biographical Album of Warren County, Illinois, etc. Chicago.
Clowes, W.L. 1901. The Royal Navy A History From Earliest Times to Present (Vol. VI). London: Sampson Low, Marston and Company (reprint by AMC Press, New York, 1966).
Cookman, S. 2000. Iceblink. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Course, Capt. A.G. 1966. Pirates of the Eastern Seas. London: Frederick Muller Ltd.
Cyriax, R. J. 1939. Sir John Franklin's Last Arctic Expedition. London: Methuen & Co. (reprinted by The Arctic Press, Plaistow and Sutton Coldfield, 1997).
Cyriax, R.J. & Jones, A.G.E. 1954. The Papers in the Possession of Harry Peglar, Captain of the Foretop, H.M.S. Terror, 1845. Cambridge: The Mariner's Mirror 40 (3): 186-195.
Cyriax, R.J. 1958. The Two Franklin Expedition Records Found on King William Island. Cambridge: The Mariner's Mirror 44 (3): 179-189.
Davis, P. 2004. William Loney RN - Victorian naval surgeon.
De Bray, E.F. 1992. A Frenchman in Search of Franklin: De Bray's Arctic Journal 1852-1854. Toronto: University of Toronto Press (translated and edited by William Barr).
Douglas-Morris, K.J. 1982. The Naval General Service Medal Roll 1793-1840. London: privately printed.
Douglas-Morris, K.J. 1987. Naval Medals 1793-1856. London: privately printed.
Douglas-Morris, K.J. 1994. Naval Medals 1857-1880. London: privately printed.
Gilder, W.F. 1881. Schwatka's Search Sledging in the Arctic in Quest of the Franklin Records. New York: Charles Scribners' Sons (reprinted by Abercrombie & Fitch, 1966).
Hall, Capt. W.H. & Bernard, W.D. 1847. The Nemesis in China, Comprising a History of the Late War in That Country; with an Account of the Colony of Hong Kong. London: Henry Colburn.
Holland, C. 1994. Arctic Exploration and Development c. 500 b.c. to 1915 An Encylopedia. New York & London: Garland Publishing, Inc.
The Illustrated London News
Jones, A.G.E. August-November 1995. Correspondence with Author.
Jones, A.G.E. 1984. Henry Peter Peglar (1811-48). Oxford: Notes & Queries.
Klutschak, H. 1987. Overland to Starvation Cove: With the Inuit in Search of Franklin 1878-1880. Toronto, etc.: University of Toronto Press (translation and editing by William Barr of Als Eskimo unter den Eskimos).
Koerbel, Hermann F. 2003. The History of Austrian Polar Exploration.
Lavery, B. 1989. Nelson's Navy: The Ships, Men and Organisation 1793-1815. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press.
Lloyd, C. 1949. The Navy and the Slave Trade. London: Longmans, Green and Co.
Lloyd-Jones, Ralph. 2005. The men who sailed with Franklin.
Polar Record, 41 (219); 311-318.
Markham, C.R. 1875. The Arctic Navy List. London: Griffin & Co.
(reprint by The Naval and Military Press, Dallington, 1992).
McClintock, Capt. F.L. 1859. The Voyage of the 'Fox' in the Arctic Seas: A Narrative of the Discovery of the Fate of Sir John Franklin and His Companions. London: John Murray (reprint by Hurtig, Edmonton, 1972).
Mills, W.J. 2003. Exploring Polar Frontiers: A Historical Encyclopedia (Vol. 1, A-L). Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO Inc.
Myres, Capt. J.A.L. 1986. The Franklin Expedition: A Long-delayed Presentation. OMRS Journal, 25 (3); 192.
National Maritime Museum.
Naval Warrant Officers' Journal. June 1894.
Nelson, T. (publisher). 1990. The Holy Bible (King James' version). Nashville, Tennessee.
Nourse, J.E. (editor) 1879. Narrative of the Second Arctic Expedition Made By Charles F. Hall... During The Years 1864-'69. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office.
Owen, R. 1978. The Fate of Franklin. London: Hutchinson & Co.
Pawka, M. (compiler). 2002. Rasta/Patois dictionary,, Arrayed Roots Media.
Phillips, M. 2003. Ships of the Old Navy: A history of the sailing ships of the Royal Navy,

Sunday, 28 June 2009

More on the Franklin Expedition Daguerreotypes

I owe a huge debt of thanks to Heather Lane, Librarian and Keeper of Collections at the Scott Polar Research Institute at Cambridge and her colleagues Lucy Martin, Picture Library Manager and Fiona Cahill, Conservator. Last Friday 26th June, they very kindly permitted me to see the original Daguerreotypes taken in 1845 of members of the Franklin Expedition in their collection and were extremely generous with their time and expertise. Here's a picture of me with one of the Daguerrreotypes.

What are the Daguerreotypes like? That's one of them in front of me on the desk. (Incidentally that is NOT a half-drunk bottle of scotch next to me - it's something mysterious in a bottle of theirs...) Each Daguerreotype is about 4 inches by 3 inches and is kept under glass in a neat little box. The detail on them is very fine, much more than appears to be the case from the reproductions which circulate on the internet at the moment, and most of them also have some slight colouring, which was a tinting applied to the image after it was taken. Here is a near-contemporary description of how they were taken:
and the FAQ’s of the Daguerreian Society are also instructive:
One point of significance is that a Daguerreotype is an original image, not a positive derived from a negative like a conventional photograph. As the Society’s FAQ’s say, it is “normally a reversed (or, correctly stated, a laterally-reversed) image. The only way to get a correct orientation was to copy the image with a second daguerreotype, or to make the original daguerreotype using a reversing prism or mirror. Besides the complexity, a problem with a reversing mirror was, if taken outdoors, it may be subject to movement by a breeze causing a blurred image. So typically people just lived with a reversed image”. There are twelve Daguerreotypes at the SPRI in total.
The other images in existence are what appear to be early copies of Franklin Expedition Daguerreotypes which are held at the Derbyshire County Archive in Matlock, and what appear to be photographs of these copies in the National Maritime Museum’s image collection, which you can see here:
The National Maritime Museum’s collection has fourteen images, which proves that fourteen of the twenty four officers on the Expedition were Daguerreotyped. A comparison of the images in the two collections suggests that perhaps more were originally taken. Here’s why. In ten cases, the image in the photograph in the National Maritime Museum is identical with that of the Daguerreotype now held at SPRI. This is true for Franklin, Reid, Collins, Stanley, Le Vesconte, Gore, Osmer, Fairholme, Couch and Goodsir, although five of them (Franklin, Stanley, Le Vesconte, Osmer and Goodsir) have been reversed. This suggests that they not all the copies were made at the same time. In two cases, Fitzjames and Des Voeux, the picture on the National Maritime Museum photograph is of a different Daguerreotype. It is well known that two Daguerreotypes were taken of Fitzjames – in the National Maritime Museum image he is holding a telescope and in the Daguerreotype at Cambridge he is not. But I don’t think it has previously been realised that the images of Des Voeux are also different – in the National Maritime Museum image he is hatless, but in the Cambridge Daguerreotype he is wearing a hat. And two officers appear on an image at the National Maritime Museum, Crozier and Sargent, although there is no Daguerreotype of either of them at Cambridge. This prompts some further questions:

1) What are the images at Matlock, from which apparently the National Maritime Museum photos were derived? They are undoubtedly taken from Daguerreotypes, but when were they made, by whom and with what process?

2) Were the Derbyshire images made directly from the original Daguerreotypes? Perhaps the ones which are reversed went through a further intermediate step?

3) Where are the Daguerreotypes of Crozier and Sargent, which the Derbyshire copyist had access to but which seem now to be lost?

4) If these two Daguerreotypes have been lost, could others have been lost also? Des Voeux and Fitzjames were both taken twice, so perhaps each officer was taken twice? It is noteworthy that in some Daguerreotypes the subject is wearing his hat and in others he is hatless. This might suggest that two Daguerreotypes were taken of each subject, one with and one without his hat, although Fitzjames is hatless in both images. That would suggest that twenty eight Daguerreotypes were taken – two of each officer – with sixteen surviving until the date the unknown copyist made the Derbyshire/National Maritime Museum copies, and twelve finding their way into the SPRI Collection at Cambridge.

5) Why, with the exception of Crozier, are all the officers taken from the Erebus? Was a similar set of Daguerreotypes taken of the officers on board the Terror? The connection with Derbyshire suggests that the Daguerreotypes which have survived may have passed through Lady Franklin’s hands. The Erebus was of course Sir John Franklin’s ship, so that might suggest why she kept these Daguerreotype. If two were taken of the officers on the Terror, do some of them still survive, unrecognised, in other museums, collections or in the hands of descendants or relatives?

I may be wrong with some of these speculations and there may be other questions which can be asked (and perhaps answered) too, but I hope this analysis and these questions can serve to help others take this picture research forwards. Before closing I’d just make a few more comments.

Dr. Huw Lewis-Jones of the Scott Polar Research Institute has already observed that in the polished peak of Lt. Gore’s cap can be seen what appears to be the reflection of the rigging of a ship. Most of the Daguerreotypes seem to have been taken in the same place and in fact what appears to be rigging or reflections of images derived from ships can also be seen in the peaks of Osmer’s, Fairholme’s and Goodsir’s caps as well. Someone with a skill at optics might be able to consolidate these reflected images and build up a better picture of the scene where these Daguerreotypes were taken.

The Scott Polar Research Institute have made really high quality digital copies of the Daguerreotypes in their collection, which will soon be published on their Freeze Frame website. This will be a superb resource for scholars of photography as well as of the Franklin Expedition and I am sure will enable a lot more information to be gleaned from these important images. I think people who are familiar with the National Maritime Museum images will be surprised by some of these. For example, the National Maritime Museum image of Collins is very overexposed, yet the SPRI Daguerreotype image of him is a superb and detailed portrait, as is that of Couch.

A final thought is that the lettering on the log-book which Lt. Le Vesconte is holding looks as though it is likely to be legible under a microscope.. That will be interesting – perhaps that is the closest we will ever get to reading the log of the Erebus?