In the Arctic Seas Part 27

_Saturday night, 17th Sept._--A week of favorable gales has brought us from Cape Farewell to within 400 miles of Land's End, or about 1100 miles of distance. But such rough weather is not pleasant in so small a vessel, however much "like a duck" she may be; and our two years'

sojourn in the still waters of the frozen North has made us very susceptible of the change.


We sailed all the way home from Greenland, yet the 'Fox' made the passage in only nineteen days, arriving in the English Channel on the 20th September; on the evening of the 21st I reached London (having landed at Portsmouth), and made known to the Admiralty the result of my voyage.

On the 23rd September the 'Fox' was taken into dock at Blackwall; and, through the kindness and promptitude of the Lords of the Admiralty, I was enabled on the 27th, when the crew were assembled for the last time, to present the Arctic medal to such of my companions as had not already received it for previous Arctic service, and also to inform Lieutenant Hobson that his promotion to the rank of Commander would speedily take place.

I will not intrude upon the reader, who has followed me through the pages of this simple narrative, any description of my feelings on finding the enthusiasm with which we were all received on landing upon our native shores. The blessing of Providence had attended our efforts, and more than a full measure of approval from our friends and countrymen has been our reward. For myself the testimonial given me by the officers and crew of the 'Fox' has touched me perhaps more than all. The purchase of a gold chronometer, for presentation to me, was the first use the men made of their earnings; and as long as I live it will remind me of that perfect harmony, that mutual esteem and goodwill, which made our ship's company a happy little community, and contributed materially to the success of the expedition.

The names I have given to my discoveries are, with the exception of those by which I have endeavored to honor the members of the lost expedition, the names of active supporters of the recent search, and friends of Franklin and his companions, though such names are far from exhausting the number of those who have the highest claims to distinction on both grounds.

It will be observed that I have refrained from repeating names which have already been commemorated by preceding commanders, and which therefore are already in our charts. Besides the individuals already mentioned in the narrative, Sir Thomas D. Acland, one of the most zealous promoters of the search, both in and out of the House of Commons; Monsieur De la Roquette, Vice-President of the Geographical Society of Paris, and author of an interesting biography of Franklin; Rear-Admiral Fitzroy; and Major-General Pasley, R.E., stand high amongst those whom it has been my privilege to honor.

Although much talent has been brought to bear upon the deciphering of the letters found in a pocket-book near Cape Herschel (page 248 _ante_), yet, from their being so very much defaced by time, only a few detached sentences have been made out, and these do not in the slightest degree refer to the proceedings of the lost expedition.

It will be seen that I have noticed (page 260) the discrepancy between the number of souls accounted for by the Point Victory Record, and the generally received opinion that 138 individuals sailed in the 'Erebus'

and 'Terror.'

I am now enabled to state, on the authority of the Admiralty, that only one hundred and thirty-four individuals left the United Kingdom, and of these five men subsequently returned: one by H.M.S. 'Rattler,' and four by the transport 'Barretto Junior;' so that only one hundred and twenty-nine--the exact number mentioned in the record--actually entered the ice. The five invalids were--

From H.M.S. 'Terror,' John Brown, Able seaman.

" Robert Carr, Armorer.

" James Elliot, Sailmaker.

" William Aitken, Marine.

From H.M.S. 'Erebus,' Thomas Birt, Armorer.

The relics we have brought home have been deposited by the Admiralty in the United Service Institution, and now form a national memento--the most simple and most touching--of those heroic men who perished in the path of duty, but not until they had achieved the grand object of their voyage,--the _Discovery of the North-West Passage_.

_London, 24th Nov., 1859._


No. I.


60, Pall Mall, December 2, 1856.


I trust I may be permitted, as the widow of Sir John Franklin, to draw the attention of Her Majesty's Government to the unsettled state of a question which a few months ago was under their consideration, and to express a well-grounded hope that a final effort may be made to ascertain the fate and recover the remains of my husband's expedition.

Your Lordship will allow me to remind you that a Memorial[29] with this object in view (of which I enclose a printed copy) was early in June last presented to, and kindly received by you. It had been signed within forty-eight hours by all the leading men of science then in London who had an opportunity of seeing it, and might have received an indefinite augmentation of worthy names had not the urgency of the question forbidden delay. To the above names were appended those of the Arctic officers who had been personally engaged in the search, and who, though absent, were known to be favorable to another effort for its completion.

And though that united application obtained no immediate result, it was felt, and by no one more strongly than myself, that it never could be utterly wasted.

I venture also to allude to a letter of my own addressed to the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty in April last, and a copy of which accompanied, I believe, the Memorial to your Lordship, wherein I earnestly deprecated any premature adjudication of the reward claimed by Dr. Rae, on the ground that the fate of my husband's expedition was not yet ascertained, and that it was due both to the living and the dead to complete a search which had been hitherto pursued under the greatest disadvantage, for want of the clue which was now for the first time in our hands.

The Memorial above alluded to, and my own letter of earlier date, had not yet received any reply, when, in the month of July, the Lords of the Admiralty caused prompt inquiries to be made as to the possibility of equipping a ship at that advanced season, in time for effective operations in the field of search. The result was that it was pronounced to be too late, and the subject was dismissed for that season.

Upon this I addressed a letter to the Board (of which I take the liberty to enclose a copy), respectfully showing that by this unfortunate delay the opportunity had also been taken from me of sending out a vessel at my own cost, a measure which I had previously felt myself obliged to state to their Lordships would be the alternative of any adverse decision on their part. I pleaded therefore, as the only remedy for the loss of an entire summer season, that the route by Behring Strait was by some of the most competent Arctic officers considered preferable to the eastern route, and that the equipment of a vessel for this direction need not take place before the close of the year.

In reply, their Lordships caused me to be informed that "they had come to the decision not to send any expedition to the Arctic regions in the present year."

This communication, however, was in answer merely to my own letter. The Memorialists had as yet received no reply, and accordingly the President of the Royal Society put a question respecting the Memorial in the House of Lords at the close of the session, which drew from one of Her Majesty's Ministers (Lord Stanley), after some preliminary observations, the assurance that Her Majesty's Government would give the subject their serious consideration during the recess. I may be permitted to add, that, in the conversation which followed, Lord Stanley expressed himself as very favorably disposed towards a proposition made to him by Lord Wrottesley, that, in the event of there being no Government expedition, I should be assisted in fitting out my own expedition; an assurance which Lord Wrottesley had the kindness to communicate to me by letter.

But, my Lord, as nothing has occurred within the last few months to weaken the reasons which induced the Admiralty, early in July last, to contemplate another final effort, and as they put it aside at that time on the sole ground that it was too late to equip a vessel for that season, I trust it will be felt that I am not endeavoring to re-open a closed question, but merely to obtain the settlement of one which has not ceased to be, and is even now, under favorable consideration. The time has arrived, however, when I trust I may be pardoned for pressing your Lordship, with whom I believe the question rests, for a decision, since by further delay even my own efforts may be paralyzed.

I have cherished the hope, in common with others, that we are not waiting in vain. Should, however, that decision unfortunately throw upon me the responsibility and the cost of sending out a vessel myself, I beg to assure your Lordship that I shall not shrink, either from that weighty responsibility, or from the sacrifice of my entire available fortune for the purpose, supported as I am in my convictions by such high authorities as those whose opinions are on record in your Lordship's hands, and by the hearty sympathy of many more.

But before I take upon myself so heavy an obligation, it is my bounden duty to entreat Her Majesty's Government not to disregard the arguments which have led so many competent and honorable men to feel that our country's honor is not satisfied, whilst a mystery which has excited the sympathy of the civilized world, remains uncleared. Nor less would I entreat you to consider what must be the unsatisfactory consequences, if any endeavors should be made to quench all further efforts for this object.

It cannot be that this long-vexed question would thereby be set at rest, for it would still be true that in a certain circumscribed area within the Arctic circle, approachable alike from the east, and from the west, and sure to be attained by a combination of both movements, lies the solution of our unhappy countrymen's fate. While such is the case, the question will never die. I believe that again and again would efforts be made to reach that spot, and that the Government could not look on as unconcerned spectators, nor be relieved in public opinion of the responsibility they had prematurely cast off.

But I refrain from pursuing this argument, though, if any illustration were wanting of its truth, I think it might be found in the events that are passing before our eyes.

It is now about two years ago that one of Her Majesty's Arctic ships was abandoned in the ice. In due time this ship floated away, was picked up by an American whaler, carried into an American port, and (all property in her having been relinquished by the Admiralty) was purchased of her rescuers by the American Government, by whom she has been lavishly re-equipped, and is now on her passage to England, a free gift to the Queen. The 'Resolute' is about to be delivered up in Portsmouth harbor, not merely in evidence of the cordial relation existing between the two countries, but as a lively token of the deep interest and sympathy of the Americans in that great cause of humanity in which they have so nobly borne their part. The resolution of Congress expressly states this motive, and indeed there could be no other, as it is well known that for any purpose but the Arctic service those expensive equipments would be perfectly useless and require removal.

My Lord, you will not let this rescued and restored ship, emblematic of so many enlightened and generous sentiments, fail, even partially, in her significant mission. I venture to hope that she will be accepted in the spirit in which she is sent. I humbly trust that the American people, and especially that philanthropic citizen who has spent so largely of his private fortune in the search for the lost ships, and to whom was committed by his Government the entire charge of the equipment of the 'Resolute,' will be rewarded for this signal act of sympathy, by seeing her restored to her original vocation, so that she may bring back from the Arctic seas, if not some living remnant of our long-lost countrymen, yet at least the _proofs_ that they have nobly perished.

I need not add that we have as yet no proofs, whatever may be our melancholy forebodings. That such is the fact, in a legal point of view, is shown by a case now or lately pending in the Scotch Courts, in which the right of succession to a considerable property is not admitted, on account of the absence of all but conjectural testimony. In this aspect of the question I have no personal interest, but it is one that may not be deemed unworthy of your Lordship's attention, combined as it must be with the fact that our most experienced Arctic officers are willing to stake their reputation upon the feasibility of reaching the spot where so many secrets lie buried, if only they are supplied with the adequate means.

It would be a waste of words to attempt to refute again the main objections that have been urged against a renewed search, as involving extraordinary danger and risking life. The safe return of our officers and men cannot be denied, neither will it be disputed that each succeeding year diminishes the risk of casualty; and indeed, I feel it would be especially superfluous and unseasonable to argue against this particular objection, or against the financial one which generally accompanies it, at a moment when new expeditions for the glorious interests of science, and which every true lover of science and of his country must rejoice in, are contemplated for the interior of Africa and other parts which are far less favorable to human life than the icy regions of the north.

But with respect to expenditure, I may perhaps be allowed, as I have alluded to that topic, again to call to your Lordship's attention that the 'Resolute' is ready equipped for Arctic service by the munificence of another nation, and to add that other Arctic ships, equally well fitted for the purpose, are lying useless in Her Majesty's dockyards, along with accumulated Arctic stores brought back by the late expeditions, and therefore long since included in the navy estimates, and which, besides, are available only for Arctic service, and, if sold, would be bought at only nominal prices. In addition to the above sources of supply are those already existing on the Arctic shores, which are now studded with depots of provisions and fuel, left from the last and former expeditions, and fit as ever for use, because of the conservative properties of the climate.

But even were the expenditure greater than can thus reasonably be expected, I submit to your Lordship that this is a case of no ordinary exigency. These 135 men of the 'Erebus' and 'Terror' (or perhaps I should rather say the greater part of them, since we do not yet know that there are no survivors) have laid down their lives, after sufferings doubtless of unexampled severity, in the service of their country, as truly as if they had perished by the rifle, the cannon-ball, or the bayonet. Nay more,--by attaining the northern and already-surveyed coast of America, it is clear that they solved the problem which was the object of their labors, or, in the beautiful words of Sir John Richardson, that "they forged the last link of the North-West passage with their lives."

Surely, then, I may plead for such men, that a careful search be made for any possible survivor, that the bones of the dead be sought for and gathered together, that their buried records be unearthed, or recovered from the hands of the Esquimaux, and above all, that their last written words, so precious to their bereaved families and friends, be saved from destruction. A mission so sacred is worthy of a government which has grudged and spared nothing for its heroic soldiers and sailors in other fields of warfare, and will surely be approved by our gracious Queen, who overlooks none of Her loyal subjects suffering and dying for their country's honor.

This final and exhausting search is all I seek in behalf of the first and only martyrs to Arctic discovery in modern times, and it is all I ever intend to ask.

But if, notwithstanding all I have presumed to urge, Her Majesty's Government decline to complete the work they have carried on up to this critical moment, but leave it to private hands to finish, I must then respectfully request that measure of assistance in behalf of my own expedition which I have been led to expect on the authority of Lord Stanley, as communicated to me by Lord Wrottesley, and on that of the First Lord of the Admiralty, as communicated to Colonel Phipps in a letter in my possession.

It is with no desire to avert from myself the sacrifice of my own funds, which I devote without reserve to the object in view, that I plead for a liberal interpretation of those communications, but I owe it to the conscientious and high-minded Arctic officers who have generously offered me their services, that my expedition should be made as efficient as possible, however restricted it may be in extent. The Admiralty, I feel sure, will not deny me what may be necessary for this purpose, since, if I do all I can with my own means, any deficiencies and shortcomings of a private expedition cannot I think be justly laid to my charge.

In conclusion, I would earnestly entreat of Her Majesty's Government, while this subject is still under deliberation, that they would be pleased to obtain the opinions of those persons who, in consequence of their practical knowledge and vast experience, may be considered best qualified to express them in the present emergency. And as it must be in the ranks of those officers who would naturally be selected for command of any final expedition that these qualifications will most assuredly be found, I trust I may be pardoned for directing your Lordship's attention to the names (which I put down in the order of their seniority) of Captains Collinson, Richards, McClintock, Maguire, and Osborn. All these officers have passed winter after winter in Arctic service, have carried out those skilful sledge operations which have added so much to our knowledge of Arctic Geography, and have ever, in the exercise of combined courage and discretion, avoided disaster, and brought home their crews in health and safety.

Chapter end

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