Thursday, February 9, 2012

Improved Images of Franklin Relics

The National Maritime Museum has long been the host of the largest collection of Franklin relics in the world. A few have been on permanent display, but the vast majority are stored off-site, and are not accessible to the public. For the past ten years or so, small digitized images of some of these have been available, but the only way to get any higher resolution views has been to purchase them at a price prohibitive to most scholars. Now, under the umbrella of Royal Museums Greenwich, a vastly improved and more complete set of images is readily available. These include multiple views of many objects, and the all the views are scalable, which enables anyone interested in their features to see them at a level of detail good enough -- perhaps -- to make some new discoveries possible. I'd encourage anyone with a Franklin passion to visit the new site, and have at it -- one can see all manner of things, from the scraps of newspaper stuck in the "Peglar" pocketbook to the scratch-marks on the underside of a Franklin fork -- who know what this new imagery, with care, may reveal? There is even the capability to leave notes and annotations about specific objects, and share these with others using the resource.

This finally puts researchers around the world on an even footing, and that is a very welcome development.


  1. This is wonderful news Russell. However, special care should be taken regarding the artifacts' descriptions.

    For instance, one item is described as:

    "A relic of Sir John Franklin's last expedition 1845-48. A gilt metal Royal Naval officer's button with a foul anchor and crown. A label is attached saying 'One of Sir John Franklin's buttons'. The pattern was introduced in 1843."

    This bright and shiny button is emblazoned with ROYAL MARINES LIGHT INFANTRY. This designation for the Marines did not come into being until 1855, so clearly cannot be connected to Franklin's Expedition.

  2. Glenn, yes there are a number of issues such as these -- for instance, the infamous Arnold chronometer -- which never sailed with Franklin -- is listed as though it had. I left an annotation there but so far it has failed to show up ... we'll have to wait and see if someone is really "minding the tiller" here ...

  3. Thanks Russell. There's also the continuing inference that the remains found alongside the Peglar pocketbook and other artifacts are those of Henry Peglar, when I've shown in my writings there's a strong possibility they belonged to Subordinate Officers' Steward William Gibson. I wrote about this to the NMM in 2007, but never received a reply.

  4. Glenn, spot on as usual. I think they need a lot more detail on the "Peglar" items -- while I agree that the body on which these were found was either Gibson or possibly Armitage, the name "Peglar" at least appears in the papers (both on his seaman's certificate and in the curious roundel) so I wouldn't mind his name being used if they'd provide more context!

  5. I apologize for my intrusion and about my bad english. I am an apprentice in these matters and I am a new follower of your blog. I want to share with you this new i,ve just found from july 1859 when the Admiralty communicate to the Spanish Government the results of the discovery expedition of McClinctock

    I am very surprised to know that, it seems, the McClinctok expedition found some spoiled wallet with letters within the skeletons of part of the Franklin expedition at ten miles east from the cape Herschell. I believe have seen this wallet in the relics on the Museum Web page. Do you know if these letters could be readed and if tehir content is public?. The new also refers to a second note left by Liutenant Gors and M. Desvoeux which i didn´t know as well. I have to review my books, but i don´t remember read about such fact ever. Do you if this note has been published?.

    I think, however, that most probably because the news have several mistakes, the facts related by are wrong and i doubt about the existance of these documents. For example, in the spanish new the world "Cairn" had been translate as "tomb".

    I ask sorry again for my intromission.

  6. !Bienvenidos Kabloona! Tu ingles es muy bien (pero mi español, solamente así así). Tienes alguanos puntos intersantes y con las noticias antiguas (y ahora), debes tener cuidado. Si tu quieres más información de las paginas de Peglar, va al "Project Aglooka" aquí: - ¡mucha suerte!

    (Welcome Kabloona! Your English is fine (but my Spanish is so-so). You have some interestig points, and news from the old days (and now) has to be read with care. If you want more information on the Peglar papers, go to Project Aglooka: - good luck!)

  7. Thank you very much by that information. It´s just what i am looking for. I didn´t know this blog. I am going to read it carefully.

    I´ve been reviewing "The voyage of the Fox" by McClinctock and I hadn´t found any reference about the wallet and the letter, in fact in the appendix he dodn´t mention have brought any object from that lonely man...i will follow with my investigation.

    Muchas gracias por tu comentario en Español (casi nativo). Me estoy planteando traducir mi blog....

    Thank you again and follow with your blog.

  8. Kabloona, the passage from McCintock about the finding of the "Peglar" body is here -- the pocketbook itself isn't mentioned at this point although McClintock does mention it in his diary, and there is a somewhat more detailed version in "From the Private Journal of an Officer of the Fox" where it is described (wrongly) as a "pocket book containing letters in German" (see here.)

  9. p.s. there is also an archived site in Spanish on Franklin which is a reasonably good introduction, and worth mention ...

  10. Hello. My real name is Andrés. Thank you very much for the new references. Obviously both of you are professionals in the subject. It is strange that in several places that thing (the wallet i mean) is mentioned. In the 19 page of the Special Collection "Franklin Relics" of the Maritime Museum, there is a wallet with letters or a part of a newspaper. Perhaps the they found it but they didn´t pay special attention to the wallet.... A close examination of the papers inside shows that it has been written in English not German, but who knows... however it seems to be impossible to read nothing in them.

    It is fascinating.

    P.s. Russell, i am afraid that in fact in the 248 page of the "Voyage of the Fox in the Arctic Seas" the text really says that "A pocket-book afforded strong grounds of hope that some information might be subsequently obtained respecting the unfortunate owner and the calamitous march of the lost crews..." Jeje.

  11. There are many editions of Voyage of the Fox -- M'Clintock's comment in the one you cite is the same as in his journal. The newspaper in the pocketbook lining is Lloyd's Weekly. The reason the papers were thought to be in German was the presence of words such as "Eht" but these turned out to be English words spelled backwards ("The")! See any of the several earlier posts on this blog for details.

  12. I know this is not the correct place to comment this, but i ´ve found a thing that sounds me interesting, perhaps (or sure) you know something about that.

    Is about an alleged relationship between Lady Franklin and a Spanish politician and writer called "Antonio Alcalá Galiano".

    He was born in Cádiz, the same city as me, (Just a curiosity), and he was son af Dionisio Alcalá Galiano:

    Dionisio partipated in the Malaspina Expedition and in other expeditions related with the Northwest Passage. He finally died in the Spanish ship "Bahama" in the battle of Trafalgar after being mutilated by several bullets and finally by a canon ball which destroyed his head.

    It seems that Antonio keep some kind of relationship with Mr Griffin while he stayed in London. Antonio gave Spanish classes to Lady Franklin by the mediation of Fanny (her sister) which then was working in the "Ladys Comitte to help the spanish refugees" (or something similar in English).

    The description i´ve read says that, obtained through the Jane Journals and some letters written between them, you can deduce that this relationship perhaps went further than a simple friendship. But it seems that there was advers circunstances to proceed in that way. Yo can find references about this in the page 720 of the book "Memoirs of an elderly person" by A.Alcala Galiano.

    I´ve just read the McCoogan biography of Lady Franklin and i don´t remember having read nothing about this (altough i am going to check again).

    The thing that surprise me most is the curious coincidence that, both, John Franklin and the father of Antonio fought in the same battle and were both explorers of the northwest passage.

    It´s just a curiosity but i found it interesting to comment you.