Friday, August 8, 2014

Another record of McClintock's findings

It's known that, in addition to the Victory Point record with its sombre postscript, there was at least one other copy of a note with the same original message. Much to everyone's surprise, there recently surfaced another full copy of the Victory Point record, along with notes of the objects found at Crozier's Landing, the "Boat Place," and the body next to which the "Peglar" papers were found. It was sold at auction in July, and certainly presents a unique historical perspective on Hobson's, and McClintock's discoveries.

It was made by Richard Shingleton, the officers' steward aboard the "Fox," who was thus present at the moment the original record was brought back to the ship. Mr. Shingleton took, perhaps, a more inquisitive and active interest in the business of the expedition than most men in his situation; among the artifacts he brought back was a Snow Bunting nest with three eggs, now in the collection of Norfolk Museums. He will also be known to those who have read Bill Barr's Arctic Hell-Ship, for he was the gunroom steward aboard HMS Enterprise as well, and his private journal was one of Barr's sources for his reconstruction of Collinson's chaotic command. It would seem from this image that Shingleton's penmanship was quite good, and his copy accurate; there are no substantive variations, although he does write "Back's Great Fish River" where the VP record has simply "Back's fish river."

The second leaf of the document lists the artifacts found "at the spot where they landed," at the later "Boat place," and a brief account of the "Peglar" body: "Found in Simpson's Straits, the skeleton of a man and near him a pocketbook, brush & comb, and half a sovereign."

The copy may have been made for personal purposes -- or perhaps simply to help ensure that, should the original be lost, there was another chance for the information to survive.


  1. It would be very interesting to have public access to that second note, thousands of fresh eyes could find hidden details on it.

    I think that the fact that this second note has not got the added writings in the margins, means, surely, that when Crozier and Fitzjames landed in King William Island, they decided not to retrace the steps of Graham Gore of the previous year.

    Why? No idea, the season between notes is not so far as to suggest they could have choosen a different route because the snow and ice conditions. Perhaps they thought unnecessary to leave another record there and prefer to leave one in Franklin Point for example, whose geographical significance could be considered more important. But why don´t use an already constructed cairn?.

    On the other hand, and judging for the amount of great mistakes commited in the Victory point record (mistakes of importance enough to expulse someone of the Navy), I would consider necessary to analyse again the note found in a Balloon in England which allegedly came from the Franklin expedition.

    I understand that there are several factors which lead us to consider it as an hoax, among them is the inaccuracy of its Latitude and Longitude data and the way on which that was written. Read here:

    But, a recent discussion about that a Pigeon, which belonged the John Ross rescue expedition, could have made his way from the arctic to England has awoken on me the hope that this flying message could be real. It shouldn´t be so easily discarded and that the whole issue should be reconsidered to analisys again. I know that the balloons lack of the sense of orientation some birds have, but surely that brave pigeon couldn´t have reached England without the favourable winds that could have helped the balloon to do that route too.

  2. Hi Andrés, thanks for your comment. I wish Scott Polar would put the second note as well! In theory, if Franklin followed his sailing directions, a message cylinder was supposed to be thrown overboard daily -- so there should be many of them! I believe only one of these at-sea messages was recovered, from very early in the expedition.

They were of course generally filled out on board, in a stack, which accounts for the uniformity. And the errors are mostly slight, though getting the year wrong as to the winter on Beechey is odd, and suggestive perhaps of some fall-off in mental acuity.

Three's no question thought that the Victory Point record is authentic. And no one would have wanted to punish its writer for the errors! The only error that searchers at the time felt was a dereliction of duty was the message that WASN'T placed, apparently, at Beechey Island, which men from several ships spend days digging and searching for.

And alas, Ross's pigeon had lost its message. And it should be pointed out that the balloon was only meant to give it a head-start; after the slow fuse burned out, the pigeon was automatically released to fly back on its own.