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Journal kept on board HMS RESOLUTE during the search for the Franklin expedition (with transcript).


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Biographical details The journal was kept during one of the expeditions launched to attempt to locate the lost Franklin Expedition. The expedition described involved HMS RESOLUTE and HMS ASSISTANCE and two tender ships HMS PIONEER and HMS INTREPID. RESOLUTE, captained by Horatio Austin, and ASSISTANCE, captained by Erasmus Ommanney, discovered traces of the Franklin expedition on Beechy Island and Cape Riley, but became trapped in ice in the winter of 1850. Whilst trapped in the ice they continued their search on sledges in the immediate vicinity of the ships, and also produced a newspaper, the 'Illustrated Arctic News'. Many of the activities reported in the newspaper are also recorded in this journal. The title page indicates that the book was presented to William Harvey by Walter William May (1830-1896), mate of HMS RESOLUTE, but it is unclear whether Harvey or May is the author of the journal. May was made a Lieutenant for his services on the expedition, and returned to the Arctic on ASSISTANCE in 1852, for which services he was promoted to Commander in 1854. He retired with the rank of Captain in 1865.
Description Journal of William Harvey, boatswain’s mate of HMS RESOLUTE, recounting events of the navy’s 1850-51 arctic expedition, which was sent in search of Sir John Franklin’s missing expedition. The 1850-51 expedition, led by HoratioThomas Austin on HMS RESOLUTE, also included HMS ASSISTANCE (captained by Erasmus Ommanney) and the steamers PIONEER and INTREPID. The expedition left Woolwich in April 1850 and explored the west coast of Davis Strait and Lancaster Sound, wintering between Griffith and Cornwallis Islands. Austin’s expedition was one of a number of simultaneous search expeditions launched in 1850 and the journal details encounters with the expeditions led by Sir John Ross (FELIX), Captain William Penny (LADY FRANKLIN and SOPHIA), Charles Codrington Forsyth (PRINCE ALBERT) and the American 1st Grinnell Expedition. Harvey’s memorandum occupies only a short section of the volume, which has subsequently been used as an exercise book by Harvey’s descendants. The journal’s main historical significance in relation to the search for Franklin is Harvey’s report of the discovery of the graves of Franklin crew members John Torrington, John Hartnell and William Braine on Beechey Island (27th August 1850). The journal also records Inuit testimony about the fate of Franklin’s expedition, including a false lead about the wrecking of a ship (later identified as the NORTH STAR) and its subsequent burning by an Inuit party. The journal also offers insights into the duties, leisure activities and entertainments the crew participated in while wintering in the arctic. Many of the events and activities Harvey describes correspond with the reports that appeared in the 'Illustrated Arctic News', a newspaper that the crew of the RESOLUTE produced to entertain themselves during the expedition. The title page of the journal indicates that the book was presented to William Harvey by Walter William May (1830-1896), mate of HMS RESOLUTE, but does not illuminate the context of the gift or indicate whether May or Harvey is the author. The handwriting that appears in a microfilm copy of Harvey’s 1857-59 journal, held at the Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge, confirms that he (Wiliam Harvey) is the author. Harvey returned to the Arctic as boatswain’s mate of HMS NORTH STAR on the Navy’s 1852-54 Franklin expedition (lead by William Pullen) and was chief quartermaster of the FOX on Francis Leopold McClintock’s 1857-59 search expedition, which found the last written communication, as well as relics and human remains of Franklin’s crew.

The journal can be requested as JOD/256/1. A printed transcript of the entire journal is also available to request as JOD/256/2.
Date made 1850-04-25 - 1851-01-09

Finding Reference JOD/256
Catalogue section Manuscript volumes acquired singly by the Museum
Credit National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
Extent 1 volume
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