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Letter from Captain Henry Kellett to Sir John Barrow about his voyage on HMS RESOLUTE and volume of the Zoology of the Voyage of HMS HERALD.


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Biographical details Vice Admiral Sir Henry Kellett KCB (2 November 1806 – 1 March 1875) was a British naval officer and explorer. Kellett joined the Royal Navy in 1822. He spent three years in the West Indies and then served on survey vessels under William Fitzwilliam Owen in Africa, as second in command of HMS SULPHUR under Edward Belcher in the East Indies, and as captain of HMS STARLING in the First Opium War with China during which he was promoted to Commander in 1841 and Post-Captain in 1842. In 1845 he was appointed captain of the survey ship HMS HERALD as part of a hydrography survey mission whose primary mission was to survey the coast of North America from Guayaquil to Vancouver, including the Galapagos Islands. He was temporarily reassigned in 1848 to join the search for Sir John Franklin. During this voyage he sailed through the Bering Strait across the Chukchi Sea and discovered Herald Island. Kellett landed on Herald Island and named it after his ship. He also sighted Wrangel Island in the western horizon. William Pullen was on this expedition. In 1851 Herald returned to England and the crew was paid off. Despite his strenuous cruise of six years, Kellett immediately accepted a posting to the command of HMS RESOLUTE, and in the spring of 1852 sailed as second in command in the expedition led by Sir Edward Belcher, whose orders were to prosecute the search for Franklin by way of Lancaster Sound. Belcher stationed North Star as depot ship at Beechey Island, and took his ship Assistance and the Pioneer up Wellington Channel. He sent RESOLUTE and its tender INTREPID, captained by the famous Arctic traveller Commander Francis Leopold McClintock, to search for Franklin in the Melville Island area, and, if necessary, to give aid to Investigator, unreported for many months, but believed to be in that region. On the voyage home Kellett’s ships were frozen in at the west end of Barrow Strait and passed the winter of 1853–54 near Cape Cockburn. In April, Belcher, who was still in Wellington Channel, sent orders to Kellett to abandon his ice-bound ships and take their crews, with the men of Investigator, on foot to the depot at Beechey Island. Kellett protested that his ships were not in enough danger to warrant this desertion but he had no choice but to obey. Belcher deserted his two ships as well; all crews were taken home on North Star and two summer supply ships. Belcher’s written orders requiring Kellett to abandon his ships procured the latter a prompt acquittal by court-martial for their loss; Kellett also received a handsome compliment from the president of the court on the services he had rendered. Kellett’s judgement was vindicated in the autumn of 1855 when James Buddington, an American whaling skipper, found Resolute drifting in Baffin Bay and sailed her, still seaworthy and manageable, to New London, Conn. The United States Congress purchased the derelict and gave her, refitted, to Queen Victoria. A table from her oaken beams stands today in the White House to commemorate this act of generosity. He became Senior Officer in the West Indies in 1855, Admiral Superintendent of the Malta Dockyard in 1864 and Commander-in-Chief, China Station in 1869. He retired in 1871.
Description Letter and rough copy of letter from Captain Henry Kellett to Sir John Barrow, from HMS RESOLUTE, Melville Island, 12 April 1853 covers details of the voyage from 14 August 1852 to April 1853.
Kellett berthed his ships for the coming winter at Dealy Island off the south shore of Melville Island. An autumn travelling party under Lieutenant Frederick Mecham visited Winter Harbour, 50 miles to the west, and there discovered a record planted by McClure from which it was learned that Investigator had discovered a northwest passage and that it had later become icebound in the Bay of Mercy on the north shore of Banks Island. The Arctic winter was too far advanced for help to be sent until the following spring. In the bitter cold of March 1853, Lieutenant Bedford Pim made the 160-mile journey by dog-sledge across Viscount Melville Sound to bring McClure word of the rescue ships. INVESTIGATOR was abandoned on Kellett’s order and her starving and scurvy-ridden crew trekked over the ice to Dealy Island. In the meantime, under Kellett’s direction, M’Clintock and Mecham, on sledge journeys of great length, found no trace of Franklin, but added Eglinton and Prince Patrick islands to the map of the Arctic.

Also contains one volume on the zoology of the voyage of HMS HERALD under the command of Captain Henry Kellett during the years 1845-1851.
Date made 1853-04-12

Finding Reference HSR/Z/45
Catalogue section Manuscript documents acquired singly by the Museum
Credit National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
Extent Single folder
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