All posts by Gavin Atkin

‘Death in the Ice: The Shocking Story of Franklin’s Final Expedition’ exhibition at the National Maritime Museum, 14 July-7 January

The NMM is hosting a major exhibition exploring the fate of Sir John Franklin and his crew on their final expedition including 200 objects from the Canadian Museum of History (CMH) and the Inuit Heritage Trust alongside finds from expedition ship HMS Erebus, which was found in 2014.

I think it will be stunning.

The story of Franklin’s expedition is a tremendous one. The expedition set from the Thames on 19 May 1845 in two ships, HMS Erebus and HMS Terror to find the a North-West Passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific. The expedition was last seen by European eyes in July 1845, in Baffin Bay. After two years passed in which nothing was heard of the men the first of a series of expeditions to be sent into the Arctic in an attempt to find them. In all, between 1847 and 1880, over thirty search expeditions were mounted.

Urged by Lady Jane Franklin, Parliament and the British press, the Admiralty dispatched expeditions both overland and by sea and in 1850 offered a substantial reward for news of the expedition or for assisting its crew.

Over the next 30 years, news and relics, such as tin cans, snow goggles and cutlery filtered back to Britain. They showed that the entire crew had died through a combination of factors including scurvy and starvation, and theories about cannibalism and madness brought on by lead poisoning.
In 1859 a piece of paper, known as the Victory Point Note (on display as part of the exhibition) was found that bore the date of Sir John Franklin’s death – 11th June, 1847.

Forensic anthropologist Dr Owen Beattie’s expeditions from the early 1980s onwards found evidence of lead poisoning, probably caused by lead in the expdition’s tinned food. The submerged wreck of HMS Erebus was discovered by Parks Canada in 2014 and then HMS Terror in 2016.

The exhibition includes the role of Inuit in uncovering the fate of the Franklin expedition, including Inuit oral histories and Inuit artefacts, including some incorporating materials of European origin, which were traded from explorers or retrieved from abandoned ships, will also be on display.

Saving Anne Marie

Fixing up old boats is hard, expensive and dirty work. If you doubt it, even for a moment, consider this weblog, which demonstrates a truth that applies even to boats with GRP hulls. Mind, she’ll be wonderful when she’s done…

Fine old hornpipe Jacky Tar

A variant of the even older and better known Cuckoo’s Nest, the fabulous hornpipe Jacky Tar (sometimes Tarr) is actually the tune of an old song Jacky Tar Come Ashore with your Trousers On – a sweet little piece that is as charming as its title. Why trousers on? I believe it’s because for trousers were ‘formal’ shore-going attire. We still have that, don’t we? I may learn it one day…

When Jack had pulled the oar, and the boat was gone,
And the lassie on the shore with her head hanging down,
The tears stood in her eyes, and bosom heaving sighs,
Farewell, my dear, she cries, with your trousers on.

Farewell, said he, I go to sea, and you must stay behind,
But do not grieve, for while I live I ever will be kind,
And when I come to land you will meet me on the strand,
And welcome Jackie Tar with his trousers on.

Now peace is proclaimed, and the wars are all o’er,
The fleets they are moored, and the sailors come ashore,
Now you may see her stand with a glass into her hand,
To welcome Jack to land with his trousers on.

While up on high, she catched his, with all her lovely charms,
Her face he knew, and straight he flew and caught her in
his arms;
Her hand he kindly pressed, as he held her round the waist
And he kissed the bonnie lassie with his trousers on.

O Jack where have you been since you went from me,
And want have you seen upon the raging sea?
I mourned for your sake, while my heart was like to break,
For I thought l’d never see my Jack with his trousers on.

And while you staid, I sighed and prayed to Neptune and
to Mars,
That they would prove kind, and send you home save from
the wars,
And now to my request they have been pleased to list,
And send you to my breast with your trousers on.

I have sailed the seas for you to the torrid zone,
From the confines of Peru to Van Dieman’s Land,
From the Bay of Baltimore to the coast of Labrador,
But now I’m safe on shore with my trousers on.

I have beat the storms, in many forms, upon the raging main.
I have fought the foes, with deadly blows, and many a hero
I have heard the cannons roar, I have rolled in blood and gore
But now I’m safe on shore, with my trousers on.

I have been aloft when the winds have blown,
And I have been alost when the bombs were thrown,
But like a sailor bold, I am now come from the hold,
With my pockets full of gold, and my trousers on.

And now no more, from shore to shore, I’ll plough the rag-
ing seas,
But free from strife, as a man and wife, we’ll live in peace
and ease.
To the church this couple hied, and the priest the knot has
And the sailor kissed his bride with his trousers on.