Category Archives: Locations

‘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.

The Fishing and Heritage Museum, Folkestone

We dropped into the Fishing and Heritage Museum at Folkestone at the weekend – it’s crammed with interesting objects such as boat models – but the best things the little museum has is a fine set of old photographs, and helpful volunteers ready to answer questions.

I was intrigued that so many models of fishing vessels were of boats that had been built in Cornwall. The answer, it turns out, is that Folkestone’s boats used to be beach boats launched off the beach and designed to land and be hauled up at the end of a trip – like many of those elsewhere along the South Coast. However, once the harbour was built in the early 19th Century a different type of boat was needed. Such vessels were not built locally and so Cornish boats were brought in.

Here are some favourites… Some brave lifeboatmen and fishermen, a grand old boy with his melodeon and dog, some models and a priceless bit of local weather lore.

Bird of Dawning is relaunched, after 80 years

Bird of Dawning is one of the delights of sailing on the Swale – a pleasing and elegant example of the kind of yacht East Coast smack builders would sometimes build when not building vessels for fishing, shrimping or oystering. She lives just off in Oare Creek, just off Faversham Creek, and is a regular on the water.

Julian Mannering wrote this week to say she has been relaunched after some major work, and included a photo from this week’s relaunch together with a shot from her original launch at Paglesham, in July 1937. Here’s what he had to say:

‘Julian and Amanda Mannering’s Bird of Dawning was relaunched at Hollowshore, off the Swale, on Monday 24 April after extensive repairs and refitting.

Bird of Dawning was originally launched 80 years ago this year from the yard of Frank Shuttlewood at Paglesham on the river Roach and was built on the lines, above the waterline anyway, of a Paglesham smack.

‘Time inevitably takes its toll and considerable work had to be carried out this winter on her decks, covering boards, stem and stern to bring her back to strength. Tie bars were fitted under the side decks and some 500 bronze screws employed to refasten her original Siberian larch decks which were then recaulked with oakum and payed with a locally-made pitch. Finally, a new iroko capping rail was fitted and a little sheer added astern.

‘The work was carried out in the black shed at Hollowshore by Dan Tester, owner of Hollowshore Services, and Nick Relf who between them did a brilliant job finding solutions for tricky problem wherever they were encountered. They truly breathed new life into an old ship.

‘She looks like a new vessel now and is fit and ready for many more years sailing.

‘Once back in commission Julian and Amanda plan for some East Coast cruising, including a short cruise up the Medway in July to show a group of military historians the route of de Ruyter’s attack on Chatham 350 years ago. The Swale Match is in the diary for 29 July and then it’s hoped to have a summer cruise to the near continent.’

For the Old Gaffer’s Association’s list of vessels built by Shuttlewood, click here. There’s a recent photo of Shuttlewood’s shed here, and some scraps of history here and here.