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A Frenchman in Search of Franklin

A Frenchman in Search of Franklin: De Bray's Arctic Journal, 1852-54

Translated and edited by WILLIAM BARR
Copyright Date: 1992
Pages: 362
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  • Book Info
    A Frenchman in Search of Franklin
    Book Description:

    A remarkable account by a French naval officer who volunteered to take part in the Royal Navy search for the Franklin expedition.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-5991-9
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Translator’s Introduction
    (pp. ix-2)

    On 15 April 1852, as Sir Edward Belcher’s Arctic Squadron, consisting of the sailing vesselsAssistance, Resolute,andNorth Starand the steamshipsPioneerandIntrepid,was dropping down the Thames from Woolwich Basin to Greenhithe, Lieutenant George S. Nares, a young officer on board Captain Henry Kellett’s shipResolute,was writing a hurried final note to his father. In the middle of a paragraph containing initial impressions of his fellow officers Nares included the following typically ethnocentric remark: The Frenchman does not seem anEnglishman,but I suppose he will improve on acquaintance’ (Nares, 1852). Since the Frenchman was...

  5. Introduction
    (pp. 3-8)

    Once the Portuguese had discovered the Indies, which provided them with limitless wealth, thoughts soon turned to a means of shortening the route via the Cape of Good Hope, which presented terrifying dangers for the navigators of the period. Corte-Real was the first to have the idea of following the coast of North America in order to find an access route to the Pacific Ocean.

    He reached one of the vast embayments with which the American coast is punctuated, and believed that he had reached the object of his dreams. He then returned to Portugal to announce his discovery and...

  6. CHAPTER 1 The Outward Voyage
    (pp. 9-17)

    The British expedition sent in search of Franklin consisted of five ships:

    Assistance.Commander Sir Edward Belcher, C.-in-G, 424 tons, sixty-one men.¹

    Resolute.Captain Henry Kellett, 424 tons, sixty-one men.

    Pioneer.Captain Osborn. Attached toAssistance,steamer, 60 hp, thirty men.

    Intrepid.Captain McClintock. Attached toResolute,steamer, 60 hp, thirty men.

    North Star.Captain Pullen. Transport, 600 tons, thirty men.²

    On 16 April 1852 all the ships being ready for sea, we left Woolwich Basin³ to run down to Greenhithe,⁴ a small, very picturesque community about eight leagues from London; here I went aboardResolute.

    On 21 April, after...

  7. CHAPTER 2 Greenland and Melville Bukt
    (pp. 18-38)

    28 May 1852.We dropped anchor at 2.00 p.m. today off one of the Whalefish Islands, Kron, in a bay where we are obliged to lie almost side-by-side.¹ It is an excellent anchorage, perfectly sheltered from the wind, and since there are two entrances one could always get out if one were obliged to weigh.

    We reached the anchorage towed by our boats, since there is generally little wind in this group of islands, whose mountains are very high, or else it is very variable. Moreover it is noteworthy that when there is ice near the land, it cuts the...

  8. CHAPTER 3 West to Winter Harbour
    (pp. 39-53)

    1 August 1852.Today we were under full canvas, sailing freely, something we have not done for thirty days. At 11 o’clock we hoveto off Kap York [Plate 8]. We can see the inhabitants making signals for us to land.¹ We immediately went ashore and made for their tents which lay about three miles from the floe edge to which we are moored.²

    Six men, six women, and some children live in this inhospitable spot; one cannot imagine the misery of these unfortunates who do not even have wood to build their canoes and who use seal or walrus bones...

  9. CHAPTER 4 Fall Sledge Trips and Preparations for Wintering
    (pp. 54-75)

    9 September 1852.At 3.00 a.m. we unmoored and, towed byIntrepid,set a course for Point Palmer. Pack ice of very great extent occupies almost the whole of Skene Bay and we are following its edge, sounding constantly, since the water depth is decreasing as we proceed.

    For greater safety a boat is sent ahead to show us the way but soon we are forced to moor to the floe in about 3½ fathoms. An hour later we unmoored to avoid the pack which closed in on us against a fresh north wind and we lay under light canvas...

  10. CHAPTER 5 The Wintering
    (pp. 76-90)

    20 October 1852.The captain went ashore on Dealy Island to select a site for the burial of poor Mobley, and immediately a work party set to work to dig a grave, a task which is extremely difficult now since the ground is frozen as hard as a rock.

    We are starting to make our major arrangements for the winter. The deck has been completely cleared and it has been covered with a mixture of earth and snow which forms a very hard, firm mortar, about 6 inches thick. From past experience of ships which have wintered in these regions...

  11. CHAPTER 6 Sledging to Cape de Bray
    (pp. 91-124)

    21 March 1853.Orders have been issued for the spring journey and everyone knows the route he is to take. I am in command of a sledge manned by a crew of eight and I will accompany Captain McClintock to explore the northwest coast of Melville Island. I have selected my men and have started making them take long walks to accustom them to marching. In the mean time I have been finishing my preparations. Everyone is busy trying to resolve the problem of taking the most possible in the least possible volume, something which is not always easy. Provisions...

  12. CHAPTER 7 Rescue of Investigator’s Crew and Preparations for Sea
    (pp. 125-137)

    Before continuing my journal I have to report some important events which had occurred during my absence.¹

    Around noon on 19 April several sledges were sighted to the west. Captain Kellett and the officers left aboard went to meet them and were soon shaking hands with the good Captain M’Clure, who had arrived from Mercy Bay accompanied by his master, Mr Court, and Dr Domville.² Mr Pirn arrived soon afterwards, proud and happy at the success of his expedition.³

    The arrival of Captain M’Clure gave rise to a real celebration aboardResolute,since it was almost a miracle to see...

  13. CHAPTER 8 Under Way Again
    (pp. 138-145)

    18 August 1853.The wind is still increasing; it is blowing a whole gale and is having a miraculous effect on the ice. At 11.00 a.m. the floe which surrounds us suddenly broke up and we were obliged to lay out a chain with a heavy ice anchor to maintain our position. Around 3.00 the floe to which we were moored began to move southwards, the wind swinging from NNE to N to NW, and by noon it was impossible to recognize the spot where we had been detained for so long. The appearance of the ice has completely changed;...

  14. CHAPTER 9 The Second Wintering
    (pp. 146-157)

    14 September 1853.Any hope of escaping has almost vanished, and there is nothing left for us but to make our arrangements for a wintering. We are starting to cut the ice around us in order to swing the ship’s bows to the north since experience has taught us that the prevailing winds come from that quarter.

    15 September 1853.We are drifting quite rapidly towards the SE as indicated by the lead line;Intrepidis still the same distance from us.

    16 September 1853.At 8 o’clock we sounded 127 metres, with the line indicating quite a strong drift...

  15. CHAPTER 10 Contacts with North Star and Assistance
    (pp. 158-168)

    4 March 1854.Messrs Hamilton, Roche, and Court with nine men, seven dogs and two sledges, provisioned for two weeks, left the ship with the following orders:

    To Mr Hamilton, leader of the expedition:

    You will take command of the two sledges, manned by two officers, nine men, seven dogs and provisioned for two weeks.

    The first sledge is under the direct orders of Mr Hamilton, having with him Mr Roche, two men and the dogs; the second is under the orders of Mr Court, master ofInvestigator,with seven men.

    On leaving the ship you will make for the...

  16. CHAPTER 11 Retreat to Beechey Island
    (pp. 169-175)

    8 May 1854.All my preparations are complete and the weather is promising to hold fair; I received orders to get under way. I was somewhat sad at heart to be forced to leave behind a number of items I would have liked to take, but I had to think first of useful things: firearms, clothes, etc., and the 45 Ib limit we had been given did not allow much in the way of luxury. I packed up my things carefully and the door to my cabin was hermetically sealed.

    Finally, at 7.00 p.m. I got under way with Domville,...

  17. CHAPTER 12 Homeward Voyage and Aftermath
    (pp. 176-186)

    21 August 1854.We are finally truly afloat and out of the bay. Sir Edward Belcher has now decided to go and visitAssistanceandPioneerand to see if there are grounds for abandoning them totally.

    Over the past few days, thanks to some strong northerly squalls, these two ships had left their winter quarters and had advanced about twelve miles south, following the east shore of Wellington Channel, but an ice barrier twenty miles wide still separated them from the open sea. If the northerly winds were to continue they could easily be driven ashore, since the land...

  18. Translator’s Postscript
    (pp. 187-212)

    Before leaving Phoenix at Cork, Captain Kellett had handed de Bray a letter which he would cherish for the rest of his life:

    I have already expressed to Sir Edward Belcher commanding the Arctic Expedition my opinion of your conduct whilst serving in Her Britannic Majesty’s Ship ‘Resolute’ under my command. But I cannot allow you to leave me without expressing to you personally my admiration of your promptness and zeal in undertaking any piece of service and your ability in its execution.

    YouhaveMr de Bray done credit to the distinguished service in which you belong.

    Thrown amongst...

  19. APPENDIX 1 Report of Enseigne-de-vaisseau de Bray to the Minister of Marine
    (pp. 213-215)
  20. APPENDIX 2 Report of Enseigne-de-vaisseau de Bray to the Minister of Marine on the Expedition aboard ‘Resolute’
    (pp. 216-222)
  21. APPENDIX 3 Letter from Enseigne-de-vaisseau de Bray to His Mother
    (pp. 223-227)
  22. APPENDIX 4 Letter from Enseigne-de-vaisseau de Bray to His Mother
    (pp. 228-232)
  23. Notes
    (pp. 233-296)
  24. Bibliography
    (pp. 297-312)
  25. Index
    (pp. 313-339)