Ross in the Antarctic: The Voyages of James Clark Ross in Her Majesty’s Ships Erebus and Terror, 1839-1843.

An entire volume devoted to the Ross expedition with substantial chapters on each of the three Antarctic summer voyages, as well as material on each of the antipodean winter sojourns in Hobart, Tasmania, Sydney and New Zealand, and the Falklands.

p. 17ff: genesis of 1839-43 voyage was magnetic research and JCR was ideal candidate to lead it.

p. 29: Crozier in command of Terror, and 2nd of whole expedition (as on Franklin expedition); Archibald McMurdo was 3rd Lt. in Terror with Back, and lst Lt. on Terror with Crozier in 1839.

p. 41-42, Joseph Dalton Hooker writing to his father in 1839 enroute south: Capt. Ross knows a good deal of the lower Orders of Animals; and between him and the invaluable books you gave me I am picking up a knowledge of them. I have now drawings of nearly 100 Marine Crustacea and Mullusca, almost all microscopic; some of them are very badly done, but I think that practice is improving me, and as I go on, I hope that some will be useful on my return. Were it not for drawing, my sea life would not be half so pleasant as to me it is. In the cabin, with every comfort around me, I can imagine myself at home.

p. 83, on Ross breaking through pack into open water, Amundsen said: Few people of the present day are capable of rightly appreciating this heroic deed, this brilliant proof of human courage and energy. With two ponderous craft—regular ‘tubs’ according to our ideas—these men sailed right into the heart of the pack, which all previous explorers had regarded as certain death…these men were heroes—heroes in the highest sense of the word.

p. 85ff, Diary of Cornelius Sullivan, blacksmith (cf. Forbidden Quest)

p. 93, Ross named the Cape at the foot of Mt. Terror after Crozier: …to whose zeal and cordial cooperation is mainly to be ascribed, under God’s blessing the happiness as well as success of the expedition….

p. 96-7, Sullivan the blacksmith speaks of his sighting of the Great Barrier: Beholding with Silent Surprise the great and wonderful Works of Nature in this position we had an opportunity to discern the barrier in its Splendid position. Then I wishd. i was an artist or a draughtsman instead of a blacksmith and Armourer. We set a Side all thoughts of mount Erebus and Victoria’s Land to bear in mind the more Imaginative thoughts of this rare phenomenon that was lost to view In Gone by Ages.

When Captain Ross came on deck he was Equally Surprised. To see the Beautiful Sight Though being in the north Arctic Regions one half of his life he never see any ice in Arctic Seas to be Compard. to the Barrier.

p. 112, in a letter from Ross in Hobart to Beaufort on April 9, 1840: ‘…I cannot help adding the very great comfort it is to me to witness the unanimous cordiality of feeling and zeal which animate every individual of the Expedition, a state of happiness strikingly contrasted with what we have before witnessed’—and a P.S. ‘Crozier hopes to be held in your kind remembrance he is a regular trump’.

p. 143—Master Davis of Terror compares discipline on his ship with that of Erebus, which he thought too lax and officers showed too much familiarity with men.

p. 146, New Year day, 1842, according to Ross: Meanwhile, being firmly stuck, ‘the day was spent by our people in the enjoyment of various amusing games on the ice, which their ingenuity invented, and which was finally wound up by a grand fancy ball, or a novel and original character, in which all the officers bore a part, and added much to the merriment and fun which all seemed greatly to enjoy; indeed, if our friends in England could have witnessed the scene, they would have thought, what I am sure truly was the case, that we were a very happy party’. Theatrical performances were a common feature of all polar expeditions but the ball on the ice in such unfavourable circumstances more than a thousand miles from the nearest human being must rank high in the annals of home-made entertainment.

p. 148-49, in a letter from John E. Davis of the Terror: ‘Of course Captain Crozier and Miss Ross opened the ball with a quadrille; after that we had reels and country dances. Ices and refreshments were handed round, the former in the greatest profusion (the boatswain of the Erebus performing the part of host under the title of Mr. Boniface). You would have laughed to see the whole of us, with think overall boots on, dancing, waltzing, and slipping about, and all the fun imaginable going on. Ladies fainting with cigars in their mouths, to cure which the gentlemen would politely thrust a piece of ice down her back. But it would require a “Boz” to give any idea of the ridiculous scene; it was beyond all description and the best of it was there was not an ill word the whole time, although there were some very heavy falls and many a sore face from the blows of the snowballs. All was taken in good part, and as the Vicar of Wakefield says, “what was wanting in wit was made up in laughter”.’

p. 156-57, at Ice Barrier on second voyage: That evening Ross took out a little book bound in red leather given to him by his sister. It was called ‘The Economy of Human Life’ and contained moral maxims covering all the problems and exigencies of life. In it he wrote ‘H.M. Ship Erebus 23rd Feb. 1842 in Lat 78ᵒ10′S Jas. C. Ross’ In the same book, nearly 15 years earlier, he had written ‘Written on board the Endeavour in Latitude 82 3/4Nᵒ 27th July 1827 Jas. C. Ross’ on the day he and Parry turned back from their attempt to reach the North Pole. He (also Bird and Abernethy who were with him in the North) had now approached nearer to both Poles than any man; both records were to stand for more than half a century. [Facsimiles of these inscriptions appear opposite p. 116.]

p. 166, by April 1842 Erebus had lost 3 men by drowning, Terror none.

p. 177: McMurdo, first lt. of Terror, was left in the Falklands suffering from something but much praised by Ross. Hooker devoted his time in Falklands to Botany. Long letter to his father on 25 Nov. 42 on p. 188-90. Speaks of good sailors laboring hard in difficult conditions with none of the comforts of ordinary ships and no thanks from the Admiralty.

p. 195ff: New Year at icepack in Erebus and Terror Gulf. In the afternoon Ross & his officers visited the Terror to exchange good wishes & then “the Captain entertained all his officers to dinner.” (p. 197). All on a bright clear day. In mid-January they were beset for days, with sailors exhausted with a work of 13-hour days trying to get out of the ice.

p. 206, third voyage least successful (from Falklands). Hooker spoke to RGS about it: It was the worst season of the three, one of constant gales, fogs and snow storms…. The officers of Terror told me that their commander never slept in his cot throughout that season in the ice, and that he passed it either on deck or in a chair in his cabin. They were nights of grog and hot coffee, for the orders to splice the main brace were many and imperative, if the crew were to be kept up to the strain on their nerves and muscles. [Hooker claimed he was the only one who didn’t regret the voyage.]

Ch. 17: results of voyage were impressive, “all despite the apathy of crew, Admiralty, and Crown.”