Arctic Ordeal: The Journal of John Richardson Surgeon-Naturalist with Franklin, 1820-1822.

This journal joins those of Back and Franklin as records of their first overland journey.

p. xxvii: In addition to Bibles, prayer books, and scripture commentaries, the officers brought blank leather-bound notebooks in which to record daily events. Large sheets of paper allowed them to protract the course of each day’s journey. They also brought manuals on navigation and astronomy, books of exploration written by Hearne and Mackenzie, and at least three natural history texts: the 1817 four-volume edition of Le Règne Animal by Cuvier in French [Paris 1817], Lichenographia Universalis by Eric Acharius in Latin [Göttingen 1810], and Flora Lapponica by [George] Wahlenberg [Berlin 1812]. Richardson probably packed Jameson’s three-volume geology and at least one medical or surgical text as well.

p. xxxviii: At Fort Enterprise on 23 November 1820 the officers received letters and enjoyed the luxury of London newspapers. These came from England on the 1820 Hudson’s Bay ship Eddystone that left London on 12 May and arrived at York Factory on 15 August, bringing more Selkirk settlers and the first missionary to the Northwest, the Rev. John West. The mail and newspapers were carried by North West Company canoes to Great Slave Lake and were finally brought from Fort Resolution by Belanger…. [The papers brought news that George III had died, but the explorers didn’t want to tell the natives.]

p. xxx-xxxi: Every officer carried his personal belongings, such as books, boots, and blankets…but dragged no sledge.

p. 26: On comparing the language of our two Eskimaux with a copy of St. John’s gospel printed for the use of the Moravian missionary settlements on the Labrador coast, it appears that the Eskimaux who resort to Churchill [on Hudson’s Bay] speak a language essentially the same with those who frequent the Labrador coast.

p. 148: Through the extreme kindness and forethought of a lady [Lady Lucy Barry], the party, previous to leaving London, had been furnished with a small collection of religious books, of which we still retained two or three of the most portable, and they proved of incalculable benefit to us. We read portions of them to each other as we lay in bed, in addition to the morning and evening service, and found that they inspired us on each perusal with so strong a sense of the omnipresence of a beneficent God, that our situation, even in these wilds, appeared no longer destitute…. [Footnote: The books included Bickersteth’s Scripture Helps, a Church of England prayer-book, and a series of meditations by Fenelon containing a prayer that Hood repeated often in his last days.]

p. 155, following Hood’s murder: Bickersteth’s Scripture Help was lying open beside the body, as if it had fallen from his hand, and it is probable that he was reading it at the instant of his death. We passed the night in the tent together without rest, every one being on guard.

p. 221, in Houston’s commentary on the book, Houston sees Richardson’s work as part of the “heyday of natural history”: To catalogue all of God’s creation, classification became the ‘central and defining task’.