Searching for the Franklin Expedition. The Arctic Journal of Robert Randolph Carter.

Private journal of a cruise in the Brig Rescue in search of Franklin, together with the Advance. Part of US Grinnell Expedition in 1850, one of 12 search vessels that year. Carter was first officer of the Rescue, a small ship that wintered in 1850-51 off Beechey Island in, where the bodies of three of Franklin’s menrs had been found. Clearly Carter is intelligent witty and educated. p. 10: The headquarters [of the expedition] were the luxurious Astor House, whose accommodations were provided by the management; and the Grinnells had already stocked the ships’ libraries with books, many written by earlier Arctic explorers.

p. 24: Commenced reading Ross’s Expedition this afternoon, being the first opportunity I have had, and find it interesting. [The footnote on p. 180 suggests this book is either John Ross’s A Voyage of Discovery (1819), Wilhelm Graah’s Narrative of an Expedition (1837), both of which are mentioned by Dr. Kane and therefore “must have been part of the ship’s library.”]

p. 26, Carter mentions use of John Purdy’s The British American Navigator (London, 1847). There are also multiple mentions of Nathaniel Bowditch’s New American Practical Navigator (1802 etc.).

p. 28: There was no hour during the night that we could not read by the twilight although it was cloudy.

p. 37: Strange how many of these people can read and many of them write, but it shows the good of the Danish missionaries who have more than civilized these singular beings as far North as 74°N Latitude on this [Greenland] coast. Showing one of them an Esquimaux vocabulary in English characters he pointed out several words spelt wrong for his dialect as the Esquimaux language varies or even changes entirely in different situations. They also have very clear ideas of Religion, Moravian.

p. 43 July 24th 1850: Got hold of Crantz’s history of Greenland, fine book. [David Cranz, The History of Greenland. (London, 1820). Footnote p. 182 says the book probably came from the library of the Advance. Kane mentions having read it as well.]

p. 59, in exploring the Wellington Channel the men found what they thought were traces of Franklin: such as a piece of newspaper, more meat cans (one with the paper label perfect) some small shot, spikes, a clay pipe and lastly a piece of writing paper with the name of McDonald (one of Franklins Doctors.)

p. 70, Saturday September 7th 1850: Read in Parry to-day that he put all his compasses below except the Azimuth which was also a poor dependence and am quite satisfied to learn that I am not the first master to make funny variations by azimuths taken near the same position. The variation I got on the 29th ulto agrees with 2° of Parrys nearest to that position. [This book was probably Sir William Edward Parry’s Journal of a Voyage for the Discovery of the North-West Passage (London, 1821).]

p. 71. Sunday September 8th 1850: I spent a very quiet Sabbath reading, but this is no place to pass a satisfactory one and more particularly in this weather where one is suffering from cold except while in bed or during active exercise. I sent a bundle of tracts which I selected from our supply into the forecastle but I am affraid that they will hardly be noticed. Every one in the expedition appears so utterly indifferent to the one thing needful in spite of the constant evidence that Providence alone can protect us and in this cruise by special interposition. [Providence is frequently referred to in Carter’s journal.]

p. 80, Saturday September 21st 1850: The Crows Nest [the expedition newspaper] (Lovell & Griffin editors) came out to-night. I haven’t read the first number but understand it is a dirty pill which didnt go down.

p. 80, Sunday September 22nd 1850: As I have the forenoon watch I had the afternoon below and so o[n]ly lost four hours of the Sabbath in that scrape. Read the Sabbath Manual by J[ustin]. Edwards and am afraid it behooves me to leave a service where such work may be required. Indeed my conscience spites me, for not having considered this matter before, though I never any idea that I would ever be places where the Sabbath was purposely made the day of work as it is with us. …The S. Manual, together with several other religious books furnished; by some Society in New York [American Tract Society?] I got out of a waste paper locker on board the Advance where are many others being torn up perfectly new. A large bundle of tracts having been exhausted in the same cause.

p. 89: Read Fernande in the original and was delighted with it being so much more chaste than I expected to find it and rather exposing the abyss into which woman falls when she stoops to folly, than excusing or palliating it as Bulwer [Lytton] often does.

p. 90, Saturday October 12th 1850: Commenced a novel called A man made of money [Douglas William Jerrold] and find quantities of excellent wit in it besides the moral which is good.

p. 92, Saturday October 19th 1850: Read Peer’s & Parvenue’s by Mrs. [Catherine Grace] Gore and was much pleased. Wonder if such society as she describes is always found at Naples.

p. 92, Sunday October 20th 1850: Commenced [John Angell] Jame’s Anxious Inquirer and find a treasure, making explanations and exciting to study the bible in a way I have never done before. I advise readers of this little book to follow the advice in the introduction while reading it.

p. 92, Monday, Oct 21st 1850: I wasted my time to-day on a book called the Tartar Chief which professes to give the character of the Tartars but is something of a humbug. [Not identified]

p. 93, Tuesday October 22nd 1850: Spent the forenoon quite rationally reading [William] Paleys Nat Theology and Spanish but after dinner got hold of an annual and wasted all the afternoon on it.

p. 93, Thursday Oct 24th 1850: Time gets along faster now than when we were actively employed and I dont find the confinement irksome yet though I should dread a second winter without a new stock of books.

p. 116, Thursday January 30th 1851: Had Theatrical performances in the evening from which having the mid watch I was excused.

p. 119, Friday February 14th 1851: More theatricals this evening, which occurring on my watch I had to attend and did feel for the poor ladies who with bare arms and their dresses suffered somewhat from the lowness of the temperature.

p. 120, Saturday 22nd: A fine pleasant day in spite of the low temperature which we enjoyed very much on the ice and in the evening assembled on deck to witness Theatricals quite chilling though the latter was the thermometer standing at 45° below zero during the performance.

p. 145, West Coast of Greenland, Wednesday July 9th 1851: Met the American Whaleship McLellan and two English whalers going southward having given up the Northern route as impractical. Most of us got letters from home (Griffin & myself none from our families) and a quantity of Newspapers (Mr. Grinnells kindness). Bought of the Yankee captain some potatoes and a small stove at Yankee profit prices. The report of Snow, mate of the Prince Albert, last year speaking so highly of our expedition as to turn every thing into ridicule we hear of with great indignation. [W. Parker Snow. Voyage of the Prince Albert (London, 1851).]