These volumes recount one of the early Franklin search expeditions, originally organized by Lady Franklin but adopted and furnished by the Admiralty, and which wintered near the Resolute and Assistance, and were also close to John Ross’s Felix and Mary expedition (HBC). Sutherland was surgeon on the Sophia, and appears from these volumes to have been a most panglossian optimist, as can be seen from some of the quotations below.
p. 20-21: In consequence of not having come to some arrangement about the Church Services, the two Sundays, since we had left Aberdeen, were allowed to pass, without attending to that most important duty. As it was fully understood before sailing, that the Book of Common Prayer should be in use in our Expedition, fifty copies were obtained and distributed among the crews of the two ships. At eleven o’clock all hands assembled on the quarter-deck; each had on his best clothes, and the strictest attention had been paid to cleanliness. The beautiful morning service of the Church of England was commenced…. I am convinced that, if commanders of ships would but devote themselves and their spare energies, in real earnest, to the best interests of their crews, the odium which is occasionally associated with the character of seamen would be removed, and their relaxed habits exchanged for better modes of living.
p. 53, speaks of a 14-year-old Eskimaux who showed good instruction in Christianity and behavior: He enjoyed all the freedom of his unenlightened ancestors, without exposure to any of the dangers peculiar to their wandering life, or without suffering any of their miseries. The Esquimaux of West Greenland owe a debt of gratitude to the Danish government and the settlers which cannot be paid. [Typical British colonialism at work.]
p. 180, shipboard discussion was often on what Franklin might have done among officers of other ships etc principal theme was his likely route: Each had his opinion, for which he could advance reasons that were plausible to himself, and which he endeavoured to make plausible to others. Some appeared to have been reading much about the Arctic Regions, especially that part of it which related to the Franklin Expeditions….
p. 246: August 11th 1850 Being Sunday, no shooting was allowed, otherwise the rotges [??] would not have enjoyed such uninterrupted pastime in all directions around us.
p. 390-91, on preparing for wintering aboard the Lady Franklin and Sophia at Cornwallis Island: A whole suit of clothes was served out to the crews of the two ships, from the sealskin cap and mittens down to the stockings, boot-hose, and sea-boots. The provision that had been made for our Expedition in this respect was most ample; and the Admiralty, by whose orders the articles had been munificently supplied, as well as their respective makers, were equally entitled to our fondest remembrance and warmest gratitude. In this we had an unexceptionable proof of the care which the government of Great Britain has for all who may have the good fortune to be engaged in its services, and a feeling was aroused, in the breast of every one, that we should not be deficient in the faithful discharge of the duties which so fond a parent has sent us to perform. On the part of the men, there seemed to be a desire to render implicit obedience to the orders of their officers, and the latter endeavoured to be as merciful as possible in their exactions, and to behave with the utmost courtesy towards those who were under them.
p. 426-31: Nov. 4, 1850 On the fourth of this month, when our universities in Scotland were receiving thousands from all parts of that happy country within their venerable walls…, the Arctic Academy was opened under the favourable auspices of our commander; and the boards of the Royal Cornwallis Theatre were graced by a company of actors, who seemed determined that their audience should not want the amusement to be derived from their able performances…. The music was generally tolerable, and certainly the songs were such as to disarm, if not to charm, the severest critic. The diversity of character, even among forty individuals, presented almost every shade from the sturdy Highlander to the Cockney. Those who were most desirous to please their audience generally made the greatest number of failures; but, if possible, the amusement of a ‘break down’ was better than the completion of the piece; although those whom it occurred were always disappointed. The theatre was on board the ‘Lady Franklin,” and there was comfortable accommodation for upwards of fifty persons. Sir John Ross and Commander Phillips were generally present;….
The printing press which had been provided for us before leaving home by the kindness of some friends was very useful in printing the bills, announcing details of each of the performances, and giving fictitious names by which the characters were to be sustained….
The school was conducted four nights in the week, and three hours each night, in the half decks, by the medical officers of both ships; and, generally speaking, the men appeared to be very desirous to improve the various branches of a common school education. Reading, writing, and arithmetic, were attended to, and, occasionally, geography was introduced. Some of them were really very ignorant; and those were the persons who were least desirous to learn anything that cost them an effort… [of another dozen]. They all appeared to be interested in geography, and although we were very deficient in geographical books and maps, having only one very old map of the world, and a single copy of that excellent work, ‘Johnston’s Physical Atlas,’ which did not belong to the ship, it was astonishing with what facility a very correct idea of the form of the earth …[etc.] was obtained by persons who could hardly sign their names….
p. 431-33: We had slates and pencils which had been supplied at Aberdeen, and also some paper, a little of which could be spared to the seamen. This proved very useful to all who had a taste for writing and arithmetic. About eighty volumes were sent on board the ‘Sophia,’ and upwards of twice that number of books on board the ‘Lady Franklin,’ by the government, for the use of their crews during winter. These we found very useful; and it was fortunate we were permitted to change them from one ship to the other, as soon as they were read. Through the extreme kindness of Lady Franklin, some very useful works on the Arctic Regions were sent out to us in one of the ships under the command of Captain Austin, which we received about the end of June, when we first had communication with that Expedition. One of the seamen who had been in search of Sir John Franklin a great many years ago on the coast of Van Diemen’s Land, received a book with his name inscribed in it by that lady, on which account he prized it very highly. We also had a small collection of religious books from the library of the Mariners’ Chapel, Aberdeen, for which we were indebted to the kindness of Mr. Longmuir, the minister of that chapel, whose zeal for the general welfare of seamen entitles him to their thanks and support. These books, together with tolerably large collections belong to the officers of both ships, were put into the men’s hands from time to time, and exchanged as often as was necessary; and of course the result was, that a taste for reading was acquired by them, which increased with their increasing knowledge. For our use in the cabins our own collections afforded much more varied reading than our time would allow to follow up; and from the collection that belonged to the ship we could get a reading of the Admiralty Manual of Scientific Enquiry, ‘Darwin’s Naturalist’s Voyage,’ ‘Humboldt’s Cosmos,’ &c. &c.; books which are inseparable from the libraries of travellers and seamen. Some of us had no small reason for regretting that the Admiralty Manual had not come into our hands before leaving England, where alone provision could have been made to enable us to follow up the valuable investigations which are therein succinctly treated.
p. 447, speculation about Franklin’s probable route was influenced by the proposition, taken from Sabine’s preface to Wrangell’s Travels, that stressed the Wellington Channel route—“ in a very short time a single voice was not to be heard but in favour of the Wellington Channel.”
p. 474-76, ten people from these two ships went to Griffith Island for the theatrical finale of the year, a grand extravaganza.
p. 479—cites Wrangell’s work which presumably was aboard one of the ships, as was Lyell’s Principles of Geology (p. 485).
p. 489, carpenter of the Sophia used a description of a Spirometer from the first volume of the Lancet to prefabricate one aboard (to measure affect on lungs of rapid temperature change).
Volume I ends in March 1851.
Volume II is mainly devoted to sledge journeys in Wellington Channel and to plans to return home in August 1851, though Penny contemplated another winter.
p. 264, Sutherland is moved by Sunday morning service, especially by the 107th Psalm, and sees the service tending “very much to break down the huge barrier that lies between the condition of the rough and hardy sailor and that of the happy and regular churchgoing landsman.” He is critical (p. 265) of an expedition that has six appointed medical personnel and no chaplain.
The last half of the second volume contains appendices of travel reports and scientific data collected on the expedition.
p. 553: The year 1853 did not dawn on us auspiciously.