Resolute: The Epic Search for the Northwest Passage and John Franklin and the Discovery of the Queen’s Ghost Ship.

[ABEBOOKS Description]: Almost everyone knows the photo of John F. Kennedy, Jr. as a young boy, peering out from under his father’s desk in the Oval Office. But few realize that the desk itself plays a part in one of the world’s most extraordinary mysteries – a dramatic tale that has never before been told in its full scope. Acclaimed historian Martin Sandler – a two-time Pulitzer Prize nominee, winner of seven Emmy Awards, and author of more than 50 books – finally brings the entire story to light. This amazing high-seas adventure encompasses the search for the Northwest Passage in the early 1800s; a renowned explorer and his crew of 128 men who vanish during an 1845 expedition; 39 incredible, heroic attempted rescue missions; a ghost ship that drifts for more than 1,200 miles; a queen’s gratitude; and that famous desk. Fascinating rare photographs, paintings, engravings, and maps illustrate the book throughout. It all began when, in one of the biggest news stories of the 19th century, Sir John Franklin and his ships the Erebus and the Terror disappeared while attempting to locate the fabled Northwest Passage. At the request of Franklin’s wife, Lady Jane, the first mission set out from England in hopes of finding him; many others followed in its wake, none successful. Among these was the Resolute, the finest vessel in Queen Victoria’s Navy. But in 1854 it became locked in Arctic ice and was abandoned by its captain. A year later, a Connecticut whaler discovered it 1,200 miles away – drifting and deserted, a 600-ton ghost ship. He and his small crew boarded the Resolute, and steered it through a ferocious hurricane back to New London, Connecticut. The United States government then reoutfitted the ship and returned it to the thankful Queen. In 1879, when the Resolute was finally retired, she had the best timbers made into a desk for then-President Rutherford B. Hayes. It is still used by U.S. presidents today— one of the most celebrated pieces of furniture in the White House.

p. 47-8: Parry knew it would be a long and challenging winter…. He knew that the greatest challenge—greater even than the ice or snow—would be boredom. ‘I dreaded the want of employment as one of the worst evils that was likely to befall us.’ Long before he had left for the Arctic, Parry had carefully planned for a work regiment and an ongoing array of entertainments to keep everyone occupied should they have to spend the winter in the ice. Every day, from 5:45 A.M. until nightfall, the men on both ships [Hecla and Griper] were kept busy with activities ranging from scrubbing the desk to mending and checking the rigging and sails. Anticipating the need for evening entertainment, Parry had brought with him costumes, makeup, and scripts—even a barrel organ, so that classic and comic productions and musicals could be presented. A weekly newspaper, The North Georgia Gazette and Winter Chronicle was published. Cricket and other games were held on the ice that surrounded the vessels. Although he had no way of knowing it, Parry had instituted a program for dealing with spirit-killing boredom that, in years to come, would be employed time and again by winterbound Arctic ships.

p. 49, at Winter Island in 1821, Parry began some new programs to occupy his men: Along with regular performances by the Royal Arctic Theater, now equipped stage lights, Parry introduced a school aboard each of the vessels where crew members were taught both reading and writing. An observatory was built onshore where men of the Fury and Hecla took magnetic measurements and made other scientific observations.

p. 56, by contrast, Ross, aboard Victory in 1829: … was not interested in providing entertainment for his crew…. plays, pageants, and shipboard newspapers were frivolities that got in the way of needed discipline. And unlike Parry, Ross did not believe in mingling with his men in order to boost their spirits.

p.121, Miertsching’s view: Our principal occupations are walking and sleeping; reading and writing are out of the question, as we have hardly light enough for the most necessary duties. Wolves howl around the ship.” [1852]

p. 154, items found on Resolute: the volume of Shakespeare, which you find in an officer’s berth, has a damp feel, as if you had been reading it in the open air in a March north-easter.

p. 156, on refurbishing of Resolute, Sanders says: Everything that could be reconditioned was preserved, including Captain Kellett’s library, the pictures in his cabin, and his officers’ musical instruments. [This statement is something of a mystery—I’ve not yet found anything about these survivals.]