Frozen Ships: The Arctic Diary of Johann Miertsching, 1850-1854.

Quite a riveting account of the Investigator Franklin search expedition by a German Moravian minister, pious but human, who was assigned primarily as an interpreter. His reading naturally centers around scripture and tracts, but he has a healthy interest in most shipboard doings.

p. 24, May 31, 1850: I was drying my books on the upper deck and took the opportunity of offering more very fine tracts to various seamen, who received them with thanks. I hope that they may not be read in vain.

p. 25, 15 June: A sailor asked me for a tract, and I distributed among the crew all that I had. On learning of this the captain [McClure] laughed heartily and gave it as his opinion that his people were not such simple folk as my Eskimos, etc.

p. 34, 19 July: I often have interesting discussions with the captain about the missionaries to the heathen and civilization itself; we hold very different views on these matters. Today we had a long discussion on the words, “it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, etc.” I still lack faith in my English, so I advised the captain to refer his mistaken views to his own writings and books; for he has a fine library, and in it some rare and precious works on Christianity.

p. 73, Sept. 24: I had a long and earnest conversation with the captain, and before I wished him good-night I opened my Losung and read aloud: “Be ye therefore ready, for ye know neither the day nor the hour when the Son of Man cometh.” Help us, Lord Jesus.

p. 77, Sept. 29: I dined with the captain today, read him a sermon after coffee, and we talked on various agreeable topics….

Sept. 30: At 9 a.m. the crew was mustered, and after the captain had inspected the ship, he read an extract from the Articles of War relating to discipline on board ship, and the punishment by which it is enforced…. After this reading the captain addressed the men in terms of vehement rebuke [re drunkenness in a dangerous situation about which the captain said only a miracle of Almighty Providence saved them and the ship].

p. 79, 7 October: Every day I spend some most agreeable hours with the captain: he seems now to realize that he is not the good exemplary Christian which he used to think himself; for some days he has been reading his Bible morning and evening.

p. 87, a reference to Ross’s Narrative of a Second Voyage which probably was aboard the ship.

p. 161, 31 March 1852: The school, held all winter for the sailors, but very poorly attended, was closed today. When one tramps around all day on mountains, snow, and ice, with an empty stomach, he feels exhausted in the evening and has not the least desire to learn.

p. 176, 26 Nov, 1852: This winter there is no school; the men employ themselves by reading books from the ship’s library and other private books, and by sewing, knitting, crocheting, etc….

p. 185, 27 March: In the evenings I read Easter meditations aloud to the captain. Those men who are to stay with the ship are busy writing letters to their friends in England.

p. 187-190, Miertsching’s account of the rescue of the icebound Investigator crew, by Captain Pim of the Resolute.

p. 200-21, on McClure’s return to the ship to recover some items; The captain had been unable to bring me my precious journal; though it would have added no more than about two pounds to the load of the sledge; but he would have been obliged to bring also the journals and records of his officers, and this he could not do… My worthy Captain McClure offered me in the friendliest way the use of his ship’s journal, that with it aided by memory I might reconstruct my own; he would endeavour to procure for me writing materials, which are very rare on these ships. I accepted this friendly offer with many thanks. Captain Kellett promised me twelve sheets of paper, Dr. Domeville two pens, and Mr. De Bray some ink.

p. 213, 30 November: From the very beginning of the month Captain Kellett had planned to present plays and entertainments, to occupy and enliven depressed spirits through means such as these. But this project has been postponed owing to the death of Mr. Sainsbury. Dramatic costumes and the like had been brought from England. For fourteen days men have been busy converting the deck of the Resolute into a great hall with decorations, stage, and scenery. Those sailors chosen to act go daily on to the ice to learn their parts. Programs—red silk for the captains, blue for the officers, and of paper for the men—have been printed and distributed. This evening at 7 the sound of a trumpet proclaimed the commencement of the play, The Taming of the Shrew, followed by the farce, The Two Bonnycastles, which lasted until 9.30. All spectators received a pint of beer. [These were aboard Intrepid after abandonment of Investigator.]

p. 214, 15 Dec.: Because the recreations and drama provided by Captain Kellett have not had the success which he desired and hoped to obtain from them, some of the officers are delivering lectures of a sort in simple style, intelligible to uneducated sailors…. These lectures, or, as they are properly named, ‘time shortenings’, are theoretical and practical…. Through very simple and inadequate, they have been well attended and everyone seems to enjoy them. When the men are walking back and forth on the ice their conversation is on learned topics. Without doubt these lectures, if supported by private reading, are much better than theatrical representations.

p. 221, gives the final order from Belcher to abandon ship, but a petition to him asking the order be reversed, delivered by Captain McClintock was denied.