This Distant and Unsurveyed Country.


p. 158: To keep the men alert and cheerful at winter harbor on the search expedition [Franklin search 1850-51], Penny’s surgeons had organized the “Royal Cornwallis Theatre” on board the Lady Franklin. Drawing actors from both ships and also from Sir John Ross’s nearby vessel, the company distributed printed handbills and performed in front of an audience of fifty, wearing calico costumes and accompanied by music that was described—possibly, with some exaggeration—as “tolerable” (Sutherland 1852: I. 428). At about the same time, the “Arctic Academy” got under way, also under the direction of the surgeons. Its classes ran for three hours a night, four nights a week. Reading, writing, and arithmetic formed the basis of the curriculum, but geography excited the men’s interest in a special way because some of them had sailed on merchant voyages to various parts of the world. Despite a limited supply of educational materials (slates, some paper and pencils, an old world map, and one copy of Johnston’sPhysical Atlas),the seamen (some of whom were barely literate) eagerly participated in discussions of global physical and human geography. The brightest men on the ships showed promise of learning elementary navigation by winter’s end.