Lot 2012
Sold for US$ 10,200 inc. premium
Auction Details
Lot Details
Manuscript diary of John Charters, a seaman on the Enterprise, 55 pp, 4to, around the Behring Straits, 1848-1849, titled Voyage with her Majestys Ships Enterprise and Investigator to the Arctic Regions, with one small compass drawing, bound in original vellum, vellum soiled, later manuscript notes at end, text of diary in excellent condition.

When Sir John Franklin and the crew of the HMS Erebus failed to return from their Arctic voyage of 1845, the British Admiralty offered a 20,000 pound reward in 1848, which sparked a series of rescue expeditions, including those of the Enterprise, under command of Sir James Clark Ross, and Investigator, under E.J. Bird.
Ross had commanded the Erebus and Terror in his expedition of 1839-1843, tracing the northern coastline of America almost in its entirety and finding nearly conclusive evidence of the existence of the Northwest Passage. What remained to be seen was if the Northwest Passage was navigable. Sir John Franklin, then 59 years of age, took this question upon himself. He sailed in command of the Erebus and Terror the season after Ross’s return. When Franklin disappeared, Ross was the first to set out in search for him, and this diary covers that voyage, from April of 1848 to November, 1849.
The author includes much of interest—the first day out a man goes overboard (and is rescued by the Second Master)—and by the third page he begins making frequent references to the fields of ice, a deal of ice, and towers of ice. The eeriness of Arctic exploration is well-conveyed. In part: “Running the Islands trying to find a passage and saw the grand Barrier at the back of the Island and very large Bergs and detach’d pieces all round us … run into land and saw an opening which was mark’d in the Chart the Main Land we run in about 20 miles but it was completely blocked up with Ice 250 ft high. Anchor’d to it this is the farthest any Ship has been to the Eastward … the Investigator enclosed in the Ice … and we assisted [her] out of the Ice smash’d our Starboard Cutter. Ice. Master away looking at the Ice. … Block’d all round trying to force a passage but to no purpose. 28th. Warping sawing and chopping and forced to come back … brought on board Esquimaux skulls from the remains of a Settlement ….” He also describes encounters with live Eskimo, draws a depiction of the Northern Lights, catches and releases Arctic foxes, and recounts the discovery of what seems like a clue: a plank in the water “mark’d thus, BXIV and 2 ring bolts in it ….” Ross’s was the first of many relief and search expeditions, both public and private. Remains of Franklin’s party were not discovered until 1854, but the expeditions in search of him “turned the map of the Arctic regions north of America from a blank void into a grim but distinct representation of islands, straits, and seas” (DNB). See also Smucker, Arctic Explorations and Discoveries During the Nineteenth Century, 1857, for a detailed account of the present voyage.
See illustration.