NORTH WEST PASSAGE. CHAMBERS (GEORGE) "H.M.S Terror in frozen strait", [1838]
Lot 26
NORTH WEST PASSAGE, 1836-1837. CHAMBERS (GEORGE) "H.M.S Terror in frozen strait", [1838]
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Lot Details
CHAMBERS (GEORGE) "H.M.S Terror in frozen strait", watercolour and charcoal on paper, mounted, laid down, captioned on verso of mount "'H.M.S. Terror in Frozen Strait' on the night of the 15th of March 1838.[sic] by G. Chambers R.A. Sketch for the large picture in the museum of the R. Geographical Soc. from the Bicknell Collection", 230 x 310mm., [1838]


  • As a sturdy bomb vessel, H.M.S Terror was suited to Arctic service. Command of Terror was given to Admiral Sir George Back (1796-1878) in 1836 for the purpose of determining whether the Boothia Peninsula, in the north Canadian Arctic, was an island or a peninsula. The plan was to enter via Repulse Bay, on the shores of Hudson Bay, but Terror did not reach Repulse Bay and barely survived the winter off Southampton Island. She was forced 12 metres up the side of a cliff by the power of the Arctic ice, which, in addition to the damage she sustained during an encounter with an iceberg in Spring 1837, left her in a sinking condition. Back was forced to beach Terror at Lough Swilly on the coast of Ireland on September 3rd 1837. As Back recalled in Narrative of an Expedition in H.M.S. Terror, "[when] the strained and twisted state of the ship's frame was considered, there was not one on board who did not express astonishment that we had ever floated across the Atlantic."

    The date of 1838 mentioned on the label appears to be an error. The present watercolour is a preliminary sketch for Chambers' finished work, 'The Terror Iced in off Cape Comfort, 1836', which was painted retrospectively and is signed and dated 1838. There are slight differences between our sketch and the finished version.

    See illustration on preceding page.

    Literature: Alan Russett's, George Chambers, Woodbridge, Suffolk, 1996, p.159-160.
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