Friday, July 26, 2013

On This Day in History - Franklin Expedition goes missing in the Arctic while searching for a NW Passage. HMS INVESTIGATOR searches from the Pacific - LIST OF NW PASSAGE BOATS - More about Captain John Calder

On This Day in History

In 1845, the John Franklin Expedition disappeared in the Arctic trying to chart and discover for navigation a Northwest Passage between the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. It was later learned that Franklin's two ships, HMS EREBUS and HMS TERROR were frozen in ice west of King William Island. Franklin died June 11, 1847, and his 105 crew members perished while trekking southward. Over fifty (50) ships searched the Arctic for more than five years for the missing Franklin Expedition. Not to be found again...

Here is the only written record recovered:

(click image for a larger size) 

Who discovered the first Northwest Passage Route? Captain Robert McClure aboard HMS INVESTIGATOR in 1851 while searching for the Franklin Expedition. In 1852, The McClure Expedition crew abandoning their ship stuck in pack ice in Mercy Bay on Baring Island (Banks Island). In 1853 they begin walking out over the sea ice. After abandoning HMS RESOLUTE at Melville Island they continue walking over sea ice the next winter for a total of 500 miles to reach Beechey Island to join HMS NORTH STAR who sailed home to England in 1854. The INVESTIGATOR crew had wintered over in the deep cold Arctic for four winters. The crewmembers were presented the Arctic (Polar) Medal by Queen Victoria. John Calder, captain of the INVESTIGATOR's forepeak crew was presented with an additional medal by the Queen for "meritorious conduct." An additional medal was awarded to John Woon - Color Sergeant "For Exceptional Bravery And Intrepidity". The British Parliament recognized the accomplishments of the crew with a 10,000 pound reward for discover of the NW Passage which was shared by the captain and crew.

The earliest traverse of the Northwest Passage was completed in 1853 but used sledges over the sea ice of the central part of Parry Channel. (McClure Expedition) Subsequently there have been 185 complete transits of the Northwest Passage have been made to the end of the 2012 navigation season. These transits proceed to or from the Atlantic Ocean (Labrador Sea) in or out of the eastern ap­proaches to the Canadian Arctic archipelago (Lancaster Sound or Foxe Basin) then the western approaches (McClure Strait or Amundsen Gulf), across the Beaufort Sea and Chukchi Sea of the Arctic Ocean, from or to the Pacific Ocean (Bering Sea). The Arctic Circle is crossed near the beginning and the end of all transits unless they proceed to the west coast of Greenland. The routes and directions are indicated. Complements of a few vessels left them for winter to return in a later navigation season. Details of submarine transits are not included because only two have been reported (1960 USS Sea Dragon, Capt. George Peabody Steele, West 1 and 1962 USS Skate, Capt. Joseph Lawrence Skoog, East 1) and they do not need to navigate through ice. 

(Q) What is a Northwest Passage?
(A) A Northwest Passage is a sea route navigation through the Polar Arctic by a vessel on it's own bottom between the geographic points of the Davis Strait Atlantic Arctic Circle and the Bering Strait Pacific Arctic Circle. Direction of transit is usually indicated. Distance depending on route exceeds 2,800 nautical miles (5,200 kms).

Today there are seven (7) well documented Northwest Passage routes through the Arctic.

Seven routes have been used for transits of the Northwest Passage with some minor variations (for example through Pond Inlet and Navy Board Inlet) and three composite courses in summers when ice was minimal (transits 140, 168, and 170). These are:

1: Davis Strait, Lancaster Sound, Barrow Strait, Viscount Melville Sound, McClure Strait, Beaufort Sea, Chukchi Sea, Bering Strait. The shortest and deepest, but most difficult way owing to the severe ice of McClure Strait. The route is used by submarines because of its depth.

2: Davis Strait, Lancaster Sound, Barrow Strait, Viscount Melville Sound, Prince of Wales Strait, Amundsen Gulf, Beaufort Sea, Chukchi Sea, Bering Strait. An easier variant of route 1 which may avoid severe ice in McClure Strait. It is suitable for deep draft vessels.

3: Davis Strait, Lancaster Sound, Barrow Strait, Peel Sound, Franklin Strait, Victoria Strait, Coronation Gulf, Amundsen Gulf, Beaufort Sea, Chukchi Sea, Bering Strait. The principal route; used by most vessels of draft less than 10 m.

4: Davis Strait, Lancaster Sound, Barrow Strait, Peel Sound, Rae Strait, Simpson Strait, Coronation Gulf, Amundsen Gulf, Beaufort Sea, Chukchi Sea, Bering Strait. A variant of route 3 for small vessels if ice from McClintock Channel has blocked Victoria Strait. Simpson Strait is only 6·4 m deep and has complex currents.

5: Davis Strait, Lancaster Sound, Prince Regent Inlet, Bellot Strait, Franklin Strait, Victoria Strait, Coronation Gulf, Amundsen Gulf, Beaufort Sea, Chukchi Sea, Bering Strait. This route is dependent on ice conditions in Bellot Strait which has complex currents. Mainly used by eastbound vessels.

6: Davis Strait, Lancaster Sound, Prince Regent Inlet, Bellot Strait, Rae Strait, Simpson Strait, Coronation Gulf, Amundsen Gulf, Beaufort Sea, Chukchi Sea, Bering Strait. A variant of route 5 for small vessels if ice from McClintock Channel has blocked Victoria Strait. Simpson Strait is only 6·4 m deep, complex currents run in Bellot and Simpson Straits.

7: Hudson Strait, Foxe Basin, Fury and Hecla Strait, Bellot Strait, Franklin Strait, Victoria Strait, Coronation Gulf, Amundsen Gulf, Beaufort Sea, Chukchi Sea, Bering Strait. A difficult route owing to severe ice usually at the west of Fury and Hecla Strait and the currents of Bellot Strait. Mainly used by eastbound vessels as an alternative is practicable.

Complete transits have been made by 135 different vessels. The commercial Russian icebreaker Kapitan Khlebnikov has made 17 tran­sits, the largest number of any vessel. Hanseatic has made 10, Bremen 6 (2 with the former name, Frontier Spirit), and Polar Bound 4 (the most for a private yacht); 4 vessels have each made 3 transits, and 13 have made 2. More than one year was taken by 19 of these vessels, mainly small craft, to complete a transit wintering at various places along the route. Five vessels have made return transits in one summer. The vessels are from 29 registries: 43 from Canada, 24 Russia, 22 United States, 20 Bahamas, 17 Britain, 11 France, 6 Cayman Islands, 5 Sweden, 4 Australia, and Germany, 3 Poland, 2 Belgium, Finland, Netherlands, and Norway, and 1 from Antigua and Barbuda, Austria, Barbados, Croatia, Denmark, Ireland (√Čire), Italy, Japan, Marshall Islands, New Zealand, Singapore, Spain, South Africa, and Switzer­land. Passengers have been carried on 40 transits but only three (numbers 74, 75, and 172) were otherwise commercial voyages. Four of the vessels have travelled through the Panama Canal and circumnavigated North America, three have circum­navigated all America, and eight have circumnavigated the Arctic Ocean. Captain Viktor Vasiliev has commanded 8 transits, Heinz Aye and Piotr Golikov 6, David Scott Cowper and Thilo Natke 5, several others have commanded more than one. 

To the 2012 end of navigation 185 transits of the Northwest Passage have been made. A route analysis shows:

Route 1 west 3 east 0 total 3 
Route 2 west 11 east 4 total 15
Route 3 west 30 east 26 total 56 
Route 4 west 31 east 14 total 45
Route 5 west 12 east 22 total 34 
Route 6 west 7 east 19 total 26
Route 7 west 0 east 3 total 3 
Composite west 2 east 1 total 3 [marked ‘Cp’ in list]
All Routes west 96 east 89 
Total 185

Notes: in 2008 Polarstern, an icebreaker, from Germany, westbound, traversed the Canadian Arctic archipelago, Beaufort Sea and Chukchi sea while circumnavigating the Arctic Ocean; the vessel did not transit Bering Strait nor enter the Pacific Ocean thus is not included in this list. Similarly in 2010 Northern Passage (9·6 m trimaran from Norway, Capt. Thorleif Thorleifssen) and Piotr I (18 m yacht, from Russia, Capt. Daniel Gavrilov), and in 2012 Scorpius (29·5 m yacht from Russia, Capt. Sergei Nizovtsov) traversed the Chukchi Sea, Beaufort Sea, and Canadian Arctic archipelago eastbound but did not arrived from the Pacific Ocean, through the Bering Strait, thus they are also not included in this list. Many other voyages have been made through the archipelago of the Canadian Arctic, such as that of Manhattan which reached the Arctic coast of Alaska but did not continue to the Pacific Ocean; these, and one carried partly as deck cargo aboard a Canadian icebreaker, are not regarded as complete transits of the Northwest Passage.

FYI - Have more people climbed Mt. Everest than completed a NW Passage? YES! Only 135 boats have completed a NW Passage vs 3,100 climbers who have summited Mt. Everest.

There are a total of about 15 recognized routes for climbing Mount Everest, but only two main ones. One starts in Nepal, and runs up the southeast ridge of the mountain, and the other starts in Tibet, and runs up the north ridge. Each of these routes has its own base camp for people to start out from, called the South Base Camp and the North Base Camp, respectively. The South Base Camp is generally more popular, since the southeast ascent is easier and several permits are required to go to the North Base Camp. As both of the camps are high above sea level, most people stop over for a few days to get used to the altitude.

At 29,028 feet (8,848 meters), Mount Everest is the tallest mountain of the world. It is considered one of the most challenging mountains to climb, and is part of the Seven Summits, which have the highest peaks on each continent. Though it's impossible to say how many people have reached Everest's summit at any given time since the number changes every year, as of September 2011 over 3,100 climbers from over 20 countries had made over 5,100 recorded climbs, mostly after 2000 CE. As of 2012 there were over 220 recorded fatalities, most of which took place before 1990. Changes in climbing equipment led to a sharp drop in fatalities in the 2000s, with the death rate dropping from 37% in 1990 to about 4.4% in 2004.

Here is the known list of 135 vessels who have made 185 Northwest Passage transits:

Questions or comments? Please post them below and I'll answer.

More of the Captain John Calder story....

Chicago Daily - Sunday January 18th 1891, p. 26



John Calder, Who Farms Down Near Alexis, Has had Many Strange Experiences -- He Was with the Expedition that Discovered the Northwest Passage -- 

Memories of the Party That Went in Search of Franklin.

John Calder, a farmer living near Alexis, Ill., was with two Arctic expeditions sent out by the English Government in search of Sir John Franklin. For fourteen years before he settled in Chicago in 1855 Calder led a seafaring life. He is the son of a Somersetshire farmer, and after girdling the globe a time or two and taking a good look at the rest of humanity he returned to the occupation of his ancestors. Calder, if he were not buried in the obscurity of the quiet life he leads, would be famous for one thing at least. He is probably the only living man who has been around the Americas. The crew he was with on his second voyage was the first to make the trip, but they left the ship behind.

Capt. Robert J. L. M. McClure, the commander of her Majesty’s ship Investigator, which weighed anchor in Plymouth sound Jan. 20, 1850, with its consort the Enterprise, and spread its fresh sails for the Polar Sea by way of the Straits of Magellan, his Second Lieutenant, S.G. Cresswell, and the Surgeon, Dr. Alex Armstrong, discovered the Northwest passage from the summit of a hill on the north shore of Prince Albert Land, Oct. 10, 1850.

The primary object of the expedition in command of Capt. McClure was the relief of Sir John Franklin and his party. Two years previous the Investigator had sailed on a similar mission, with orders to proceed to Baffin Bay and enter the Polar Sea from the eastward. It was commanded at that time by Sir James Ross, but returned in 1849 without having found any traces of the lost explorer. The Investigator was built for Artic service, and was a sailing vessel, bark-rigged, of 422 tons. It was especially fortified to cope with the ice. Its crew consisted of sixty-six men, all selected for their physical capabilities, great courage, and efficiency for an expedition of this character. Many of them had visited the frozen regions of the north more than once and fully realized the gravity of the undertaking. They were all volunteers.

On the memorable day when Capt. McClure and his officers from their high point of observation, discovered the route that England had desired, four on his men half-way down the ice-covered mountain were preparing a meal. One of the number, Captain of the forecastle, was John Calder. He probably is the only survivor of the crew. Capt. McClure died in 1873. The crew was rescued by her Majesty’s ships Resolute and Intrepid and reached England in 1854. A year later Capt. Calder, with his bride, sailed for America.

Capt. Calder at Home.

One cold afternoon last week a Tribune correspondent found the Captain comfortably seated by a bright fire in his pleasant home in Kelly Township, Warren County.

“It’s pretty cold,” said he, as he asked his visitor to take a seat by his inviting fire. “Not for a man who started out in earnest to find the North Pole, is it?” “O, that was forty years ago,” he replied, “and I have forgotten nearly all about it.

There is a good deal in what a man is used to. I have seen almost every kind of climate and I don’t know but what Illinois is as good as any. I first shipped when I was 21 for Australia and for ten years following I traveled pretty much all over the world. I struck a climate down in South America once that just about suited me, but the natives were fighting so much among themselves that there was no comfort living there and I got out. Guess they get along better now.”With the last expression the old man raised his other foot up to the fire. “You want to know something about my Artic exploration do you:” he said, after his shins and those of his visitor had been well toasted. “I ‘spose a good many things occurred up there you’d like to know about, but there’s a good deal that I don’t care to tell."

“My trip with Capt. McClure was kind of an accident. I’d been up in the Artic regions with Sir James Ross and hadn’t been back a great while when the McClure expedition was equipped. I didn’t hear a word regarding the sailing of the Investigator until just the day before she started. I (saw) a friend on the street who told me he had read in a London paper that another expedition in search of Franklin was about to leave. I went to London that night and found the ship next day at Woolwich. I shipped as Captain of the forecastle. We had everything that was supposed to be necessary for our comfort and convenience. We were well supplied with rations, clothing, and fuel. I remember one man, who had never been in the Artic regions asked me what he should take with him. I replied: ‘All the moral courage you can get hold of.’ Next to food and raiment this is what a man needs most.

“I presume if I were to refresh my mind I could recall a good many incidents. I understand that several books have been written about this expedition, but I have not seen any of them. Early in the sixties I met a man in Chicago who was a member of the crew. Since that time I have not heard anything from any of the party except Capt. McClure whose death I saw chronicled in a Chicago paper. For all I know I am the only member of the Investigator’s crew who is now living. As you have probably read in the histories of the Investigator sailed for Baring Strait by way of the Straits of Magellan.

Our consort, the Enterprise, we soon lost sight of after striking the Pacific. There was little in the trip around South America that is worth mentioning. We hurried along as fast as we could for the Polar Sea. Capt. McClure and all the crew were very anxious to reach that latitude with as little delay as possible. I remember one morning along about the 1st of August we were off the northwest coast of Russian America when the Plover was sighted. She was an English vessel surveying along the coast. A heavy wind came up from the west and started the ice toward it. It was in imminent danger of being crushed, but we had no time to delay. All on board were ordered to bend their efforts to send our vessel onward.

“We cruised along past the Mackenzie River, and at Point Drew we touched shore. There we saw some Esquimaux, but found no trace of Franklin. We pushed along through the ice till we entered the Prince of Wales Strait.

“The ice about us rendered it necessary to be very cautious. This was in September and we soon discovered we were in a drifting pack of ice. Our position was hazardous. One night we came in contact with a large floe piece, which struck the starboard quarter, carried away a big hawser, and started all the anchors. We were in this perilous condition for several days, not knowing at what moment we might be crushed to death. The winter of 1850-’51 was spent in the strait near a small island.

Traveling Parties Start Out.

“The vessel had only been frozen in a short time when Capt. McClure organized the crew into three traveling parties. One of these went southward, the other went up Baring Island, and Capt. McClure’s party, with which I was connected, went northeastward on Prince Albert Land. I have slept under a tent many a night when the thermometer registered between 50° and 60° below zero.

“It was on this trip that Capt. McClure discovered the the northwest passage by observation. McClure was very ambitious to make this discovery, as he felt that it might prove an advantage to commerce. He was as brave a man as ever headed an Artic expedition. No matter how intense the cold or how much he suffered, a word of complaint was never heard from him. These traveling parties often endured great hardships.

“You would hardly believe it, but I have cut holes in my boots to let the water through which we were traveling flow out and in to prevent it freezing around my feet. I remember an incident of another one of these traveling parties. We were proceeding along the northwestern coast of Banks Land and two of our men whose condition became very serious caused us to start back for the boat. On our way back we shot a polar bear. We at once removed the hide, and, as customary opened the stomach. A piece of court-plaster and a few raisins were all that it contained. These articles he had evidently got from civilized man and the question was whether he had picked them up from some other expedition. It was quite evident they had not been in the animal’s stomach very long. When we returned to the ship Capt. McClure sent out several fatigue parties, but after a day or two the investigation was dropped.

Perils in the Ice.

“That spring we started around Baring Island or Banks Land, passed Nelson Point, and cruised northward. One of our most dangerous experiences occurred just out of Burnett Bay on the west of Baring Island. The vessel was raised at one time eight or ten feet out of the water. About everyone on board concluded that his time had come. The ship got in an ice gorge but like other miraculous escapes we came out all right. We met with another narrow escape at Cape Austin, and in September we encountered a severe northwestern gale and drifted into Mercy Bay, doomed to spend another winter in the ice. It was probably the most perilous voyage made in the Polar Sea. During the winter we killed a few reindeer, wolves, and a musk-ox.

“It was the hope of Capt. McClure to have reached Melville Island before winter, but when circumstances forced the abandonment of this idea another traveling party was formed, headed by the Captain himself, and started for Melville Island. The party reached Winter Harbor after a journey of eighteen days, hoping to find one or more ships composing Capt. Austin’s expedition, but we were disappointed. Sir Edward Perry wintered here way back in teh winter of 1819-’20.

Relic of a Former Party

“I ran across a peculiarly-shaped rock. It was about eight feet high and almost square. On the top of the rock I found a flat tin case containing a record of a visit of a party under command of Capt. McClintock June 6, 1851. The record stated where the Austin expedition wintered, and said that a depot of provisions had been established at Cape Spencer, distant nearly 600 miles. There was not a word about Franklin or any information regarding our long-lost consort. The expedition we supposed, had returned to England, as we afterward learned it had, and the Investigator was the only vessel in Artic regions at that time. We left a dispatch in the tin box when we returned to our ship.

“By the beginning of 1853 we were getting to be in pretty bad shape. Our provisions were getting short and we had been troubled a good deal with scurvy among the men. On the 5th of April the first death occurred. John Boyle, an able seaman died from dysentery, and the melancholy occurrence depressed the spirits of the crew to an alarming extent. I tell you things looked pretty bilious. The next day I was in the hold getting ready to go on duty on the ship, when I heard the greatest commotion on deck. One of the men came running to me and told me that Lieut. Pim of the H.M.S. Resolute from Melville Island was aboard. There is no use for me to attempt to describe the feelings of that crew or the way the men acted. Their joy and gratitude were beyond expression. Lieut. Pim had come across from Melville Island on his sledge, drawn by five Esquimaux dogs and two men. On the arrival of the Resolute and Intrepid at Dealy Island, off Melville Island, the year before they found our record, deposited at Winter harbor by Capt. McClure in April, 1852. After the rest of a day or two Lieut. Pim and a party from our crew went to Melville Island, and June 2, at 6 p.m., two months later, the Investigator was abandoned and the entire crew was taken to the Resolute and Intrepid. For all I know the Investigator is still imprisoned in the ice in Mercy Bay.

Back to England.

“We wintered on the Resolute and Intrepid, and late the following spring sailed for England, and landed at Ramsgate Oct. 6, 1854. Our crew was clear around the Americas, and is the only crew that ever made the trip. It was a perilous undertaking. Up in that country one finds two months of winter and ten months of very cold weather. I don’t know what would have become of us if we had not been rescued just at the time we were. The question of rations was becoming a serious one. Game was scarce and hard to shoot. It is surprising how little subsistence those animals of the polar regions require. The bears get hold of a good many walruses, but reindeer and the musk ox have a slim chance. They seem to get enough, though. But it is a fight for life with every kind of living creature up there. Of course you see some beautiful scenery. The ice formations sometimes are simply grand. I suppose I have see the most beautiful things ever seen by any man. I refer to the aurora borealis. I couldn’t describe it.

Discomforts of the Explorers.

“Yes, we could tell the difference between night and day in the winter season and kept close track of the time. While it is pretty dark when it is daytime here there is a kind of dawn up there you can see to get around. A peculiar feature of Artic life is the discomfiture one feels sleeping in the ship after having been out on a land expedition and having spent many nights on the ice. It is caused by the difference in the atmosphere. It is pretty airy sleeping under a canvas tent when the thermometer registers 60° below zero. The coldest I ever saw was 66° below zero, but it was when I was with Sir James Ross. We wore the same kind of clothing people do here, only it was heavier and more of it. The best overcoat I could Find was to make a garment out of this heavy ducking and line it with a heavy blankey. It kept out the wind and cold.

“Nature works some funny freaks up there. I have seen logs of wood 600 feet above the surface. This was up along the north shore of Banks Land. It was probably drift wood from the McKenzie and Copper Mine Rivers that had got mixed up in an ice gorge. We came pretty near getting boosted up a time or two ourselves, but it is a good big gorge that piles the ice 600 feet high.

Mrs. Calder, who is a well-preserved, motherly little woman of 60 years, tripped into an adjoining room, and in a bureau drawer where a number of sacred souvenirs are kept found a couple of medals, of which both are justly proud. One was given Mr. Calder by the English Government as a special recognition of his services, while each member of the crew received one similar to the other one. The inscription on the first is as follows:

Capt. Calder, as he is always called, is 70 years old, but is still rugged as ever.


JeffRankin said...

Great story! I'm curious about the photos of John Calder and his medallion. Where did you locate them?

Voyage Adviser said...

From his great grandson who received them from his father who was the son of Captain Calder.

Voyage Adviser said...

I took the pictures of the metals.

Voyage Adviser said...

Excuse the typo, should be medals.

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