Journal kept by William Simpson, Royal Marines, HMS PLOVER, 1848-1850 (with transcript).

Journal of HMS PLOVER’s Royal Marines sergeant William Simpson, recounting his experiences during the 1848-50 arctic expedition sent in search of Sir John Franklin’s lost expedition. The PLOVER, commanded by Captain Thomas E. L. Moore, left Plymouth in January 1848 and sailed to the Bering Strait in the western Arctic, with the intention of rendezvousing with the HERALD (captained by Henry Kellett) and the hope of delivering provisions to Franklin, whom it was believed might be trapped near the western exit of the North-West Passage. In 1849, Moore’s expedition wintered in (and named) Providence Bay in north eastern Siberia. Simpson’s account spans the ship’s departure from England in 1848 to his premature return to England, due to illness, via Hong Kong and Hawaii, in 1850.

Key events in the journal include Simpson’s account of his excursion to an Inuit settlement (referenced in his crewmate William Hulme Hooper’s ethnographical study 'Ten Months among the Tents of the Tuski'), encounters with arctic wildlife as the expedition’s designated specimen collector, and descriptions of Christmas festivities while wintering in the Arctic. The journal also records several instances of the crew’s varying attitudes towards the use of Inuit testimony in the search for Franklin and references to William Pullen’s 1848 overland expedition to the Mackenzie River.

During conservation, the journal’s pages have been renumbered and are not in chronological order. Pages 79-112 recount the first months of the expedition up until Christmas 1848. Pages 1-15 are a heavily embellished rewriting of several events that occurred during this early stage of the expedition, including Simpson’s temporary demotion and the Plover’s 1848 Christmas celebrations. The remainder of the journal (16-78) follows directly and chronologically from this rewritten account. It is unclear whether pages 16-78 are also an embellished rewriting of an earlier version of Simpson’s experiences as, in what appears to be the original version (79-112), the final page ends in the middle of the entry for Christmas Day 1848 and an unknown number of pages are missing.

Please request the journal as JOD/76/1. A printed transcript of JOD/76/1 (prepared by two doctoral students in May 2018) is also available to request as JOD/76/2.

Object Details

ID: JOD/76
Type: Manuscript
Display location: Not on display
Date made: 1848-1850
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
Parts: Journals and Diaries (Manuscript)

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