Inuit-adapted snow knife or man's knife made from salvaged Franklin Expedition material.

A steel, copper and antler Inuit-adapted snow knife or man's knife from the 1845 British Northwest Passage Expedition led by Sir John Franklin. The knife is made from salvaged material from the Franklin expedition equipment. The double edged blade is riveted to steel reinforcing plates using copper and iron rivets either side of the blade. These are slotted into a long antler handle which is bound on with plated rawhide. The handle has a separate curved end joined on with an oblique scarf joint and lashing. The knife would have been used to cut blocks of snow to build igloos and for flensing.

The snow knife was bartered from a group of Inuit by Captain F. L. McClintock's sledge team on 3 March 1859 near Cape Victoria, Boothia Peninsula. Here the sledge team met about 45 Inuit who bartered relics that included 'knives made from the iron and wood of the wreck...' In his appendix McClintock is more specific, stating 'The knives are made either of iron or steel, riveted to two strips of hoop, between which the handle of wood is inserted, and rivets passed through securing them together. The rivets are almost all made out of copper nails, such as would be found on a copper-fastened boat, but those which have been examined do not bear the Government mark. It is probable that most of the boats of 'Erebus' and 'Terror' were built by contract and therefore do not have the broad arrow stamped upon their iron and copper work.' [McClintock, Voyage of the Fox (1859), pages 232, and 369-70].

The knife has (3) painted in white on the handle, indicating that it was displayed at the Royal Naval Museum, Greenwich, 'Case 5, No. 3 and No. 6. Eskimo knives.' The item is shown in - 'Stereoscopic slides of the relics of Sir John Franklin's Expedition' photographed by Lieutenant Cheyne RN, at the United Services Museum, Whitehall, No. 10 (just below middle). It is illustrated in 'The Illustrated London News' 15 October 1854, p. 367.

Object Details

ID: AAA2097
Collection: World Cultures; Polar Equipment and Relics
Type: Snow knife
Display location: Display - Polar Worlds Gallery
Creator: Unknown
Events: Arctic Exploration: Franklin's Last Expedition, 1845-1848; Arctic Exploration: Franklin Search Expedition, McClintock, 1857-1859
Vessels: Fox (1855)
Date made: 1848-59
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London.
Measurements: Overall: 460 x 60 x 30 mm

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