Inuit knife made from salvaged material from the Franklin Expedition

A steel blade, possibly a surgeons scalpel with riveted horn handle repurposed as a man's knife from salvaged material from the 1845 British Northwest Passage Expedition led by Sir John Franklin. The single-edged steel blade is riveted to a horn handle by means of two steel reinforcing plates.

The file 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 in exchange for knives, files, scissors, beads &c... McClintock recorded in the Appendix 'Seven knives made by the natives out of materials obtained from the last expedition' and elaborated that '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, The Voyage of the Fox (1859), p369-370].

The knife handle has (6) painted in white, indicating that it was displayed at the Royal Naval Museum, Greenwich, 'Case 5, No. 6. Four knives' .This was amalgamated with No. 3 '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 (left, below handwritten label stating 'Obtained by barter from the Esquimaux). Next to the blade is a label 'Surgeon's scalpel'. It was shown in an engraving in 'The Illustrated London News' 15 October 1859 p. 363.

Object Details

ID: AAA2102
Collection: World Cultures; Polar Equipment and Relics
Type: Knife
Display location: Not on display
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: 229 x 25 x 5 mm

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