A water keg bung stave

A remaining wooden bung stave from a water keg from the 1845 British Northwest Passage Expedition led by Sir John Franklin. One stave of a water keg made of oak, cut with two grooves to take the round sides. It has a block attached to the outer side painted blue with a hole bored through it closed with a cork.

The bung stave was found by Lieutenant William R. Hobson's sledge team on 3 May 1859 under a small collapsed tent, possibly for the officers, at an abandoned camp site at Cape Felix, King William Island, as part of the search expedition led by Captain F. L. McClintock. Hobson recorded 'Not a scrap of wood was found about the place save the bung stave of a Marine's water bottle and the half consumed scraps about the fire places.'' [Stenton, 'Arctic' v.69, No. 4, p. 514]. McClintock recorded it as 'bung-stave of a marine's water keg or bottle' [McClintock, 'Voyage of the Fox' (1860), p.368]. The camp site was occupied by about twelve officers and men from the Franklin expedition during the summer of 1847, living in three small tents. They were probably engaged in surveying, scientific work or hunting while the expeditions ships remained trapped in the ice. The site was apparently abandoned in a hurry - Hobson found the tents flattened with blankets and bear skins underneath. He concluded that, as the party had left behind so much of their equipment, they had probably gone back to the ships.

The stave was displayed at the Royal Naval Museum, Greenwich, in Case 2, No. 53 'Part of a bung stave of a cask'. The item is also 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. 11 (top right).

Object Details

ID: AAA2120
Collection: Polar Equipment and Relics
Type: Water keg bung-stave
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: Before 1845
People: Hobson, William Robert
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London.
Measurements: 19 x 102 x 30 mm

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