Steel boarding-pike head with bent shank

A boarding-pike head with a broken and bent shank from the 1845 British Northwest Passage Expedition led by Sir John Franklin. The pike head is square in section and missing its point. Two shanks would have attached it to the staff - one is broken and the other bent at right angles. It is stamped 'I [broad arrow] 9', 'D'.

The pike head was one of three found by Lieutenant William R. Hobson's sledge team on 3 May 1859 at an abandoned camp site at Cape Felix, King William Island, as part of the search expedition led by Captain F. L. McClintock. Hobson mentioned them in his report: 'Pike heads from which the poles had been wrenched were found near the tents, and I suppose the pikes had been their tent piles.' [Stenton, 'Arctic' v.69, No. 4, p. 514]. McClintock recorded them as '...two pike-heads' [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 pike head was displayed at the Royal Naval Museum, Greenwich, Case 2, No. 68 'Two boarding-pike heads'.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 (bottom right, with the shank of a third boarding pike alongside - not in RMG collection).

Object Details

ID: AAA2129
Collection: Polar Equipment and Relics
Type: Pike-head
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: 205 x 143 x 28 mm

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