Part of ship's boat keel with piece of stempost and keelson attached

The forward part of the keel of a ship's boat, possibly a 28ft pinnace, made up of the stempost and part of the keelson found in one of the bays at the south side of Erebus Bay, King William Island. A large iron ring is attached inboard of the stempost. This item was recovered by the US expedition under Lieutenant Frederick Schwatka between 1878-1880. It is described as 'the prow of a boat from Erebus Bay' in the 1881 catalogue of items that he sent back to Britain in 1881 [TNA, ADM 1/6600].

When his expedition reached Erebus Bay sometime between 15 and 21 July 1879 they found 'remnants of a large boat' [Klutschak, page 94]. Schwatka described the boat in detail: 'There were quite a number of pieces of a clinker built & riveted boat strewn around, one of the side planks, which was broken off at one end still measured 28½ feet in length. The bow and stern post, the keel & broken gunwales, and many copper rivets were scattered about all of them having evidently been thoroughly overhauled by the natives' [Schwatka, page 88].
The stempost was originally discovered Lt. Hobson's search party and further investigated by Captain F. L. McClintock during the 'Fox' Expedition between 1857-1859. The stempost corresponds with the description and diagram from McClintock's account in 'The voyage of the Fox in Arctic Seas' p. 292. The 28ft length suggests that it may have been part of 'Erebus's' pinnace, as this was the only ship's boat to match that length dimension [see list in NMM, MCL 45/1]. The statement in David Woodman's 'Unravelling the Franklin Mystery' p.301 that the boat stem is unmarked, is incorrect. It is marked XXIV [24 foot] W [Woolwich] CON[(contract] N61 Apr 184'.

The stempost has a '(2)' painted on it, indicating that it was displayed in the Royal Naval Museum, Greenwich, on the Table as Item 2 'Part of the 26-ft [sic] boat found upon a sledge on the west shore of King William Land'. It was also displayed in the Royal Naval Exhibition at Chelsea in 1891.

In the years between the two search expeditions the Inuit had broken the boat up. They reported to Hall and Schwatka, that they had found a second boat at Erebus Bay and 14 more skeletons. Although Schwatka could not find the other boat, he discovered the bones of four Europeans in this area. Barry Ranford found a boat site on a small island in Erebus Bay in 1993. An excavation revealed the remains of eleven more individuals.

Object Details

ID: AAA2282
Collection: Polar Equipment and Relics
Type: Keel
Display location: Not on display
Creator: Unknown
Events: Arctic Exploration: Franklin's Last Expedition, 1845-1848; Arctic Exploration: Franklin Search Expedition, Schwatka, 1878-1880
Date made: circa 1845
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London.
Measurements: Overall: 103 mm x 1748 mm x 466 mm
Parts: Part of ship's boat keel with piece of stempost and keelson attached

Your Request

If an item is shown as “offsite”, please allow eight days for your order to be processed. For further information, please contact Archive staff:

Tel: (during Library opening hours)

Click “Continue” below to continue processing your order with the Library team.