Upper part of a ship's boat's mast

The top 30cm (1 foot) of a ship's boat's mast with piece of rope (halyard) attached through the central pulley block from the 1845 Northwest Passage Expedition led by Sir John Franklin. The bottom of mast section has been cleanly cut. The mast is British conifer (pine), fitted with an iron mast hoop with an eye, which would prevent the wood from splitting after the sheave was cut. The eye may have had no purpose or been used to attach a forestay. The main sheave has copper sheathing either side of it to protect the wooden mast from abrasion when the sail is hoisted. The sheave has a piece of rope (halyard) attached. There is a smaller sheave mounted on the side of the mast almost in line with the main sheave, which may have been for a foresail halyard or used a flag halyard.

The boat's mast section was recovered by the US expedition under Lieutenant Frederick Schwatka between 1878-1880. It is described as 'Item 17. Top of a boat's mast from the Eskimo at Starvation Cove' in the 1881 catalogue of items that he sent back to Britain in 1881 [TNA, ADM 1/6600]. The location recorded is incorrect. The main accounts record it being found at Wilmot Bay, west Adelaide Peninsula.

Schwatka's expedition found this in the possession of Inuit camped at Wilmot Bay between 12 and 14 November 1879 when Schwatka, Ebierbing and Gilder explored the west side of Adelaide Peninsula. Schwatka recorded '...a piece of boat's mast (from the boat found in Wilmot Bay)....' [Schwatka, page 101 and confirmed by Gilder, page 200]. Inuit told of finding an abandoned boat near Wilmot Bay following the sinking of a large ship off Grant Point.

The mast section has a label attached with '9' marked on it, indicating that it was displayed at the Royal Naval Museum, Greenwich, in 'Case 3, No. 9. Upper part of a boat's mast from Starvation Cove.' It was also on Display 14 in the Royal Naval Exhibition at Chelsea in 1891.

Object Details

ID: AAA2300
Collection: Polar Equipment and Relics
Type: Mast
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
People: Ebierbing, Joseph
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London.
Measurements: Overall: 300 x 76 mm

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