Peter Halkett (1820-1885) was not only a Navy man but also an inventor. He was particularly fascinated by the very dramatic Coppermine Expedition under John Franklin in 1819-22, which ended with several deaths and cannibalism. Some of them managed to save themselves with a homemade canoe and that is what interested him. When he later studied this expedition - how could he build a boat that was light enough and small enough, but strong enough to carry more than one person, to carry in a backpack or bag for use in emergencies?
Peter Halkett’s boat cloak in use, drawn 1848 (x)
The idea of using rubber was not new, it had been tested several times as a buoyancy aid after the invention of vulcanisation (the stabilisation of rubber) in 1838. Halkett, however, in the 1840s, when he was a lieutenant, designed a cloak made of macintosh, cotton impregnated with Indian rubber. The lining of the cloak contained an airtight and waterproof inflatable egg-shaped compartment, divided into four separate airtight compartments in case of mishap, and a pocket containing a paddle blade and small bellows. The wearer of the cloak carried a walking stick, which served as the shaft of the paddle, and a large umbrella, which served as a sail.
The boat could be inflated in three to four minutes and was capable of carrying more than two people.
Nelson Examiner and New Zealand Chronicle, Volume X, Issue 577, 20 December 1851, Page 170 (x)
He himself tested his boat on the Thames in 1844 without getting into much trouble, even when steamers came very close. Now he wanted to test a cape boat under sea conditions and he did so extensively while sailing on HMS Caledonia and HMS St Vincent during the Experimental Squadron mission 1844-45.
He found his invention suitable and wanted his boat to be used during the expeditions to assist them. Halkett’s vision became reality when Captain Sir John Franklin took one of the two-person cloth boats on his Arctic expedition in 1845. The boat was also used in later Arctic expeditions, including by Sir George Simpson, Sir Richardson and Rae, Collinson and McClure. Unfortunately, apart from such selective voyages, the boat cloak never came into general use. According to Official Descriptive and Illustrated Catalogue of the Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations, 1851 , it was on display at the Great Exhibition of 1851.
Halkett two-man rubberized boat, once owned by Arctic explorer John Rae, in the Stromness Museum, Orkney Islands (x)
Later promoted to Captain, Peter Halkett died on 23 March 1885, aged 65, and the manufacture of his boat designs was abandoned.
Original materials available online:
• The Journal of Sergeant William K. Cunningham (R.M. of HMS Terror)
- Introductory chapters. Historical background. The voyage & its objectives. Magnetism & the compass. Glossary of nautical terms. [PDF: full text & illustrations. 37 pp] Download
- The journal [PDF: full text, maps & illustrations. 114 pp] Download
- Appendices & bibliography [PDF: full text. 33 pp] Download
• A few general remarks on the Antarctic continent, discovered by Captains Ross and Crozier by J. Robertson (ship’s surgeon of HMS Terror, later of Ross’ search vessel HMS Enterprise) In: The Tasmanian journal of natural science, agriculture, statistics, &c (Vol. 2, no. 6, 1846) [PDF: full text & illustration. pp 41-55] Part 1 - part 2 - part 3 [x]
*me cryin on the floor* where is my antarctica prequel
I am SCREAMING, Gallant Explorer™️ james clark ross being cartoonishly obsessed with sticking a union jack on every rock in the southern ocean to the point of risking his life, while crozier is like “james dear must you really get ON the island, couldn’t you just TOUCH it or something” truly is their personalities and relationship in a nutshell. the whole robertson article is a gem please read it. this incident ends with ross doing a cool pose while crozier holds a flag behind him for dramatic effect
It really is their friendship boiled down into the perfect scene!
Francis: James don’t be dumb. You can literally take hold of the land of Antarctica. I swear that counts.
James: *hand on Crozier’s shoulder, probably jabbing his knee into his back* Too late now, Frank, watch this! *Springs from the boat onto Penguin Island*
Francis: Oh good god, James, I’m supposed to be the sensible one! *Rolls eyes and jumps out of the boat with equal agility*
“Goodsir suggested, jokingly I trust, that we capture one of these beasts (a seal) and set it up on deck as some kind of local dignitary which we could consult on matters pertaining to our voyage, much as the Greeks attended their oracles when they wished the future to be made clear.”
Journal entry from James Fitzjames 19 July 1845- North With Franklin by John Wilson
So that’s where they went wrong: no local seal advice.
“Why, then, Mr. Chucks, do you swear so much at the men? surely that is not gentlemanly?”
“Most certainly not, sir. But I must defend myself by observing the very artificial state in which we live on board of a man-of-war. Necessity, my dear Mr. Simple, has no law. You must observe how gently I always commence when I have to find fault. I do that to prove my gentility; but, sir, my zeal for the service obliges me to alter my language, to prove in the end that I am in earnest. Nothing would afford me more pleasure than to be able to carry on the duty as a gentleman, but that’s impossible.”
“I really cannot see why.”
“Perhaps, then, Mr. Simple, you will explain to me why the captain and first lieutenant swear.”
“That I do not pretend to answer, but they only do so upon an emergency.”
“Exactly so; but, sir, their ‘mergency is my daily and hourly duty. In the continual working of the ship I am answerable for all that goes amiss. The life of a boatswain is a life of 'mergency, and therefore I swear.”
— Frederick Marryat, Peter Simple
Boatswain Robert Mackenzie (b. 1792) by unknown artist, National Museum of the Royal Navy, Portsmouth.
“Crozier was the first victim of the unstable ice. While walking with Parry, Crozier found himself separated from the others by a yawning crack in the ice. The plank was far too short to bridge the gap and swimming in the freezing waters would be suicidal. But Crozier, imperturbable and resourceful, calmly dropped the gear he was carrying and moved up the open lane, finding its narrowest point and where he could see large chunks of ice floating in the flowing water. Steeling himself, Crozier began leaping from floe to floe as lumps of ice bobbed along in the current. After a few perilous leaps, he managed to find more solid ground and cheerfully returned tot he ship unharmed and seemingly untroubled by his near-fatal ordeal.”
- Francis Crozier: Last Man Standing by Michael Smith
People used to walk to Canada across frozen-over Niagara Falls.
As temperatures drop in the northeast corner of the United States, icy water that goes over the roaring Niagara Falls crashes into the rocks below and turns solid. Blocks of ice floes freeze together, forming a solid mass wide enough to connect the United States and Canada.
It’s called the ice bridge. Children in the late 1880s rode their sleds there, tourists strolled between the two countries, and entrepreneurs sold food and hot drinks from makeshift concession stands. A “sharp rogue,” as the Niagara Falls Gazette described a man on Feb. 14, 1883, built a shanty of boards in the middle of the massive bridge - right on the line between the two countries, where no laws apply - and sold liquor.
Such was the geological wonder of the ice bridge and the three falls that form Niagara Falls in New York. American and Bridal Veil falls are next to each other on the U.S. side. Horseshoe Falls, the biggest of the three, straddles both countries. Collectively, more than 3,000 tons of water flows over the falls each second, making Niagara Falls a major source of hydroelectric power for the United States and Canada.
Okay, I have been hunting this article for LITERALLY A MONTH¹ and it is both useful as a reference and super interesting by itself, so, for the edification of Terror writers who want to incorporate the Royal Navy’s love of dressing up and putting on plays in below-zero temperatures: Theatre in the North: Staging Practices of the British Navy in the Canadian Arctic, by Patrick B. O’neill. You’ll need an Internet Archive account to borrow it (you should have one anyway, IA is dope as hell); if the link doesn’t work, the article is on page 356.
¹ I went looking for it a month ago, couldn’t find it, forgot about it until half an hour ago, tried again, found it just now
Although the divers can’t access some parts of the ship, Bernier said the team used “mini robots,” or remotely operated vehicles, to go into some of the deeper parts of the wreck, including the ship’s storage area. Like the officer’s cabin, that room was also oddly bare.
“There were not too many stores, casks and food and that kind of stuff. It’s pretty empty,” Bernier said. Although unusual, Bernier said he can’t draw any conclusions about the empty spaces just yet. […]
“The cupboards, the desks, the furniture pieces that we excavated were very, very dense in artifacts. Everything was as it was left,” Bernier said. “The potential of finding extremely well-preserved materials is amazing. We found lead pencils and you can actually read the maker’s mark on it.”
But divers still can’t access the captain’s cabin because the ship’s upper deck, where the cabin is located, has collapsed even more than it had during the team’s last dive. Bernier said after excavating the areas that are accessible, they will move slowly toward the more difficult areas, like the captain’s cabin.
“The more we move under these areas that are maybe less accessible, the potential of finding better preserved things is greater to a certain extent,” he said.
Resignation (Some flowers bloom too late)
quote from Michael Smith - Captain Francis Crozier: Last Man Standing?
“At the height of the search for Erebus and Terror in the 1850s, one of the fleet of ships sent in search of the expedition carried a letter from Sophy Cracroft to her uncle, John Franklin. She added a brief message to Crozier that, just possibly, hints at a slight change of feelings towards him. On the bottom of the letter, she scribbled the words: ‘Pray remember me very kindly to Captain Crozier’. The letter was returned unopened.”
Inuit Tales of Terror: The location of Franklin’s missing ship, is an article by David C. Woodman from 2016 where he takes up and analyses the Inuit testimonies on the remains of the HMS Terror. He also discusses the nicknames given to Francis Crozier and James Ross (Aglooka - Strider and Toolooah- Raven) by the Inuit and this is very interesting. If you would like to read the article you can do so here. https://www.ric.edu/faculty/rpotter/woodman/inuittales_terror.pdf