Lieutenant Bedford Pim stood at attention. He glanced quickly to the windward side of the quarterdeck where his captain paced forward and aft. His hands clasped behind him, Captain Kellett’s face was set hard. Pim could see the muscles in Kellett’s jaws working and each step seemed to be imbued with anger. Pim looked straight ahead as Kellett abruptly turned. The captain announced he was going below and no one was to disturb him until the men were all on board. The sound of the captain’s heavy steps resumed in his cabin in a matter of seconds.
Pim’s shoulders sagged when he had the quarterdeck to himself again. He had never seen his captain so angry. Having served under him on board HMS Herald, he knew Kellett to be a firm, yet kind, commander. He could even admit to himself that he had a certain amount of affection for him. But, now he would rather be in a fierce storm being forced upon the rocks of a lee shore in uncharted waters than be here waiting for this storm to break. At least in violent weather he would know what to do.
Below deck Kellett swore at the bulkheads of his cabin, 'Is there no end to the stupidity of those fools at the Admiralty?' His dog, Napoleon, a spaniel and Irish red and white mixed breed, crouched under the desk, head lowered onto his paws, vigilantly followed his master with his eyes as Kellett continued pacing. He slammed his fist down on the table just above Naps' head, causing his dog to attempt the impossible of curling into a tighter ball in the hope of disappearing entirely. Unused to his master's anger, the dog's eyes showed his concern. Kellett swore again. 'If they had searched the whole of the Royal Navy, they couldn't have come up with a worse man to make squadron commander!' Kellett knew this better than any one else. How could the Admiralty order him to serve under Belcher again? They were demanding more from him than he felt able to give.
The expedition to search for the lost explorer, Sir John Franklin, was soon to set sail from Greenhithe on the Thames. For almost three hundred years, men had been prodding the northern ice with their ships’ prows hoping to find a more direct and less dangerous way to reach the Pacific than the southern route around Cape Horn. The Legendary Northwest Passage. Franklin and his men aboard HMS Erebus and Terror had disappeared somewhere in the Arctic in 1848 while searching for it, and Kellett had been one of the first captains ordered to look for them and bring them supplies. Now, four years later, the Admiralty, spurred onward by the loyal and persistent Lady Franklin, continued to pour money, men, and ships into the Arctic. Could it be possible they were still looking for live men?
Kellett sat at his desk to review again the list of captains, officers, and men sailing in the Belcher Expedition’s five ships: Her Majesty’s Ships Assistance, Resolute, Pioneer, Intrepid, and North Star. Naps tentatively put his chin on Kellett's knee. The captain stroked the dog's head affectionately and felt his anger begin to melt. Feeling a slight quiver in the beast, he smiled sadly. 'Sorry, old chap, for giving you such a fright. Not your fault, is it?' Naps' tail thumped against the wooden deck in acceptance of the apology. Kellett was in command of HMS Resolute. A good name for a ship facing the tasks ahead, he thought. He turned his attention back to the crew lists. There were some familiar names of men who had served under him before, but many of the names were new to him. Quite a few had seen prior service in the Arctic and that experience would prove valuable.
The sound of pounding feet on the deck above interrupted his thoughts. Kellett valued time alone in a new ship before having the men mustered in, but it was a luxury he could not now indulge. The men were arriving, and he was still in the grip of something between apprehension and anger. Whatever might happen he would not let the men see his feelings about their squadron commander, nor would he allow Belcher to affect the way he would treat his own men.
Kellett shook his head and thought of his wife as he usually did when he felt troubled. He remembered the first time he had taken her to Ireland after their marriage. She had been so quiet when Henry brought her home to Clonacody that he was afraid she wouldn’t settle. During dinner parties at the neighbouring estates she had barely spoken. He had watched her walk the fields of their land and at night he had held her like a flower whose petals could be easily crushed. He had held her and engulfed her in his love. And he waited.
When her things had arrived from England, she began making Clonacody her own, joining together the relics of her life with those of the Kellett ancestors. As the months passed, she had made her presence felt in every room, making small but noticeable changes, blending their two lives into one. Henry Kellett smiled remembering the little things: the scent of her hair, the golden wheat colour when the sun shone on it; the quiet way she worked with the horses.
Gathering pen, ink, and paper Kellett started to write his last letter to Alice before the expedition’s departure.
Greenhithe 20 Apr. 52
My Dear Alice,
I may not have another chance to write to you before we depart, and I write with a heavy and angry heart. You know too well my experience of serving under Sir Edward Belcher. After all this time I thought I would never have to suffer at his hands again, that I wouldn’t have to watch him break any more good men. He is never at his best when he is under difficult circumstances, and he always makes others suffer for this.
I should not burden you, yet you know what we all lived through on the Aetna. May God preserve us from an Arctic Aetna! And may my fears be proven wrong!
Were you here I would hold you in my arms, but you are not and I must rely on these poor words to convey my love. Know that I am always your loving husband...
Kellett read what he had written, crumpled the paper into a ball, and threw it at the bulkhead. He began a new letter telling Alice of his love, leaving his fears unwritten.
He heard the bo’s’n’s call to muster and the quick steps of the men preparing to present themselves to their captain. With a sigh he rose from his desk, straightened his coat and epaulets, and squared his shoulders. This was not only the first time the men would see him as captain of the Resolute, but also his first opportunity to take the measure of them, the Resolutes. Napoleon followed him as he ascended to the quarterdeck and stood before the men and officers. His face showed no emotion, neither his recent anger nor his delight in seeing Richard Roche, his former mate from the Herald.
'We leave tomorrow at dawn. The admiralty has entrusted us with the mission of finding the Franklin Expedition. Additionally, we are also ordered to search for, and relieve, Captains Collinson and McClure who have preceded us in the search for Franklin. It is my duty to inform you that this expedition is NOT being sent to continue the search for the Northwest Passage. We are to find and relieve, if they are still alive, Franklin and his men. If they are no longer alive, we are to report any signs we may find indicating what happened to them. I repeat: we are not searching for the Northwest Passage. The Admiralty has emphasised this point to our squadron commander, Sir Edward Belcher, in the orders for our expedition. He, in turn, has stressed it to me. If any of you have volunteered hoping you will receive a reward, I urge you to put away such hopes entirely.'
Kellett paused. He could see disappointment in the faces of several of the men. He knew that most of them were there to do what ever their superior officers ordered. For Queen and Country. He knew some had a genuine concern for the lost men. Money, however, always provides great motivation. Some of the men just needed the full pay of active duty and were glad enough in a peacetime Navy to have a ship. But, he also knew that some were looking to line their pockets with a share of the ten thousand pound reward Parliament had offered for the discovery of the Northwest Passage. He could not change the motivation of these men, but he could make certain they understood their mission.
'Many lives are dependent upon the success of our search. Men like you are struggling not to give up the hope that someone will come to save them from an icy grave. I know you will do your utmost so they won’t hope in vain.’
The captain turned toward Lieutenant Pim. 'Dismiss the men, Lieutenant.'
Martha and Fairfax Abraham III stood on the steps of their New London, Connecticut home waiting for the carriage, their children gathering around them. The father looked with pleasure on his wife and seven children. More than his wealth or position, even more than being an Elder in his Quaker Meeting, Fairfax Abraham took pride in his growing family. Pride before the fall he reminded himself. Love certainly, but pride was too much. He made a silent apology to God as his driver appeared with the carriage. Samuel, the second oldest son, helped his heavily pregnant mother into the carriage. The rest of the children settled in and Father closed the door behind himself.
Baby Martha sat on her father’s lap as they rode through town to the Religious Society of Friends’ Meeting House. Even the baby was dressed in proper Quaker grey, all the girls wore their plain caps as did their mother, and the boys wore their wide brimmed hats just like Father‘s. It was First Day and the family began their preparation for waiting on the Lord during their carriage ride, as they did every First Day.
‘God is Love,’ Martha said, smiling at each of her children in turn. ‘And His Light shines in each of thee. God’s divine Spark is in every person. Remember this, and the Lord, and God will bless thee.’
Father said a short prayer, asking that his family be able to open their hearts to God’s word during Meeting. They remained silent for the remainder of their journey; even little Martha quietly looked at her brothers and sisters.
Outside the Meeting House, there was the familiar First Day activity. Carriages waited in line to drop off the wealthy Friends; many other families arrived by foot. While all wore subdued grey, there was nothing subdued in their joy of seeing friends and extended families, most appearing early in order to have visiting time before entering Meeting. The children laughed and embraced playmates, burning off a bit of their energy before having to sit quietly. Men and women caught up on the week’s news. As Meeting time approached, however, a quietness settled among them so by the time they began entering the Meeting House they were already in a reverent mood.
The Abraham family took their places on the family bench. However, because he was an Elder, Father did not sit with his family but on the facing bench with the other Meeting Elders. The only sound in the room was the shuffling of feet and the rustle of clothing as the congregation found their seats. A small baby cried and was comforted. A young boy whispered that he wanted to sit next to his mother. Baby Martha could not find enough room on her mother’s lap to share with her unborn sibling so she held her hands out to Brother Samuel, who took her and settled her in his arms.
The town hall clock struck ten. The expectant waiting on God began; the quiet grew. The meeting gathered, centred down, and welcomed Christ to come into their midst.
The oldest son of the Abraham family, Fairfax Abraham IV, known as Fair Abe, prayed silently for the Word of God. He was greatly troubled and it took considerable effort to quiet his heart and mind this day. Yet, soon after settling, his spirit became agitated again. He breathed more deeply and slowly to bring back the feeling of serenity which he usually felt when waiting on the Lord.
The words of the Gospel Matthew came to him. He had never yet spoken in Meeting and had often wondered how someone knew whether they were being moved by God to speak or if they just wanted to stand up and say something of their own volition. I just want to speak because of how I feel about slavery, he thought to himself. I must sit quietly and this urge will pass. He breathed deeply again and tried to get his hands to stop shaking.
Martha looked at her son and saw his chest heaving and his hands trembling. She knew her son was being moved by the Lord, and soon he would rise up and give the message that was being pressed into his soul. This would be the first time God had called on Fair Abe to minister to the gathered Friends.
‘The Lord saith,’ the young man cried out. He placed his hands on the back of the bench in front of him and pulled himself to his feet. ‘What has come into being in the Lord is Life, and Life is the Light for ALL the people. God’s Light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it.’ He closed his eyes for a moment, and when he opened them, he looked at each expectant face, waiting on his next words. No, not his words, he reminded himself, the Word of God.
‘Jesus said: "when the Son of Man comes into his glory, all the nations shall be gathered before Him." How shall they be judged? The righteous clothed Christ when He was naked, brought Him food when He was hungry; visited Him when He was sick and in prison, welcomed Him when He was a stranger. When did the righteous do these things, for they did not know they had tended Christ? "Verily I say unto thee: just as thou hast done these deeds to the least of these my brethren, thou hast done it unto Me", Christ said.
‘Who are the least of our brethren today? To whom shalt thou give succour so that ye are not counted among the accursed and damned? Are not our Negro brethren children of the Lord? Wouldst thou keep Christ in chains and bondage? Are thy hands clean simply because thou ownest no slaves? Truly, thou art among the damned and shall not see salvation until this abomination is cleansed from thy midst! As ye free the least of these, thy brethren, thou freest Christ Himself.’
Trembling, Fairfax Abraham resumed his seated position. His words echoed through the Meeting room. Gradually the silence absorbed the waves of his intensity, the Meeting gathering the message into the folds of its expectant waiting. No other message was given that day.
‘Thee spoke well in Meeting this day,’ Martha said after the dinner table was cleared. ‘There are many who know the abolition of slavery is what the Lord wants, but we do not know how it will come about. Thy father believes we should approach this gradually. Thou knowest he goes monthly to slave holders in Maryland and labours with them to release their slaves. He believes this is the best way forward.’
‘Mother, should we not break the bonds holding Christ’s own in slavery at once and forever? How can we say "just a while longer, Lord, keep thy peace"?’
‘Friends did not give up their slaves instantly. We laboured mightily for many years.’
‘But, Mother, that was ages ago. Decades have past and this evil is stronger than ever; who will be called to destroy it if we are not?'
Fairfax Abraham Senior, known simply as Abraham or Father Abraham since the birth of his eldest son, joined his wife and son after the youngest were settled for their afternoon rests.
‘I understand thy urgency, Fair Abe, but do not forget the other cornerstones of our faith. We believe in peaceful methods of persuasion, not creating such strain that war is the only resolution. Our peace testimony is as important as relieving the suffering of the slaves, is this not so?’
‘I do not believe that freeing the slaves would bring war. How could the South ever justify going to war over slavery?’
Abraham gently put his hand on his son’s shoulder. ‘Ah, my son, thy youth serves thee well in thy enthusiasm for justice, but the hearts of men have found ways to justify war over lesser causes than this.’
‘Shall we go for our First Day walk?’ Martha rose from her chair, sensing that now would be an opportune time for quiet reflection.
Ship’s Master George Frederick McDougall sat on the bunk in his cabin. He was glad to be on board Resolute again. He smiled to himself, remembering the frolics his friend, Osborn, and he had orchestrated within her wooden walls on their last adventure together. She was a good stout ship. Quite ugly, if the truth was told. She certainly did not have the beautiful lines of the fast and sleek Baltimore Clippers now being built in America. Resolute’s builders, instead, gave her a broad flat bottom and a double hull so she could withstand the crushing action of the Arctic ice. And, at least the last time she was in the ice, she did what an arctic exploration ship was meant to do: she brought all her men safely home.
McDougall opened a leather-bound book to its first page and began to write:
‘Greenhithe. 20. Apr. 52.
We leave with the ebb tide early tomorrow morning. All the charts are in order and I have set up my navigational station. I am to meet with my new captain in less than an hour. I have not served under him, but some of the others on board have done, and they seem content to be here. We have some experienced Arctics with us and I am glad of it. Many of the old Assistancesfrom the ‘50 expedition are here. They are mostly a good lot and know what lies ahead.’
McDougall set the book aside. Kellett had asked for a report on the sailing abilities of the Resolute, and the master thought about what he could tell his captain. She was as slow as an old, pregnant cow. No matter how well the men worked her, she lumbered through tacking and wearing ship. She did not point worth a damn. Her bow did not cut through the waves. Rather, because it was too blunt, she moved through the water by pushing it out of her way with the sheer strength of her will. With the right wind and all her sails set, however, she could move along at a reasonable clip. She was almost graceful. No, that was probably going too far...
The morning of departure dawned bright with a clear sky. . The men’s breath swirled away into the frosty air. At five o’clock, the bo’s’n piped the hands aloft and the tops’ls filled with the fair wind.
'Send for Lieutenant Pim to report to me immediately.'
'Yes, Sir!’ Cox'n Brooke saluted.
Frederick Brooke ascended to the quarterdeck to relay the captain’s message. Brooke was one of the old Assistances and he was happy that so many of his old shipmates were with him on this commission. At muster, he had noticed almost a dozen as well as a couple of old Resolutes from the 1850 expedition. Master McDougall was on board, too. Memories of McDougall’s theatre performances made Brooke smile, and helped assuage the nervousness he felt at being cox’n to a new captain.
As Brooke followed Lieutenant Pim to the captain’s quarters, Pim could sense the tension in the young cox’n.
'Don’t be so uneasy about serving Captain Kellett, Frederick. I served under him on the Herald. He is a fair captain and he will treat you as you deserve. Just do your duties well, and you will have nothing to fear.'
'Yes, sir,' Brooke replied, wondering if there were other Heralds on board from whom he could get the real story. Officers and men usually had very different experiences of their captain’s moods.
Pim knocked on the captain’s door. 'Come in Lieutenant Pim!' He entered and stood at attention. 'Please be at ease, Lieutenant.' Naps gave Pim's hand a quick sniff in greeting and then settled back down at Kellett's feet.
Kellett looked kindly at Pim. The lieutenant had served as Kellett’s mate on board HMS Herald, and remarkably, he had refused to leave HMS Herald for a higher commission on Plover. Kellett suppressed a smile as he recalled how he had had to force Pim’s confession of why he would not leave, the loyalty the young man expressed, and how he had finally persuaded Pim to take the commission on a temporary basis. Kellett had recommended him highly in 1850 and he had subsequently received his promotion to lieutenant.
Kellett felt this man would continue to be a credit to the Navy and would have a distinguished career should he choose to remain in the Queen’s service. Kellett was not certain, though, why Pim had decided to go to sea in the first place. He was an intelligent man and Kellett felt certain that almost any path he might have chosen would have opened itself before the promising lieutenant. He was a man with a keen mind and was an astute observer of the men and events that surrounded him. He never seemed satisfied with what he had already learned and was always seeking knowledge.
'Please sit, Lieutenant. I want to discuss the men with you because you are better able than most to see who shows promise.'
Pim removed his hat and sat before the captain’s desk, relieved that the dark mood of the previous day had now disappeared entirely from his captain’s face.
'We have several groups of men who have seen prior service together. You know the five Heralds, sir. Along with the Assistances and Resolutes from ‘50, they form a solid group of experienced Arctics.'
Pim made suggestions for promotion to the positions of bo’s’n’s mate and the captains of the hold and fo’c’sle, which were not yet filled.
‘I shall think on your suggestions. Are there any other men you think I should note?’
‘Thank you, Lieutenant. I will consider what you have said about the men when I appoint the petty officers. We dine at five o’clock. You are dismissed.’
As he returned to the deck, Pim wished he had mentioned McDougall, the ship’s Master, to Kellett. In addition to his own experience of taking an immediate liking to him, the old Assistances and Resolutes had already told him stories about their navigator. Underneath the surface of his scientific skill lay a bit of a wag and storyteller. He was a good man, and the men looked up to him. There didn’t seem to be any one of his old mates who did not enjoy his sense of fun and theatre. He was someone Pim felt would be an asset to the ship’s company during the long Arctic winters.
Pim reflected on the day that he had met McDougall. They had joined the ship on the same day, 16 February, each man immediately recognising a kindred spirit in the other. They were very different, yet similar, which seemed contradictory but was not. McDougall’s humour was infectious and it balanced Pim’s seriousness. They had quickly discovered that they were both writers, that they enjoyed observing and recording their impressions of surrounding people and events. Yet, they wrote with very different styles. Pim’s mind, almost as though trained in the legal profession, worked in a very precise fashion. He picked up details and extracted symbolism and meaning from them. McDougall, though trained to think precisely in relation to his work as navigator, tended to focus on the broader picture, then he infused the details with his unique sense of humour.
McDougall had a sense of theatre that Pim lacked. Pim’s feet were planted firmly on the deck, he viewed the world in a solid, and practical way, while McDougall’s flights of imagination lifted him up to a level equivalent to the t’gallants. He viewed the world from that lofty perspective, laughing to himself all the while. Two men. Similar. Different. Complimentary. A friendship was growing between them.
At Clonacody Alice Kellett watched her daughter working the newest horse in their stable. The horses and Margaret seemed to share the same soul. Margaret had such an intuitive touch that, over the last two years, the stable hands had gradually had fewer and fewer horses to train. Now, at sixteen, Margaret was doing all the training and several of the Clonacody men had gone to neighbouring estates for work. The remaining staff did the mucking out and riding path maintenance, the feeding and grooming of the horses. They occasionally helped with the fields and gardens as well.
The estate, in County Tipperary, Ireland, was thriving under Alice’s guidance while her husband was away at sea. Alice could hardly remember the time when Clonacody did not feel like home: that time in the distant past before this place of her husband’s family became her own. Sometimes her thoughts carried her back to the days when she was happily carrying Henry’s first child. She had taken the house in hand, beginning with the rooms on the top floor. Opening the long closed shutters, she had let the sun filter through the dusty air to reveal the nursery and day room where generations of children had been suckled and nurtured. She remembered smiling as she touched the cradle that had been her mother’s-in-law.
When Henry had been called to sea for his commission as the commander of HMS Starling, she had filled her days with getting the nursery, children’s day room, and nanny’s room ready for the baby. First, the old curtains in the nursery had come down and the rugs were taken out and beaten. In the following weeks she had had the walls newly white washed and the wood trim painted while she freshly waxed and polished the old cradle. The staff had sorted, cleaned and ironed the linens, and placed them on the newly painted shelves with lavender between their layers. Alice had taken Great-grandmother Kellett’s rocking chair into Clonmel to be repaired and freshly caned.
From the nursery, Alice had moved on to the day room. She had sorted the toys and dolls, and had the toys for older children put away in the steamer trunks that lined the wall in the room across the hall. Curtains had come down and been cut up for rags. Again, the carpet had been taken out for beating and airing. Then Alice and the staff went forth into the nanny’s room with fresh white paint for the iron bed and cleaned linens.
Alice Kellett remembered sitting in the rocking chair at the end of all of it, looking out the day room window at the fields and mountain beyond, exhausted, happy, at peace. It was then that she had felt her child moving for the first time and she had known she was truly home.
Despite her inability to have more children, the years had been kind to the Kellett family and Clonacody was a happy home. Alice wondered how the years managed to pass so quickly, so that now, instead of holding her baby daughter, she was watching her riding in the north paddock, grown almost to womanhood.
On the first night sailing up the east coast of England Captain Kellett invited his officers to dine with him at his table. Dining with the captain was a tradition most officers dreaded. Most captains, too. Tradition and discipline dictated that no officer could speak until spoken to by the captain. Almost without exception, dinners at a captain’s table were filled with awkward silences and discomfort. The officers sat stiff with fear that they would drink too much of the captain’s good wine, that their tongues would loosen and they would speak out of turn. Kellett knew there were captains in the Royal Navy who found sport in trapping the officers into just such an act of insubordination and that in some cases it was justifiable fear.
Captain Kellett looked around his table at the assembled officers. The first course had been torturous. Even Pim had held himself stiffly upright in his chair. Every officer answered Kellett’s questions with short and formal answers. Always agreeing with everything their captain said they kept their eyes down and stared intently at the food on their plates. The heaviness in the cabin was palpable. Kellett was struggling to keep his sense of frustration from showing in his face. He hoped the ongoing toasts and the well-prepared food would begin working on the men so that he could learn more about them. Of course, this could not happen unless they stopped feeling so afraid.
The silence grew and Kellett sighed inwardly, resigned to his failure to gain any insight into these officers. As he watched each man in turn, he caught Master McDougall’s eye, and noticed an almost imperceptible look of amusement there.
Kellett recalled how much he had laughed when he read the newly published copy of McDougall’s Illustrated Arctic News the commander of Intrepid had brought him just before they set sail. Perhaps McDougall could break the downward momentum of the dinner and save them all from any more suffering.
'Mr. McDougall, tell us about your experience on our good ship during your first voyage aboard her.'
'As a ship, Sir, you will find her a sluggish and lumbering beast. Mind, when you let her spread her canvas she’ll always do better than the Assistance. You will discover that she is true to her name. Resolute she’s named, and resolute she is. She got us through some tight spots before and always seemed stubbornly determined to defeat the worst the ice had to offer. Why, I can honestly say I’ve grown quite fond of her ugly self. I am sitting here, Sir, the living proof that she will do her best to bring us all back home again.'
'Didn’t you find the winters long?' Young Nares asked and then he immediately reddened and looked nervously at his captain, realising he had spoken out of turn. Kellett gave a brief nod of permission. A conversation, not stilted questions and answers, is what he wanted.
'We had our ways of getting through,' McDougall answered, reading his captain’s desire for him to continue. Frederick began to tell the officers about the performances he had directed during the winter of ‘50. The Arctic Theatre Royale they had called it. Kellett watched the men relax as they became caught up in the web of McDougall’s story telling. Within a quarter of an hour, McDougall had several of the young officers, Nares included, smiling as they listened to his description of one of the plays. Within half an hour they were laughing at the picture McDougall painted of the men playing the women’s parts with mops for hair and with distinctively un-feminine swaggers in their walks.
With the easing of tension, Napoleon rose from under Kellett's chair and began a circuit around the table, putting his head expectantly in each man's lap, and gazing soulfully into their eyes. Fresh men who didn't yet know the rules couldn't be passed up. He just might get away with begging a few scraps before being caught out. Most of the men smiled at him and two slipped him scraps of food.
'Avast there! No begging!' Naps' reluctance and resignation to having to obey could be seen in his slow walk back to Kellett's place. 'You know better, my friend, although I can't blame you for trying!' Thank you, he said quietly to himself. Between you and McDougall the men are now much less stressed. Kellett was now able to observe a few of his officers without their noticing that they were being scrutinised. McDougall had the officers and the mate listening intently to the story of the former expedition’s first sledging party. There was a clear laugh ringing around the cabin that Kellett recognised as Pim’s. The young Nares laughed with Pim as McDougall continued.
'You should have seen us the first time we set our sledge’s sail. We finally got us a favourable wind when we were between two ice hummocks. We had a long stretch of flat ice before us. This wind was only favourable, mind, because it was blowing in the direction we wanted to go. The sky was dark, low, and the clouds moving fast. It was as near enough a gale for us as we wanted it to be. Maybe it was too much, but we were tired and just couldn’t see letting all that wind go to waste while we continued to struggle.
‘At the end of the day we just exchanged one struggle for another. First, we had to step the mast and Sam’l almost sacrificed what brains he had to that endeavour, what with the bashing he received. The canvas almost took him next before we could get it hung. But, the chase really began after we got the sail up and the sledge set off at a run without us. We didn’t catch her until she reached the base of the next hummock, which had a bit of a braking influence on her. Of course, our sledge crashing onto her starboard side and tipping her cargo all over creation helped end the race as well. I am willing to admit to you now our sledge got the better of us on that day!'
Young Nares laughed aloud, having completely forgotten for the moment that he was at the captain’s table and that he was supposed to keep still. His pure enjoyment of the picture created by McDougall made Kellett smile. Nares, signed on as mate, had never served in the Royal Navy prior to this expedition. He had a broad expressive face framed by a shock of dark curly hair, and his brown eyes glistened with excitement and awe during McDougall’s story telling.
The two mates on board Resolute would dine with their captain in succession, tradition dictating that only one at a time could join the officers at the captain’s table. Dinner afforded an excellent opportunity for the young mates to observe the conduct becoming an officer and as such was a valuable tool in their training. However, it would never do to have the station of the officers diminished by the presence of more than one. Captain Kellett would have to wait until the next dinner to become reacquainted with his other mate, Richard Roche, who had served under him on the Herald.
After dinner, Captain Kellett took one last turn on deck, greeting the officer on watch whose duties had prevented his attendance at the dinner.
'All’s well, Sir. Nothing to report, Sir.' The lieutenant saluted his captain. Alone in his cabin, Kellett lay in the darkness listening to the sounds of the ship, the creak of her timbers, the water rushing along side. His last thoughts before drifting off to sleep were of his ship’s surgeon, Dr. William Domville. All Kellett had heard about him was, contrary to the common practice, he was not a drunk and he had a reputation for being fairly skilled with a knife. ‘If he practices his art sober,’ Kellett thought to himself, ‘that will immediately make him be better than most!’ Kellett could only hope that the long arctic winters would not drive his sober surgeon to drink.