Captain Parry's beef to be Captain Ross's find

Over a year ago, I happened to open a storage box to look for items for an exhibition that was being planned.  My curiosity was piqued by words on a blue envelope, typewritten on the outside ...

“Beef found on rocks near the North Pole in 1823 by Captain Parry of the “Fury” and brought back to Hull, Yorkshire by Captain Ross 1833.”
I peeked inside and marveled over the folded piece of paper and dusty evidence of the organic substance it held in its folded creases.   I carefully returned it to the box but had to gush to my work colleagues about my ‘find’ then stored the information in the back of my mind for a possible spot as a blog post.  
A few months later, our new exhibition “Still Life: Inside the huts of Scott and Shackleton” opened and brought back to mind the wonderful little treasure stowed away in our largest storeroom.  Probably not seen by many other eyes in many decades, this fabulous artifact has its own adventurous story to tell.   “Wonderful” I thought, “I really should do something for a blog post” and so, it was on my radar again.   Even though the beef and the explorers were several decades older than anything connected to Scott and Shackleton, the similar strands of courage and tenacity of those first explorers and the pull that the Antarctic had for ordinary men to discover and plot such deadly territory are the same for all the stories.
Then I spotted this headline whilst researching:

A shipwreck had been discovered in Canada’s Arctic using a remote underwater vehicle.  This shipwreck is being attributed to a disastrous expedition in 1845 led by Sir John Franklin, a British Royal Navy officer and explorer of the Arctic.  At the time of originally penning this blogpost, it is not known whether it is the HMS Erebus or HMS Terror that was involved, both ships went on the expedition, however late last year it was confirmed that it was Erebus.



Now back to the beef that entered our museum in 1959, this wonderful piece of animal that Captain Ross decided would be a good idea to scavenge and cart around on journeys with him and thank goodness he did! It, along with the paper is of course terribly fragile, I could not open to show the contents, however a small amount of debris can be seen in the photos above, also since I've written this, our conservation department have stabilised the objects and they can now be seen online.  Of its journey, the following news clipping may shed some light:

The dessicated paper containing the beef states in cursive script that the meat was left upon the rocks near to the North Pole by Captain Parry[2] of the "Fury" in 1823 and it was taken back to Hull, Yorkshire by Captain Ross in 1833.  It is interesting to note that 
Ross took part in four Arctic expeditions under Sir William Parry, and in 1829 to 1833, again served under his Uncle Sir John Ross's second Arctic voyage. It was during this trip that they located the position of the North Magnetic Pole on 1 June 1831 on the Boothia Peninsula in the far north of Canada.[a] 
As the beef was then “taken on 2 or 3 Voyages of discovery" we could therefore presume one of them was this momentous trip.

Later, “between 1839 and 1843, Ross commanded an Antarctic expedition comprising the vessels HMS Erebus and HMS Terror and charted much of the coastline of the continent.”  It was only a year after this, 1845 that the Franklin expedition took HMS Erebus and HMS Terror on that fateful venture.  Captain James Ross was to later lead searches[a] to look for Sir John Franklin and that doomed expedition. 

Captain Sir James Clarke ROSS[a]

“James was married to Lady Ann Ross. He died at Aylesbury in 1862, five years after his wife. A blue plaque marks Ross's home in Eliot Place, Blackheath, London. His closest friend was Captain Francis Crozier with whom he sailed many times. Crozier has never been found after he participated in The Franklin Expedition and became leader after the death of Sir John Franklin.
James  lived in the ancient country house  later known as The Abbey, Aston Abbotts in Buckinghamshire and this is where he died. He is buried with his wife in the local churchyard.

 In the gardens of the Abbey there is a lake with two islands, named after the ships Terror and Erebus.”[a]

Captain Sir William Parry

As an aside, Parry was a trailblazer in the use of canning techniques for food preservation on his Arctic voyages. “However, his techniques were not infallible: in 1939 viable spores of certain heat-resistant bacteria were found in canned roast veal that had traveled with Parry to the Arctic Circle in 1824.”[c] 

I wonder what our little sample of beef would reveal and how did it get to New Zealand from Hull?

Franklin's lost expedition was a British voyage of Arctic exploration led by Captain Sir John Franklin that departed England in 1845. A Royal Navy officer and experienced explorer, Franklin had served on three previous Arctic expeditions, the latter two as commanding officer. His fourth and last, undertaken when he was 59, was meant to traverse the last unnavigated section of the Northwest Passage. After a few early fatalities, the two ships became icebound in Victoria Strait near King William Island in the Canadian Arctic. The entire expedition complement, including Franklin and 128 men, was lost.

The Parry Channel, a natural waterway through the Canadian Arctic Archipelago is named after Captain William Parry (Born 19 December 1790 – Died 8 or 9 July 1855)

The Ross Sea was discovered by Captain James Clark Ross (Born 15 April 1800 – Died 3 April 1862) in 1841. 
He also discovered the largest ice shelf of Antarctica which now bears his name – The Ross Ice Shelf. 
A 2013 estimate of size is 427,000 sq km making it roughly the size of the Yukon territory in Canada.
Ross also named  Mount Erebus and the smaller extinct volcano to the east, Mount Terror.

On long side facing the church: "In affectionate memory of Rear Admiral Sir James Clark Ross Kt. FRS Arctic and Antarctic Explorer and Discoverer of the North Magnetic Pole who departed this life at Aston Abbots House April 3, 1862 Age 62 years. Deeply lamented and regretted." At the base: "I know that my Redeemer liveth and that He shall stand at this latter day upon the Earth." 

On the end facing the road: "Sir James Clark Ross Kt. Born April 15, 1800 Died April 3, 1862" 

On long side away from the church: "In affectionate remembrance of Ann, the beloved and deeply lamented wife of Admiral Sir James Clark Ross Knt., the eldest daughter of the late Thomas Coulman, Esq., Whitgift Hall, Coole. Lady Ross was born on the 17th of January 1817 Died on the 25th of January 1857. Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord." 

On the end facing away from the road: "Lady Ross born January 17, 1817 died January 25, 1857" 

Evening Post, Volume CXXIV, Issue 47, 24 August 1937, Page 14 accessed via Paperspast

©2015 Sarndra Lees


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