[Photograph album of the British Arctic Expedition, under the command of George Nares].

BRITISH ARCTIC EXPEDITION 1875-76 ; NARES George Strong.; FULFORD Reginald Baldwin compiler.; MITCHELL Thomas photographer. (1875-76.)


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60 albumen prints (each 147 by 195mm) laid down in an album, 4to., original blind-stamped diced leather, stitched sailcloth dust-wrapper, a.e.g., tissue guards, ink captions in ms beneath each photograph, heraldic bookplate of Reginald Baldwin Fulford to front pastedown. Photographs slightly faded, sailcloth worn through at corners, else very good. [Ellesmere Island and elsewhere], 

A spectacular album of photographs from the 1875-76 British Arctic Expedition, from the collection of fourth lieutenant of the Discovery Reginald Baldwin Fulford, with over twice as many images as the album passed by descent through Nares' own family.


The 1875-76 British Arctic Expedition was a lavish show of strength on the part of the British Navy, and to that end, no expense was spared on outfitting the two ships Discovery and Alert with state of the art equipment and technology. Ahead of the expedition, George White, assistant engineer on the Alert, and Thomas Mitchell, Paymaster for the Discovery, were sent to the Army School of Photography in Chatham to give them a rudimentary training. In light of this, the quality of the pictures these two amateur photographers were able to produce is quite remarkable. Expedition photography was still in his infancy at this point, with the first properly documented mission being the Royal Engineer Corps Abyssinian expedition of 1868. Though a few previous Arctic explorers had made use of the technology, with the notable exception of William Bradford's purely aesthetic voyage of 1869, these pictures represented the fullest photographic record for a scientific expedition to the Arctic at that date. Their success could be seen to have paved the way for the professional photographers, like Herbert Ponting and Frank Hurley, who were routinely recruited for Polar expeditions in the decades that followed. Many of the present images are signed Thomas Mitchell or TM in the negative. 


Led by George Strong Nares, the expedition was ostensibly intended to support an attempt on the North Pole by a small polar party, with other surveying and scientific objectives to keep the remaining men busy through up to three full years in the high Arctic. A less tangible intention of the expedition was articulated by the Prime Minister: "to encourage that spirit of enterprise which had ever distinguished the British people". His government provided funding for the expedition to the tune of £150,000. The Discovery set a new record for most northerly Winter Quarters at 82°27'N, and the polar party reached 83º10.5'N which was at that time a record breaking latitude. Ultimately however, Nares took the decision to turn the party around due to many members showing signs of scurvy. For the same reason he foreshortened the expedition by a whole year, suspecting the antiscorbutic supplies procured in London were of inadequate quality to risk continuing. 


The public interest in the expedition made the photographic record all the more important. The pictures present in this album document the duties and activities of the two ships' crews: there are fascinating shots of scientific measurements being taken, of the tide gauge instrument, the pendulum, thermometer and declinometer houses; the sledging parties, dogs and hunting activities are documented, as well as many stirring images of the two ships starkly contrasting various icebound vistas. Amongst the early shots are scenes of the Greenlandic Inuit people (referred to in the ms captions as "Arctic Highlanders") who were encountered on the voyage north, as well as a candid image of expedition recruit Hans Christian Hendrik showing his son and daughter visiting the ship. Hendrik was a veteran of such work, having also accompanied the Kane, Hale and Hall expeditions as a hired hunter. The 


Upon the expedition's return these pictures were exhibited at the Photographic Society of Great Britain, and three are reproduced photographically in Nares' own official account Narrative of a Voyage to the Polar Sea (1877), with many more forming the basis of the numerous other engraved illustrations. Commemorative albums were clearly made up by various crew members, this one bearing the bookplate of Reginald Baldwin Fulford, fourth lieutenant of the Discovery. Each of these albums was different, with the captions completed in different hands, often with slightly variant information recorded, making the comparison between such albums of significant research value. Remarkably, this album contains over twice as many images as the one which passed by direct descent through the Nares family, which only contained 28 images. Another album was presented by Nares to Queen Victoria, and now resides in the Royal Collections Trust. 


A full list of the captioned photographs is transcribed below:


1. Alert" Discovery" & Valorous" at Disco July 1875

2. Group of Native Esquimeau-danes taken on board Discovery

3. Group of Native Women taken at Disco

4. Port of Proven

5. Hans, Son and Daughter taken at Upernivick 

6. Discovery at C. York  Group of Arctic Highlanders

7. Discovery first to land Ice near C York. Sledges & dogs of Arctic Highlanders

8. Discovery waiting in Port Payer near C Sabine. No water North?

9. Alert & Discovery at Anchor in Alert or Alexandra Bay Hayes Sound

10. Alert stopped by the ice in Hayes Sound

11. Alert semaphoring to Discovery off Victoria to "Observe Ice Berg" in motion

12. Alert in Franklin Pierce Bay from Discovery looking West

13. Franklin Pierce Bay looking East. Hart, Rawson, and Fulford

14. Alert fast to a floe outside Franklin Pierce Bay

15. Alert & Discovery waiting off Cape Prescott. Officers at work. Coppinger Beaumont Fulford and Archer

16. Dead Walrus alongside Alert off Cape Prescott

17. Waiting off Cape Prescott No Water in sight

18. Alert alongside floe preparing to cut Docks

19. Alert cutting a Dock in Dobbin Bay

20. Discovery cutting a Dock in Dobbin Bay

21. Discovery in Dock at Dobbin Bay. Dogs on the ice for exercise

22. Alert in Dock Dobbin Bay Cape Hilgard

23. Cape Louis Napoleon, Dobbin Bay looking SE

24. Heavy ice about Cape Fraser

25. Rawson and his Whip off Cape Norton Shaw

26. Fast to the ice off Cape Leopold McClintock

27. Discovery first frozen in Sept 1875 from Magnetic House

28. Winter quarters of Discovery showing how frozen in among old floes Sept 75

29. Discovery in Wr Qrs Dougall & the dogs Tide guage in the distance

30. Discovery in Wr Qrs Autumn 1875

31. Musk Ox Head

32. Discovery in Wr Qrs showing the Store tent, Pendulum House Thermometers Magnetic House & Tide guage

33. Discovery in Wr Qrs Early Spring of 1876 Temperature -64°

34. Tide guage used during the Winter on board Discovery

35. Discovery Wr Qrs Spring of 1876 Showing Store Tent Pendulum House Thermometers Magnetic House, Theatre, Smithy, & Declinometer House

36. Lt Beaumonts party ready to start for Greenland

37. Lt Archers or Western party ready for a start

38. Discovery Wr Qrs showing the skating rink

39. Discovery Wr Qrs Spring of 1876

40. View of Discovery Bay from hills above the ship showing ship and measured mile

41. Sledging Season the ship keepers

42. Dog sledge party. Halt for luncheon

43. Camping Time

44. Just before Supper Tent life in the Arctic 

45. View of the North end of Robeson Channel looking NE

46. A split floe berg near Hoeberg Beach

47. Sledges rounding Cape Rawson near Alerts Wr Qrs 

48. One! Two! Three! Haul! over C Rawson

49. Alert in Wr Qrs looking West Spring 1876

50. Alert in Wr Qrs looking North over Polar pack

51. Upper deck of Alert Early Summer 1876

52. Alert breaking out of Wr Qrs August 1876

53. Alert pressed on shore in Shift Rudder Bay August 1876

54. Releasing Alert by lightening the grounded Iceberg that pressed her on shore

55. Cliff of solid coal found near Wr Qrs of Discovery

56. Cairn and Post Office of empty tins on the beach at Discovery Wr Qrs

57. Discovery ready for sea inside breakwater Discovery Bay Augt 1876

58. Discovery on shore inside breakwater Discovery Bay

59. Alert on shore in Radnor Harbour on the way home August 1876

60. Alert on shore in Radnor Harbour from the Discovery

Stock Code: 233618

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