Two watercolour sketches of the brig Jane and cutter Beaufoy.
WEDDELL James (.)
Watercolour and ink. Each measuring approx 200 by 290mm. Captioned in ms beneath each image: "Brig Jane and cutter Beaufoy in the latitude of 74°15' South returning to the Northward 20th February 1823" and "Brig Jane and cutter Beaufoy in latitude of South passing to the Southward through a chain of Ice Islands". Framed and glazed, with a few closed tears.
Two beautiful images by the veteran sealer James Weddell documenting a vital moment in the history of Antarctic exploration: the southernmost point reached by any sailor to that point. His mark easily eclipsed James Cook's 71°10'S, which he reached on 30 January 1774.
"In 1822, Weddell was sent in command of the brig Jane and the cutter Beaufoy on a sealing expedition to the southern seas. Over the course of two years, they visited and described the Cape Verde Islands, South Orkney Islands, South Shetland Islands, and South Georgia Islands, wintered in the Falkland Islands, and described Tierra del Fuego, Patagonia, and Montevideo. During their southward sailing, they reached the highest southern latitude then attained. This area now bears the name Weddell Sea" (Hill).
These images are in Weddell's own hand and were used to illustrate his account: A Voyage towards the South Pole in the years 1822-24 (London, 1825). He arrived back from the voyage in July 1824 and so these were likely painted either on the voyage home, or shortly after their return.
The image "Brig Jane and cutter Beaufoy in latitude of South passing to the Southward through a chain if Ice Islands. February 1823" appears opposite page 35. "Brig Jane and cutter Beaufoy in the latitude of 74°15' South returning to the Northward 20th February 1823" is opposite page 45. Although captioned 1823, the incident dates to the previous year. The images in the book are captioned identically, possibly after these. It's a curious misprint which has found its way into some secondary sources including Howgego.
To be clear, the entry for 20 February 1822, on pages 36-7 of the 1825 edition, reads as follows: "In the morning of the 20th the wind shifted to S. by W. and blew a fresh breeze, and seeing a clouded horizon, and a great number of birds in the S.E., we stood in that direction. At 10 o'clock in the forenoon, when the ship's head was E.S.E., I took a set of azimuths, which gave variation 11°20' east. The atmosphere now became very clear, and nothing like land was to be seen. Three ice islands were in sight from the deck, and one other from the mast-head. On one we perceived a great number of penguins roosted. Our latitude at this time, 20th February, 1822, was 74°15', and longitude 34°16'45"; the wind blowing fresh at south, prevented, what I most desired, our making farther progress in that direction. I would willingly have explored the S.W. quarter, but taking into consideration the lateness of the seas, and that we had to pass homewards through 1000 miles of sea strewed with ice islands, with long nights, and probably attended with fogs, I could not determine otherwise than to take advantage of this favourable wind for returning."
Should any doubt remain, on 20 February 1823, Weddell reports that both ships are sailing within sight of land near the Falkland Islands.
Provenance: the Weddell family, by direct descent through inheritance. Hill, 1843; Howgego II, W18; cf. Rosove 345.A1; cf. Spence, 1246; James Weddell, A Voyage towards the South Pole in the years 1822-24. London, Longmans et al, 1825.
Stock Code: 227560