At 10am on Thursday 15 August 2019, I walked into the National Archives in Kew, London. to look for some missing journals. I didn’t find them. What I did find was the Beechey Papers.
I was astonished to turn over the pages of an uncatalogued album and find scraps of journals, newspapers and other fragments of printed and hand-written materials. These are clearly marked as having been picked up in Erebus and Terror’s Winter Quarters in 1850.
There are scraps with what appears to be James Fitzjames’ writing on them: a couple are calculations; one seems to be from a personal journal.
And there’s a scrap with “Mr M’Donald” written on it.
William Penny, Robert Anstruther Goodsir, Horatio Austin, Erasmus Ommanney and others collected these relics on Beechey Island in August 1850, during a drama-filled Franklin search season.
I have seen references to them before in Cyriax, Walpole/Potter, in papers related to William Penny, and most recently in Gillies Ross’ Hunters on the Track.
But I had never seen a single image of them, and could not understand why.
The photos are here: https://photos.app.goo.gl/7z1idVquCgtEXMAt7
All are copyright National Archives.
I’ve been lucky in many ways with this project, but I have also been persistent and meticulous in my work. And this find? It’s the biggest surprise of my life.