Alison arranged for me to be able to photograph the Victory Point Record in London on February 5th. Blowing up my photos, I can see a fingerprint at the bottom of the note.
With the naked eye, it is difficult to see unless you know where to look and the light catches it. Even in my macro photos, it is just barely surviving. I’ve written the museum alerting them to the print.
It is incomplete. Unless some other type of examination revealed substantially more, there’s not enough here to get a full print.
It exhibits both the curved swirl area of a fingertip and – separated by a ridge in the paper – the horizontal lines nearer the knuckle. Given this orientation, the finger then goes off the bottom of the page diagonally.
I count 5 distinct lines in the horizontal bands, and at least 12 distinct lines in the circular-pattern area.
Notably, the fingerprint is in a blank area with no writing or printing.
I see nothing else resembling it, in color or pattern, anywhere else on the note. (Excepting the back of the note, which I cannot examine as the note is secured down.)
I had nothing to measure it, but I would estimate that from the top of the curved lines to the horizontal lines is about 1.5 inches. The size looked roughly reasonable, but that’s all the more I can say.
The color of the fingerprint is a very faint black/gray. When I separate the photograph’s colors by warmth, the fingerprint’s color temp is as cool as the printed Admiralty text. It is not the handwritten ink color, and it is not the water/rust stains color; they are much warmer in tone.
A fingerprint could be anyone from the original expedition through to modern researchers.
However, knowing where to look, I can see that this print is still there in the museum’s photo that is available online. That pre-dates the Death In The Ice tour at least. Given that the 2015 Erebus doc showed the VPR encased in glass, it should also pre-date that glass case. As a general guide, the last time anyone would have dared press a thumb on the VPR is a quite a long time ago.
Notably also, it is alone and unsmudged at the bottom of the note. Based on the most severe damage, this was the outermost area when the VPR was rolled up. This fingerprint might have been the anchor point for someone unrolling the note on a flat surface.