Communication channels: how one little search note found its way home

A detail of a 1850 search note left by Captain Erasmus Ommanney of HMS Assistance. Copyright: The National Archives.
A detail of a 1850 search note left on Cape Warrender by Captain Erasmus Ommanney of HMS Assistance. © The National Archives. Editing: Logan Zachary.

They were cold, they were tired, and they had just torn down a large stone cairn on a freezing Arctic headland and found it empty. This is where Sir John Franklin’s men should have left a written record of where they had gone next. To find Erebus and Terror, the searchers had first to find a note.

But there was something even worse than finding nothing in the cairn.

It was finding a cylinder in the cairn, frantically opening it, unrolling the note with shaking hands and hammering heart, and finding it was a missive from another Franklin searcher – possibly even from someone on your own expedition.

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“The ghastly truth dawned upon me that it was three graves that I at last stood beside”

One of the most annoying things in my life as a Robert Anstruther Goodsir researcher is the man’s infuriating reluctance to put his real name on many of the articles he wrote. But he’s out there if you know where and how to look.

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Found: Beechey Island relics in historic photograph

Logan followed a lead all the way to London, and made a fantastic breakthrough: https://twitter.com/LoganoZaccaria/status/1199626722204934144

The fingerpost found on Beechey Island was definitely at the former Royal United Services Museum for maybe two-thirds of the 20th Century. Logan thought he could see it in the photograph above, but how to prove it? Well, it involved a lot of hard work in the RUSI Library, which he detailed in a long post for the Remembering the Franklin Expedition history club over on Facebook.

The clincher jumped out at him, magic-eye style, after weeks of studying the photo. That’s the Beechey Island anvil, right next to the post.