Brett Diary [HMS "Investigator"] (1848-1849 )

“Remarks of a few of the Proceedings of HM Ship Investigator on a Voyage to the Arctic Regions In Search of Sir John Franklin and Party, by W. Brett”

Monday May 8th at 4 PM cast of the Lashings from the Nymph hulk at Woolwich and taken in tow of the Monkey Steamer for Greenhithe and made fast to a boat.

May 9th Adjusted the Compasses and Otherwise Employed getting the Boats on the skids and preparing for Sea.

May 10th paid the 3 Months Advance and asked for the River pay which was Granted and paid on the 11th and the people buying a few necessary things for the voyage we were going on and taking farewell from their wives and friends.

Friday May 12th Employed getting Powder and other Stores on board received alongside the Camelion small steamer loaded with Coake and a dock yard Lighter with Hawsers and whale and Sounding lines at 8 AM the Fearless Steamer took us in tow and the African the Enterprise and at 2 PM the Boats and people left for the shore...


23rd [May] ...being the Queen’s Birthday we had a present of Clothes as a birthday Gift consisting of 1 Jacket 1 pair of trowsers [sic] 1 South Wester 1 pair of Boots 1 Welsh 2 Comfortors 2 pair of Mitts 1 Pr of Drawers 1 Guernsey frock 2 pair of Boot Hose.

25th Thick hazy weather and blowing hard Ship under close Reefed Topsails Reefed Driver and FTop Staysail.


26th..27th..28th Still Blowing heavy Making and Shortening Sail to keep our Station.

29th Still Blowing hard and a heavy sea running.

30th Less wind but Still Squally with Snow Storms.

31st Light breeses and a shift of wind Lent Top Gallt [Gallant] Mast and Yards aloft and put down for Slops, breeze freshning made and Shortned sail as requisite. [sic]

June 1st Made and Shortened Sail as Requisite to keep our Station and served out Slops.


[in winter quarters in the Arctic]

October 23rd Lowered the boats and hauled them away from the Ship Coiled the hawsers on the Boats.

Octr 24th Unstowed booms. Getting spars up for the Snow Awning and clearing the decks of Everything Tryed [sic] the Snow Awning.

Octr 25th Employed as Yesterday Snowing as Yesterday.

26. Still fitting the Awnings.

October 27th Thomas Coombs, a Young Man belonging to the Carpenters Crew died after a long Illness.

Octr 28. Got the Forecastle and Main deck awning In their places and secured for the winter.

Octr 29. Sunday.

Octr 30th Fitted the Quarter deck Awning in the afternoon. buried our Shipmate on the Bank on Shore with all the Respect that we were able to Show him. Captain reading the funeral service and Marines firing three Volleys.

October 31st Fitting and securing the Awnings Served out the Slops in afternoon Caught a fox.

November 1st It is Getting cold and looking like winter preparing for winter still Glass lower Caught a second fox.

Novr 2nd Strong breeses [sic] from the Northward which is the prevailing wind cut a large hole through the ice for the double purpose of fire hole and for fixing a pole for taking the tides during the winter it blowing hard in the afternoon The hands picked Oakum which will be the winter Employment when the weather will not permit of working outside.

Novr 3rd Commenced laying snow on the deck two feet thick cut the fire hole and finished it.

Novr 4th Fetched some Gravel from the shore to mix with the snow on the deck Glass 10° below.

Novr 5th Sunday.

Novr 6th Employed as on Saturday fetching Gravel and in afternoon Sold by auction the Effects of Tho Coombs Issued Soft bread for the first time which will continue during.

Novr 7th Employed fetching Gravel in forenoon Strong breezes in afternoon.

Novr 8th Employed as Yesterday Covering the deck.

Novr 9th Finished the deck and began to bank the ship up with snow Sun went below the horizon for the last time this year.


Jany 12th Employed as most requisite. Marked out with Boarding pikes a Channel for the ships to Go out in the Spring under the Superintendence of S[ir] J.C. Ross and Captain Bird.

Jany 13th Cleaned lower decks and Otherwise Employed.

Jany 14th Sunday.

Jany 15th Variously Employed on board.

Jany 16th Fetching Gravel in the forenoon to Spread on the Ice in the Channel Marked out to try what Effect the Sun will have on in the Spring in afternoon Blowing Strong and winter amusement.

Jany 17th Employed as Yesterday.

Jany 18th..19th Employed as on the 17th.

Jany 20th Strong breezes Employed variously during the day.

Jany 21st Sunday.

Jany 22nd Variously Employed in afternoon fetching Gravel.


Febr 18th Sunday.

Feby 19th Still blowing hard.

Feby 20th Began to clear the wall and banking from the Ship there having collected such a large Quantity of Snow round the Ship it having blown a Gale of wind for 21 days attended with heavy drifts working from 6 to 6 .. 12 hours.

Feby 21st..22nd..23rd Still clearing away banking and wall a party today 23rd from Enterprise to assist she having No wall.

Feby 24th Still Clearing away banking.

Feby 25th Sunday.

Feby 26th Strong breezes Employed on board.

Feby 27th Clearing away the Wall in afternoon picked Oakum blowing hard.


May 1st Hands Variously Employed 18 hands warned for the Traveling party to be in Readiness to go away to Morrow Carpenters Caulking Upper deck.

May 2nd 5:30 AM Lashed up hammocks 6:30 AM went to breakfast and Every thing ready for starting but the weather proving unfavourable the party were delayed Carpenters caulking upper deck

May 3rd 7:45 AM The party left the Ship for the provisions Under Cape Clarence on the 16th of March consisting of 40 in number Under the command of S[ir] James Clark Ross and Mr. Barnard 3 Lieut and Surgeon of Investigator and a Junor Officer [sic] of the Enterprise and 18 Men from each Ship Capt ET Bird went two miles beyond Cape Clarence and then returned to the Ship people Getting up banks Carpenters caulking bulkheads.

May 4th People Employed as Yesterday at 1 PM the funeral party left for to bury the Man that died on the 30th of April The Enterprise.

May 5th 8 AM The Glass at Zero at 9 AM the Surgeon & Seaman Henry Hester returned to the Ship with their faces much Swollen from Effects of the Reflection of the Sun on the Snow they were accompanied with a Marine which was taken bad after he came on board, they left the party at half past five Capt Ross returned just before 12 and was received with three cheers the whole of the party arrived at a little before 10 [o']clock and was likewise received with 3 cheers. Employed stowing Main Hold Glass at Zero.

May 6th Glass at Zero being Sunday went to divisions A party warned to be in readiness to start to the Southward Myself being One and my two Green state chums several of the party complaining of sore Eyes in the afternoon Orders contradicted...


May 18th Glass 14 Variously Employed Clearing Nettings getting hawsers on board Glass 14 Above.

May 19 Clearing away round houses Cutting round the Ship for to Caulk Glass at 17 all day.

May 20th Sunday divisions and church Glass 16 all day

May 21st Glass at 8 AM

23th [sic] Fine weather people Employed Cutting round the Ship for Caulking and filling tanks with snow in the Evening weather Variable.

May 22nd Glass at 28.. Employed as Yesterday and Blacking bends Glass 36 and fine.

May 23rd Glass 30 Employed Clearing the ice away from ship uncovered the sails Glass 30 with snow Sent out second Bobstay and Bowsprit Shroud at 11 PM Captain and party returned to the Ship after an absence of 8 days and a half quite well.


June 4 Glass at 8 AM 22 Unbent Topsails sent the Topsail Yards down to refit Glass 24 Carpenters took their Hammocks and a weeks provisions to the point to Commence the pinnace.

June 5th Glass at 8 AM 21 Sent the Topsail yards aloft and Otherwise Employed Glass at 8 PM 20.

June 6th Glass at 8 AM 16 Blowing hard Employed Cleaning Lower deck paint work party from the North returned on Board Glass 20.

June 7th Glass 19th Employed Variously whitewashed Lower deck Glass a[t] 8 PM 22.

June 8th Glass at 8 AM 21. The Enterprises party returned from Cape York Employed refitting Glass 27.

June 9th Glass at 8 AM 23 Took the Steam Engine to the point Glass at 8 PM 24.


June 28th Queen's Coronation day drawing and knotting Yarns presented us with a pair of Fishermans boots and boot hose Glass at Noon 33.

June 29th Employed watering Enterprise Glass at Noon 38 Boxed the Ice found on the Gravil 3 feet" 4 feet" Snow and Ice 8 feet hoisted up the Boats.

June 30th Employed Cleaning Ship scrubbing paint work raining all day Glass 40.

July 1st Sunday divisions and Church Glass at Noon 33 raining all day.

July 2nd Scrubbing hammocks washed Clothes Glass 38.

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About this document ...

  • Written by: W. Brett
  • Archive: National Maritime Museum
  • Collection: Uncatalogued Material
  • Reference number: MSS 79 ∕ 088.1
  • Date: 1848-1849
  • Page(s): 1-15
Sunken ship