James Fitzjames Letter to Edward Sabine [July] (1845 July 11)

HMS Erebus Whale Fish Island 11th July 1845

My dear Colonel Sabine

Captain Crozier has I know written to you fully on what you are most interested about in our Expedition - the observations we have made in the Magnetic department or rather those we have not - made - for he will have told you that the weather during our passage to this has been anything but pleasurable. No observations either with Fox or anything else – Not that my observations with Fox can even be of much use for the instrument being cut only to degrees could give a reading of any intrinsic value – I imagine I appreciated to every 5'- and even if I could estimate to two minutes I would put no value on the results. Besides the vertical is about ¼ of a mile from the limb - and in fact the instrument is rotten – and it grieve[s] me much because it prevents my taking the great interest I otherwise should in the observations and Experiments I perceive might be made with a good instrument. – Why the Admiralty should have palmed off a rotten affair like this on us I am at a loss to determine. I can only suppose that it was supposed my observations would not be of use as compared to Capt Crozier's - if to ascertain the use of sending any.

As it is I am determined it shall never be said there was any fault of mine in the matter consequently I take all the needful observations but will – no feeling of pleasure – in fact I look on it a log of time and God knows my time is of some value to me now.

I had hope to prepare a set of results as obtained hitherto but imagining it would be of no use deferred the work.

I will say however that the Fox observations I have taken present a tolerably good series of means -

On arrival here I was anxious get the index error of the needle and for this purpose got up on "Boat H and" the "Robinson" which is the most beautiful instrument – and has cost me some humble for I lost the final series of observations – having dropped my book on the hills, and – in taking second series I observed that the needle A1 gave a much smaller result than the other. I consequently repeated the observations three times with all the needles and came to the conclusion that the Magnets supplied with the instrument were not strong enough to magnetize the needles properly -

This morning I repeated the observations magnetizing the needle with the strong magnets supplied with Lloyd's intensity instrument. This gave a more equal result – but still A2 was less than the others -

The two static needles did not give the same results on the separate observations. But at times the changes were very great and the instrument is beautifully delicate. The mean of the whole however will I should imagine give a good result of the absolute dip -

With Captain Crozier's assistance I took a set of observations with Lloyd's intensity instrument which however good the theory of it, so much for Magnetics. It remains to say that we hope to sail tomorrow evening and have every reason to expect a favorable search for getting to Lancaster Sound where if not we shall be by the 14 August at latest.

Sir John is very well and full of life and energy and we are all as happy as possible looking forward to the commencement of our Real Work.

No one I am sure will rejoice more than yourself at our success which we all anticipate eventually if not sooner. Pray remember me with all kindness to Mrs. Sabine in which Fairholme, Hodgson and Les Vesconte join me and believe me

Yours very sincerely

James Fitzjames

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About this document ...

  • Written by: James Fitzjames
  • Written to: Edward Sabine
  • Archive: British National Archives
  • Collection: BJ3-17 Sir Edward Sabine: Correspondence and papers. Personal letters and Papers
  • Date: 1845 July 11
Sunken ship