Reply To: Ice Poles & Phipps' 1773 Arctic Expedition

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Frank Scott

On the MarHst-L forum I have received the following responses:

From John Harland:
Judging by this passage they were poles used to push ice floes away from the ship’s sides.
“The captain shouted to the men ‘Bear a hand with the ice-poles!’ Each man seized a long pole and stood ready for action. The ice was rushing in and the bay was full in a minute, and although the men used their ice-poles actively and worked with a will, they could not shove the pieces past them.”
R M Ballantyne. Fast in the Ice: Adventures in the Polar Regions (1863)
(Note: Although not a work of history, early in his career Ballantyne spent six years working for the Hudson’s Bay Company, so this is well grounded in factual detail).

From Ingo Heidbrink:
The use of such ‘Ice Poles” seems to have been pretty common for sailing ships in the ice.
One of the few illustrations that I am aware of goes back to the First German North Polar Expedition of 1868 (SS GROENLAND) and one of the illustrations can be found in low-resolution on the following web-page:
1: This small picture repays study as it shows ice poles being used from the ship.
2: Groenland (built 1867) is now owned by the German Maritime Museum at Bremerhaven & is still seagoing.

From Olaf Janzen:
The use of ice poles was quite common in the Newfoundland seal fishery. There’s a very good photo of sealers attempting to free a vessel jammed in the ice in an article by Capt. Bob Bartlett which appeared in the July 1929 issue of the National Geographic Magazine, vol 56 (1929), pp. 91-130.
(Note: The attached picture shows ice poles being deployed by men on the ice, as opposed to being used from the ship)

My thanks to all three MarHsters


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