Reply To: Ice Poles & Phipps' 1773 Arctic Expedition

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Alexandre Solka

    Dear Mr Scott,

    Thank you very much for this very interesting topic. I am also very interested in early Arctic expeditions but
    also on the early career of Lord Nelson and of course, the Phipps’ Artic expedition is one of his most interesting and quite unusual assignments.

    So to come to the point, first of all, I recommend you to read entirely the wonderful study and fascinating chapter specifically dedicated to this expedition in Mr John Sugden’s book, called Nelson, A Dream of Glory, entitled “Northward Ho!”, pp.63-81 and the notes attached to it, pp. 802-3! You will find a very accurate description and account of the entire expedition as well as a precise comparison of the different documents related to the Phipp’s expedition as well as the ships’ logs and other letters as well.

    I also recommend you to read the anonymous diary published as Journal of a Voyage Undertaken as well as his publication by Albert H. Markham, ed., Northward.

    Finally, the related charts and views, most of the time produced by Philippe d’Auvergne, are in the William L. Clements Library, the University of Michigan, Ann Harbor.

    But most of all, I found a wonderful file in pdf which should really give you more important datas. I tried to download here for the forum but it sounds it is a
    too big file..(

    Also finally, you may find this link interesting as well on Sir Phipp’s own account:

    Below here are my first comments and I hope they will be interesting to you as well.

    Now, strictly regarding ice poles connected to these two ships, the HM Ships Racehorse and Carcass, here is what I found. Specifically on page 70, after mentionning the ice shifting along the two ships in a very heavy fog, here is this key information: “… Minds had to be concentrated, because the navigation was fiendishly tricky amid drifting bergs big enough to damage ship timbers and near an ice pack that could close, trap and crush with fearful speed…

    For days the ships tacked to and fro, using ice poles to stave off bergs and ice anchors thrown from each bow. The small boats were constantly out, hauling the ships this way and that. Nelson was probably employed on the boats of the Carcass, the longboat, launch and cutter… But try as they might, neither ship could entirely avoid colliding with chunks of ice, and the succession of severe shocks they received proved the worth of the additional strengths that had been built into the tough little vessels before sailing…”

    Then should be quoted a somewhat later event in this expedition, pages 77-78, between the 7th and 8th of August 1773. “… Aboard the ships, some four miles behind the launches, movements in the ice were detected. ‘Rending and cracking with a tremendous noise’ [quoted, not said from where, possibly from Sir Phipp’s own account, “A Voyage Towards the North Pole”(cf. BL King’s 224) but most probably from Albert H. Markham’s edition p.203 as well as Journal of a Voyage Undertaken, pages 81-83”, cf. notes 22 and 23, page 803 in John Sugden’s monography],
    it changed direction with the current and started moving the ships westwards, towards the launchers and open water. Once again, the deliverance seemed Heaven sent. (And this is clearly what everyone must have felt then, personal comment) ‘Every officer and evey idler on board laboured now for life’, wrote one diarist. Sails were spread, and
    anchors, poles, axes and saws joined the battle to push the ships through the shattering ice pack…

    ‘It is impossible to conceive the joy which, like wildfire, spread throughout the ship at this news’, Floyd wrote.

    Finally, strictly concerning ice poles, I am sure you may find in the different sources I mentioned, you will find illustrations of these and I hope these different elements will be for you of interest.

    Finally, you may also be interested to contact this institute (

    I stay at your disposal for any further information and you may contact me by email ( and skype (sashavsmokve)

    If any other member is also interested to share other informations on the Phipp’s Artic Expedition, fell free to contact me.

    Sincerely yours,

    Alexandre SolcĂ