Relic identifications inside a rare sketch of Schwatka relics

By Logan Zachary.  April 29, 2020.

{ Franklin relics recovered by the Schwatka search. }   

I found this sketch of Franklin relics recovered by the Schwatka search in an 1881 issue of Scribner's Monthly (Volume 22).  The accompanying article was written by William Gilder, a member of the Schwatka search.  The artist’s signature (right-hand side) is TABER, presumably W. Taber (as it appears in other works in that same volume).  Having become interested in Randall Osczevski’s search for the lost Schwatka “L.F. initials board” taken from HMS Erebus, I attempted to work out what Franklin relics were in the sketch.

The first day (4 April 2020) I posted six Greenwich relic identifications to RtFE (see below).  By the following day it was clear that two of the six were in error.  Using Greenwich’s listed dimensions, I made a height measurement mockup (see further below) that showed Flask AAA2277 was too small to convincingly match the jug in the sketch.  Secondly, Peter Carney pointed out that the smaller stove parts I had identified were in fact relics found by the McClintock search.

However, within minutes of posting the sketch, Russell Potter and then Peter Carney recognized the larger significance: the object I had visually linked to Greenwich’s artifact AAA4275 was the topic of a recent Stenton and Park paper, “The Cast Iron Site.”  One of the central arguments of that paper is that Greenwich’s AAA4275 is likely to be a Franklin Expedition stove recovered by the Schwatka search.  Here in the sketch the same stove appeared in convincing detail, identified as a Schwatka relic and in an article by Gilder himself.

Russell Potter brought the identification to the attention of archaeologist Doug Stenton, and Stenton in turn contacted curator Jeremy Michell at Greenwich’s National Maritime Museum.  The sketch was added to Stenton’s archaeological research and Michell’s Schwatka relics work to make a tentative but now public identification on Greenwich’s site of AAA4275 as a Franklin-Schwatka relic.

Greenwich's site reads:  “The sketch, while partially obscured by other Franklin relics recovered by Schwatka's expedition, shows some unique features found on the actual stove, appearing to confirm that it was recovered from the Schwatka expedition in 1881.”  Curator Michell has also used this sketch to upgrade other Franklin catalogue records, and has continued to make further identifications of Franklin relics in the sketch beyond my initial post.

All of these relic identification make clear, however, that the missing “L.F. initials board” is not seen in this sketch.

All relic photography below is: © National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London.

Sea boot:


Flask – this was my initial identification, proved by size (below) to be unlikely:


Cooking stove large:…/objects/256424.html

Cooking stove large:…/objects/256424.html

Cooking stove small parts – this was my initial identification, disproved by Peter Carney:

Scribner's Monthly article:

Height comparison made the day after, showing relative sizes lining up with all artifacts except the Flask.

Randall Osczevski's L.F. Initials Board thread (link to private group):

Originally posted April 4 2020 (link to private group):

* * *

Postscript:  There is one tentative identification I left out of my original post that I will add here:  that dark object in front may be Eyebolt Shackle AAA2373 (or the other Eyebolt Shackle, AAA2325).  The size is reasonably accurate, and the shape is close but without being quite a definite match.  The bigger issue – and the reason I didn't include it with the original six – is that there appears to be a handle coming out of the object in the sketch.  So this identification would seem to solve one problem while creating another.  Addendum:  Jeremy Michell has suggested that this may be Axe Handle AAA2346, which at 273 mm long is very much the right size compared to surrounding relics.

 – L.Z.  April 29th, 2020.