Fingerprint, missing words, etc, on the Victory Point Record

Alison Freebairn arranged for me to be able to photograph the Victory Point Record in London on February 5th, 2020. Blowing up my photos, I can see a fingerprint at the bottom of the note.

With the naked eye, it is difficult to see unless you know where to look and the light catches it. Even in my macro photos, it is just barely surviving. I’ve written the museum alerting them to the print.

It is incomplete. Unless some other type of examination revealed substantially more, there’s not enough here to get a full print.

It exhibits both the curved swirl area of a fingertip and – separated by a ridge in the paper – the horizontal lines nearer the knuckle. Given this orientation, the finger then goes off the bottom of the page diagonally.

I count 5 distinct lines in the horizontal bands, and at least 12 distinct lines in the circular-pattern area.

Notably, the fingerprint is in a blank area with no writing or printing.

I see nothing else resembling it, in color or pattern, anywhere else on the note. (Excepting the back of the note, which I cannot examine as the note is secured down.)

I had nothing to measure it, but I would estimate that from the top of the curved lines to the horizontal lines is about 1.5 inches. The size looked roughly reasonable, but that’s all the more I can say.

The color of the fingerprint is a very faint black/gray. When I separate the photograph’s colors by warmth, the fingerprint’s color temperature is as cool as the printed Admiralty text. It is not the handwritten ink color, and it is not the water/rust stains color; they are much warmer in tone.

A fingerprint could be anyone from the original expedition through to modern researchers.

However, knowing where to look, I can see that this print is still there in the museum’s photo that is available online. That pre-dates the Death In The Ice tour at least. Given that the 2015 Erebus documentary showed the VPR encased in glass, it should also pre-date that glass case. As a general guide, the last time anyone would have dared press a dirty thumb on the VPR is a quite a long time ago.

Notably also, it is alone and unsmudged at the bottom of the note. Based on the more severe water damage, this was the outermost rolled edge of the paper when the VPR was rolled up in its case. This fingerprint therefore might have been the anchor point for someone unrolling the note on a flat surface.

– February 8, 2020

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Victory Point Record: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich.
Regarding the missing lower left corner of the Victory Point Record:

Filling in the historically accepted missing words with samples of Fitzjames' handwriting from elsewhere in the document, there remains a significant gap in the first two lines that isn't there in the 3rd and 4th line.

Having started writing with a particular edge margin, it is improbable that Fitzjames would use it for two lines, then switch to a different page edge margin for the next two lines.  We have to ignore the current state that we see, and imagine that the corner's water damage is not there when Irving/Fitzjames first break the solder on the metal case.  (In any event: were there already corner damage starting, it would be even more improbable that Fitzjames would curl his lines as tightly to that damage as possible.)

I suggest that "Tuesday" and "after" are the lost words.  Both constructions are used elsewhere in the same document by Fitzjames:  "Monday 24th May 1847" and "after having ascended Wellington Channel".

(Tuesday) 25th April 1848.  HMShips Terror and Erebus were deserted on the 22nd April, 5 leagues NNW of this
(after) having been beset since 12 Sept. 1846.   ...

Since the Victorians were at least visually aware of this gap (see Illustrated London News facsimile of the VPR; Oct 1 1859, p.327), it's possible that this suggestion was made long ago.  I would be interested if anyone finds evidence of that – or can suggest another word choice beyond Tuesday/After.

Originally posted February 25, 2019 (link to private group):
https://www.facebook.com/groups/11434844549/permalink/10156841371649550/

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“…the words 'All well' were not underlined.”
– Cyriax on the Gore Point Record (The Two Franklin Expedition Records, 1958)

I believe this remark from Cyriax was an error, causing an unnecessary amount of speculation on why the VPR's All Well is underlined while the GPR's is not.  Zooming in on the publicly available image of the Gore Point Record, I can see a faint underline there. It is very faint – but it is faint just like the letter “p” in “Expedition” right above it.  The ink seems to have run out on the last letter “L” of “well”, just before Fitzjames would have drawn the underline stroke.

However, now that Regina Koellner has located the '3rd Note' or Disko Bay Record, we can see that it definitely did not have a Fitzjames underline.  On the other hand, this All Well is – unlike the other two – already sitting on a printed line, being several lines higher on the Admiralty form.


Originally posted February 13, 2019 (link to private group):
https://www.facebook.com/groups/11434844549/permalink/10156810951279550/