The Ship Resolute, Her Recovery 1856

Article and wood engravings from October 1856 Frank Leslie's New York Journal

The Ship Resolute—Her Recovery.
HHS Resolute 1852HHS Resolute 1852
ON the 29th of May, 1855, the bark George Henry, Captain James M. Buddington and crew of seventeen men, sailed from New London, Conn. bound on a whaling voyage.
In the course of a few weeks the bark was surrounded with ice. On the 20th of August, in lat. 67 degrees N., the ice became penetrable, and bark was able to force its way in a southerly direction nearly two hundred miles. A storm came up, and the bark became unmanageable and for three days drifted in the floe of ice still a southerly direction. On the 10th of September in lat. 67° N., while hemmed in with fields of ice, Captain Buddington discovered a ship distance. He first signaled the ship, but receiving no answer, he ascended the rigging. And looking through his glass, pronounced stranger ‘an abandoned vessel’. The two ships by some unexplained cause of attraction, kept continually nearing each other. For five days they were thus neighbors, the intervening floating ice constantly moving out of the way. On the eighth day after making the discovery, 17th of September, and when the then unknown ship was seven miles off, Captain Buddington ordered Mr. Quale, the mate, and two of the crew to proceed to the vessel across the packed ice, and after ascertaining her character, return to the bark as quickly as possible. Soon after the departure of the party, a " sou’easter” sprang up, and in consequence thereof, no communication was had between the exploring party and the bark for two days.Resolute 1855 In IceResolute 1855 In Ice
The mate and his companions, when came up with the vessel, found the ice piled in solid riffs around her. She was lying on the larboard side, heading to the eastward. With the superstitious feeling natural to sailors, they for a long time hesitated to go on board. Finally, stealing over the side, they found everything stowed away in proper order for desertion—spars hauled up to one side and bound, boats piled together, and hatches closed. Everything wore the silence of the tomb.
Finally reaching the cabin door they broke in, and found their way in the darkness to the table. On it they accidentally turned on a box of lucifer matches; in a moment one was ignited, the glowing light revealed a candle; it was lit and before the astonished gaze of these men exposed a scene that appeared to be rather one of enchantment than reality. Upon a massive table was a metal teapot, glistening as if new, also a large volume of Scott's family Bible, together with glasses and decanters filled with choice liquors. Near by was Captain Kellett’s chair, a piece of massive furniture, over which had been thrown, as if to protect this seat from vulgar occupation, the royal flag of Great Britain. There was also another object of especial attention, a stove, either of brass or bronze, of peculiar construction, which at the time it was first seen by our tars was shinning with burnished brilliancy.
The exhilarating effect of the discovered liquors upon Quale and his companions soon dissipated the ghosts of the dead they at first supposed were still attendant upon the ship, and in their migrations they opened the private wine-locker in the captain's cabin. The first thing turned out was a basket of champagne another followed, and then commenced a popping of corks, which sounded unusually comforting, considering the howling of the distant storm that now raged without. For two days these agreeable revels continued, when Quale having satisfied himself thoroughly of the merits of the discovery returned to " headquarters and reported the result of his examination.
Announcing that the ship was the Resolute one of the fleet under the command of Sir Edward Belcher. Captain Buddington, on becoming fully acquainted with the prize, determined that a British government vessel was of more commercial value than whales, while at the same time there was considerable glory in restoring to the living breathing world a famous Ship supposed to have been long since sunken in the yawning grave of the sea. His first idea was to select his best men and send her home, if it were possible, in their conduct: he then changed his mind, and determined to take charge of the prize himself.

On the 17th of September, Capt. Buddington for the first time took possession of the Resolute, and stayed on board that night ; on the next day he proceeded to examine her condition. On ending the hold, she was found to be entirely full of water up to the floor of the first deck. The well was then sounded, and seven of water was discovered to be in the ship.
The pumps were then visited, and being of a new construction, none but Capt. B. was acquainted with the mode of working them. One of them, which was a force pump of very great power was rigged, and the following morning was got in working order. A gang of men was then set to work, and for three days the pump was kept busy. Fourteen hours out of the twenty-four were consumed in thus freeing the vessel. On the third day all the water was cleared from her hold, and the attention of the captain was turned towards extricating the prize from the dangerous position she was then placed in. After incredible exertion, the vessel was finally freed from ice and water on Sunday, the 23rd, when she righted. The day following, Capt. Buddington and his party went to work at the rigging, getting it straight, and preparing to make sail, hanging the rudder, which was found on deck. In a week the canvas of Resolute was bent, and she was in a position to make sail. The ice would occasionally open, and the vessel would make a little advance, sometimes half a ship's length, and sometimes several lengths, in a south-east direction. When the Resolute was freed from the floating ice, Cape Elizabeth was in sight.