HMS Assistance

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Assistance, 1850
Type: Discovery vessel ;
Purchased : Ex-Baboo Mar 1850 ; Disposal date or year : 1854
Disposal Details : Abandoned in the Arctic Ice
BM: 420 tons

30 Aug 1851, noted as having been acquired for Arctic Exploration and to search for the Franklin Expedition.

10 Feb 1852, commissioned by Captain Sir Edw. Belcher, Kt. See the Navy List in Googlebooks for further details regarding officers.

19 Mar 1852, the discovery vessel Assistance taken out of dock at Woolwich and on the 25th was towed out to the hulk Charger for storing ship etc.

10 Apr 1852, out in the stream at Woolwich, where the more delicate instruments were embarked.

15 Apr 1852, the squadron, consisting of the Assistance, Resolute, North Star, with the tenders Pioneer and Intrepid, departed downstream for Greenhithe, towed by steam tugs, the compasses being swung on the 16th.

20 Apr 1852, Commodore Eden arrived with the payclerks, and paid the crew up to this date, at which they commence their double pay, and six months' ordinary pay in advance (two months' being customary).

21 Apr 1852, shortly after four A.M. the Squadron slipped their moorings, and towed by the `Lightning,' `African,' and `Monkey,' and the tenders under steam, quitted Greenhithe for the North Sea. At 9 o'clock cast of the tugs and anchored at the Nore to complete the stowage of the North Star, and make good some defects, the Pioneer having collided with the Assistance, and were then joined by the Basilisk and Desperate, from reserve, to accompany the squadron as far as the 20th meridian west, and the African to tow for 6 days.

21 Apr 1852, shortly after four A.M. the the squadron, consisting of the Assistance, Resolute, North Star, with the tenders Pioneer and Intrepid, departed downstream for the Nore, towed by the Lightning, African, and Monkey, the tenders under their own steam, for the North Sea. At 9 o'clock cast off the tugs and anchored at the Nore to complete the stowage of the North Star, and make good some defects, the Pioneer having collided with the Assistance. The squadron anchored off the Sunk Light, off Harwich, the Intrepid having signalled that she had a mechanical defect ; the Monkey transferring her coal to the Desperate, before departing for Woolwich.

22 Apr 1852, the Intrepid having made good her defect the Squadron departed under tow in the early hours, but the movement of the sea making towing inconvenient, the tows were dropped and the Assistance, Resolute, and North Star continued under sail, and the sea getting up the Lightning returned to Woolwich, and not being seen again, it was assumed that the African had accompanied the Lightning. And the weather deteriorating the squadron parted to make their own way to the Orkneys.

23 Apr 1852, rounded the Dudgeon Light.

25 Apr 1852, the squadron arrived Orkney.

28 Apr 1852, departed Stromness for Greenland.

8 May 1852, following a period of bad weather parted company with the Desperate and Basilisk.

15 May 1852, in lat. 57 56' N. and long. 38 26' W., visited by a snow-bunting, and on the 20th inst. observed the first iceberg.

29 May 1852, a fair wind replaced the tedious swell from the S.W., allowing the squadron to run up to the Whalefish Islands, from whence they departed for the port of the island of Lievely, where the squadron moored, each of the vessels, bar the Resolute having problems of some sort achieving the aim.

10 Jun 1852, departed Lievely having obtained a supply of sealskins for boots for travellers.

16 Jun 1852, arrived at the western entrance to the Waigat Channel, which was still blocked by ice, but this turned out to be rotten floe ice which could be moved aside by sailing a vessel at the weakest points.

18 Jun 1852, off Anderson's Hope, but winds light and adverse.

19 Jun 1852, it came on to blow and the Resolute broke adrift, and the Pioneer fell foul of her taking away the jib boom of the Resolute and her own fore-topmast, both adrift in the fog, into the Strait, but they both returned safely the following day. Meanwhile an ice berg near the Assistance, North Star, and Intrepid, carried away their hawsers and ice-anchors, but were recovered the following day.

26 Jun 1852, lat. 74 34' N., long. 59 23' W., a most beautiful day, the sun bright, temperature 36 F., 320 fathoms. Made preparations to depart the ship quickly with a survival kit in the event of the vessel being "nipped" by the ice, the Resolute having lost her rudder during the day when being caught in the ice, and the general consensus being that those serving on the may well have been lucky not to have lost the vessel.

30 Jun 1852, the wreck of the whaler Regalia of Kirkaldy was discovered, having been nipped in the ice 10 days previously, and kept afloat by air below decks. The remains of movable parts of the vessel being taken on board the squadron for firewood etc., and the hull being considered to be a prospective danger to shipping was blown up, and the fog clearing the St. Andrew of Aberdeen appeared on the scene with a part of the crew of the Regalia on board, advising that a goodly part of her provisions might have been saved. The St. Andrew was given a tow up a lead leading to the whaling fleet, which had come into sight that afternoon, visibility having improved, foggy weather coming and going. In summary though the effects of a vessel being nipped seems to have made an impact on the squadron. Much time was taken making ice docks into which the squadron could escape in the event of a lead in an ice flow colliding with another flow and disappearing, any vessel getting caught possibly being crushed unless crews precautions to reduce the possibility, and hence the cutting of docks at right angles to the ice-flows in which vessels could be moved to save them being crushed, or at least reducing the risk. In effect, it would appear that the business of dock building in the ice could fill a small book, such as the fact that using explosives to speed up the process of creating docks, had the reverse effect to that intended, and huge saws, approaching 20 feet in length were the real answer.

6 Jul 1852, one of the whalers, the barque McClellan, was nipped by the ice, and despite attempts by the Squadron to save the vessel, she was nipped again, causing damage to the North Star, carrying away her cat-head. Provisions, such as bread, were removed from the McClellan by the Squadron in case wreckers got to work, much as they had done on board the Regalia, which might have caused further damage to the North Star, responsibility for the McClellan having been transferred to the squadron by her master.

24 Jul 1852, lat. 75 36' N., long. 61 51' W.

30 Jul 1852, lat. 76 N., long. 63 29' W.

1 Aug 1852, lat. 76 3' N., long. 70 46' W. An experiment to see if birds could be used to feed a ship's company suggested that not sufficient numbers could be shot or were available, and the birds ended up being served up to the ship's company as additional fodder.

19-20 Aug 1852, Northumberland Sound, at about midnight the Assistance ceased her travels until the following season. Am making an assumption that most of the movements until next Spring were either on foot or sledge, or by small boat etc., and thus, are not generally relevant to this story, although, no doubt, there will be exceptions.

1 Sep 1852, the floe appears to have left no escape by water. Drinking water can only be obtained from melt snow.

7-8 Sep 1852, expedition under Captain Belcher returns to the Assistance.

Xmas and New Year has come and gone.

27 Feb 1853, William Cutbush, Private, R.M., a native of Northiam< Sussex, died after a protracted pulmonary disease, aged 34 years and 4 months, having served 16 years and 4 months.

14 Jul 1853. the Pioneer having her steam up the Assistance and Pioneer were once more able to return to the natural environment, and over the next few days proceeded in an easterly direction, with all the trials and tribulations involved, including contrary tides, which were difficult to read.

20 Oct 1853, having for some time been settled in the Wellington channel, the ice started moving and piling up around them and the Assistance was soon aground. Steps were immediately taken to build an ice house ashore (Crystal Palace), using 18" thick ice recently thrown up by the same movement that grounded the ship, to use in the event of the ship being broken up by the ice, although at the present time that didn't appear likely, but neither was the recent movement in the ice, and similarly the Pioneer had also grounded. Earlier remarks by the leader of the expedition regarding the use of steam vessels in future for such expeditions start to sink in, when it is realised that they probably wouldn't have been in the present situation had the Admiralty seen to use vessels more suited for the expedition, and that if there was any idea of cost savings, with the loss of the vessels that will surely have just disappeared ?

25 Dec 1853, the Captain, whilst doing his Christmas rounds, makes mention of the Sergeant of Marines, George Jefferies, a hero of Kabul Pass in 1842, when he served with the 41st Regt.

10 Jan 1854, George Harriss, from the Pioneer tender, departed this life, having been ill with scurvy, and possibly other problems, since 25 Apr '52.

12 Jul 1854, the Assistance and Pioneer are ready for sea, as soon as the ice permits. 4 sledges, and 2 boats departed from the ship, for Beechey Island, with Mr. Loney, Master, and Messrs. Nares, Jenkins, Grove, and Pim, including the chronometers.

8 Aug 1854, the Assistance and Pioneer have reportedly been blown out from where they were, and the Pioneer grounded, her engines not working.