J. Hamer (19th Century)
H.M.S. "Alert" about to winter off Floeberg beach in the Polar Sea in October 1875. Latitude 82'. 27'. - North.
signed with initials 'J.H.' (lower left), inscribed 'H.M.S. Alert' on an old label on the reverse of the frame
oil on canvas
24 x 36in. (60.9 x 91.4cm.)
Sold with a drinking flask, candle and burner, striker and two ceramic inkwells(?), one stamped 'WEDGWOOD', all thought to be relics of the British Arctic Expedition. 'The drinking flask does resemble those from the 1875-6 British Arctic Expedition that we have in the collections (AAA4013 and AAA4114), described as water bottles or drinking flasks. The design apparently comes from McClintock – we have the plans for the equipment at the Brass Foundry (catalogued as NPD3845-NPD3872)' (Claire Warrior, Royal Museums Greenwich, private communication, 8 Jan. 2020)

A framed diploma from the executive committee of the Royal Naval Exhibition, a handwritten label ('The "Alert" in the Polar Sea preparing to winter in the month of October 1875 drawn from information received from Captn. Markham'), an autograph letter by the artist dated 'October 31st 1880', and a card describing the details in the picture (the text transcribed below) also accompanies the lot:

'Details of the "Alert" not in the descriptive cards.
The principal grounded floeberg is "Look Out Floe" off the starboard bow with steps cut in the ice, another on the starboard side is split.
The hole in the ice under the bowsprit intended to procure water in case of fire .
The ring of ice port side is made up of fresh water blocks for culinary purposes .
Boarding pikes in ice guides to and fro to the ship.-
The preserved meat tins at intervals mark the "mile walk".
The chains are out to keep the ship in position.
Sledge parties are bringing snow-blocks for banking up the vessel - the dog 'Ginger" running to meet them.
Captain Sir F. S. Nares with strap and staff is standing with Captain Markham near whom is the favourite dog "Nellie".-'

Hamer's picture shows Sir George Nares's HMS Alert frozen in at its furthest north at Ellesmere Island in October 1875. Nares's British Arctic Expedition sailed from Portsmouth on 29 May 1875, an Admiralty-backed attempt to reach the North Pole via Smith Sound. The two ships HMS Alert and HMS Discovery reached Discovery Harbour, on the northern side of Lady Franklin Bay, Ellesmere Island, on 25 August. While this site was chosen as Discovery's winter quarters, Alert continued up Robeson Channel to Floeberg Beach, Ellesmere Island, to 82°28'N, the highest latitude reached by any ship to date. In early April 1876, three major sledging parties set out to explore the route to the North Pole, and the north coasts of Ellesmere Island and Greenland. The party led by Markham sledged to a record furthest north before turning back on account of scurvy.

Two letters by the artist (see note to the previous lot) mention the present painting: '... I have likewise another interesting painting of H.M.S. "Alert" about to winter off Floeberg beach in the Polar sea. I had permission from the Admiral at Portsmouth to draw her previous to her departure.' and the second continues 'Captain Markham who I saw before and after his return kindly furnished me with all particulars [and] was much pleased with it and stated I had "lavishly expended much time and trouble in its execution & that it was deserving of exhibition". ...' (autograph letters signed J. Hamer, to an anonymous recipient, July 1880, and to J.W. Beck, Esq, 31 Oct. 1880)

By descent from the artist to the present owner.
London, Royal Naval Exhibition, Chelsea, 1891, no.77A ('... the Alert at her Winter Quarters, 1875').
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