BRITISH ARCTIC EXPEDITION, 1875-1876
A commemorative inkwell in the form of a capstan, made of wood from a portion of the 'Marco Polo' sledge, with outer casing in silver engraved 'MM' and marked Birmingham, 1872, the detachable lid with hinged cap in white metal, free standing on an ebonised base mounted with circular white metal plaque, the plaque made from coins taken to the north on H.M.S. Alert.
The inside cap is engraved: 'The Northern Division. H. M. S. "Alert" 1876. Commander A. H. Markham/Lieutenant A. A. C. Parr. Sledge Marco Polo: Thos. Rawlings, John Radmore, Thos. Jolliffe, Danl. Harley, Thos. Simpson, Alfd. Pearce, Willm. Ferbrache, John Shirley. Sledge Victoria: Ed. Lawrence, Will Maskell, Geo. Winstone, John Pearson, John Hawkins, Reub. Francombe, Geo. Porter.' Ten of the names, including Markham's and Parr's, are asterisked, indicating that they 'reached Lat. 83.20.26N.' The base is inscribed: 'This Capstan is made from a piece of wood of one of the tent poles and from a portion of the sledge "Marco Polo" which under the command of A. H. M. reached latitude 83 20' N -- This silver plate is made from coins carried to the north in H. M. S. "Alert", 1875-6.' (One of the inkwell's wood legs is lacking and the silver overlay to the leg is broken off.)
The British Arctic Expedition's attempt on the Pole was made in April, 1876. Commander A. H. Markham's sledge Marco Polo was assisted by A. A. C. Parr's party on a second sledge, Victoria. Both depended on manpower for haulage, and the equipment of the first group was complicated by two boats, to be used in case they met with open water. Although their farthest north was only 73 miles from the ship, they actually covered 521 miles since the equipment could not all be carried at once and they travelled four miles over hummocky ice fields to gain only one. Holland records that the two sledges 'set out from Alert on April 3, followed the coast of Ellesmere Island to Cape Joseph Henry, then turned due north over the sea ice. Signs of scurvy appeared early in the journey, and they had great difficulty manhauling their heavy sledges.... They achieved a record latitude of 8320'26"N on May 12 before turning back, but they had covered only about 50km over the ice from Cape Joseph Henry. The scurvy worsened during the return, and Parr had to go ahead to fetch a relief party from the ship. One man died before relief arrived. They finally reached the ship on June 14' (Arctic Exploration and Development, New York, 1994, p. 298).