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USS Advance in the Arctic in 1853
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Design: Sail (brigantine)
Displacement (tons): 144 (tonnage)
Dimensions (feet): 88.0' x 21.75' x 8.4' depth
Original Armament: none
Later armaments: --
Speed (kts.): --
Propulsion (HP): N/A
Machinery: sail, brigantine rig
||7 May 50
||New Kent County, Va.
||8 Jun 55
In 1850 Mr. Henry Grinnell offered to loan to the U.S. Government two specially fitted brigantines for use in the international search for Sir John Franklin's Arctic expedition. Franklin had sailed from England in May 1845 in search of a northwest passage and had been stranded in the Arctic since 1847. No news of his expedition having been received by 1 May 1850, Congress authorized the President to accept Grinnell's offer. The larger of the two brigantines, ADVANCE, of 144 tons and 88 feet in length, had been built in Virginia for the transport of machinery. Her timbers were heavily moulded and her fastenings of the most careful sort. As refitted by Grinnell she had a double hull, with an outer sheathing of 2.5 inches of oak covered by a second of the same material, and strips of heavy sheet iron extended from the bows to the beam. The decks were also double and were made watertight by a packing of tarred felt between them. Numerous other hull reinforcements and special fittings optimized the ship for Arctic use. ADVANCE's consort RESCUE measured only 91 tons. Her specifications and origins are unknown, but she was reinforced for the Arctic in the same manner as the larger ship. The two ships left New York on 23 May 1850 under the command of Lt. Edwin J. DeHaven and fought their way north, reaching Lancaster Sound at the north end of Baffin Island on 19 Aug 50 where they encountered two British vessels that were also searching for Franklin. Evidence of Franklin having camped in the area was subsequently found by both the Americans and the British, but by mid-September both American ships were firmly iced in. Finally freed in June 1851, they returned home, ADVANCE arriving in New York on 30 September 1851 and RESCUE on 7 October 1851. Both ships were then returned to Mr. Grinnell.
Grinnell immediately began preparations for a second expedition. RESCUE had been found to sail badly, at times preventing the faster ADVANCE from taking advantage of leads of water to get through the ice, and the second Grinnell expedition included only ADVANCE. She departed New York on 30 May 1853 under the command of Passed Assistant Surgeon Elisha Kent Kane, who had also participated in the first expedition. She reached her northernmost point, about 78°43' north latitude, above the northern end of Baffin Bay, in late August. Kane then decided to winter among a group of islets near the Greenland coast rather than return south, and by 10 September 1853 ADVANCE was iced in. The crew carried out numerous search and scientific expeditions on foot but also suffered greatly from fatigue and illness. They continued explorations during the next summer and then passed the second winter in a state of near hibernation. In March 1855 Kane decided to abandon the ship, still frozen solidly in the ice, and walk across the ice to the Danish settlements of southern Greenland. He made his last visit to the ship on 8 June 1855 to retrieve supplies, and his exhausted party arrived at Upernavik on 6 August 1855. They took passage in the Danish brig MARIANNE to Disko Island where they were met by a relief expedition made up of the steamer ARCTIC and the storeship RELEASE (both q.v.). They arrived back in New York on 11 October 1855. Presumably the pack ice eventually crushed and sank the abandoned ADVANCE.
||Ex merchant, name unknown. Loaned to the Navy by Henry Grinnell May 1850 to October 1851 and from May 1853 until her loss. Abandoned in the ice off northern Greenland, last seen 8 June 1855.
Compiled: 02 Jul 2013
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2002-2013