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USS Arctic sounding for the Atlantic Telegraph in 1856
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Class:        ARCTIC
Design:        Light vessel, 1855
Displacement (tons):        232 gross, 135 new measurement
Dimensions (feet):        98.0' pp x 23.5' x 11.5'
Original Armament:        None
Later armaments:        --
Complement:        22
Speed (kts.):        --
Propulsion (HP):        --
Machinery:        1 screw

AG Name Acq. Builder Keel Launch Commiss.
-- ARCTIC ca Feb 55 NYd Philadelphia 1854 ca Apr 55 12 May 55

AG Name Decomm. Strike Disposal Fate MA Sale
-- ARCTIC 27 Jul 58 1859 1859 Trf --

Class Notes:
On 3 February 1855 Congress authorized the Secretary of the Navy to provide and dispatch a suitable naval or other steamer and, if necessary, a tender to the Arctic seas to rescue or provide relief to Passed Assistant Surgeon Elisha Kent Kane, U.S.N. and his companions. Kane's expedition in the brigantine ADVANCE (q.v.) had been part of the Second Grinnell Expedition to find Sir John Franklin, and it penetrated further north than any explorer had up to that time. The Navy selected a sailing light vessel then under construction for the Lighthouse Board at the Philadelphia Navy Yard and fitted her with a steam engine for the expedition. The brig-rigged steamer sailed from New York on 4 Jun 55 in company with the recently-purchased storeship RELEASE (q.v.). The sturdy ARCTIC rendered most effective service and made the expedition successful through her ability as a steamer to "bore" through the ice pack of Baffin's Bay. The expedition found Kane and his men at Discoe Is. in Davis Strait off the Greenland coast preparing to depart for Europe in a Danish ship after making an 84-day trek across the ice on foot and by boat. The rescued men embarked in RELEASE and the expedition returned to the United States in the fall of 1855.

In July 1856 Lt. Otway H. Berryman, USN, took command of ARCTIC to make soundings for the first Atlantic cable between St. John's, Newfoundland, and Queenstown, Ireland. Departing St. John's in late July, she arrived at Queenstown on 23 Aug 56 and returned to St. John's on 30 Sep 56, taking soundings all the way. She was then sent to New York where she went out of commission on 21 Oct 56. In 1857 ARCTIC was assigned to the U.S. Coast Survey with Lt. Berryman again in command and made further soundings for the cable. From May to July 1858 she was one of many ships cruising in Cuban waters to prevent the search of American vessels in that area by the British.

In 1859 her machinery was removed and the hull was transferred to the Lighthouse Board for use as a light vessel. Her conversion to a schooner rigged light vessel and repairs were completed at Norfolk in 1859. She arrived at Smithville, N.C., on the Cape Fear River in May 1860 for service as the relief vessel for Frying Pan Shoal but was seized and sunk by Confederate forces before being used. After being submerged during the war she was raised, repaired by Messrs. Cassidy & Berry of Wilmington, N.C., and towed north by the tender IRIS in 1866. She was designated Light Vessel No. 8 and assigned to the Hen and Chickens Station in Massachusetts in 1867. Old and worn by 1877, she was withdrawn and after two years as relief lightship was sold at public auction on 16 Apr 79.

Ship Notes:
AG Name Notes
-- ARCTIC Sailing light vessel (unnamed) acquired in 1855 while under construction for use in the Kane relief expedition. Returned to the Lighthouse Board in 1859. Sold 16 Apr 79.

Page Notes:
AG        1855
Compiled:        19 Jun 2013
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2002-2013