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In my previous post I mentioned Sir John Franklin’s doomed expedition to the Canadian Arctic, on which the HM ships Erebus and Terror tragically disappeared with all 129 men on board after the summer of 1845. While we wait and see what Canada’s renewed rescue efforts might discover about Franklin’s last journey, I think there are some items from his more successful voyages in the Science Museum’s stores that deserve a closer look. One such object is a variation compass and […]

I’ve been rummaging through the Science Museum’s collections looking for objects related to terrestrial magnetism and scientific expeditions. I smiled when I came across the musical scores for “Northward Ho! or Baffled not Beaten” in a popular song catalogue from 1875 – it really brought home just how much Arctic exploration captured people’s imaginations in the second half of the nineteenth century. Commander John P. Cheyne of the Royal Navy, who penned the words for this dashing tune, was himself an Arctic […]

Before my first visit to the Science Museum’s stores, I’d imagined having to search for my mysterious magnetic instruments in the midst of much dust and cobwebs in the warehouse from the closing scenes of Citizen Kane. In the rather more ordered and hermetically sealed rooms of Blythe House, the spider threads I found were of a much cosier sort. Encased in their own tiny frame, they rather reminded me of my great-grandparents in their wedding portrait. The two cocoons […]