Since 1763 the name 'Russborough' has been synonymous with collecting and dealing in fine art. In the closing decades of the last century the historic town of Port Hope has become home to Lord Russborough's Annex, which specialises in an individual mix of antique maps, paintings and prints.

While Lord Russborough's Annex features a great many works of museum calibre, we also offer a wonderful selection of prints priced at under $100.

an arctic ice nip

An extract of our prints currently available:

An Iconic 19th. cent Franklin search Quartet

ILN arctic ice nip
A 'Nip' in Melville Bay, off the Devil’s Thumb

Original double page wood engraving.  Matted glazed giltwood frame
excluding letters 13 1/8 x 195/8” (33.3 x 49.8 cm.) Frame 213/4 x 27”
Ref. LRA 2011 ARC 178/DVL/d.anng>AOL  SOLD

Published as a supplement to the Illustrated London News. May 22. 1875 this image is based on a drawing by Walter W. May, the original sketch for which was probably made twenty - five years earlier, during August 1850. In Oct.1855, a printed version of which appeared as “Perilous situation of HMS. Assistance and Pioneer on the evening of the 12 Oct.1853 Disaster Bay”

The 'Nip’ engraving appeared as a generic view symbolizing the critical situation that could quickly develop in an age when vessels of many nations were engaged in the search for the lost expedition of Sir John Franklin, and the search for a North West Passage through icy arctic waters, was much in the mind of the public. The location was changed to one that many readers and arctic adventurers would be more familar with namely Melville Bay near the Devil’s Thumb, which even today is a familiar Arctic landmark situated on the west coast of Greenland.

On his 1850-51 exploratory voyage May’s ship HMS. Resolute (Capt. H.T.Austin) and her support HMSV. Pioneer (Lieut.Sherard Osborn), whilst waiting out a Nor’westerly winter storm which had pushed ice from the center of Baffin Bay east, the ice  briefly caught the ship in an ice nip, giving May the conception for this illustration.  The support ship HMSV. Pioneer is seen in the background, as is the Devil’s Thumb. Two officers direct crew members in the deployment of a hawsers to ice anchors.  Six crew members are seen hauling an open ships boat toward open water, lest escape from their perilous situation prove necessary.
On that occasion both ships had been lucky.

Walter William May. 1830 - 1896 was Mate on the HMS Resolute (Capt. H.T. Austin)1850-51 which stopped at the anchorage of Upernavik, before sailing north along the west Greenland coast to the well known whalers marker 'The Devil’s Thumb'. This large rock spire or plug, which rises approximately 1,500' above Holmes Island, was a landmark the early whalers used to determine their location on the coast, opposite the entrance to Lancaster Sound and the North West Passage and would have been a familiar Arctic location to a number of potential readers and adventurers alike.

During the arctic spring of 1851, there were many sledge journeys from the ships Resolute, Assistance, Intrepid & Pioneer in search of traces of Sir John Franklin’s missing expedition. May commanded the Sledge Excellent on one of his two over ice searching expeditions and made further observations and drawings of ships temporarily trapped or nipped in the ice, especially when his ship (Resolute) was beset off Griffith Is. Released from the ice, May’s ship returned home Aug/Sept 1851.

Contd. below...

W/c investigator ice nip

Despite the splendid, but alas erroneous, title the above watercolour is based on a compilation of sketches by W. May of HMS Assistance nipped in the ice on his two voyages.

On his second Arctic voyage 1852-54 May joined Sir Edward Belcher’s searching  squadron HMS. Assistance, Pioneer, Resolute, Intrepid, North Star [Phoenix & Talbot supply ships] which left London 15 April 1852  -28 Sept.1854,  as Lieutenant on HMS. Assistance (Capt.Sir Edward Belcher).
The Assistance sailed up Wellington Channel to make new discoveries in the Grinnell Pen, Devon Is. Sledging parties made discoveries in Bathurst Is. and Sabine Peninsula, Melville Is.
From Northumberland Sound, where they over wintered, again many searching parties were undertaken to determine the fate of Franklin. May commanded the Sledge Reliance in 1853  as far as Melville Is. in support of Osborn’s sledge search party.

Meanwhile HMS. Investigator (Capt.R.J.Le M.McClure) also on a Franklin searching expedition, entering from the Beaufort sea, via Bering streight. Whilst proceeding up Prince of Wales strait had become trapped in the ice about 40 km. from Melville Sound, they were able to extricate themselves, turn about and sail clockwise around Bering Is. (now Banks Is.) over wintering in Mercy Bay on the north of the Island, there the ship became fatally beset once more.

Sledging parties from HMS. Resolute  had picked up a note of Investigator’s plight, which had not been heard of since 1850.  Upon re-establishing contact, the decision was made to abandon the ship on 3 June 1853, the crew being transferred to the Resolute; she too became beset by ice in August of that year. In 1854 Belcher ordered the abandonment of HMS Intrepid. and the Resolute (which later drifted out to sea, where she was discovered by American whalers and eventually returned to England.) The crews of all three unfortunate ships joining those of the  Assistance and Pioneer  which also had to be abandoned, and being distributed among the surviving three ships for the journey home. They arrived in Sept 1854, whereupon May’s promotion to the rank of Commander was confirmed. May Inlet on Bathurst Is. is today named in his honour.

Walter May complied the prophetic, image of this typical scene based upon his own experiences, observations and drawings and probably the inspiration for T.S. Robbins painting of HMS. Assistance.  May then sold his sketch to the Illustrated London News  appearing as a wood engraved supplement  on 22 May 1875  with the title  A 'Nip' in Melville Bay, off the Devil’s Thumb. Its publication timed to coincide with the eve of departure of G. S. Nares Polar expedition in HMS Alert on 29 May 1875.

Contd. below....


Catching the imagination of the era, the image reappeared as a wood engraving in Harpers Weekly 19 June 1875 under the title  An  ice nip in Melville Bay off the Devil’s Thumb, to coincide with the American publicity surrounding the departure of Nares 'Alert' voyage.

Harpers Arctic nip

and finally, Mr. J.A. Woolnough painted his version of the image on canvas in 1880 (see below) which differs only marginally from the previous view.

Woolnough Arctic nip

The relevance of this quartet shows how one iconic image caught the public imagination on both sides of the Atlantic.

Today this quartet has considerable intrinsic and artistic value to both collectors and historians of Canadian arctic history, particularly at a time when our arctic sovereignty is once again in the forefront of the news and at least two searching vessels and Franklin’s ship HMS. Erebus have been discovered in Canadian waters.

Ref.RGAN>GNLN /VNNN      For sale as a quartet Price Code I  Click here for price code guide     SOLD