HMS Resolute (1850)

HMS Resolute (1850)

HMS "Resolute" was a mid-19th century barque-rigged ship of the British Royal Navy, specially outfitted for Arctic exploration. "Resolute" became trapped in the ice and was abandoned. Recovered by an American whaler, she was returned to Queen Victoria in 1856.


Originally a Tyne built vessel named "Ptarmigan", "Resolute" was purchased by the British Government in February 1850 and commissioned into the Royal Navy originally as HMS "Refuge", but was renamed HMS "Resolute" a month later. The ship was fitted for Arctic service by Green's of Blackwall (Thames), with especially strong timbers, an internal heating system, and a polar bear as a figurehead.

In 1852, HMS "Resolute" was part of a four-ship expedition under Edward Belcher, investigating the fate of the John Franklin expedition, which had searched for the Northwest Passage to Asia. The "Resolute" was one of five ships crossing Baffin Bay westward in June while two more ships explored the Northwest Passage eastward from Alaska. Each ship took a different route to search for evidence of Frankin's lost ships "Erebus" and "Terror". "Resolute" became lodged in the Arctic ice and wintered off Dealy Island near the north shore of Viscount Melville Sound. An August 1853 storm moved the ice flows with the entrapped "Resolute" eastward from the Dealy Island base. "Resolute" was still beset by ice in the spring of 1854. In May Captain Keller stowed the sails below, caulked down the hatches, and left "Resolute" locked in ice to lead his men in a hard march across the ice to reach other ships of the expedition. The British government announced in the "London Gazette" that "Resolute" was still Her Majesty's property.

On 10 September 1855, the empty ship was found stuck in the ice of Davis Strait off Cape Walsingham of Baffin Island some convert|1200|mi|km from where she had been abandoned. "Resolute" was discovered by the American whaler "George Henry", captained by James Buddington of Groton, Connecticut. The Americans freed "Resolute" from the ice, re-rigged the spars and sails, and arrived at New London, Connecticut on 24 December 1855. The British government waived all claims to the ship upon learning of its arrival in New London. The search for Lord Franklin went on unsuccessfully for ten years and included forty search parties. Most of these were British but two were funded by Henry Grinnell, a New York merchant who had grown up in New Bedford. Grinnell also convinced the United States government to restore the "Resolute" and return her to England as a gesture of "national courtesy." The United States Congress bought her for $40,000 and then had her refitted and sailed to England under the command of CAPT Hartstein USN, where she was presented to Queen Victoria on December 17, 1856 as a token of peace.

The HMS "Resolute" then served in the Royal Navy through the American Civil War and was retired and broken up in 1879.

The Canadian settlement of Resolute, Nunavut, is named for "Resolute".

The "Resolute" desks

The British government ordered a desk to be made from the timbers of the ship; the desk was then presented to U.S. President Rutherford B. Hayes in 1880 as a gesture of thanks for the rescue and return of "Resolute". Since then, the desk - known as the "Resolute" desk - has been used by every President except Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. Most Presidents have used it as their official desk in the Oval Office, but some have had it in their private study in the Executive Residence. Dwight D. Eisenhower was the first to remove it from the Oval Office, and it was returned to the Oval Office first by John F. Kennedy and then by Jimmy Carter.

There was a second desk called the "Grinnell Desk," or the "Queen Victoria Desk" also made from the timbers of HMS "Resolute". This smaller lady's desk was presented to the widow of Henry Grinnell in 1880 in recognition of her husband's generous contributions to the search for Franklin. It was gifted to the New Bedford Whaling Museum in 1983, and is currently in their collection in New Bedford, Massachusetts.

HMS "Resolute" in popular media

*The "Resolute" desks are referenced in the movie "".
*A book of the same name is about the discovery of the "Resolute" by the "George Henry".


External links

* [ The "Resolute" story]

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