Wednesday, February 10, 2010

"Terror", "Erebus" and "Resolute"

From the times of Queen Elizabeth 1 until Queen Victoria's reign, the British were great explorers. Every school child knows the story of Sir Walter Raleigh, the British aristocrat, historian, Renaissance poet and explorer, and his journeys to the "New World". Most of us know, as well, the story of the Franklin Expedition which took place more than 200 years later. Sir John Franklin made four journeys to the Arctic in search of the Northwest Passage. His first three journeys were unsuccessful in finding the passage, but he was successful in mapping much of the Arctic shoreline. In May 1845, Franklin set out on his fourth attempt, in two state-of-the art ships, the "Terror" and the "Erebus".

The "Terror" and "Erebus" had cabins that were heated by hot water piped through the floor. The ships' bows were reinforced with iron planks to help them break through ice, and each ship was equipped with a specially designed propeller. They took plenty of provisions with them, including canned goods, and were well prepared for the expedition, having been there three times before. But sometime between 1845 and 1847, Franklin's expedition disappeared. In 1850, Inuit hunters discovered the bodies of 30 men and several graves. Some of the bodies were mutilated and it was believed that, because of starvation, Franklin's men had resorted to cannabilism.

In 1848 the British government began sending ships to look for the Franklin Expedition. One of the ships commissioned for the search was the "HMS Resolute". The ship was fitted for Arctic service with especially strong timbers, an internal heating system, and a polar bear as a figurehead. Together with "HMS Assistance", "Pioneer", "Intrepid", "Investigator" and "Enterprise", they searched the Arctic for Sir John Franklin. Beset by ice, the men abandoned their ships and were rescued by "HMS North Star". In 1855 "HMS Resolute" was discovered off Baffin Island by an American whaling ship, the "George Henry". The ship was refitted and sailed back to New England, and the American government returned "HMS Resolute" to Britain. The ship served in the British Royal Navy, and in 1879 was finally broken up.

In 1880 Queen Victoria donated a desk made out of the timbers of the ship to the President of the United States, as a gesture of thanks for the rescue and return of "HMS Resolute". Since then, the desk has been used by almost every American President, with the exception of Eisenhower, Johnson, Nixon and Ford. Given the history and sanctity of the ship and its connection to the Franklin Expedition, I would hope that anyone would have enough respect for all the men who served on these ships and gave their lives on these ships, not to put his feet on the desk. It belongs to a far greater history, and anyone sitting there is only borrowing the desk.

As Queen Victoria would say, "We are not amused..."

32 comments:

Cedar said...

Jo: I appreciate your outrage and Obama is becoming less and less a shining light in my book...however he is not the only president of the United State to throw their big ass shoes, or small ass shoes up on the desk. Doesn't make it any less rude to do while speaking to people however or a great way to treat a museum piece.

Jo said...

Ris, but I hope he is the last president to put his feet on the desk. It is a museum piece. And yes, he is showing the soles of his shoes to the five men who are standing there chatting with him. I never cared for him from day one, sorry...

A Joyful Chaos said...

I enjoyed this post and was rather dismayed to see the last picture, for several reasons. It doesn't help him look dignified either but then I haven't noticed that trait in any of his poses.

Marlene said...

Hi Jo, I had relatives that travelled with some of Franklins expeditions. As far as I can tell, none were with him on the last one though. It is nice to find someone else interested in this part of Canada's history. Marlene

Nicole said...

Ugh. Not only a disrespect to the desk, its story and the men involved but so rude too. Didn't his mother/grandparents ever teach him Not to put his feet on the table?!
I have to agree with Cedar...Obama's shine is wearing off. I had such high hopes for him too.

Russell said...

I was ticked off to see Obama putting his feet on that desk.

But did you see the OTHER picture of him sitting on it in his boxer shorts, drinking a Bud Light and watching the Super Bowl in what he calls his Man Cave??!??!

Charles Gramlich said...

I love the names of British ships from this era.

Elise said...

very interesting !

Katy said...

I admitt I chuckled when I saw the last picture. Still, I agree that its really bad form, I don't care who did it before him. Like you say it shows complete disrespect for the desk, not to mention the people he's talking to.

I would never think to put my feet on the tabel that is my office desk, and it has no historical significance at all..

Really, if I were president I don't think I would do too much work in the actual oval office. I would be too afraid to touch anything.

Jo said...

A Joyful Chaos, yes, I believe it shows disrespect for his office as President to. He is not one of my favorite people, sorry to say...

Marlene, oh my goodness! They were amazing people, those explorers, weren't they? Brave men, indeed.

Nicole, I have never cared for Obama. Unfortunately, right from day one, I have been able to see him for what he is -- a phony.

Russell, Noooooo! Actually, that's a picture I'm glad I didn't see. I value my eyesight. *heh* And you folks definitely deserve better!

Charles, aren't the names wonderful? So descriptive of the ships' missions, too.

Elise, thank you. :-)

Katy, the whole body language speaks of disrespect and arrogance, two traits which he seems to have in abundance, unfortunately.

DUTA said...

These five standing people, it serves them right to be shown the shoe bottom. Their job is shoe licking.

Jo said...

Duta, omigoodness, that is unfortunate, but sadly true. Oh, goodness.

Indian Pundit said...

Your outrage and disgust is absolutely just.No doubt about it.
But it proves nothing in particular about Obama's character.Having certain peculiarities in character is not out of the ordinary.

Some of the "so called" greatest men were worse than Obama as a person!

For example:
1)"Sir" Churchill
2)American prez. Roosevelt

Jo said...

IP, well, I don't know about Sir Winston Churchill. I think he proved himself to be an amazing leader, particularly throughout the Second World War. Obama can't hold a candle to him.

Indian Pundit said...

Hi Jo
Have a look:
The Churchill you didn't know

From the well respected "The Guardian" newspaper of UK.

i wrote:
"Some of the "so called" greatest men were worse than Obama as a person!"

i am taking about the personal qualities.

Indian Pundit said...

i am very sorry about so many comments.

But i think i should tell u that....from the point of view of Indians, Africans , Central/South American natives,the mention of these ships and these explorers evoke very "different" types of emotions......!!

i am sure u can understand what i mean.

Jo said...

IP, Oh, yes, I do indeed understand what you mean. I’m not sure how to respond. I don’t believe the early explorers deliberately set out to be oppressors of the downtrodden, and I get tired of apologizing to every non-Caucasian race. Every race has been guilty of genocide against another race, in one form or another, since the beginning of time.

Marcos Vinicius Gomes said...

Oh, Jo, you were so cruel to Mr. Obama...

Jo said...

Marcos, no, I wasn't cruel to Mr. Obama. :-) I just think he needs to take his feet off the museum piece.

Russell Potter said...

Just weighing in here -- I've spent my career tracing the search for Sir John Franklin, and wrote the introduction to Martin Sandler's recent book on HMS "Resolute."

Three desks were in fact made from the timbers of that ship -- one for the US President. one for Henry Grinnell, who had sponsored two searches for Franklin (that one is at the New Bedford Whaling Museum), and a third desk as well (some dispute the existence of the third desk).

President Obama is hardly the first to put his feet up on it -- President Bush did the same, as did JFK (who also let his son play with the compartments underneath). None of these should give any offense, I am sure, to those venerable old timbers!

Jo said...

Russell, yes, I know about the three desks. One of them is a lady's desk, I understand. How I would love to have that desk. And I would definitely not put my feet up on it. :-) We cannot stop what has happened in the past, but hopefully we can educate other folks not to put their feet up on it. I used to work for a Maritime Museum, and I know the story of the Franklin Expedition. It is extremely interesting, isn't it?

Cloudia said...

Et tu, Jo?

Cut my local guy a break, eh!

With so much enmity, and so many real problems to deal with, I'm supporting this brilliant man who cares.

Great post indeed (as per usual for you)


Aloha, Friend!


Comfort Spiral

Jo said...

Cloudia, yes, he is from Hawaii, isn't he? Well, next time you see him, please tell him to take his feet of the desk. :-)

Land of shimp said...

Okay, so here we go...Jo, as I briefly hinted at elsewhere, I'm not in agreement. The very same thing about respect, vs. disrespect could be said about turning the ship into a desk, really.

Now, I think you know I've no fangirl love of Obama. He's had a mediocre (and that's judging kindly, mind you) first year, in which the things he failed to make good on, are more prominent than that which he accomplished.

Just saying, there are plenty of very real reasons at this point to gesture towards his presidency and say, "THAT? Yeah, that's a problem." Don't ask, don't tell, and the act of trying to repeal it is one of the things he whiffed on completely. That, and he's let other branches bully him ("Well filibuster!" Oh go ahead, you'll look a bunch of time wasting fools! Should have been the response)

But realistically he has one of the hardest jobs on the planet, and it's very easy to nitpick almost everything he does ("Obama, secret smoker!" they cry). Putting his feet up in what is supposed to be his office, while conducting business being one of them?

I'm not on board with that. It is a museum piece, although I feel the disrespect lies primarily in the making of furniture out of the shit in the first place, but rather they move it out of there, and give him something he can drool on in the wee small hours if need be.

As long as he gets the job done. Currently? He's not getting the job done. That's where my criticism of him begins, and concentrates.

He puts his feet up on a desk in a casual moment? O...kay, as far as I'm concerned.

There are a lot of legitimate beefs with the efficacy of this President, and his manner of comportment ranks far down the list, for me.

And as always, you know I respect the ever living stuffing out of you, but on this my friend? Yeah, not seeing it.

Criticize him for the ...oh...roughly, dozen things he's biffed and blown? I'll be right by your side. But the job never stops, and the person doing it needs to be able to relax. Perhaps a different desk is in order at this point, but the actual act of propping up his feet while doing the job that never ends?

Dude, you wanna a cup of coffee with that? Is basically my answer.

Land of shimp said...

ship, ship, I completely meant "ship"! Not the synonym for excrement I accidentally used!

Jo said...

Alane, no, no, no, I think you have misunderstood. It is no secret I don't care for Obama, but my post was not about him personally. It was about anyone who is President of the United States showing disrespect not only to the desk, but to the office he holds. I have worked with doctors, engineers, lawyers and judges, and I have never seen any of them put their feet on the desk. It is just a little bit déclassé. I am not making editorial comments here about his Presidency. Being a Canadian, I am not in a position to do that. His Presidency does not affect me, so it is not about how is performing his job as President.

This made me chuckle - "making of furniture out of the shit." I knew you meant ship. Heh. Often when wooden ships were decomissioned and taken apart, the timber was used to build furniture, houses, even churches. That wood lasts forever.

I was afraid someone would think I was criticizing Obama's Presidency, and I tried to be very careful not to mislead about that. He has the opportunity now to set a good example for the next Presidency.

As my mother would say, "Get your feet off the furniture...!" :-)

Nancy said...

I don't know. I think he needs to be comfortable in his office - he spends most of his time there. I've seen plenty of executives put their feet on their desks in the wee hours. It probably has a glass top. They should give him something he can live with - can you imagine living in a museum? But what I'm not happy with is his inability to deal with the arm-crossing GOP who has decided to block absolutely everything put in front of them. They are the true terrorists. Our country is in trouble and they are sitting on their asses (yes asses) and doing nothing.

Jo said...

Nancy, well, I guess I just have a thing about putting feet on the furniture. Whether people have done it or not, it's still not right. He doesn't own that piece of furniture. It's disrespectful.

Mia said...

I often sit on my desk. I don't own it. Others have used it before me and others will use it after I'm gone. But right now it's mine. As long as I get my work done nobody cares how I use the desk. The work is more important. The desk exists to help facilitate the work. Not the other way around.

ABranch said...

Love your posts Jo. I have been reading for quite a while. I love having your influences running around in my head. You make me think differently and I appreciate that.

That being said. I use my furniture (without abuse) no matter the source (and I do not think placing shoes on a piece of furniture is disrespectful either).

I choose to live in my home and I think that Obama should be able to live in his.

Taking offense is part the offender and part the offended; if not more so. In my opinion.

Paula Slade said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Paula Slade said...

He's only human.