This Victoria Day we have a story from our latest exhibit, Across the Top of the World: the Quest for the Northwest Passage.

Captain Edward Belcher led the last of the Admiralty's searches for the Franklin expedition in 1852. Five ships and 222 men were sent to the Arctic to search for Franklin as well as the McClure and Collinson search parties, which were in the western Arctic. McClure's stranded crew of Investigator was found, but four of Belcher's five ships became trapped in ice during the search.

Zinc Playing Cards from HMS Resolute on display now as part of Across the Top of the World, VMM

McClure and Belcher's crews crowded onto Belcher's one remaining ship and two other supply ships located nearby and sailed home. One of Belcher's abandoned ships, HMS Resolute, evetually broke free of the ice and was found drifting in the North Atlantic in 1855. The ship was returned to England and was presented to Queen Victoria on December 17, 1856 and the Resolute served in the Royal Navy for over 20 years.

When the ship was decommissioned in 1879, Queen Victoria had two desks made from its timbers. One sits in Buckingham Palace, and one was presented to President Hayes in 1880. Every president since Hayes has used the desk except Presidents Johnson, Nixon, and Ford.

Image and artefacts from the Vancouver Maritime Museum collection:

Zinc Playing Cards from HMS Resolute VMM.2004.1000.0001-2

Jubilee Celebrations at Westminster Abbey June 21st 1887, Commemorative of the Fifteth year of the rein of Queen Victoria Empress of India VMM.2008.5000.0682