Wednesday 7 December 2011

Fitzjames' cabin

 This is my approximation of the cabin on HMS Erebus of Commander James Fitzjames. It's mostly based on the picture below which was published in the May 24, 1845 issue of the Illustrated London News.

I've flipped the ILN picture from the way it was printed to make it accord with the ship's plans. The most noticeable feature on my view compared with the ILN's is the wash stand which the 1839 plans show to the left of the doorway as you go in. The space is no bigger than a decent size closet - about half the size of the en-suite bathroom of the hotel room I stayed in last week.


  1. Peter:

    I was wondering what the purpose of (what appears to be) the curtain? Is that in place of a door? I think I read somewhere there were sliding (pocket) doors for the officers' cabins. Anyway, not much privacy but I suppose men don't require that >:o

  2. Hi AveMarisStella,

    I think the curtain is to keep out the draughts. The plans do indeed show that the cabins had sliding doors but they would have been unlikely to have made a good seal with the frame. The ILN engraving seems to show that the curtain hangs from a curtain rod above the doorframe. Interestingly, among the artifacts found by McClintock at Victory Point (or Crozier's Landing) are two pieces of brass curtain rod

  3. Bit more evidence. In a letter to his father Fairholme wrote from Stromness on 1st June 1845, he included a reference to the cabins and to his curtain:

    "... We got in here last night and I believe we shall start today if we can possibly get the supplies we want. We yesterday met with the Rattler again of Fraserburgh, and as it was a perfectly calm day, we had a most delightful cruise along the NE coast of Scotland, passing John O'Groats house about 6 in the evening. I never saw anything more lovely than the scene last night, as we ran through the narrow passages among these little islands. In themselves there is nothing of the beautiful, as they are perfectly bare, but there was such a sky, and such a summit or such a glass like sea that it was quite worthy of the Gulf of Smyrna. The sun did not set till half past nine – at midnight I had the pleasure of receiving all your letters and papers, which I read in the open air, in almost total daylight! I fear we shall see little of this place, but if we do stay today I shall try to get over to see Kirkwall.

    We were disappointed about the illustrated London News. The sketches are very bad and do not give any idea of the cabins. Mine is certainly the most comfortable one in the ship as to fittings & co but the drawback is the draft from the hatchway which makes it rather cold. It improves with the buffalo cloak for a curtain. I hear we stay till tomorrow".

  4. It would seem likely that Fairholme had what is labelled as the Master's cabin on the 1839 plans of the lower deck - opposite the ladderway. The three Lieutenants will have moved one cabin forward due to the inclusion of the supernumary Fitzjames. I wonder where the Master went?


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