Level 3 Mortlock Wing State Library of South Australia North Terrace Adelaide SA 5000

Samuel Cresswell's coloured plates of the North West Passage

Cresswell, Samuel Gurney, A series of eight sketches in colour, together with a chart of the route of the voyage of HMS Investigator during the discovery of the North West Passage. 1854. These coloured lithographic images show the dramatic icy conditions encountered by the crew in their voyage to the Artic 1851-1853, including the Investigator locked in the ice, and are important because this is the first record of the Northwest Passage.

240411 RGSSA 3258

Samuel Cresswell was born in King's Lynn, Norfolk in 1827. He joined the Royal Navy in 1842 and early in his career served in the China seas. In 1848-49 he sailed under Sir James Ross Clark in the rescue attempt of Sir John Franklin in the Artic. This rescue attempt was unsuccessful and Franklin, who was attempting to find the Northwest Passage, was never found. Cresswell was promoted to lieutenant on 10 September 1849 following his good performance on this voyage.

Creswell was appointed second lieutenant and ship's artist on HMS Investigator under Captain Robert McClure in the voyage (1850-1854) to the Artic again in search of Franklin and in a further search for the Northwest Passage. The Investigator was ice bound from September 1851 to the spring of 1853. During this time Cresswell was responsible for transporting a number of sick crewmembers to safety using sledges.  After a series of dramatic events, including abandoning the Investigator, the crew were rescued and survived by sledging and sailing to safety.

On his early return to England Creswell was able to announce the success of the search for the Northwest passage and is credited as being the first naval officer to traverse it. Several of his watercolours were presented to Queen Victoria.

Samuel Cresswell went on to serve in the Crimean War's Baltic Theatre and later, in command of HMS Surprise, served in the Second Opium War.

RGSSA catalogue rgsp 919.8 C922 d Cabinet 2 Shelf 8