Ca. 1905. Oblong Folio (ca. 28,5x40 cm). 18 gray card stock album leaves. With sixty mounted gelatin silver prints, including one large photo ca. 15,5x25,5 cm (6 x 10 in); the majority of the photos are ca. 8x13,5 cm (3 x 5 ½ in), four smaller photos are ca. 7,5x9,5 cm (3 x 3 ¾ in). All photos with detailed white ink manuscript captions on the mounts, the first and the last leaves with extensive handwritten passages by Moxham describing the expedition and listing its most notable members. Period black cloth album with leaves fastened with a string and a gilt lettered title “Photographs” on the front board. Cover with some minor water staining, several images slightly faded, but overall a very good album.
Historically important first-hand visual account of this early 20th century sea voyage along the western coast of Newfoundland and Labrador from St. John’s to Rowsell Harbour, a fjord about 50 kilometers north of Saglek Bay in northern Labrador. The album was compiled by the expedition leader Edgar C. Moxham, an American mining engineer and a brother of Arthur J. Moxham (1854-1931), one of the founders of the “Dominion Iron & Steel Company” in Nova Scotia and an executive of the DuPont Company for over 10 years (1902-1914). The expedition sailed on board the sealer steamship “Kite” (which was used by Robert Peary during his Second Greenland Expedition in 1891) and aimed to pick up a party of 107 miners who were developing a pyrite deposit near Rowsell Harbour. The “Kite” left St. John’s on the 24th of June 1905, “expecting to traverse the distance of but 1000 miles in 6 to 8 days,” but “met with Arctic ice soon after its departure & as a result it was not until 3rd August that the ship was able to penetrate to its destination, after a voyage of 40 days. All hands were immediately embarked and the expedition returned in safety, to St. John’s 10th August 1905.”
The album contains over forty photos taken in Labrador, including a large excellent view of Rowsell Harbour with the “Kite” near the shore and five smaller views of the Rowsell Harbour showing the “Camp Headquarters,” “The Harbour from Camp” and the rocky cliffs surrounding the fjord. Very interesting are the four photos of the Moravian missionary station in Hebron where the “Kite” had to stay for several weeks, waiting for the sea to clear from the ice (the mission was closed and the site was abandoned in 1959, it was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1976). The photos include a general view of the mission buildings and three portraits, showing missionaries Paul Schmidt (1870-1912), Ernst Bohlmann (1864-1945), “Revd. Asboe [?]” “Native servants of the Mission & Capt. Collins,” and “Children of the Moravian Missionaries.” The other photos of Labrador show the Battle Harbour, whaling station at Cape Charles (four views, including that of a “cargo of whalebone”), Okak Islands, crew members waiting for the ice to loose at Turnovik, Black Islands where “fog and ice held us for 2 days,” “Kiq-la-Paix we were again held for 36 hours”, heavy ice in the Saglek Bay, two photos of a pack of huskies “pulling water wagon,” several views of the sea covered with “the crush ice” which “had forced itself more than half way up & over the mountainous coast… a moving, cracking, groaning mass,” etc. There are also several interesting portraits showing an Inuit in his kayak at sea, a “liveyere” “Old Tom Evans and his dogs,” and two groups of Inuit on board the “Kite,” captioned “Our good little friends and constant visitors, especially at scoffin (meal) time,” and “Sweethearts and wives.” A dozen views of Newfoundland show St. John’s Harbour, the pier at Brigus (two photos taken on the “Kite’s” departure and return), the western coast (Bay of Islands, Twillingate, Little Bay, Bay of Roberts), coastal schooners met on the way, the deck of the “Kite” with a crewmember “Joe Morgan,” and the Cabot Tower in St. John’s with signal flags “Welcome Home.”
The first leaf of the album contains a detailed description of the expedition’s proceedings, the last leaf has a touching dedication to the expedition members: “With gratitude and thanks beyond words to you, my comrades & friends, tried and true, to whose grit, skill, and steadfast purpose alone is due the safe return of the expedition: John Bartlett, Mangr. – Robt. A. Bartlett Capt. s/s “Algerine,” John Bonzain, mine Foreman; George Bartlett – Doctor; Geo. Collins, Capt. Of s/s “Kite,” to our faithful Mickmack Indian hunter John Stevenson who lost his life in our service and to One more dear at home I dedicate this record of our venture into the frozen North, Edgar C. Moxham, Mining Engineer in charge of both expeditions.”
Many photographs are supplemented with extensive manuscript passages, describing particular events of the voyage or Moxham’s thoughts about them, i.e.: “The weeks dragged by, the situation becoming acute. This is 3rd August. On the 24th of last August the snow storm, such as no ship can expect to live against, had commenced. Only 3 weeks could therefore be counted upon to reach our men. Failing this we must return South with the ice flow for our own preservation, thus abandoning our expedition at Rowsell’s “in extremis.” An attempt was made by one of the party to cross the intervening 50 miles overland, but even this was found to be quite impossible for any white man to accomplish.”
The album opens with a portrait of Edgar Moxham and a photo of a wolf who according to the caption, are “two of a kind;” on the verso of the first leaf Moxham quoted several lines from Rudyard Kipling’s romantic poem “The Explorer” (1898):
"There's no sense in going further - it's the edge of cultivation,"
So they said, and I believed it…
Till a voice, as bad as Conscience, rang interminable changes
On one everlasting Whisper day and night repeated -- so:
"Something hidden. Go and find it. Go and look behind the Ranges --
"Something lost behind the Ranges. Lost and waiting for you. Go!"
Overall a rare content rich photo album, giving a vivid account of the life in the Canadian Arctic and the difficulties of an Arctic voyage in the early 20th century.
Price: $4,500.00 USD