Arctic Steam and Sail: Reconstructing HMS Pioneer
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In mid-nineteenth century Britain, the dramatic disappearance of Sir John Franklin and his men led to a large-scale search conducted throughout the Arctic by sailing ships and steamers. One such ship was HMS Pioneer (formerly the merchant vessel Eider), which was built as a topsail schooner with oscillating steam engine and later outfitted as part of an Arctic squadron. The vessel was refit with heating apparatus, experimental rubber boats, and other contemporary developments, and serves as a valuable example of the mid-nineteenth century responses to the challenges and concerns of Arctic exploration. This research focuses on the numerous contemporary written and visual depictions of the steamer and its voyage to explore HMS Pioneer’s context and importance in the shift from sail to steam. While HMS Pioneer was presented by contemporary accounts as a ground-breaking novelty, this research shows its place in a continuum with earlier Arctic ships, and highlights the conservatism of changes in rigging, outfitting, and social life on board.
Deckinga, Mara A (2016). Arctic Steam and Sail: Reconstructing HMS Pioneer. Master's thesis, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from