There and Back
Pocket Watch and Compass Carried on Arctic Expeditions
The Chilling Reality exhibit contains many objects that were brought to the Arctic by our featured explorers which are now in the collection of the Chester County Historical Society. The watch and compass in this picture are so rich with associations that they tie together time and space, from the 19thcentury to the present, from Chester County to the Arctic and certainly to wherever you are now reading this.
The watch was carried by Amos Bonsall on the Second Grinnell Arctic Expedition, 1852-1853, led by Dr. Elisha Kent Kane to find the missing Sir John Franklin. It was donated to the Historical Society by Bonsall’s daughters and came with its box, key, and several watch papers. It was made by Vacheron in Switzerland. This gold pocket watch is engraved with a beautiful hunting scene of two dogs chasing a buck. Imagine what it would mean to have a pocket watch in a place where it stays dark for months through the winter.
The compass belonged to Samuel Entrikin and was brought on the Peary Expeditions of 1892-3-4. It was made by Keuffel and Esser of New York and its beautiful engraving was done by Ernest Pye with Jesse E. Webb, a jeweler in West Chester, PA whose business is still in operation. Entrikin was meticulous about documentation and in a note accompanying the compass he wrote that the card in the compass was one that he took from a broken compass belonging to Lieutenant Peary and placed in this one. Imagine how important a compass would be making your way through a completely snow and ice covered landscape.