The theodolite was a fairly unexceptional example, the chronometer a reasonable version by a good maker, but what lifted this entry out of the ordinary was its provenance and history.
The instruments had belonged to Roland Skog, a Swedish cabinetmaker born in 1909 who moved to Canada in the 1920s, served in the Canadian armed forces during World War II and purchased the instruments in London before his return to Canada. He then took up life as a trapper on the Parsnip River in British Columbia spending his spare time keeping meteorological records and studying his surroundings, only leaving the area to sell furs at the Hudson Bay trading post at McLeod Lake. Following an approach from the British Columbia Forest Service to survey the region, the former cabinetmaker adapted his instruments for the purpose, constructing a box from local birch for the chronometer and a painted metal cannister lined with smoked moosehide for the theodolite.
By the 1960s, with commercial logging in full swing and the river flooded to create Williston lake, a disenchanted Skog was given land overlooking the reservoir in an isolated situation where he constructed his own cabin.
In the winter of 1979 he collapsed while carrying potatoes to his cabin but it was not until the following spring when a pilot noticed the absence of smoke from the cabin’s chimney, that the police came to investigate. They found the outline of a body in the grass with potatoes sprouting beside it, animals having removed Skog’s remains.
These poignant mementos of the life of a cabinetmaker turned trapper/surveyor were entered to Phillips’ sale by an agent acting for a Canadian man who used to visit Mr Skog when fishing in the area and were accompanied by a biography and photographs of Skog and the vendor. It is not at all clear that the detailed history added anything to the commercial value of the lot, for it sold to the London trade at a low estimate £1000, a figure which could be almost entirely accounted to the pocket chronometer. However, if nothing else, the provenance adds human interest to the little collection.
A small group of scientific apparatus
UK: A SMALL group of scientific apparatus featured in Phillips’ July 18 horological auction in Bond Street, London and comprised a silver pocket chronometer by Webster and Son of London, hallmarked for 1834, and a 19th century five-inch theodolite signed for Reiss Leibenwerda, each with their custom-made cases.