Page Heading for Arctic Archipelago

ARCTIC ARCHIPELAGO - The Searchers For Franklin

Edward Belcher (1799-1877)

Edward Belcher was born in your compiler's home province, Nova Scotia. He was the great-grandson of Governor Jonathan Belcher. He entered the British Navy as a Midshipman and was appointed as a Lieutenant in 1818. In 1825, he was aboard HMS Blossom as Assistant Surveyor, when, in 1825, Beechey came into the arctic waters from the west. In later years he was on the Pacific coast of North and South America. In the years 1842-47, Belcher "undertook surveys on the coast of China."

In 1852, Belcher was put in charge of a major search expedition to see what happened to John Franklin. The expedition spent two winters in the Arctic, after which, in the summer of 1854, on Belcher’s orders, four of its five ships were abandoned; the crews returned home. I quote from an article from one of the organs of the University of Calgary:

"Five ships were given him for the task: the Assistance (Belcher, and Commander G.N. Richards), the steam tender Pioneer (Osborn), the Resolute (Kellett), the Intrepid (McClintock), and the North Star (Pullen). Leaving the North Star at Beechey Island as a base, Belcher sent the Resolute and the Intrepid westward to Melville Island, while he took the Assistance and Pioneer northward up to Wellington Channel. (See Map) As it turned out, they were too far north to find traces of Franklin, but Belcher and Osborn discovered Belcher Channel, explored the north coast of Bathurst Island, and Belcher himself discovered and visited North Cornwall Island. Belcher and Osborn spent the winter of 1852-1853 in Northumberland Sound, while the Resolute and the Intrepid, under Kellett, wintered at Melville Island. In the course of long sledge expeditions, Kellett and his men completed the exploration of Melville and Prince Patrick islands, and found and rescued the men of a previous expedition on the Investigator (McClure), locked in the ice of Mercy Bay. ... By the summer of 1854, Belcher had had enough. Convinced of the impossibility of getting free, unwilling to risk yet a third winter, he disregarded the protests of his subordinates, and ordered the four ships to be abandoned. He and his men made it to the base vessel North Star, and in August set out on the return voyage to England. Court-martialled, Belcher was able to prove that he had acted within his orders. ... He was cleared, but his sword was handed back to him in silence. ... He passed his remaining years in literary and scientific amusements, and died on 18 March 1877."1

1 Which article, incidentaly described Belcher as "a spectacular failure as an arctic explorer, and most unpopular officer in the fleet."

[A LISTING OF The Searchers For Franklin]

Found this material Helpful?


Peter Landry