18. Back, George, Sir (1796-1878)

Narrative of the Arctic Land Expedition to the Mouth of the Great Fish River, and Along the Shores of the Arctic Ocean, in the Years 1833, 1834, and 1835.   London: John Murray, 1836.


Caribou in Sussex Lake, from George Back, Narrative of the Arctic Land Expedition, 1836.


Campsite on Chantrey Inlet, near Mt. Barrow, from George Back, Narrative of the Arctic Land Expedition, 1836.

George Back had been on both Franklin expeditions, and had provided many of the illustrations for both of Franklin’s Narratives.  When the Ross expedition in the Victory had not been heard from for three years, Back was chosen to lead a land expedition from Great Slave Lake and up the Great Fish River, in an attempt to reach the Gulf of Boothia from the south. 

However, by the time he reached Great Slave Lake, he learned that Ross had been rescued, and his new orders were to explore the Arctic coast, from Point Turnagain (Franklin’s and Richardson’s furthest point east) to Ross’s furthest west. 

Leading a party of twelve, Back first of all managed to find the Great Fish River, which was not an easy task.  At Sussex Lake, where the river starts, he observed a herd of reindeer (caribou), which he recorded in a sketch.  He then was able toget all the way down the river (which has 83 falls and thus portages on it) and reach Chantrey Inlet, which opens onto King Williams Land, but he did not get much further west or east. 

The tent site illustrated marks their furthest point, near a hill they called Mt. Barrow, on Chantrey Inlet.  Back also left a cache of goods on Montreal Island, near the entrance to Chantrey Inlet, which would be later found by Dease and Simpson, in 1839 .



Linda Hall Library Logo