50. McClintock, Francis Leopold, Sir (1819-1907)

The Voyage of the Fox in the Arctic Seas.  A Narrative of the Discovery of the Fate of Sir John Franklin and His Companions.  London: John Murray, 1859.


The life of a walrus family, from Francis McClintock, The Voyage of the Fox, 1859.


A polar bear seeking dinner, from Francis McClintock, The Voyage of the Fox, 1859.


Interior of the magnetic observatory at Bellot Strait, from Francis McClintock, The Voyage of the Fox, 1859.

After John Rae’s discovery of the probable fate of the Franklin expedition, the Admiralty abandoned its search, especially since they now had their hands full with the Crimean War.  So Lady Jane Franklin sponsored another private expedition in the small steamer yacht Fox, with the Arctic veteran McClintock in charge. 

The voyage is notable as the one that finally confirmed the fate of Franklin, finding a document on King William Island recording that Franklin had died in 1847, and the ships had been abandoned.  McClintock also found the bodies of several crewmen, as well as a variety of material remains, such as silverware, that had been gathered by the local Inuit.

What is interesting about McClintock’s Narrative is that it documents some of the minor occurrences that happened to every Arctic voyager, but which were seldom put into pictorial form. 

For example, the Fox spent its entire first winter frozen into the ice pack of Melville Bay in Greenland, and reminiscing about that a year later (when frozen in at Bellot Strait), McClintock recalled the abundance of walruses in the Arctic waters, and provided a charming picture. 

McClintock also related the story of a Greenlander at Upernavik who was robbed of his dinner by a polar bear, and we get an image of that as well.

A third image reminds us that every one of these arctic voyages had a scientific purpose, and every expedition made daily records of temperature, pressure, and magnetic variation and declination. 

While frozen in at Bellot Strait, McClintock built a magnetic observatory.  In order that the compasses would not be disturbed by iron, the observatory was built entirely of ice blocks, including even the pedestal on which the instruments stood.






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