Henry Barber (sea captain)

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This article is about the sea captain. For other men of the same name, see Henry Barber (disambiguation).

Henry Barber was an 18th-century British sea captain, credited with the discovery of McKean Island, in the Phoenix group in the Pacific Ocean.

Sailing history[edit]

Barber operated merchant routes from India and America to the new settlement at Port Jackson, New South Wales. He made his first journey from Bengal in 1794, aboard the 85-ton snow Arthur, carrying foodstuffs and calico.[1]

Discovery of McKean Island[edit]

While captaining the British ship Arthur on a journey from Botany Bay, New South Wales to the north-west coast of America in 1794, Barber discovered what is believed to be McKean Island.[2] Sighting the uninhabited island on 28 May, Barber named it "Drummond's Island", plotting it at 3°40'S, 176°51'W.[1] The Albany Sentinel reported that the "small sandy island...is very low and cannot be seen from the deck of a vessel more than five or six miles".[3] It was later named 'Arthur Island' and appeared as such in Arrowsmith's charts of the time located at 3°30'S, 176°0'W.[4] The closest island to these coordinates is McKean Island at 3°35'S, 174°02'W, which was renamed and mapped by Charles Wilkes of the United States Exploring Expedition 1838-1842. However, Arthur Island remained suspected and 'in need of confirmation' until at least 1871, when it was listed in Findlay's Directory, using the charts of cartographer John Arrowsmith.[4]


  1. ^ a b Maude, p 109
  2. ^ Quanchi & Robson, p 11
  3. ^ The Albany Sentinel, 28.8.1797, quoted in Maude, p 109
  4. ^ a b Sharp, p 210


  • Maude, H.E., (1968) Of Islands and Men: Studies in Pacific History, Melbourne: Oxford University Press
  • Quanchi, Max & Robson, John, (2005); Historical Dictionary of the Discovery and Exploration of the Pacific Islands, USA: Scarecrow Press, ISBN 0-8108-5395-7
  • Sharp, Andrew (1960); The Discovery of the Pacific Islands, Oxford:Oxford University Press,