John Hornby (1880-1927) was an English explorer best known for his expeditions in the Arctic region, notably in the "barren lands" in the Northwest Territory of Canada. Hornby was born to a wealthy family in England and migrated to Canada in 1904.
Hornby's first trip to the Arctic was to the Great Bear Lake region in 1908 and he developed a strong fascination with the Canadian Arctic wilderness. Apart from occasional trips to Edmonton and service in World War I, Hornby spent the rest of his life in the Arctic region of northern Canada.
He became known as the "hermit of the north" for his efforts to live off the land with limited supplies. In 1923, Hornby teamed up with an Englishman James Critchell Bullock (1898-1953) in efforts to spend an entire year in the Arctic near Hudson Bay living off the land without supplies except for weapons. The pair barely survived and Critchell Bullock's diaries formed the basis of Malcolm Waldron's book Snow Man: John Hornby in the Barren Lands first published in 1931.
In 1926, Hornby tried to spend a year in a spot by the Thelon River with his 18 year old cousin Edgar Christian and another young man Harold Adlard. Unfortunately, the trio missed the caribou migration southward and therefore lacked sufficient food to survive the winter. Hornby died of starvation along with his companions in 1927. The graves of the three men can be found by the Thelon River.
Hornby recommended in a report following his expedition with Critchell-Bullock that the areas near the Thelon and Hanbury Rivers be created as a wildlife sanctuary. The Thelon Game Sanctuary was established in 1927, renamed Thelon Wildlife Sanctuary in 1956, and this area remains the heart of the largest area of wilderness in North America. The publication of Waldron's book proved successful and sparked further interest in the Northern wilderness.
- Pierre Berton, "Prisoners of the North", Anchor Canada, 2005
- Malcolm Waldron, Snow Man: John Hornby in the Barren Lands, Kodansha America 1997 reprint (originally published in 1931).
- George Erickson, True North. Toronto: Thomas Allen, 2000
- George Whalley, The Legend of John Hornby. Toronto: Macmillan of Canada, 1962.
- Edgar Vernon Christian, Death in the Barren Ground (edited by George Whalley). Ottawa: Oberon Press, 1980.
- Clive Powell-Williams, Cold Burial: A Journey into the Wilderness. London: Viking, 2001.
- Elizabeth Hay, Late Nights on Air. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 2007.
- Institute of North America review of Snow Man: John Hornby in the Barren Lands
- University of Calgary summary of 1984 Arctic article on John Hornby
- Information on Snow Man: John Hornby in the Barren Lands
- Insect biodiversity in the Thelon Wildlife Sanctuary. Newsletter of the Biological Survey of Canada (Terrestrial Arthropods) 21(2) 2002.
- "Please don't blame dear Jack" (well-documented article discussing the possible homosexual nature of the relationship between John Horby and Edgar Christian)
- John Hornby Exhibit, Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre, Northwest Territories, Canada. Holds letters, photos, and artifacts associated with John Hornby.
- Sherborne School Archives – holds the papers of Captain J.C. Critchell Bullock, including the diaries of John Hornby
- "Death in the Barren Ground: The Story of John Hornby's Last Journey". A radio drama written by George Whalley, first broadcast on CBC's Trans Canada Wednesday Night on 3 March 1954.