James Clark Ross

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This article is about the British naval officer and explorer. For the British Antarctic Survey supply and research ship, see RRS James Clark Ross.
For other uses, see James Ross (disambiguation).
James Clark Ross
James Clark Ross.jpg
Portrait of Sir James Clark Ross by John R. Wildman. The object in the bottom righthand corner is a dip circle, designed by Robert Were Fox and used by Ross to discover the magnetic north pole.
Born 15 April 1800
London
Died 3 April 1862(1862-04-03) (aged 61)
Nationality British
Known for Antarctic exploration

Sir James Clark Ross (15 April 1800 – 3 April 1862) was a British naval officer and explorer remembered today for his exploration of the Arctic with his uncle Sir John Ross and Sir William Parry and, in particular, his own expedition to Antarctica.

Arctic explorer[edit]

Ross was born in London, the nephew of Sir John Ross, under whom he entered the navy in 1812, accompanying him on Sir John's first Arctic voyage in search of a Northwest Passage in 1818. Between 1819 and 1827, Ross took part in four Arctic expeditions under Sir William Parry, and in 1829 to 1833, again served under his uncle on Sir John's second Arctic voyage. It was during this trip that they located the position of the North Magnetic Pole on 1 June 1831 on the Boothia Peninsula in the far north of Canada. It was on this trip, too, that Ross charted the Beaufort Islands, later renamed Clarence Islands by his uncle.[1][2]

In 1834, Ross was promoted to Captain. In December 1835, he offered his services to the Admiralty to resupply 11 whaling ships which had become trapped in Baffin Bay. They accepted his offer and he set sail in the HMS Cove in January 1836. The crossing was difficult, and by the time he had reached the last known position of the whalers in June, all but one had managed to return home. Ross found no trace of this last vessel, the William Torr, which was probably crushed in the ice in December 1835.[3] He returned to Hull in September 1836 with all his crew in good health.

From 1835–39, except for his voyage with the Cove, he conducted a magnetic survey of Great Britain with Edward Sabine.

Antarctic explorer[edit]

Between 1839 and 1843, Ross commanded an Antarctic expedition comprising the vessels HMS Erebus and HMS Terror and charted much of the coastline of the continent. Francis Crozier was second in command of the expedition and commanded HMS Terror. Support for the expedition had been arranged by Francis Beaufort, hydrographer of the Navy and a member of several scientific societies. On the expedition was Joseph Dalton Hooker, who had been invited along as assistant surgeon. Erebus and Terror were bomb vessels – an unusual type of warship named after the mortar bombs they were designed to fire and constructed with extremely strong hulls, to withstand the recoil of the mortars, which were to prove of great value in thick ice.

In 1841, James Ross discovered the Ross Sea, Victoria Land, and the volcanoes Mount Erebus and Mount Terror, which were named for the expedition's vessels. They sailed for 250 nautical miles (460 km) along the edge of the low, flat-topped ice shelf they called the Victoria Barrier, later named "Ross Ice Shelf" in his honour. In the following year, he attempted to penetrate south at about 55°W, and explored the eastern side of what is now known as James Ross Island, discovering and naming Snow Hill Island and Seymour Island. It is interesting to note that Ross reported that Admiralty Sound (which he named Admiralty Inlet appeared to Ross to have been blocked by glaciers at its southern end.[4] He was elected to the Royal Society in 1848 and knighted in 1844.[5]

In 1848, he was sent on one of three expeditions to find Sir John Franklin. (The others were the Rae-Richardson Arctic Expedition and the HMS Plover-HMS Herald expedition through the Bering Strait.) He was given command of HMS Enterprise, accompanied by HMS Investigator,[6] Because of heavy ice in Baffin Bay he only reached the northeast tip of Somerset Island where he was frozen in at Port Leopold. In the spring he and Francis McClintock explored the west coast of the island by sledge. He recognized Peel Sound but thought it too ice-choked for Franklin to have used it (In fact Franklin had used it in 1846.). Next summer he tried to reach Wellington Channel but was blocked by ice and returned to England.

James was married to Lady Ann Ross. He died at Aylesbury in 1862, five years after his wife. A blue plaque marks Ross's home in Eliot Place, Blackheath, London. His closest friend was Captain Francis Crozier with whom he sailed many times. Crozier has never been found after he participated in The Franklin Expedition and became leader after the death of Sir John Franklin.

James also lived in the ancient country house of the Abbotts of St Albans, later known as The Abbey, Aston Abbotts in Buckinghamshire. He is buried with his wife in the local churchyard. In the gardens of the Abbey there is a lake with two islands, named after the ships Terror and Erebus.

Tributes[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Bossi, Maurizio; Gabinetto scientifico letterario G.P. Vieusseux (1984). Notizie di viaggi lontani : l'esplorazione extraeuropea nei periodici del primo Ottocento, 1815–1845. Naples: Guida. ISBN 88-7042-399-9. 
  2. ^ Woodman, David C. (1991). Unravelling the Franklin disaster : Inuit testimony. McGill-Queen's University Press. 
  3. ^ Jones, A. G. E. (1950). "The Voyage of H.M.S. Cove, Captain James Clark Ross, 1835–36". Polar Record 5 (40): 543–556. doi:10.1017/S0032247400045150. Retrieved 21 April 2012. 
  4. ^ Ross, James Ross (1847). A Voyage of Discovery and Research in the Southern and Antarctic Regions, During the Years 1839–43 2. London: John Murray gions. 
  5. ^ Appletons' annual cyclopaedia and register of important events of the year: 1862. New York: D. Appleton & Company. 1863. p. 749. 
  6. ^ Mowat, Farley (1973). Ordeal by ice; the search for the Northwest Passage (The Vanished Ships). Toronto: McClelland and Stewart Ltd. p. 250. OCLC 1391959. 

Bibliography[edit]

  • E. C. Coleman, The Royal Navy in Polar Exploration From Frobisher to Ross (2006). ISBN 0-7524-3660-0.
  • Ray Edinger, Fury Beach: The Four-Year Odyssey of Captain John Ross and the Victory (2003). ISBN 0-425-18845-0.

External links[edit]