William Kennedy (explorer)

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William Kennedy (April 1814 - January 25, 1890) was born at Cumberland House, Saskatchewan, a son of the Hudson's Bay Company Chief Factor there, Alexander Kennedy and his Cree wife, Aggathas. At thirteen, he was sent to his father’s birthplace in the Orkney Islands for his education. In 1836 he returned to Canada and was employed as a fur-trader with the Hudson's Bay Company.[1]


Kennedy was commander of Lady Franklin second sponsored expedition in 1851 to find her husband, Sir John Franklin, using the ketch Prince Albert. His second in command was Joseph René Bellot, a French navy sub-lieutenant. The expedition was well organized as Kennedy was well versed in northern travel and used as many experienced men as he could find and outfitted them in native clothing. While the expedition did not find Franklin, it did acquire substantial knowledge of the Canadian Arctic. Because of his preparedness and leadership, they returned to Britain in October 1852 without losing any men.[2]

Lady Franklin placed Kennedy in charge of her auxiliary steamship Isabel to search the Arctic via the Bering Straits early in 1853. However, most of the crew including his sailing master Robert Grate mutinied at Valparaiso in August, claiming the vessel was too small for her mission. After two years trading around the South American coast while trying to find another crew willing to sail to the Arctic, he gave up and returned the Isabel to England in 1855.

Kennedy returned to Canada in 1856 and was active in establishing a mail service between Toronto and the Red River Colony. He settled at Red River in 1860 and operated a store with his brother George from his home. (It is now a museum). He was active in the community and was a magistrate and a member of the Board of Education of Manitoba. In 1879, he gave the first scientific address to the Historical and Scientific Society of Manitoba.[3] He was also a strong advocate of a railroad to Churchill, Manitoba.

William Kennedy wrote about the search for Franklin and his narrative, along with the memoirs of Bellot, provide interesting and valuable information on the Canadian Arctic.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Shaw, Edward C (15 January 2009). "MHS Transactions: Captain William Kennedy, An Extraordinary Canadian". Manitoba Historical Society. Retrieved 2009-10-05. 
  2. ^ Captain William Kennedy, An Extraordinary Canadian'
  3. ^ The Manitoba Historical Society Property Act
  • Roderic Owen, The Fate of Franklin: The Life and Mysterious Death of the Most Heroic of Arctic Explorers, Hutchinson Group (Australia) Pty. Ltd., Richmond South, Victoria, 1978.
  • Ken McGoogan. Lady Franklin's Revenge: A True Story of Ambition, Obsession and the Remaking of Arctic History. Toronto, HarperCollins. 2005