William Robert Broughton

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William Robert Broughton
William Robert Broughton.jpg
Born (1762-05-22)22 May 1762
Gloucestershire, England
Died 14 March 1821(1821-03-14) (aged 58)
Florence, Tuscany
Allegiance Kingdom of Great Britain Great Britain
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland United Kingdom
Service/branch Royal Navy
Rank Commodore
Commands held HMS Chatham
HMS Providence
Battles/wars Napoleonic Wars

William Robert Broughton (22 May 1762 – 14 March 1821) was a British naval officer in the late 18th century. As a Lieutenant in the Royal Navy, he commanded HMS Chatham as part of the Vancouver Expedition, a voyage of exploration through the Pacific Ocean led by Captain George Vancouver in the early 1790s.

With Vancouver[edit]

In November 1791, while exploring the South Pacific, his crew were the first Europeans to sight the Chatham Islands. In October 1792, while exploring the Pacific Northwest of North America, he was ordered to explore the lower Columbia, between present-day Oregon and Washington, with several boats from Broughton's ship. Broughton and his party navigated upriver as far as the Columbia River Gorge. On 30 October, he reached his farthest point up the Columbia, landing in eastern Multnomah County east of Portland and northwest of Mount Hood. Late in 1792, Vancouver, stymied by conflicting instructions over Nootka Sound, sent Broughton back to England via Mexico and the Atlantic, bearing dispatches and requesting instructions.[1]

Exploring Japan and Sakhalin[edit]

In 1793, Broughton was promoted to commander and later given command of HMS Providence, a ship formerly commanded by Captain William Bligh.[2] In February 1795 he left England for the Pacific to assist Vancouver. Correctly determining that Vancouver had returned to England having completed his survey, Broughton crossed to Japan and from September 1796 charted the east coast of Honshu and Hokkaidō before wintering at Macau. There Broughton purchased a small schooner to assist the Providence. Next year he returned to Japan where the Providence was wrecked on Providence Reef (now Yae Bishi 八重干瀬) at Miyako Island (south of Okinawa). The schooner saved the crew of the wrecked ship and they continued north along the east coast of Honshu. He passed either north or south of Hokkaido and sailed north into the Gulf of Tartary along the west coast of Sakhalin. Finding extensive shallows at the north end of the gulf he falsely concluded that Sakhalin was part of the mainland (a common mistake). He turned south along the coast of Korea and then headed home by way of Trincomalee, Ceylon where the crew was paid off. He reached England in February 1799.

Later career[edit]

Broughton continued service, seeing action at the Battle of the Basque Roads and in the 1811 Java Expedition (where he was commodore). He died in Florence, Italy in 1821, and he was buried in the Old English Cemetery, Livorno.


Broughton named many locations in the course of his explorations and has been honoured with namings as well:[3]

See also[edit]


Derek Hayes, Historical Atlas of the North Pacific Ocean',2001

  1. ^ Jim Mockford, “The Journal of a Tour across the Continent of New Spain from St. Blas in the North Pacific Ocean to La Vera Cruz in the Gulph of Mexico, by Lieut. W. R. Broughton in the Year 1793, Commander H.M. Brig 'Chatham'”, Terrae Incognitae, vol.36, 2004, pp.2–58.
  2. ^ Broughton, William Robert (1804), A voyage of discovery to the north Pacific Ocean : in which the coastal Asia, ... Japan ... as well as the coast of Corea have been examined and surveyed, performed in His Majesty's Sloop Providence and her tender in the years 1795, 1796, 1797, 1798, T. Cadell and W. Davies, OL 24159440M, retrieved 20 January 2012 
  3. ^ Mockford, Jim. "Before Lewis and Clark, Lt. Broughton's River of Names: The Columbia River Exploration of 1792". Oregon History Quarterly. Retrieved 26 April 2007. 
  4. ^ Andrew David (ed.), William Robert Broughton's Voyage of Discovery to the North Pacific 1795–1798, Hakluyt Society 3rd series, no.22, London, Ashgate, 2010, Introduction, p.v. ISBN 0-904180-97-2.
  5. ^ Lewis and Clark's Columbia River – Broughton Bluff, Oregon