James Clark Ross

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Sir James Clark Ross

James Clark Ross.jpg
Born(1800 -04-15)15 April 1800
London, England
Died3 April 1862(1862-04-03) (aged 61)
Aston Abbotts, England
AllegianceFlag of the United Kingdom.svg  United Kingdom
BranchNaval Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg  Royal Navy
Service years1812–1862
Rank Captain
Expeditions Ross expedition
Awards Gold Medal of Exploration
Relations Sir John Ross  (uncle)

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

Fellow of the Royal Society Elected Fellow of the Royal Society, including Honorary, Foreign and Royal Fellows

Fellowship of the Royal Society is an award granted to individuals that the Royal Society of London judges to have made a 'substantial contribution to the improvement of natural knowledge, including mathematics, engineering science and medical science'.

Royal Navy Maritime warfare branch of the United Kingdoms military

The Royal Navy (RN) is the United Kingdom's naval warfare force. Although warships were used by the English kings from the early medieval period, the first major maritime engagements were fought in the Hundred Years War against the Kingdom of France. The modern Royal Navy traces its origins to the early 16th century; the oldest of the UK's armed services, it is known as the Senior Service.

Arctic polar region on the Earths northern hemisphere

The Arctic is a polar region located at the northernmost part of Earth. The Arctic consists of the Arctic Ocean, adjacent seas, and parts of Alaska, Finland, Greenland (Denmark), Iceland, Northern Canada, Norway, Russia and Sweden. Land within the Arctic region has seasonally varying snow and ice cover, with predominantly treeless permafrost -containing tundra. Arctic seas contain seasonal sea ice in many places.



Arctic exploration

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 a small party led by James Ross (including Thomas Abernethy) 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]

Northwest Passage sea route north of North America

The Northwest Passage (NWP) is, from the European and northern Atlantic point of view, the sea route to the Pacific Ocean through the Arctic Ocean, along the northern coast of North America via waterways through the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. The eastern route along the Arctic coasts of Norway and Siberia is accordingly called the Northeast Passage (NEP).

Thomas Abernethy (explorer) Scottish seafarer and polar explorer (1803–1860)

Thomas Abernethy was a Scottish seafarer, gunner in the Royal Navy, and polar explorer. Because he was neither an officer nor a gentleman, he was little mentioned in the books written by the leaders of the expeditions he went on, but was praised in what was written and was awarded five Arctic Medals. He was in parties that, for their time, reached the furthest north, the furthest south (twice), and the nearest to the South Magnetic Pole. In 1831, along with James Clark Ross's team of six, Abernethy was in the first party ever to reach the North Magnetic Pole.

North Magnetic Pole Wandering point on the Northern Hemisphere

The North Magnetic Pole is the wandering point on the surface of Earth's Northern Hemisphere at which the planet's magnetic field points vertically downwards. There is only one location where this occurs, near the Geographic North Pole and the Geomagnetic North Pole.

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 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, 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.

Baffin Bay A marginal sea between Greenland and Baffin Island, Canada

Baffin Bay, located between Baffin Island and the west coast of Greenland, is a marginal sea of the North Atlantic Ocean. It is connected to the Atlantic via Davis Strait and the Labrador Sea. The narrower Nares Strait connects Baffin Bay with the Arctic Ocean. The bay is not navigable most of the year because of the ice cover and high density of floating ice and icebergs in the open areas. However, a polynya of about 80,000 km2 (31,000 sq mi), known as the North Water, opens in summer on the north near Smith Sound. Most of the aquatic life of the bay is concentrated near that region.

From 1835–1839, except for his voyage with Cove, he conducted a magnetic survey of Great Britain with Sir Edward Sabine.[ citation needed ]

Antarctic exploration

Ross expedition in the Antarctic, 1847 HMS Erebus and Terror in the Antarctic by John Wilson Carmichael.jpg
Ross expedition in the Antarctic, 1847

Between 1839 and 1843, Ross commanded HMS Erebus on his own Antarctic expedition and charted much of the continent's coastline. Captain Francis Crozier was second-in-command of the expedition, commanding 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 ship's 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. [4] [5]

HMS <i>Erebus</i> (1826) Royal Navy ship from 1826

HMS Erebus was a Hecla-class bomb vessel designed by Sir Henry Peake and constructed by the Royal Navy in Pembroke dockyard, Wales in 1826. The vessel was the second in the Royal Navy named after Erebus, the dark region of Hades in Greek mythology. The 372-ton ship was armed with two mortars – one 13 in (330 mm) and one 10 in (254 mm) – and 10 guns. The ship took part in the Ross expedition of 1839-1843, and was abandoned in 1848 during the third Franklin expedition. The sunken wreck was discovered by the Canadian Victoria Strait Expedition in September 2014.

Ross expedition

The Ross expedition was a voyage of scientific exploration of the Antarctic in 1839 to 1843, led by James Clark Ross, with two unusually strong warships, HMS Erebus and HMS Terror. It explored what is now called the Ross Sea and discovered the Ross Ice Shelf. On the expedition, Ross discovered the Transantarctic Mountains and the volcanoes Erebus and Terror, named after his ships. The young botanist Joseph Dalton Hooker made his name on the expedition.

Francis Crozier British naval officer

Captain Francis Rawdon Moira Crozier officer of the Royal Navy and polar explorer who participated in six expeditions to the Arctic and Antarctic. In May 1845, he commanded HMS Terror on Franklin's expedition to discover the Northwest Passage, together with HMS Erebus and under overall command of Sir John Franklin. They were never heard from again and the entire expedition perished, a total of 129 men.

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 variously the Barrier or the Great Ice Barrier, later named the Ross Ice Shelf in his honour. 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. Ross reported that Admiralty Sound (which he named Admiralty Inlet) appeared to him to have been blocked by glaciers at its southern end. [6] Ross's ships arrived back in England on 4 September 1843. He was awarded the Grande Médaille d'Or des Explorations in 1843, knighted in 1844, and elected to the Royal Society in 1848. [7]

Ross Sea A deep bay of the Southern Ocean in Antarctica

The Ross Sea is a deep bay of the Southern Ocean in Antarctica, between Victoria Land and Marie Byrd Land and within the Ross Embayment, and is the southernmost sea on Earth. It derives its name from the British explorer James Ross who visited this area in 1841. To the west of the sea lies Ross Island and Victoria Land, to the east Roosevelt Island and Edward VII Peninsula in Marie Byrd Land, while the southernmost part is covered by the Ross Ice Shelf, and is about 200 miles (320 km) from the South Pole. Its boundaries and area have been defined by the New Zealand National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research as having an area of 637,000 square kilometres (246,000 sq mi).

Victoria Land region of Antarctica

Victoria Land is a region of Antarctica which fronts the western side of the Ross Sea and the Ross Ice Shelf, extending southward from about 70°30'S to 78°00'S, and westward from the Ross Sea to the edge of the Antarctic Plateau. It was discovered by Captain James Clark Ross in January 1841 and named after the UK's Queen Victoria. The rocky promontory of Minna Bluff is often regarded as the southernmost point of Victoria Land, and separates the Scott Coast to the north from the Hillary Coast of the Ross Dependency to the south.

Mount Erebus volcano on Ross Island, Antarctica

Mount Erebus is the second-highest volcano in Antarctica and the southernmost active volcano on Earth. It is the sixth-highest ultra mountain on the continent. With a summit elevation of 3,794 metres (12,448 ft), it is located in the Ross Dependency on Ross Island, which is also home to three inactive volcanoes: Mount Terror, Mount Bird, and Mount Terra Nova.

Search for Franklin's lost expedition

"E.I. 1849": Enterprise and Investigator, left by a crew member of the Ross expedition on Somerset Island E&I 1849 Somerset Island.jpg
"E.I. 1849": Enterprise and Investigator, left by a crew member of the Ross expedition on Somerset Island

In 1848, Ross was sent on one of three expeditions to find Sir John Franklin. The others were the Rae–Richardson Arctic Expedition and the expedition aboard HMS Plover and HMS Herald through the Bering Strait. He was given command of HMS Enterprise, accompanied by HMS Investigator, [8] 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 Sir 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 when the extent of sea ice had been atypically low.) The next summer he tried to reach Wellington Channel but was blocked by ice and returned to England.[ citation needed ]

Personal life

He was married to Lady Ann Coulman. [9] He died at Aylesbury in 1862, five years after his wife. A blue plaque marks Ross's home in Eliot Place, Blackheath, London. [10] His closest friend was Francis Crozier, with whom he sailed many times.

He also lived in the ancient House of the Abbots of St. Albans in Buckinghamshire. He is buried with his wife in the local churchyard of St. James the Great, Aston Abbotts. In the gardens of the Abbey there is a lake with two islands, named after the ships Terror and Erebus. [11]

In fiction

Ross, played by British actor Richard Sutton, is a secondary character in the 2018 AMC television series The Terror, portrayed in a fictionalized version of his 1848 search for Franklin's lost expedition, as well as in the 2007 Dan Simmons novel on which the series is based.


See also


  1. Bossi, Maurizio; Vieusseux, G.P. (1984). Notizie di viaggi lontani: l'esplorazione extraeuropea nei periodici del primo Ottocento, 1815–1845. Naples: Guida. ISBN   8870423999.
  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. "James Clark Ross (1800–1862)". Glasgow Digital Library. Retrieved 26 February 2016.
  5. Ward, P. (2001). "Antarctic expedition, 1839–1843, James Clark Ross".
  6. 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.
  7. Appletons' annual cyclopaedia and register of important events of the year: 1862. New York: D. Appleton & Company. 1863. p. 749.
  8. Mowat, Farley (1973). Ordeal by ice: the search for the Northwest Passage. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart Ltd. p. 250. OCLC   1391959.
  9. U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: James Clark Ross
  10. "Sir James Clark Ross 1800–1862 polar explorer lived here". Open Plaques. Retrieved 28 October 2016.
  11. "History: Sir James Clark Ross". Aston Abbotts. Retrieved 28 October 2016.
  12. Riffenburgh, Beau (2007). Encyclopedia of the Antarctic. Taylor & Francis. p. 815. ISBN   9780415970242.
  13. 1 2 Ross, Maurice James (1994). Polar Pioneers: John Ross and James Clark Ross. McGill-Queen's Press. ISBN   9780773512344.
  14. "RRS James Clark Ross". British Antarctic Survey . Retrieved 28 October 2016.
  15. "North Magnetic Pole Discovered 1 June 1831". History Channel. Retrieved 21 April 2017.
  16. Rushton, Annabel (9 February 2014). "Who's this Ross character then?". RSPB. Retrieved 28 October 2016.
  17. 1) [Bertrand, Kenneth John, et al, ed.] The Geographical Names of Antarctica. Special Publication No. 86. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Board on Geographical Names, May 1947. 2) [Bertrand, Kenneth J. and Fred G. Alberts]. Gazetteer No. 14. Geographic Names of Antarctica. Washington: US Government Printing Office, January 1956.


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