John Ross (Arctic explorer)
Sir John Ross, CB
Order of the Bath
The Most Honourable Order of the Bath is a British order of chivalry founded by George I on 18 May 1725. The name derives from the elaborate mediæval ceremony for creating a knight, which involved bathing as one of its elements. The knights so created were known as Knights of the Bath...

, (24 June 1777 – 30 August 1856) was a Scottish
Scottish people
The Scottish people , or Scots, are a nation and ethnic group native to Scotland. Historically they emerged from an amalgamation of the Picts and Gaels, incorporating neighbouring Britons to the south as well as invading Germanic peoples such as the Anglo-Saxons and the Norse.In modern use,...

 rear admiral
Rear Admiral
Rear admiral is a naval commissioned officer rank above that of a commodore and captain, and below that of a vice admiral. It is generally regarded as the lowest of the "admiral" ranks, which are also sometimes referred to as "flag officers" or "flag ranks"...

 and Arctic
The Arctic is a region located at the northern-most part of the Earth. The Arctic consists of the Arctic Ocean and parts of Canada, Russia, Greenland, the United States, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Iceland. The Arctic region consists of a vast, ice-covered ocean, surrounded by treeless permafrost...


Ross was the son of the Rev.
The Reverend
The Reverend is a style most often used as a prefix to the names of Christian clergy and ministers. There are sometimes differences in the way the style is used in different countries and church traditions. The Reverend is correctly called a style but is often and in some dictionaries called a...

 Andrew Ross, minister of Inch, near Stranraer
Stranraer is a town in the southwest of Scotland. It lies in the west of Dumfries and Galloway and in the county of Wigtownshire.Stranraer lies on the shores of Loch Ryan on the northern side of the isthmus joining the Rhins of Galloway to the mainland...

 in Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

. In 1786, aged only nine, he joined the Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

 as an apprentice. He served in the Mediterranean until 1789 and then in the English Channel
English Channel
The English Channel , often referred to simply as the Channel, is an arm of the Atlantic Ocean that separates southern England from northern France, and joins the North Sea to the Atlantic. It is about long and varies in width from at its widest to in the Strait of Dover...

. In 1808, he acted as a captain of the Swedish Navy
Swedish Navy
The Royal Swedish Navy is the naval branch of the Swedish Armed Forces. It is composed of surface and submarine naval units – the Fleet – as well as marine units, the so-called Amphibious Corps .In Swedish, vessels of the Swedish Navy are given the prefix "HMS," short for Hans/Hennes...

 and in 1812 became a Commander
Commander is a naval rank which is also sometimes used as a military title depending on the individual customs of a given military service. Commander is also used as a rank or title in some organizations outside of the armed forces, particularly in police and law enforcement.-Commander as a naval...


Sir John was uncle of Sir Captain James Clark Ross
James Clark Ross
Sir James Clark Ross , was a British naval officer and explorer. He explored the Arctic with his uncle Sir John Ross and Sir William Parry, and later led his own expedition to Antarctica.-Arctic explorer:...

, who explored the Arctic with him, and later led expeditions to the south pole.

1818: first Arctic expedition

In 1818, six years after he became a Commander in the Swedish Navy, he received the command of an Arctic expedition organised by the British Admiralty
The Admiralty was formerly the authority in the Kingdom of England, and later in the United Kingdom, responsible for the command of the Royal Navy...

, the first of a new series of attempts to solve the question of a Northwest Passage
Northwest Passage
The Northwest Passage is a sea route through the Arctic Ocean, along the northern coast of North America via waterways amidst the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans...

. This entailed going around the extreme northeast coast of America and sailing to the Bering Strait
Bering Strait
The Bering Strait , known to natives as Imakpik, is a sea strait between Cape Dezhnev, Chukotka Autonomous Okrug, Russia, the easternmost point of the Asian continent and Cape Prince of Wales, Alaska, USA, the westernmost point of the North American continent, with latitude of about 65°40'N,...

. He was also to note the currents, tides, the state of ice and magnetism and to collect specimens he found on the way. In April of that year, Ross left London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

 with two ships, the Isabella and Alexander, and in August reached Lancaster Sound
Lancaster Sound
Lancaster Sound is a body of water in Qikiqtaaluk, Nunavut, Canada. It is located between Devon Island and Baffin Island, forming the eastern portion of the Northwest Passage. East of the sound lies Baffin Bay; to the west lies Viscount Melville Sound...

, in Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...


There he re-examined the observations William Baffin
William Baffin
William Baffin was an English navigator and explorer. Nothing is known of his early life, but it is conjectured that he was born in London of humble origin, and gradually raised himself by his diligence and perseverance...

, a previous British explorer, had made two hundred years before. But Ross went no further, for he was misled by a mirage
A mirage is a naturally occurring optical phenomenon in which light rays are bent to produce a displaced image of distant objects or the sky. The word comes to English via the French mirage, from the Latin mirare, meaning "to look at, to wonder at"...

 which appeared to show mountains at the end of the strait. He named the apparent mountains "Crocker Mountains", and returned to England despite the protests of several of his officers, including First Mate William Edward Parry
William Edward Parry
Sir William Edward Parry was an English rear-admiral and Arctic explorer, who in 1827 attempted one of the earliest expeditions to the North Pole...

 and Edward Sabine
Edward Sabine
General Sir Edward Sabine KCB FRS was an Irish astronomer, geophysicist, ornithologist and explorer.Two branches of Sabine's work in particular deserve very high credit: Determination of the length of the seconds pendulum, a simple pendulum whose time period on the surface of the Earth is two...

. The account of his voyage, published a year later, brought to light their disagreement, and the ensuing controversy over the existence of Crocker Mountains ruined his reputation. This expedition failed to discover much that was new, and somewhat prejudiced the Arctic reputation of its leader, who attained the rank of captain on his return to Scotland. It was at this time that he built the house North West Castle
North West Castle
North West Castle is an 18th century four star country house hotel in Stranraer, Dumfries and Galloway, in the south west of Scotland .It is noteworthy for being the home of Sir John Ross, a famous Scottish rear admiral and Arctic explorer...

, in Stranraer, south west Scotland.

1829-1833: second Arctic expedition

In 1829, Ross admitted he might have been wrong about the "Crocker Mountains", and convinced one of his friends, Mr. (afterwards Sir) Felix Booth
Felix Booth
Sir Felix Booth, 1st Baronet was a wealthy UK gin distiller. His earlier family had founded Booth's Gin in London in 1740. In 1832 Booth bought the site of the old Ophthalmic Hospital in Albany Street, Regent's Park as a site for his distillery...

, to finance a second expedition. He left in May of that year, this time on the Victory, a side-wheel steam ship. They sailed past Lancaster Sound to a previously unexplored area of Prince Regent Inlet, where their ship became stuck in the ice. The crew was stranded for four years, during which they explored the regions to the west and north, with the help of local Inuit. On one of these explorations, Ross's nephew James Clark Ross
James Clark Ross
Sir James Clark Ross , was a British naval officer and explorer. He explored the Arctic with his uncle Sir John Ross and Sir William Parry, and later led his own expedition to Antarctica.-Arctic explorer:...

 found the magnetic north pole
North Pole
The North Pole, also known as the Geographic North Pole or Terrestrial North Pole, is, subject to the caveats explained below, defined as the point in the northern hemisphere where the Earth's axis of rotation meets its surface...

 on the Boothia Peninsula
Boothia Peninsula
Boothia Peninsula is a large peninsula in Nunavut's northern Canadian Arctic, south of Somerset Island. The northern part, Murchison Promontory, is the northernmost point of mainland Canada, and thus North America....


In 1832, Ross and his crew abandoned their ship and walked to the wreck of HMS Fury
HMS Fury (1814)
HMS Fury was a Hecla-class bomb vessel. Built in the 1810s, she saw wartime service in an attack on Barbary pirates at Algiers in August, 1816, captained by Constantine Richard Moorsom. The ship after it left his command was converted to an Arctic exploration ship.The Fury made two journeys to the...

 which had been abandoned by William Edward Parry
William Edward Parry
Sir William Edward Parry was an English rear-admiral and Arctic explorer, who in 1827 attempted one of the earliest expeditions to the North Pole...

's 1824-1825 Arctic expedition, seven years earlier. A year went by before a break in the ice allowed them to leave, on that ship's longboats. They were eventually picked up by a British vessel, HMS Isabella (which Ross had commanded on his 1818 expedition), and taken home. "This impressive experience, as well as the scientific and ethnological information gathered by Ross's team, brought him the renown that he had long sought." Ross brought home 19 of the 22 men he set out with, after a variety of disasters including abandoning their ship . In comparison with other contemporary arctic explorers, this was a feat of heroic proportions, and was probably due to the fact that Ross befriended and learned from the Inuit .

Once again, however, Ross encountered controversy with his cartography. In 1830, during the expedition, his nephew, Commander (later Sir) James Clark Ross
James Clark Ross
Sir James Clark Ross , was a British naval officer and explorer. He explored the Arctic with his uncle Sir John Ross and Sir William Parry, and later led his own expedition to Antarctica.-Arctic explorer:...

, charted three islands in James Ross Strait
James Ross Strait
James Ross Strait, an arm of the Arctic Ocean, is a channel between King William Island and the Boothia Peninsula in the Canadian province of Nunavut. long, and to wide, it connects M'Clintock Channel to the Rae Strait to the south...

 and named them the Beaufort Islands
Francis Beaufort
Rear-Admiral Sir Francis Beaufort, FRS, FRGS was an Irish hydrographer and officer in Britain's Royal Navy...

. John Ross never saw the islands. Later, back in England, John Ross, using his authority as expedition leader, renamed the islands as the Clarence Islands
Clarence Islands
The Clarence Islands are a Canadian Arctic island group in the Nunavut Territory. The islands lie in the James Ross Strait, east of Cape Felix, off the northeast coast of King William Island...

, and even added a number a number of fictional islands to the group, in an apparent attempt to impress the new king, William IV
William IV of the United Kingdom
William IV was King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and of Hanover from 26 June 1830 until his death...


Captain Ross received gold medals from the English and French geographical societies, and various foreign orders, including a knighthood of the Pole Star of Sweden, and in the following year (1834) received a knighthood and a CB in Britain.

1850: third Artic expedition

In 1850, he undertook a third voyage to the Arctic regions, this time in search of the missing expedition party of Sir John Franklin
John Franklin
Rear-Admiral Sir John Franklin KCH FRGS RN was a British Royal Navy officer and Arctic explorer. Franklin also served as governor of Tasmania for several years. In his last expedition, he disappeared while attempting to chart and navigate a section of the Northwest Passage in the Canadian Arctic...

. He did not find them. In the following year he attained flag-rank. Upon returning, he settled in Scotland, and died in London in 1856.

External links

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