Joseph Whidbey
Joseph Whidbey was a member of 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...

 who served on the Vancouver Expedition
Vancouver Expedition
The Vancouver Expedition was a four-and-a-half-year voyage of exploration and diplomacy, commanded by Captain George Vancouver. The expedition circumnavigated the globe, touched five continents and changed the course of history for the indigenous nations and several European empires and their...

 1791–1795, and later achieved renown as a naval engineer. He is notable for having been the first Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

an to discover and chart Admiralty Island
Admiralty Island
Admiralty Island is an island in the Alexander Archipelago in Southeast Alaska, at . It is 145 km  long and 56 km  wide with an area of 4,264.1 km² , making it the seventh largest island in the United States and the 132nd largest island in the world. It is one of the...

 in the Alexander Archipelago
Alexander Archipelago
The Alexander Archipelago is a long archipelago, or group of islands, of North America off the southeastern coast of Alaska. It contains about 1,100 islands, which are the tops of the submerged coastal mountains that rise steeply from the Pacific Ocean. Deep channels and fjords separate the...

 in 1794.

Little is recorded of Whidbey's life before his warranting as a sailing master in 1779. After years of service during the war of American Independence, he received a peacetime appointment to HMS Europa, where with then-Lieutenant Vancouver, he conducted a detailed survey of Port Royal
Port Royal
Port Royal was a city located at the end of the Palisadoes at the mouth of the Kingston Harbour, in southeastern Jamaica. Founded in 1518, it was the centre of shipping commerce in the Caribbean Sea during the latter half of the 17th century...


Europa paid off, but Whidbey soon gained a berth, along with Vancouver, in the newly built HMS Discovery
HMS Discovery (1789)
HMS Discovery was a Royal Navy ship launched in 1789 and best known as the lead ship in George Vancouver's exploration of the west coast of North America in his famous 1791-1795 expedition. She was converted to a bomb vessel in 1798 and participated in the Battle of Copenhagen. Thereafter she...

. During the Nootka Crisis
Nootka Crisis
The Nootka Crisis was an international incident and political dispute between the Kingdom of Great Britain and the Kingdom of Spain, triggered by a series of events that took place during the summer of 1789 at Nootka Sound...

, both men were transferred to HMS Courageux, but returned to Discovery and departed for the Northwest Coast of America. (See Vancouver Expedition
Vancouver Expedition
The Vancouver Expedition was a four-and-a-half-year voyage of exploration and diplomacy, commanded by Captain George Vancouver. The expedition circumnavigated the globe, touched five continents and changed the course of history for the indigenous nations and several European empires and their...


In 1792, Whidbey accompanied Lieutenant Peter Puget
Peter Puget
Peter Puget was an officer in the Royal Navy, best known for his exploration of Puget Sound.-Mr. Midshipman Puget:Puget's ancestors had fled France for Britain during Louis XIV's persecution of the Huguenots. His father, John, was a successful merchant and banker, but died in 1767, leaving Puget's...

 in small boats to explore what was later named Puget Sound
Puget Sound
Puget Sound is a sound in the U.S. state of Washington. It is a complex estuarine system of interconnected marine waterways and basins, with one major and one minor connection to the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Pacific Ocean — Admiralty Inlet being the major connection and...

. On June 2, the team discovered Deception Pass
Deception Pass
Deception Pass is a strait separating Whidbey Island from Fidalgo Island, in the northwest part of the U.S. state of Washington. It connects Skagit Bay, part of Puget Sound, with the Strait of Juan de Fuca.-History:...

, establishing the insularity of the Sound's largest island, which Vancouver named Whidbey Island
Whidbey Island
Whidbey Island is one of nine islands located in Island County, Washington, in the United States. Whidbey is located about north of Seattle, and lies between the Olympic Peninsula and the I-5 corridor of western Washington...


Upon Discoverys return to England, Whidbey served briefly in HMS Sans Pareil
HMS Sans Pareil (1794)
HMS Sans Pareil was an 80-gun third rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy. She was formerly the French ship Sans Pareil, but was captured in 1794 and spent the rest of her career in service with the British.-French service:...

, but eventually turned to a shoreside career. In 1799, then-Earl St. Vincent
Viscount St Vincent
Viscount St Vincent, of Meaford in the County of Stafford, is a title in the Peerage of the United Kingdom. It was created in 1801 for the noted naval commander John Jervis, 1st Earl of St Vincent, with remainder to his nephews William Henry Ricketts and Edward Jervis Ricketts successively, and...

 commissioned him to make of feasibility survey making Tor Bay a fleet anchorage; Whidbey recommended this be done by building a great breakwater
Breakwater (structure)
Breakwaters are structures constructed on coasts as part of coastal defence or to protect an anchorage from the effects of weather and longshore drift.-Purposes of breakwaters:...

. Surviving correspondence suggests that around this time he apparently struck up a lifelong friendly and professional relationship with the engineer John Rennie
John Rennie (father)
John Rennie was a Scottish civil engineer who designed many bridges, canals, and docks.-Early years:Rennie, a farmer's younger son, was born at Phantassie, near East Linton, East Lothian, Scotland, and showed a taste for mechanics at a very early age, and was allowed to spend much time in the...


Whidbey was appointed Master Attendant at Sheerness in 1799. His innovative salvage of the Dutch frigate Ambuscade was the subject of a paper read to the Royal Society in 1803. In 1804 he received the prestigious appointment as Master Attendant at Woolwich
Woolwich is a district in south London, England, located in the London Borough of Greenwich. The area is identified in the London Plan as one of 35 major centres in Greater London.Woolwich formed part of Kent until 1889 when the County of London was created...

, one of the Royal Navy's greatest dockyards. In 1805, Whidbey became a Fellow of the Royal Society
Royal Society
The Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge, known simply as the Royal Society, is a learned society for science, and is possibly the oldest such society in existence. Founded in November 1660, it was granted a Royal Charter by King Charles II as the "Royal Society of London"...

, sponsored by a long list of distinguished men of science: Alexander Dalrymple
Alexander Dalrymple
Alexander Dalrymple was a Scottish geographer and the first Hydrographer of the British Admiralty. He was the main proponent of the theory that there existed a vast undiscovered continent in the South Pacific, Terra Australis Incognita...

, James Rennell
James Rennell
Major James Rennell, FRS was an English geographer, historian and a pioneer of oceanography.-Early life:Rennell was born near Chudleigh in Devon...

, William Marsden, James Stanier Clarke, Sir Gilbert Blane, Mark Beaufoy
Mark Beaufoy
thumb|right|An engraving of Mark Beaufoy, by Valentine GreenColonel Mark Beaufoy FRS was an English astronomer and physicist, mountaineer, explorer and British Army officer...

, Joseph Huddart
Joseph Huddart
Joseph Huddart F.R.S. was a hydrographer. He surveyed harbours and coasts but made a fortune from improving the design and manufacture of rope. He was highly regarded in the nineteenth century. His likeness featured in an engraving of distinguished men of science...

, and John Rennie.

In 1806, as the Napoleonic Wars
Napoleonic Wars
The Napoleonic Wars were a series of wars declared against Napoleon's French Empire by opposing coalitions that ran from 1803 to 1815. As a continuation of the wars sparked by the French Revolution of 1789, they revolutionised European armies and played out on an unprecedented scale, mainly due to...

 impended, Whidbey joined Rennie in planning the Plymouth Breakwater
Plymouth Breakwater
Plymouth Breakwater is a stone breakwater protecting Plymouth Sound and the anchorages therein. It is wide at the top and the base is . It lies in about of water. Around 4 million tons of rock were used in its construction in 1812 at the then-colossal cost of £1.5 million .-History:In 1806, as...

, at St. Vincent's request; in 1811 came the order to begin construction and Whidbey was appointed Acting Superintending Engineer. This task required great engineering, organizational and political skills, as the many strictly technical challenges were complicated by the significant resources devoted to the project, from which various parties evidenced a desire for advantage. Nearly 4,000,000 (four million) tons of stone were quarried and transported, using about a dozen ships innovatively designed by the two men.

Construction started on August 8, 1812; it was sufficiently completed by 1814 to shelter ships of the line, although work continued for over 50 years. Napoleon
Napoleon I of France
Napoleon Bonaparte was a French military and political leader during the latter stages of the French Revolution.As Napoleon I, he was Emperor of the French from 1804 to 1815...

 was reported as commenting that it was a grand thing, as he passed by it on the way to exile on St. Helena in 1815.

Whidbey continued to work on the breakwater and other engineering projects, including the breakwater's lighthouse (designed by Trinity House
Trinity House
The Corporation of Trinity House of Deptford Strond is the official General Lighthouse Authority for England, Wales and other British territorial waters...

), until retirement around 1830. His contribution to the Royal Society includes a paper on fossils found in the Plymouth quarries 1817


Records of the Vancouver expedition suggest that Whidbey was an expert and reliable seaman, entrusted with difficult tasks. However, upon his return to England, he provided testimony for Sir Joseph Banks' campaign against Vancouver (Whidbey was at the time competing with Vancouver for the pay accrued as Astronomer for the voyage.) Vancouver soon died, perhaps mooting difficulties in their relationship.

At any rate, Whidbey rose swiftly from his humble beginnings, undoubtedly due to his proven technical skill as much as to his connections.

Correspondence between Whidbey and Rennie suggests a close and honest working relationship, and an earthy sense of humor. For example, when Sir Francis Northwell pestered the two with the idea that a large hole in the floor of Plymouth bay might complicate construction, Whidbey wrote to Rennie that, should such a feature be discovered, it would be named Lady Northwell's Hole.


It is not known that Whidbey had children. Whidbey's house near Plymouth still stands, and is called Bovisand House.

Numerous features around Whidbey Island bear the Whidbey name, such as Joseph Whidbey State Park
Joseph Whidbey State Park
Joseph Whidbey State Park in Island County, Washington is one of the Washington State Parks. It consists of with of saltwater shoreline on the Strait of Juan de Fuca in north Puget Sound. Available activities include ADA-accessible hiking, crabbing, beachcombing, and birdwatching.-References:...

 and Whidbey Island Naval Air Station. From the latter comes the name of the Whidbey Island class dock landing ship
Whidbey Island class dock landing ship
The Whidbey Island class dock landing ship is a dock landing ship of the United States Navy. Introduced to fleet service in 1985, this class of ship features a massive well deck for the transport of four LCAC hovercraft for landing Marines....

. In Britain, the Whidbey Automatic Light (Occulting Green) was constructed at the eastern end of Plymouth Sound
Plymouth Sound
Plymouth Sound, or locally just The Sound, is a bay at Plymouth in England.Its southwest and southeast corners are Penlee Point in Cornwall and Wembury Point on Devon, a distance of about 3 nautical miles . Its northern limit is Plymouth Hoe giving a north-south distance of nearly 3 nautical miles...

in 1980.
The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.