Samuel Hearne

Samuel Hearne

"Samuel Hearne", (1745 – November 1792), was born in London, England and did extensive exploration of northern North America.

In 1756, he entered the navy, and was some time with Lord Hood; at the end of the Seven Years' War (1763), he took service with the Hudson's Bay Company. In 1768, he examined portions of the Hudson Bay coasts with a view to improving the cod fishery, and from 1769 to 1772, he was employed in north-western discovery, searching especially for certain copper mines described by Indians.

His first attempt (from 6 November 1769) failed through the desertion of his Indians; his second (from 23 February 1770) through the breaking of his quadrant; but in his third (December 1770 to June 1772) he was successful, not only discovering the copper of the Coppermine River basin, but tracing this river to the Arctic Ocean. In so doing, he established there was no northwest passage through the continent at lower latitudes. On July 17 1771, Chipewyan chief Matonabbee, travelling as his guide on his Arctic overland journey, massacred a group of unsuspecting Inuit; this would be known as the Massacre at Bloody Falls.

Hearne reappeared at Fort Prince of Wales on 30 June 1772. He established the second inland trading post for the Hudson's Bay Company in 1774 at Cumberland House (the first being Henley House, established in 1743, 200 km up the Albany River). Becoming governor of Fort Prince of Wales in 1775, he was taken prisoner by the French under La Pérouse in 1782. He returned to England in 1787 where he died in 1792 of dropsy, eighteenth century medicine's description of the symptoms of liver or kidney failure.

He is the author of "A Journey from Prince of Wales’s Fort in Hudson’s Bay to the Northern Ocean", published in 1795, three years after his death.

He is mentioned by Charles Darwin in the sixth chapter of "The Origin of Species".

William Wales, who had been the astronomer with Captain Cook on his second voyage and was, from 1775 to 1798 a teacher at Christ's Hospital, assisted Hearne to write and publish his book. Wales meet Hearne at Hudson Bay while he was there during 1768-1769 to observe the Transit of Venus. One of Wales's pupils, the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, made a brief notebook entry where he mentioned Hearne's book.

There is a school that was built and named after him in Inuvik, Northwest Territories. A school in Toronto, Ontario was also built in his name in 1973.

You can see his name, carved in stone near Fort Prince of Wales, north of Churchill, Manitoba, Canada.



* [ Biography at the "Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online"]

Further reading

# "Ancient Mariner: The Arctic Adventures of Samuel Hearne, the Sailor Who Inspired Coleridge's Masterpiece" by Ken McGoogan. Published by Carroll & Graf Publishers, 2004.
# "Coppermine Journey: An Account of Great Adventure Selected from the Journals of Samuel Hearne" by Farley Mowat. Published by McClelland & Stewart, 1958.

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