Robert McClure

Robert McClure

Sir Robert John Le Mesurier McClure (or M'Clure) (28 January 1807 – 17 October 1873) was a British explorer of the Arctic.

He was born at Wexford, in Ireland, the posthumous son of one of Abercrombie's captains, and spent his childhood under the care of his godfather, General Le Mesurier, governor of Alderney, by whom he was educated for the army. He entered the navy, however, in 1824, and twelve years later gained his first experience of Arctic exploration as mate of HMS "Terror" in the expedition (1836–1837) commanded by Captain (afterwards Sir) George Back.

On his return he obtained his commission as lieutenant, and from 1838 to 1839 served on the Canadian lakes, being subsequently attached to the North American and West Indian naval stations, where he remained till 1846. Two years later he joined the Franklin search expedition (1848–1849) under James Clark Ross as first lieutenant of "Enterprise", and on the return of this expedition was given the command of "Investigator" in the new search expedition (1850–1854) which set out from England, sailed south on the Atlantic, rounded Cape Horn, entered the Pacific sailing north to enter the Arctic Ocean by way of Bering Strait and sailing eastward to eventually link up with another British expedition from the north-west. Although the "Investigator" was abandoned to the pack ice in the spring of 1853, with McClure and his crew being rescued by the "Resolute" after a journey over the ice by sledge, he did achieve in course of this voyage the distinction of completing (1850) the work connected with the discovery of a Northwest Passage. As well, McClure and his crew were the first to circumnavigate the Americas and transit the Northwest Passage - a considerable feat for that day and age. On his return to England, McClure was court martialed for the loss of the "Investigator", but following an honourable acquittal, was knighted and promoted to post-rank, his commission being dated back four years in recognition of his special services. He subsequently was awarded gold medals by the English and French geographical societies. McClure's account of this voyage, "Discovery of the north-west passage", consists of excerpts of his journals from that time as edited by Captain Sherard Osborn. As this account significantly glosses over several elements of the cruise which cast McClure in a somewhat unfavourable light, historians generally prefer the straightforward account rendered by the "Investigator"'s surgeon, Sir Alexander Armstrong.

From 1856 to 1861 he served in Eastern waters, commanding the division of the Naval Brigade before Canton in 1858, for which he received a CB in the following year. His latter years were spent in a quiet country life; he attained the rank of rear-admiral in 1867, and of vice-admiral in 1873. He died in that year, and is buried in Kensal Green Cemetery, London.

McClure Strait was later named after him, as well as the McClure crater on the Moon.

References

*Admiral Sherard Osborn, "The Discovery of a North-West Passage" (1856).
*The Royal Navy in Polar Exploration From Frobisher to Ross, E C Coleman 2006 ISBN 0-7524-3660-0
*The Royal Navy in Polar Exploration From Franklin to Scott, E C Coleman 2006

External links

* [http://www.biographi.ca/009004-119.01-e.php?&id_nbr=5136 Biography at the "Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online"]
* [http://www.collectionscanada.ca/explorers/h24-1840-e.html Library and Archives Canada page on McClure, with pictures]


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