Robert McClure

Jan 27, 2015, 7:00AM EST
Robert McClure
Leader of the first expedition to transit the Northwest Passage, albeit partly by sledge

 Robert John Le Mesurier McClure (1807-1873) joined the Royal Navy in 1824.  He served as mate on the HMS Terror (a converted bomb ship) in the unsuccessful Frozen Strait Expedition of 1836-37.  Afterwards, he served in the Canadian lakes and in various North American and West Indian naval stations.  In 1848, he joined in the Franklin search expedition under James Clark Ross as first lieutenant on HMS Enterprise.  In 1849, the Admiralty launched a new search for Franklin, this time from the west.  HMS Enterprise, commanded by Richard Collinson, and HMS Investigator, commanded by McClure, departed Plymouth in January 1850.  The two vessels became separated while transiting the Strait of Magellan and proceeded independently along the west coast of the Americas and through the Bering Sea.  The expedition’s mission was to link up with HMS Resolute, sent to explore the Northwest Passage from the east.  After passing Point Barrow of the Russian Territory of Alaska, HMS Investigator entered Prince of Wales Strait east of Banks Island, but turned back due to heavy ice.  McClure and his crew spent almost two years attempting to navigate along the west and north coasts of Banks Island, but were forced to abandon HMS Investigator in spring 1853 due to the crushing pressure of pack ice.  Journeying over the ice by sledge, they eventually encountered a party from HMS Resolute.  McClure and his crew eventually completed the transit of the Northwest Passage and returned to Britain in 1854.  After an inquiry into the expedition and the loss of HMS Investigator, McClure was knighted and promoted.  Parliament awarded £10,000 to McClure and his crew.  He served in the Far East, attaining the rank of Rear Admiral in 1867 and Vice Admiral in 1873, shortly before his death.  McClure Strait, the western end of Parry Channel between Baffin Bay on the east and the Beaufort Sea on the west, is named in his honor.

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