Voyages of Discovery & Research

Michael Palin’s ‘Erebus – The Story of a Ship’ proved thoughtful, introducing the harsh reality of a handful of historic British HM captains and officers midway through their careers, adventuring to the ends of the Earth on a mission of scientific discovery and research.

This selection of published journals and manuscripts provide a comprehensive history of their adventuring careers - who they were, the mettle of which they were made. Their determination, perseverance, hardships, humanity, leadership and problem solving skills in the most inhospitable locations of our planet. Most of all is witnessing a sense of responsibility for scientific and geographic discovery in the 1800’s at a time when practical Earth sciences were coming into their own with a healthy curiosity of how the planet works.

These historic works are linked to The Internet Archive, providing scanned soft copy original published books from the 1800s. My preference of these electronic versions are the PDF documents, providing full immersion into the original wood/lead typeset manuscript, seen in all its glory as originally pressed and published. My favorite reading application is GoodReader by Good.iWare, Inc. Your preferences will vary.

The Cambridge linked softcover books are text extracted OCR versions of the published works. While you lose the 1800s typesetting, you gain the ability to hold a physical book of historic significance.

Stay Curious

Michael Palin, 2019

Erebus - The Story of a Ship aka Erebus – One Ship, Two Epic Voyages, and the Greatest Naval Mystery of All Time

Book Description: Michael brings the remarkable Erebus back to life, following it from its launch in 1826 to the epic voyages of discovery that led to glory in the Antarctic and to ultimate catastrophe in the Arctic.

The ship was filled with fascinating people: the dashing and popular James Clark Ross, who charted much of the ‘Great Southern Barrier’; the troubled John Franklin, whose chequered career culminated in the Erebus’s final, disastrous expedition; and the eager Joseph Dalton Hooker, a brilliant naturalist – when he wasn’t shooting the local wildlife dead.

Vividly recounting the experiences of the men who first set foot on Antarctica’s Victoria Land, and those who, just a few years later, froze to death one by one in the Arctic ice, beyond the reach of desperate rescue missions, Erebus is a wonderfully evocative account of a truly extraordinary adventure, brought to life by an avid explorer and storyteller.

Commander John Ross First Arctic Expedition, 1818

Voyage of discovery : made under the orders of the Admiralty in His Majesty's ships Isabella and Alexander, for the purpose of exploring Baffin's Bay, and enquiring into the probability of a North-West passage

Cambridge Library Collection Printed Books

Book description: Sir John Ross (1777–1856) was a Scottish naval officer and Arctic explorer. He joined the Royal Navy at the age of nine and distinguished himself during the Napoleonic Wars. In 1818, Ross was assigned to H.M.S. Isabella and commissioned to search for the North-West Passage. This book, published in 1819, describes the expedition, which was unsuccessful although it did discover new facts about Baffin Bay. Several of Ross's former officers disputed his account of the decision to turn back at Lancaster Sound, which he had mistakenly believed was impassable. The ensuing controversy affected the rest of Ross's career and made him unpopular with influential contemporaries including Sir John Barrow and William Edward Parry. It also soured relations with his young nephew James Clark Ross, who had accompanied him, and who in 1831, during a second eventful expedition with his uncle, identified the location of the magnetic North Pole.

Sir John Ross, Captain, 1835

Narrative of a second voyage in search of a North-west passage : and of a residence in the Arctic regions during the years 1829, 1830, 1831, 1832, 1833 : including the reports of Commander, now Captain, James Clark Ross, R.N., F.R.S., F.L.S., &c. and the discovery of the Northern Magnetic Pole

Cambridge Library Collection Printed Books

Book description: Polar explorer John Ross (1777–1856) sailed with William Edward Parry in 1818 to seek a North-West Passage from Baffin Bay. The attempt was unsuccessful, and Ross was widely blamed for its failure. In 1829 he set out on a privately funded expedition on the steamship Victory, accompanied by his nephew James Clark Ross, to try again, returning to England in late 1833. Using survival techniques learnt from the Inuit he befriended, Ross kept his crew healthy through four icebound winters. While the voyage once again failed to find a North-West Passage, it surveyed the Boothia Peninsula and a large part of King William Land. It was also valuable for its scientific findings, with J. C. Ross discovering the magnetic north pole. Ross published this two-volume work in 1835. Volume 1 summarises previous Polar exploration before describing the voyage in great detail, from preparations to the return in 1833.

Robert Huish, Writer & William Light, Purser’s Steward to the Expedition, 1835

The Last Voyage of Capt. Sir John Ross, R. N. KNT. to the Arctic Regions; for the Discovery of a Northwest Passage

John Braithwaite, Merchant, 1835

Supplement to Captain Sir John Ross’s Narrative of a Second Voyage in the Victory in the Search of a Northwest Passage containing the Suppressed Facts Necessary to a Proper Understanding of the Causes of the Failure of the Steam Machinery of the Victory

Sir John Ross, Captain, 1835

Explanation and Answer to Mr. John Braithwaite’s Supplement to Captain John Ross’s Narrative of a Second Voyage in the Victory in Search of a North-West Passage

The Franklin Expedition,
and Search for Missing crew and craft

  • Captain Sir John Franklin, Erebus and Captain Richard Crozier, Terror
  • 1845 - 1848 abandoned and all hands lost
  • No journals recovered

George F. McDougall, Master, 1857

The eventful voyage of H.M. discovery ship "Resolute" to the Arctic regions : in search of Sir John Franklin and the missing crews of H.M. discovery ships "Erebus" and "Terror", 1852, 1853, 1854; to which is added an account of her being fallen in with by an American whaler after her abandonment in Barrow Straits, and of her presentation to Queen Victoria by the Government of the United States

Cambridge Library Collection Printed Books

Book description: The Resolute was a merchant ship purchased by the Royal Navy for service in the search for the lost expedition of Sir John Franklin. Its first voyage to the Canadian Arctic, which took place between 1850 and 1851, proved fruitless, so a second, larger expedition was launched in 1852. Again the Resolute could find no trace of Franklin, and the crew came close to perishing themselves. With their ship trapped in ice, they endured the freezing temperatures and a harrowing trek to Beechey Island to survive. Published in 1857, the present work is the journal of George Frederick McDougall (c.1825–71), who served as master aboard the Resolute. The book features numerous woodcuts and plates, as well as an account of the ship's salvage by an American vessel. Notably, a desk made from the ship's timbers has been used by a number of American presidents in the White House.

Lieut Sherard Osborn, Commanding, HMS Pioneer

Stray leaves from an Arctic journal, or, Eighteen months in the polar regions : in search of Sir John Franklin's expedition, in the years 1850-51

Cambridge Library Collection Printed Books

Book description: By the middle of the nineteenth century, the goal of the North-West Passage had claimed the lives of many explorers, yet the disappearance of the expedition led by Sir John Franklin occasioned the greatest response. Naval officer Sherard Osborn (1822–75) took part in the search mission of 1850–1 under Horatio Thomas Austin. Osborn was appointed to command the Pioneer, one of two steam tenders on the voyage. This was the first time such vessels had been deployed in the punishing conditions of the Arctic. Such was their success in cutting through ice and navigating the treacherous waters that similar models were later adopted by the whaling fleet. The present work, first published in 1852, gives a compelling account of the hardships of the expedition, which was successful in its surveying work and confirmed that Franklin had not been lost in Baffin Bay.

Captain Richard Collinson, HMS Enterprise

Journal of H.M.S. Enterprise, on the expedition in search of Sir John Franklin's ships by Behring Strait, 1850-55

Cambridge Library Collection Printed Books

Book description: Published posthumously in 1889, this journal records the 1850–5 expedition undertaken by naval officer and navigator Sir Richard Collinson (1811–83) to attempt to discover the fate of Sir John Franklin's expedition by entering the hypothetical North-West Passage from the 'other side', via Bering Strait. Franklin, the famous Polar explorer, disappeared on an expedition to discover the Passage in 1845, and no fewer than thirty attempts were made between 1847 and 1859 to investigate what had happened to his 129-strong party. Collinson set out in command of HMS Enterprise in 1850, and his ship, which passed three successive winters in the Arctic, came closest to the place where Franklin's expedition was believed to have ended. Collinson was awarded a Gold Medal by the Royal Geographical Society in 1858 for making a significant contribution to the geographical knowledge of the area, and he was knighted in 1875.

Captain Robert John Le Mesurier M’Clure, Investigator
Edited by Sherard Osborne, Commander, 1856

The discovery of the North-West passage by H.M.S. "Investigator," Capt. R. M'Clure, 1850, 1851, 1852, 1853, 1854

Cambridge Library Collection Printed Books

Book description: By the middle of the nineteenth century, the North-West Passage, a trade route from the Atlantic to the Pacific, had been sought for centuries without success. The Franklin expedition of 1845 became the latest victim, and Irish naval officer Sir Robert John Le Mesurier McClure (1807–73) took part in the attempts to ascertain its fate. His ship, H.M.S. Investigator, spent the years 1850–4 in the Arctic, and in the course of their search for the lost expedition, the crew discovered the North-West Passage. Upon his return to England, following the loss of the Investigator to pack ice, McClure handed over his journals to author and fellow officer Sherard Osborn (1822–75), who prepared this narrative of the pioneering expedition. First published in 1856, the work remains a compelling account of Arctic exploration, revealing how McClure and his men survived four forbidding winters.

Captain McClintock, 1860

The voyage of the 'Fox' in the Arctic seas. A narrative of the discovery of the fate of Sir John Franklin and his companions

Cambridge Library Collection Printed Books

Book description: Sir Francis Leopold McClintock (1819–1907) established his reputation as an Arctic explorer on voyages with Ross and Belcher, undertaking long and dangerous sledge journeys charting the territory. McClintock's account of his 1857–9 expedition on the yacht Fox through the North-West Passage to discover the fate of Arctic explorer Sir John Franklin and his ships, the Erebus and Terror, was first published in 1859. The journey was commissioned by Franklin's widow who, unhappy with the Admiralty's reluctance to seek confirmation of the account of her husband's expedition brought back in 1854 by explorer John Rae, commissioned McClintock to seek corroborating evidence. After a punishing voyage, including 250 days beset by ice in Baffin Bay drifting some 1,400 miles, the search continued by sledge. It was William Hobson, McClintock's second-in-command who found the written evidence documenting Franklin's death in 1847. The grim remains of others who had perished were also discovered.

Captain Sir James Clark Ross, Two Volumes, 1847

Captain James Clark Ross, HMS Erebus, and Commander Francis R. M. Crozier, HMS Terror

A Voyage of Discovery and Research in the Southern and Antarctic Regions During the Years 1839-43

Volume I:

Volume II:

Cambridge Library Collection Printed Books
Volume I:

Volume II:

Book description: James Clark Ross (1800–1862) was an explorer who served in the Royal Navy and made his first Arctic trip in 1818 on an unsuccessful mission to find the North-West Passage between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. On the basis of his polar experience, he was appointed to lead further expeditions, and by 1839 he found himself on the opposite side of the world in the Antarctic, with Joseph Dalton Hooker as his on-board naturalist. This two-volume account of the four-year voyage was published in 1847. Ross' findings led him to the conclusion that there was life on the sea floor to at least 730 metres, and the work is an important contribution to the development of oceanography and scientific knowledge about the Antarctic. Volume 1 covers Ross' journey from England to the Antarctic Circle, detailing the oceanic and climatic observations made along the way. Volume 2 continues the story of the expedition, which eventually reached 78ºS, and discovered the deep bay in the southern ocean now called the Ross Sea.

Sir John Barrow, 1818

A Chronological History of Voyages into the Arctic Regions

Cambridge Library Collection Printed Books

Book description: Sir John Barrow (1764–1848), a founder and early president of the Royal Geographical Society, served as Second Secretary to the Admiralty for forty years. He was responsible for promoting polar exploration, and published two books on the subject for general readers, both now reissued in the Cambridge Library Collection. This, the earlier of the two, appeared in 1818 and is a chronological account of Arctic voyages from the Viking period to the early nineteenth century, and of the intensifying search for a northern route between the Atlantic and the Pacific. Barrow covers the expeditions of European explorers including Cabot, Frobisher, Barentz, Hudson and Baffin. He quotes extracts from their journals to create a vivid picture of the extreme conditions experienced by the explorers, their battles against cold, disease and starvation, their impressions of the plentiful Arctic wildlife, and both friendly and hostile encounters with the Inuit.

Sir John Barrow, 1855

Voyages of discovery and research within the Arctic regions, from the year 1818 to the present time

Cambridge Library Collection Printed Books

Book description: Sir John Barrow (1764–1848) was Second Secretary to the Admiralty for forty years. He was responsible for promoting polar exploration, and published two books on the subject for general readers. A Chronological History of Voyages into the Arctic Regions appeared in 1818, and this 1846 publication continues the story. Drawing on the explorers' own accounts, Barrow describes twelve voyages connected with the search for the North-West Passage. These include two voyages by Sir John Ross, four by Sir William Parry, and two by Sir John Franklin (whose last, fatal expedition was under way when the book was published). Barrow documents the Arctic landscape, fauna and climate, the explorers' clothes and provisions, scurvy (cured by preserved gooseberries and freshly grown mustard and cress), frostbite (necessitating amputations), on-board entertainments, and encounters with 'Esquimaux', providing fascinating insights into the realities of polar expeditions in the mid-nineteenth century.

David Murray Smith F.R.G.S (Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society)

Volumes 1 - 3. Volume 2, page 419, Part VIII: The Franklin Search, a continuation of the previous history provided by Sir John Barrow’s 2nd book on the history of Arctic discovery & research. Note that Captain Collinson’s Journal of the Enterprise was not published until 1889, fourteen years after Smith’s Arctic Expeditions trilogy.

Arctic Expeditions from British and Foreign Shores from the Earliest to the Expedition of 1875, three volumes

Volume I:

Volume II:

Volume III:

Enjar Mikkelsen, 1913 (Original manuscript / journal)

Search for lost Danmarks Expedition of 1906-1908

Lost in the Arctic : being the story of the 'Alabama' expedition, 1909-1912

Ejnar Mikkelsen later re-imagined the expedition with additional human interest as Two Against The Ice, 1957. This eventually became dramatized once more in the 2022 Netflix movie Against the Ice.

"How shall I admire your heroicke courage, ye marine worthies, beyond all names of worthiness ! that neyther dread so long eyther presence or absence of the suune ; nor those foggy mysts, tempestuous winds, cold blasts, snowes and hayle in the ayre : nor the unequall seas, which might amaze the hearer, and amate the beholder, where the Tritons and Neptune's, selfe would quake with chilling feare, to behold such monstrous icie ilands, renting themselves with terrour of their owne massines, and disdayning otherwise both the sea's sovereigntie, and the sunne's hottest violence, mustering themselves in those watery plaines where they hold a continual civill warre, and rushing one upon another, make windes and waves give backe ; seeming to rent the eares of others, while they rent themselves with crashing and splitting their congealed armours." Richard Hakluyt 1589

Map of Central Arctic America 1889 deskewed

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