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    Admiral Sir Edward Belcher

    Encyclopedia Arctica 15: Biographies

    001      |      Vol_XV-0106                                                                                                                  






            Sir Edward Belcher (1799- ----- 1877) was the descendant of an old and distinguished

    New England family, whose founder in the New World was Andrew Belcher ,

    born 1615, son of Thomas Belcher of London. Andrew Belcher's name

    first appears in New England in 1659. His great-grandson was Chief

    Justice Jonathan Belcher, and Jonathan's son Andrew became a

    prominent merchant of Halifax , N.S. , and a member of the Nova Scotia

    Council. In 1792 , Andrew married Marianne Von Geyer, daughter of

    Frederick and Susan Von Geyer of Boston, another old and distinguished

    New England family. By this marriage there were 11 children , of whom

    Edward was born in 1799. Edward's sister Catherine married Charles

    Marryat , M.P., father of the novelist Frederick Marryat. . Hence, when

    Frederick visited the United States U.S. in 1837, at the height of his fame as a

    novelist , he was eagerly hailed by the American P p ress as a "Boston Boy"

    though later threatened with lynching for the things he said about

    America and American habits.

            Edward Belcher entered the Royal Navy in 1812. In 1816 he was a

    midshipman in the "Superb" Superb and took part in the bombardment of Algiers.

    He was made L l ieutenant in 1818, and in 1825 was appointed As'st assistant

    S s urveyor to H.M.S. "Blossom" Blossom, in command of Captain F.W.Beech e y , : and

    sailed on a voyage of discovery, exploration, and survey which lasted

    three years, and which covered the entire Pacific Ocean, the Be h ring

    Strait s , and the North American A a rctic coast eastward to Point Barrow.

    The greater part of the "Blossom's" Blossom's time was spent visiting and

    surveying the Pacific I i slands. A manuscript in Belcher's writing

    dated "Pitcairn Island 4th Dec. 1825 (Sunday) " describes the island

    and it inhabitants at that date, and a manusc r ipt also in Belcher's writing

    002      |      Vol_XV-0107                                                                                                                  
    gives a long description of Tahiti. These descriptions correspond so

    closely with those of Capt Beech e y in his "Voyage of the "Blossom" Voyage of the Blossom

    that Beechey probably copied Belcher's MS. It was the custom that all

    journals , etc. , kept by the officers of the Royal Navy exploring vessels

    should be first handed over to the Admiralty on the return of such

    vessels to England. It was on th e is voyage of th e is "Blossom" Blossom that

    Belcher gained his first experience of the Arctic.

            When Beechey left England in 1825 an important part of his instructions

    directed him to proceed eastward from Be h ring Strait in the summer of

    1826 in the hope that Franklin, who was travel l ing westward from the

    Mackenzie River that same summer might be met and aided. Franklin was

    informed of the instructions given to Beechey, and enjoined not to run

    undue risks in attempting to meet the "Blossom" Blossom . Before they left

    England on their respective travels Beechey and Franklin had discussed

    details of meeting, and arrangement for places where records or caches

    might be found. Franklin and some of his men left England on Feb 16 ,

    1825 , bound for Be h ring Strait via New York, Canada, and the Mackenzie R. iver.

    Beechey left Spithead on May 19th , 1825 , bound for Be h ering Strait via

    Cape Horn.

            The extensive explorations and surveys carried out by the

    "Blossom" Blossom in the Pacific have no place in an Encyclopedia dealing with

    the Arctic. But part of a letter from Belcher to his father may be

    quoted on account of its Arctic interest. This letter is dated

    " H.M.S "Blossom" Woahoo(one of the Sandwich Islands) May 29th 1826,"

    It concludes:---"Tomorrow, on dit, we sail for Peter and Pauls or

    " Petropauloskoi where I understand we send dispatchs through St Petersburg

    and from where I shall write to you again as the conveyance is sure

    and only two months from England. From Peter and Paul's we proceed to

    Kotzebue's Sound where we leave a party (on Chamisso Island) to wait for

    Franklin and party until our return from Behring Streights. Who will be

    003      |      Vol_XV-0108                                                                                                                  
    "the unfortunate is a mystery, I do not think it will be me as I expect

    to command the Barge on the Northern Survey, no enviable [ ?] ommand you

    will say. Should Franklin not arrive before October I think it not

    unlikely a party will be left all winter to await him, in which case I

    think I will volunteer, this will depend on my judgment of the weather

    I find previously . I think it would considerably augment my future

    claims. As we have been disappointed in our expectations of supply of

    bread and flour here the Captain has said he will go first to China then

    here provided we have not Franklin on board, in which case it is

    probable we shall go direct home after touching here. As he acts at

    present on his own judgment there is no depending on one word he says

    therefore I will not lead you astray "

            On her first voyage in A a rctic waters the "Blossom" Blossom reached Icy Cape,

    Belcher's services were required for the survey work along the coast

    and Elson, the Master of the "Blossom" Blossom was put in command of the barge.

    Under his leadership the coast was explored to Point Barrow and a short

    distance beyond before they turned back on August 25th

            Meanwhile Franklin on his journey westward from the mouth of the

    Mackenzie River had reached his f u a rthest point west at Return Reef

    on August 18th. After their long journeys a gap of only 150 miles

    had prevented Franklin from connecting with Beechey. If it had not been

    for the delay Franklin suffered at Foggy Island he might well have met

    Elson at Point Barrow or even to the west of it. Perhaps it is just as

    well Franklin did not know of the proximity of the party from the

    "Blossom" Blossom or that of the "Blossom" Blossom herself. Had he known these things for

    certain he might have been tempted to push on at all costs in an effort

    to connect with the "Blossom" Blossom , and such an attempt might have proved

    fatal to his party. For he could not, at that date, have overtaken the

    barge, and he would have arrived at Kotzebue Sound probably too late

    004      |      Vol_XV-0109                                                                                                                  
    to connect with the "Blossom" ship .

            Next year the "Blossom" Blossom returned to the Arctic, the intervening time

    having been spent in continuing her survey in the Pacific. In 1827

    conditions for navigation were less favorable than they had been in 1826

    and the "Blossom" Blossom was unable to reach Icy Cape. Once more the barge

    was sent eastward , this time under the command of Belcher. After an

    unsuccessful search for any traces of Franklin the barge was wrecked in

    a sudden and severe storm near the rendezvous at Chamisso Island.

    Three lives were lost, and the barge was a total loss. No blame attaches

    to Belcher for this misfortune , ; on the contrary , he was not only

    exonerated from all blame, but in a report to the Admiralty by Captain

    Beechey was complimented for his behavior under very trying circumstances.

            The "Blossom" Blossom returned to England after her long voyage on Oct 12th ,

    1828. Belcher was made Commander on March 16th, 1829, and from May 1830 to September

    1833 was in command of H.M.S. "Aetna" Aetna engaged mostly in the survey of

    the north and west coasts of Africa. Part of this time the "Aetna" Aetna was

    stationed in the Duoro to protect British interests while a civil war

    raged in Portugal. After being paid off from the "Aetna" Aetna , Belcher was

    employed surveying in home waters, especially of those coasts bordering

    on the Irish Sea. In 1836 he was appointed to command H.M.S. "Sulphur" Sulphur ,

    then on the W w est C c oast of South America, taking over from his old friend

    and commander Captain Beechey, whose health required his return to England.

    During the next three years the "Sulphur" Sulphur was employed on the survey of the

    W w est C c oasts of South and North America. At the end of May 1839 Belcher

    received orders to return to England by way of the Cape of Good Hope

    and to make further surveys of South Sea Islands while en route.

    On the arrival of the "Sulphur" Sulphur at Singapore in October 1840 these orders

    were countermanded, and instructions were given to return to China

    to take part in the war which had broken out there. For the next year he

    005      |      Vol_XV-0110                                                                                                                  
    was actively engaged in China waters, especially in surveying

    operations in the Canton River. The "Sulphur" Sulphur finally arrived back

    in England in July 1842, after a commission of nearly seven years.

            Belcher had been advanced to Post rank May 1841, and had been

    decorated for his b distinguished services with a C.B. In January 1843

    he received the honor of knighthood. In Nov . 1842 he was appointed to

    the command of H.M.S. "Samarang" Samarang for the survey of the China C c oast,

    the Phillipine Islands, and Formosa. Belcher prosecuted this

    extensive work with marked ability, and for a period of five years .

    He returned to England on the last days of 1847.

            In 1852 he was appointed to command the last of the Naval Ar c tic

    V v oyages in search of Sir John Franklin's ships. And so, after a

    space of twenty years, Belcher, now Sir Edward in recognition of

    his distinguished service, returned once more to the North,

    and once again was engaged in a search for traces of Franklin.

            This part of Belcher's career is most familiar to the general public

    and it may be well briefly to review the events of the Franklin Search

    up to the time of his appointment.

            Two N n aval expeditions and a number of private vessels had been

    engaged in searching Lancaster Sound and the various straits and inlets

    leading from it. But , except for evidence that Franklin had wintered

    with his ships at Beech e y Island in 1845- - 46 , no traces of the missing

    ships had been found; nor , most strangely, no records, not even at

    Beechey Island. The ships of Austen's squadron, immediately preceding

    Belcher's, had been hampered in their task by the unfavorable condition

    of the ice in the severe winter of 1851- - 52 . In spite of difficulties ,

    much exploration had been carried out, and it had been established

    with practical certainty that Franklin must have pursued a course by

    one of the straits leading to the south from Lancaster Sound, in

    pursuance of the orders that had directed him to explore such openings .

    006      |      Vol_XV-0111                                                                                                                  
    and to seek for a North W w est Passage as close as possible to the

    shores of North America.

            In 1852 not only were Franklin's two ships missing, but also the two

    ships "Enterprise" Enterprise and "Investigator" Investigator which had been sent into the

    Arctic by way of Be h ring Strait s to prosecute the search from the

    west eastward, and there was acute uneasiness on their behalf. Public

    opinion, though it counted for but little by with the Admiralty, was becomin g

    ominously critical of the manner in which the search was being directed

    and the barren results achieved. The nervous state of mind of the

    Admiralty is reflected in the I i nstructions Belcher was given as regards

    the safety of the ships and more especially of the crews. No risks

    were to be taken by remaining in the Arctic for longer than a strictly

    limited period of time.

            It has become a matter of tradition, one might say dogma, to

    describe Belcher as Old; Incompetent; In Bad Health; of No Arctic

    Experience; and as having the reputation of being an Unpopular Commander

    with his subordinate officers. As regards his A a ge , he was five years

    younger than Franklin at the time Franklin was appointed to command

    the discovery ships of 1845.

            The charge of I i ncompetence may be

    dismissed at once as absurd. Belcher's highly distinguished career

    of the previous twenty-five years is a sufficient answer to this

    charge. A typical instance of branding Belcher as I i ncompetent

    may be quoted here, and from one of whom it might be least expected.

    It occurs in a book by the well - known Archdeacon Hudson Stuck,

    missio j n ary, travel l er in the Arctic, and author of some of the best

    books about Alaska that have been written. In his "Winter Journey Winter Journey

    around Our Arctic Coasts" around Our Arctic Coasts , Archdeacon Stuck writes thus of Belcher

    "Belcher, to whom I referred disparagingly, opened his career by

    " losing the "Blossom"s barge — " etc. There is less excuse for Archdeacon Stuck to make such a statement

    007      |      Vol_XV-0112                                                                                                                  
    than for almost any other man, Clement Captain AI l bert Markham alone

    excepted. Stuck had read Beechey's narrative, for he writes of it

    in high praise, which it deserves. He also refers to "My copy" of the

    book, in which Beechey's chapter on the Eskimos is annotated in

    manuscript " By the man who, whatever one may think of some of his

    " views, knows more about the western Eskimos at first hand than any

    "other living man — V Stefansson — and it is surprising to fi how little

    "he finds to correct."

            It may should be noted in passing that Belcher may have written this descripti on

    of the Eskimos referred to, for he came in closer and more frequent

    contact with them than Beechey did: and it had been pointed out that

    Belcher almost certainly wrote the description of Pitcairn Island and

    of Tahiti tha n t appears in Beechey's book.

            The Archdeacon makes it plain that he does not agree with Stefansson

    on "Some of his views" without stating what views, nor why he disagreed.

    On what grounds does he disagree with Beechey regarding Belcher and the

    loss of the barge ? In fact the Archdeacon's statement in regard to

    Belcher is unfounded, preposterous, and maliciously ignorant and presumptuous : and comin g

    from a n man author so generally accurate, so well known and distinguishe d

    it may well be mistaken as authoritative.

            Belcher was by no means an incompetent officer, but is sometimes an

    incompetent and confused writer, and on this hand therefore often leaves himself

    wide open to misinterpretation and criticism. But on some subjects

    he wrote very well, especially those dealing with technical matters.

    His "Treatise on Nautical Surveying" was long a standard work on the

    subject. His Reports to the Admiralty are clearly expressed, and so are

    his Instructions to his officers, though often written under to meet complicated and

    unpredictable circumstances. He was a trained engineer, an expert

    mechanical draughtsman , and an artist of considerable ability, for his

    008      |      Vol_XV-0113                                                                                                                  
    water - colors and sketch e s illustrating the Arctic in his account of his expedition

    are much the best of any of the Naval officers of the period.

    He was most ingenious in the devi s c es he employed to secure the safety

    of the ships and the comfort and well-being of their crews; and in

    making accurate scientific observations. On these matters he wrote well

    but they are usually beyond the comprehension of his critics and he has

    been judged by his account of matters concerning which he wrote badly.

            Far too much has been made of the charge that Belcher was unpopular

    with his officers. The Royal Naval Service of the period 1825--1850

    was saturated with sychphancy, a down-growth from the latter Hanoverian

    monarchs, particularly from William IVth ("Silly Billy") who posed

    as a Sailor King and the Patron of the Royal Navy. The inevitable

    concomitants to sycophancy are jealousies and quarrels, and such were

    peculiarly rife among the officers of those ships which served long

    commissions on the surveys of the Pacific Ocean. In this service

    Belcher was pre-eminent, and such officers as Collinson,Kellett,and

    others had gained well deserved renown. Kellett appears to have been

    jealous of Belcher, and adroit at using others to make trouble. The

    affair on the "Sulphur" Sulphur affords an illustration of this. When Belcher

    joined that ship as Captain, he found Kellett, who had been First

    Lieutenant under Beechey acting as Commander until his arrival, and

    Collinson temporarily promoted to First Lieutenant.

            Collinson had been with Belcher for three years on the "Aetna" Aetna .

    During that time the men were good friends. Collinson writes of

    Belcher that he was exceedingly " friendly and considerate" : "It is a

    "pleasure to go with Belcher ---the most indefatigable person I have

    ever met---only one fault, he is his own trumpeter . " And Belcher

    wrote to the Hydrographic Office praisin g Collinson : "Mr Collinson is

    "the best officer on the ship . " Later, when vacancies occurred in

    the As'st Surveyorship, Collinson was passed over, and he appears to

    009      |      Vol_XV-0114                                                                                                                  
    have held Belcher responsible for this, which seems unlikely. When Belche r

    joined the "Sulphur" Sulphur his appointment was viewed "With trepidation" by

    Kellett and Collinson, which indi ac ca tes trouble-making on the part of

    Kellett, for Collinson writes that the new commander behaved "With the

    "greatest cordiality--no doubt the best man we have."

            One suspects

    that Kellett was in some way responsible for the trouble that afterwards

    came to a head between Belcher and Collinson, though Kellett was not

    actually on the ship at the time. It is not recorded what the trouble wa s

    about. Perhaps Belcher " " Blew his own trumpet" too much and too often,

    and this i tt rr itated Collinson 's modesty to such an extent that he showed

    it before Belcher who would be quick to re - act, and to do so in such a manner that

    Collinson felt his honour was injured. He therefore appealed to the

    Admiral of the China Station requesting a court martial, which the

    Admiral refused to grant, probably for lack of sufficient reason. However

    he transferred Collinson to his own ship, and later sent him back to

    England. On arrival there Collinson laid his case before the Admiralty ,

    who refused to take any action in the matter. One may imagine that

    the Admiral on the China Station had informed the Admiralty that

    Collinson was a very able officer, but that he had no real grievance

    against Belcher. Collinson was given the post of Surveying Officer

    and returned to the China Station with Captain Beaufort. He was then

    sent aboard the "Starling" Starling , once more under Kellett. Collinson perhaps

    realized that he had made a fuss about nothing, and that the action of

    the Admiralty had healed the hurt his honor felt. As has been noted ,

    Belcher, Kellett and Collinson all distinguished themselves by their

    valuable services in the China War.

            The choice of Belcher as commander of the expedition of 1852 has been

    criticized, but it was the logical and indeed the best choice. His ability

    had been proved by twenty-five years of exploration and surveys covering

    the whole of the Pacific Ocean. Such criticisms might have been be applied with

    010      |      Vol_XV-0115                                                                                                                  
    more justice to Franklin, who was even older than Belcher at the time of

    his appointment, and whose experience in exploration Arctic travel had been limited

    to journeys by land and small boats, and who lacked experience knowledge of

    exploration by ships.

            Belcher, in command of the expedition, was Captain of the "Assistance" Assistance ,

    with the "Pioneer" Pioneer , a small steam vessel, as consort . , He assumed assuming what

    was considered the more important task of exploring the Wellington

    Channel. Kellett was appointed Captain of the "Resolute" Resolute with the

    "Intrepid" Intrepid as consort, a steam vessel similar to the "Pioneer" Pioneer .

    Kellett was directed to search the western parts of Barrow Straits

    and Melville Sound, through which Parry had passed thirty years before.

    As Captain of the "Resolute" Resolute and senior officer of the western division ,

    Kellett appears to have become impatient of any control by Belcher

    and to consider his an independent command. Perhaps McClure, when

    Kellett rescued him and the crew of the "Investigator" Investigator from their

    imprisonment in Mercy Bay at the north of Banks Land, may have

    encouraged Kellett in this attitude, for so it was that McClure had

    treated his superior officer Collinson.

            There is no evidence of bad feeling between Belcher and the officers

    immediately under him. Commander Richards, Belcher's second in command

    on the "Assistance" Assistance , proved himself a zealous and efficient officer and

    a consistent friend to his Captain.

            Belcher was ever most concerned with the health and welfare of his

    crews. He had reproved Kellett for permitting his men to be over-worked

    at the killing labor of dragging sledges, and thereby permanently injuring

    their health for no better reason than over-zealous competition among

    Kellett's junior officers. When in command of the "Samarang" Samarang his

    coxswain said "We called him 'Old Vinegar Face' but the men liked him."

    Apparently "Old Vinegar Face" was a term of affection rather than

    opprob r ium.

    011      |      Vol_XV-0116                                                                                                                  

            Evidence of Belcher's for e bearing disposition may be found in the

    relations between him and his nephew Frederick Marryat, a brilliant

    but turbulent and quarrelsome character , even at that time when quarrels

    were common. One of Frederick's sons , Sam , was a midshipman aboard the

    "Samarang" Samarang , and Sam appears to have possessed all his father's objectionable

    qualities unredeemed by any of his good ones, and added besides some bad

    qualities peculiarly his own. Sam made such a pest of himself that

    Belcher was obliged to get rid of him and send him back to England.

    A letter from Sir Edward to Frederick Marryat throws light on the

    writer's for e bearance under provocation. It is dated "H.M.S ? "Samara i n g"

    " Anjer July 13th 1846 " and reads " Dear Fred:- They tell me you are

    "very wrothy against me but this is nonsense. You ought to support me

    "for never in my born days did I ever submit to such conduct as I have

    "put up with from 'Master Sam' " The letter tells at some length

    the trouble 'Master Sam' caused, and concludes "And now, my dear fellow

    " let your steam off, and be prepared to make the best of the bargain

    " when we return " Father Frederick and son Sam did let

    their steam off in a long and furious effusion directed against the

    Admiralty, the Navy, and particularly against Sir Edward Belcher. It

    appears to have been intended for the closing chapter of some projected

    novel. In reading over this stuff one's sym ap pa thies are strongly on the

    side of Sir Edward Belcher.

            The most damaging charge against Belcher, and the most frequently

    repeated is "That he showed undue haste in abandoning his vessels".

    Belcher had been given repeated instructions not to incur risks of

    loss of life. Finally , under date of April 28th 1854 , the Admiralty gave

    positive instructions to Belcher , directing : "Your special attention to

    " the measures they now require to be adopted for at once withdrawing

    " if possible, the whole of the force now employed in the search of

    " Sir John Franklin from the Polar Seas " and " If Captain Kellett

    012      |      Vol_XV-0117                                                                                                                  
    has been unable to move from his position at Melville Island it may

    be necessary to give orders to him to abandon the "Resolute" and the "I

    "Intrepid" and secure his retreat to Beechey Island --"

            In the early summer of 1854 Belcher's ships were hopelessly beset on

    the east side of Wellington Channel. His flagship "Assistance" Assistance was

    leaking badly, and there was no prospect of her floating even if free.

    The abandonment of these vessels was a matter of necessity. Kellett's

    ships were beset in the pack of Melville Sound, in no immediate danger

    but with no prospect of liberation except by the slow and perhaps

    fatal drift of the pack into Baffin Bay. This the "Resolute" Resolute

    eventually did, in safety and the fact was seized by Belcher's detractors to

    show how unnecessary the order for abandonment was. In fact it does

    nothing of the sort. Belcher was in a difficult position and the

    Admiralty orders to withdraw were imperative. Kellett's ships

    were not actually in a hopeless condition, but they were burdened with

    the crew of the "Investigator" Investigator , already abandoned. In the face of

    Admiralty orders Belcher could not take the risk of ordering the

    crews of the "Resolute" Resolute and the "Intrepid" Intrepid to remain on their ships.

    Kellett and his men would have gladly obeyed such an order, and the

    order to abandon their vessels was naturally very unwelcome to them.

    But their work was done, and very well done: there was nothing to be

    gained by s staying on their ships. The ships themselves were valueless ,

    they were obsolete, and as Belcher truly said, "Of no more value than

    so much cordwood." Belcher played safe, and by means of three ships

    which had then joined at Beechey Island, brought all of his men and

    the crew of the "Investigator" Investigator back to England in safety.

            I have given as an example of the cultivated persistent bias against Belcher ,

    leading even such a man as Archdeacon Stuck to make damaging and

    unjustified reflections on his competence. What shall be said about

    Albert Markham, one of the notable explorers of a later date ?

    013      |      Vol_XV-0118                                                                                                                  
    Markham states that Belcher's order to abandon the ships was given

    "For some unaccountable reason, best known to Sir Edward Belcher" ; and

    again , "This wholesale abandonment of a fine squadron without any

    "apparent reason." These statements are little short of bewildering,

    and it has been shown they are completely wrong. But coming from Markham

    it is not surprising that they should be accepted as authoritative.

    Such perversion and misrepresentation of facts e c all for more than passing

    notice. What prompted it ? Was it merely reprehensible ignorance and

    carelessness ? Was the perversion deliberate ? and if so, for what end?

    Surely Markham must have been above a desire for cheap popularity by

    saying something the multitude would find acceptable sensational ? He may have been

    influenced by the brilliant Sherard Osborn e whose friend and protege

    he was. Belcher had incurred Osborn e 's bitter enmity for a rebuke

    which one can easily imagine to have been well deserved.

            It is strange to find Markham condemning Belcher for obedience to orders

    which almost certainly saved many lives; when, in later years, in blind obedience to an

    order which he knew must be a blunder, and the execution of which he

    himself described as "Mathematically Impossible" , he sent the latest

    battleship of the British Navy to the bottom with a loss of nearly 400

    lives. This, truly, is one of the darkest pages in the history of

    the British Navy.

            Belcher and his men arrived back in England in October 1854, and at

    about the same time as Rae, who returned from a survey of the mainland

    shores of the Eastern Arctic. Rae brought back a story, derived at

    second hand from a band of Eskimos, of the death of white men near the

    Great Fish River, and from these Eskimos he had obtained relics which

    had belonged to some of Franklin's men. "Unaccountably" indeed , Rae

    had failed to investigate and ver u i fy the report as easily he might have

    done, but it was evident that some at least of Franklin's men must have

    014      |      Vol_XV-0119                                                                                                                  
    reached the mainland, and that at a place persistently denied by the

    Searching Council as likely.

            Then the storm of public indignation, which had been gather ed ing for some years

    broke on the Admiralty for their fatuity in conducting the Franklin

    Search, and especially in their neglect to send parties to look for

    the missing men in those places where they were most likely to be

    found. The Naval authorities at the Admiralty had shown confirmed

    folly in the direction of the search in its latter stages. Now,

    when Rae's report made that folly evident their actions became as

    contemptible as hitherto they had been foolish. To avert criticism and

    to allay public anger , McClure, who had been rescued by Belcher's men

    and who returned to England with them, was presented to the nation

    as a H h ero and the "Discoverer of the Northwest Passage." McClure was

    nothing of the sort. He had acted rashly, disregarding his superior

    officer and in direct disobedience of the Admiralty order enjoining

    the two ships under Collinson not to part company when entering the ice .

    It may be noted that Kellett was stationed at the W w estern entrance

    to the Arctic when McClure arrived in the "Investigator" Investigator , and that

    Kellett strongly advised Mc Clure to wait until Collinson arrived

    before proceeding. Kellett, as McClure's superior officer, had the

    power to order McClure to wait. He might have issued such an order

    when his mere advice was not taken, but McClure did not wait to give for

    Kellett a chance to do so. By the strange operation of chance it

    was reserved for Kellett to rescue McClure three years later.

    McClure indeed des e rves much credit for the notable explorations he

    effected. He nearly circumnavigated Banks Land, his journey along

    the west coast of that island being a very difficult and hazardous one .

    It was a matter to be deplored that McClure showed poor judgment

    in laying up his ship in Mercy Bay, instead of boldly continuing his

    journey when the porospects were favorable and when there was open

    015      |      Vol_XV-0120                                                                                                                  
    water ahead. Had he grasped that opportunity he would have most likely

    taken his ship all the way from the Pacific to the Atlantic. McClure

    seems to have lost his nerve at a critical time, the strain of the

    passage along the dangerous west coast of Bank's Land might well

    excuse this. He had made a very fine voyage, but it was absurd

    the call him "The Discoverer of the North West Passage" and to assign

    the reward for doing so to him, when he had lost his ship, had been

    rescued and brought to safety by passages already well known and

    explored, and first discovered by Parry th ri ir ty years previously.

    Other and more practical "Passages" exist, these had been discovered

    and explored by various different men, Franklin and Collinson

    chiefly among them. Collinson did indeed deserve special praise and

    reward for making one of the most successful voyages in the history

    of Arctic exploration, achieving results that dwarfed McClure's,

    and it might be said, of any of his predecessors.

            The Admiralty employed the device well-known to governments and

    corporations of diverting public anger from their own acts by creating

    a Hero, or a Scape Goat. McClure was made the Hero, with much public

    acclaim; Belcher the Scape Goat. Belcher's defence at his court

    martial was so feeble that one suspects he was willing to sacrifice

    himself for the repute of the Service. Collinson, who did not get back

    to England until after the storm had died down, was merely ignored.

    The mismanagement of the Franklin Search was forgotten amid the

    more appalling official blunders of the Crimean War, and the Admiralty

    made haste to wind up the whole discreditable affair. Franklin was

    officially declared dead, though no proof of his death had been

    established. Now that it was known where some at least of his men

    had perished, and where some record of their end might be found

    the Admiralty did nothing further about it, but to their lasting disgrac e

    left it to Lady Franklin and her devoted aides to discover the only

    016      |      Vol_XV-0121                                                                                                                  
    record known, and the traces from which the tragic end of the

    Franklin Expedition may be constructed.

            In later years Belcher's real merits were recognized by new

    authorities at the Admiralty. His F f lag rank of Admiral was duly

    attained as a matter of course and seniority. The honour of K.C.B.

    with which he was decorated in 1867 was a belated recognition of merit.

    He died in 1877 at the age of 78.

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