15. Ross, John, Sir (1777-1856)
Narrative of a Second Voyage in Search of a Northwest Passage, and of a Residence in the Arctic Regions during the Years 1829, 1830, 1831, 1832, 1833. London: A.W. Webster, 1835.
Two Inuit drawing a map aboard the Victory, from John Ross, Narrative of a Second Voyage, 1835.
Tulluachiu, a “Boothian,” displaying his new wooden leg,
from John Ross, Narrative of a Second Voyage, 1835
Since John Ross was unable to get another command after the Croker Mountains fiasco (see item 2), he convinced a London gin merchant, Felix Booth, to finance a private venture. They brought a schooner, the Victory, and converted it to a side-wheel steamer.
The plan was to sail down through Prince Regent Inlet, where Parry had been stymied on his second voyage, to search for a Northwest Passage. In 1829, the ship managed to get quite a ways down the Gulf of Boothia (which Ross named after his patron), and winter over at Felix Harbour. However, in succeeding summers they were able to move the Victory only a few miles, so they ended up spending three winters in the Gulf.
Finally, Ross abandoned the ship, and they sledged up to Fury Beach, where they helped themselves to provisions and boats left by Parry (see item 10). They spent another winter there, before escaping out Lancaster Sound, to be picked up by the Isabella, Ross’s old ship of 1818, now a whaler.
Second in command was Commander James Clark Ross, John Ross’s nephew, and the younger Ross undertook several lengthy sledge expeditions, crossing the Isthmus of Boothia (called Boothia Felix by Ross), and discovering King William Land (not yet know to be an island). The crowning achievement of the voyage came on June 1, 1831, when Commander Ross planted a flag at the magnetic north pole, at a spot they called Cape Adelaide.
Since they had a great deal of time on their hands, Ross and the crew became quite interested in and friendly with the local Inuit (Ross called them “Boothians”!). Several of them drew a map of the region which turned out to be quite accurate. Another had lost a leg long ago, and the ship’s carpenter made him a wooden replacement, which he displayed quite proudly in a portrait with his wife and daughter.The Library just recently acquired a second copy of this Narrative, with many of the illustrations in original color; click here for more information on this new acquisition.