Sir James Clerk Ross

James Clark Ross (1800-1862) joined the Navy aged 12 and gained his first polar experience with his uncle, John Ross, on his 1819 search for the North West Passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

After surveying with his uncle in 1819, James Clark Ross took three further Arctic voyages between 1820-25. He carried out surveys, took meteorological and other observations and collected and recorded the animal, bird, marine and plant life. He discovered a new species of gull which now bears his name. 

In 1827 he and William Parry, John Ross's second in command, reached further north than any previous expedition in an attempt to reach the North Pole by sledge. The record stood for over 50 years. He rejoined his uncle for a privately funded 1829-34 expedition and during this voyage he led the first team to reach the magnetic North Pole. After this he was appointed to conduct the first systematic magnetic survey of the British Isles. 

During John Ross's 1829-1834 voyage, James Clark covered some 500 miles in sledge journeys, successfully reaching the magnetic North Pole on 1st June 1831. He also developed a better diet based on that of the natives. This undoubtedly contributed to their remarkable record of survival for over four years. 

When the Admiralty decided on an Antarctic expedition, he was chosen to command it. He set out in 1839 in Erebus and Terror, two bomb ketches. Unlike the earlier whalers, these ships were small, heavy and shallow draughted. Ross sailed further south than any previous voyage, and came within 160 miles of the magnetic South Pole. He charted large areas of coast and brought back masses of scientific data and specimens. As a minor activity he undertook a survey of part of the Falkland Islands and laid out Port Stanley. 

He settled down to shore life on his return in 1843, but made one further voyage to the Arctic in 1848, a fruitless search for Sir John Franklin. He was made a Rear-Admiral in 1856 and died in 1862. 

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