The Royal Navy, Ruler of the Seas

Arctic Exploration

A Series of Expeditions

The next quarter century witnessed many expeditions led by officers of the Royal Navy. Whalers, now that new whaling grounds were opened to them to hunt the great cetaceans, quickly followed their lead. In 1829 Captain John Ross embarked on a search for the Northwest Passage, but the ice in the Gulf of Boothia firmly imprisoned his steamship, which had to be abandoned in May 1832. The crew survived by living like the Inuit, with whom they had become friends, and they were rescued by whalers the following year. During the voyage, Ross noted that at 72° North his compass read 90° North, and he thereby discovered the magnetic North Pole! The research passionately interested Sir James Beaufort, chief hydrographer of the Royal Navy, who did everything he could to encourage Arctic exploration. There were other reconnaissance trips, and then in 1845 a large-scale expedition was formed to settle, once and for all, the mystery of the Northwest Passage.