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Captain Robert McClure was an Irish explorer who discovered the Northwest Passage while searching for the lost Franklin Expedition led by Sir John Franklin. He was given credit for its discovery even without navigating it in water and only on ice.
See the fact file below for more information on the Robert McClure or alternatively, you can download our 25-page Robert McClure worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
MCCLURES’S EARLY LIFE
- Sir Robert John Le Mesurier McClure was born on January 28, 1807, in Wexford, Ireland.
- His father, Captain Robert McClure, died while serving with the 89th Regiment of Foot five months before his birth. His mother, Jane Elgee, was the daughter of Archdeacon John Elgee, rector of Wexford. McClure was also a first cousin of Jane Wilde, mother of Oscar Wilde.
- He spent his childhood under his godfather’s wing, John Le Mesurier, the governor of Alderney. His godfather sent him to a rigorous military education at Eton and Sandhurst Academy.
- McClure entered the Royal Navy in 1824 and served as mate of the HMS Terror Expedition commanded by George Back. He became the first HMS Enterprise’s first lieutenant on the 1948 James Clark Ross expedition.
- It was a search expedition to recover Franklin’s lost expedition, an unfortunate expedition to traverse the Northwest Passage led by Sir John Franklin that went missing in 1845.
JOURNEY TO THE NORTHWEST PASSAGE
- The HMS Enterprise expedition was a failure as ice forced them back to England without any information about the missing Franklin. As a result, the British government re-commissioned the Enterprise and the HMS Investigator in 1850 after it met criticism from the public.
- Richard Collinson commanded the Enterprise, and McClure was in charge of the Investigator, which was still under Collinson’s command. They decided to solve the disappearance by starting the search from the Pacific and Alaska.
- The Enterprise and Investigator sailed together from England on January 10, 1850. However, they got separated after passing through the Straits of Magellan. McClure’s Investigator headed through the Pacific but was hit by the storm that destroyed all their three ship masts. They arrived in Honolulu on July 1, 1950, but he found out that Collinson had sailed a day before.
- The two ships did not have any contact with each other for the rest of their voyage. McClure’s team continued their journey through the Pacific and entered the Arctic Ocean through the Bering Strait. They sailed eastward past Point Arrow, Alaska, where its crew planned to meet with another British Expedition.
- A superior officer at the Point Barrow advised McClure to wait for the Enterprise but ignored it. So instead, McClure, disregarding his and Collinson’s original plan, continued east, discovering an island (named Victoria Island now) and a strait, later named Prince of Wales Strait.
- Passing on the channel, he realized that if this body of water were connected to Melville Sound, he would find the long-sought-after Northwest Passage.
- However, on September 17, 1850, while about 30 miles from Melville Sound, he was forced to stop by the increasing ice and rising winds. The ship was eventually iced in for the winter.
- McClure decided to head north. So, on October 21, 1850, he took seven companions and used sleds to navigate the north. They arrived on the north end of Banks Island on the fifth day, climbed a small mountain the next day, and looked out on Melville Sound. Thus, McClure and his men had found the Northwest Passage on October 27, 1850.
RETURNING TO HIS HOMELAND
- The return trip was not easy for McClure and his crew. He got lost, fought his way through a storm, and arrived barely alive after sleepless nights.
- The ship stayed ice-locked during the 1850-1851 winter. While waiting for winter to be over, he sent out three land parties to find traces of the Franklin expedition. They were not successful.
- When the summer finally arrived, he tried to sail again through Prince of Wales Strait into Melville Sound but was stopped by ice 25 miles short of his goal. So, he shifted and tried to sail south and get around Banks Island from the west side. He managed to sail for 300 miles in three days, but on August 20, 1851, the ship got stuck with ice once again. He sailed around on the Northern end of Banks Island only to be stopped by the ice once again.
- Failing to get the Investigator free from the ice, it became evident that they would have to spend another winter in the Arctic. In addition, their food was running low, several of his men got ill with scurvy, and two of his junior officers were showing signs of insanity. He decided to split up his group into three to try to get help overland.
- While McClure and his men were trying to survive, the British government had sent out a search expedition to look for McClure and Collinson, who had also disappeared. Captain Henry Kellett found a note of McClure’s location on Melville Island, where he left five months ago. However, as his ship was also iced in the water, Kellett could not do anything about the information.
- On April 6, 1853, before McClure sent out the search parties, he saw a man running in his direction, who turned out to be Lieutenant Bedford Pim, an officer from Kellett’s ship sent to save them.
- McClure refused to abandon the Investigator at first. However, when three more men died while waiting for supplies and only four men volunteered to accompany him, he decided to give up the ship in Mercy Bay.
- The search parties, and McClure’s team boarded on a supply ship to sail back to England via the Baffin Bay and abandoned Kellett’s two ships as it was already late in the year to depart. They arrived home on September 28, 1854.
WELCOMING AN EXPLORER
- Upon McClure’s arrival, he was court-martialed, a mandatory action for officers who had lost their ship. However, the court cleared him of any offense.
- Later that year, McClure received a knighthood, a Patron’s Gold Medal, and a 10,000 pounds reward.
- He served the Royal Navy Pacific Station from 1856 to 1861. In 1867, he was promoted to rear admiral and vice-admiral in 1873, shortly after his death. He died on October 17, 1873.
Robert McClure Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about Robert McClure across 25 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Robert McClure worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about Robert McClure who was an Irish explorer who discovered the Northwest Passage while searching for the lost Franklin Expedition led by Sir John Franklin. He was given credit for its discovery even without navigating it in water and only on ice.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Robert McClure Facts
- McClure’s Profile
- Fact or Bluff
- Before the Discovery
- McClure’s People
- The Discovery
- Life of an Explorer
- A Challenging Return
- The Tale of Two Ships
- Honoring Robert
- To Follow or Not To Follow
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Link will appear as Robert McClure Facts & Worksheets: https://kidskonnect.com - KidsKonnect, July 8, 2021
Use With Any Curriculum
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