Sir James Clark Ross

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James Clark Ross

Birthdate: (61)
Birthplace: Finsbury Square, London, England
Death: April 3, 1862 (61)
Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, England
Place of Burial: St James The Great, Aston Abbotts, Buckinghamshire, England
Immediate Family:

Son of George Ross and Christina Clark
Husband of Ann Coulman
Father of James Coulman Ross; Anna Ross; Thomas Robert James Ross and Charlotte (Graves??) Ross
Brother of Ross and Ross

Occupation: Famous Antartica Explorer
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Sir James Clark Ross

Sir James Clark Ross (15 April 1800 – 3 April 1862) was a British naval officer and explorer remembered today for his exploration of the Arctic with his uncle Sir John Ross and Sir William Parry and, in particular, his own expedition to Antarctica.

Arctic explorer

Ross was born in London, the nephew of Sir John Ross, under whom he entered the navy in 1812, accompanying him on Sir John's first Arctic voyage in search of a Northwest Passage in 1818. Between 1819 and 1827, Ross took part in four Arctic expeditions under Sir William Parry, and in 1829 to 1833, again served under his uncle on Sir John's second Arctic voyage. It was during this trip that they located the position of the North Magnetic Pole on 1 June 1831 on the Boothia Peninsula in the far north of Canada. It was on this trip, too, that Ross charted the Beaufort Islands, later renamed Clarence Islands by his uncle.

In 1834, Ross was promoted to Captain. In December 1835, he offered his services to the Admiralty to resupply 11 whaling ships which had become trapped in Baffin Bay. They accepted his offer and he set sail in the HMS Cove in January 1836. The crossing was difficult, and by the time he had reached the last known position of the whalers in June, all but one had managed to return home. Ross found no trace of this last vessel, the William Torr, which was probably crushed in the ice in December 1835. He returned to Hull in September 1836 with all his crew in good health.

From 1835–39, except for his voyage with the Cove, he conducted a magnetic survey of Great Britain with Edward Sabine.

Antarctic explorer

Between 1839 and 1843, Ross commanded an Antarctic expedition comprising the vessels HMS Erebus and HMS Terror and charted much of the coastline of the continent. Support for the expedition had been arranged by Francis Beaufort, hydrographer of the Navy and a member of several scientific societies. On the expedition was Joseph Dalton Hooker, who had been invited along as assistant surgeon. Erebus and Terror were bomb vessels – an unusual type of warship named after the mortar bombs they were designed to fire and constructed with extremely strong hulls, to withstand the recoil of the mortars, which were to prove of great value in thick ice.

In 1841, James Ross discovered the Ross Sea, Victoria Land, and the volcanoes Mount Erebus and Mount Terror, which were named for the expedition's vessels. They sailed for 250 nautical miles (460 km) along the edge of the low, flat-topped ice shelf they called the Victoria Barrier, later named "Ross Ice Shelf" in his honour. In the following year, he attempted to penetrate south at about 55°W, and explored the eastern side of what is now known as James Ross Island, discovering and naming Snow Hill Island and Seymour Island. It is interesting to note that Ross reported that Admiralty Sound (which he named Admiralty Inlet appeared to Ross to have been blocked by glaciers at its southern end. He was elected to the Royal Society in 1848 and knighted in 1844.

In 1848, he was sent on one of three expeditions to find Sir John Franklin. (The others were the Rae-Richardson Arctic Expedition and the HMS Plover-HMS Herald expedition through the Bering Strait.) He was given command of HMS Enterprise, accompanied by HMS Investigator, Because of heavy ice in Baffin Bay he only reached the northeast tip of Somerset Island where he was frozen in at Port Leopold. In the spring he and Francis McClintock explored the west coast of the island by sledge. He recognized Peel Sound but thought it too ice-choked for Franklin to have used it (In fact Franklin had used it in 1846.). Next summer he tried to reach Wellington Channel but was blocked by ice and returned to England.

James was married to Lady Ann Ross. He died at Aylesbury in 1862, five years after his wife. A blue plaque marks Ross's home in Eliot Place, Blackheath, London. His closest friend was Captain Francis Rawdon Moira Crozier with whom he sailed many times. Crozier has never been found after he participated in The Franklin Expedition and became leader after the death of Sir John Franklin.

James also lived in the ancient country house of the Abbotts of St Albans, later known as The Abbey, Aston Abbotts in Buckinghamshire. He is buried with his wife in the local churchyard. In the gardens of the Abbey there is a lake with two islands, named after the ships Terror and Erebus.


The Ross seal, one of the four Antarctic phocids, first described during the expedition of 1839-1843.

The James Ross Strait, in the Canadian province of Nunavut, is named after him.

Named after James Ross, the Ross Ice Shelf is Antarctica's largest ice shelf.

RRS James Clark Ross is a British Antarctic Survey research ship.

The crater Ross on the Moon is jointly named after James Clark Ross and Frank Elmore Ross.

Ross's Gull, a small gull, the only species in its genus, that breeds in the high arctic of northernmost North America and northeast Siberia.

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Sir James Clark Ross's Timeline

April 15, 1800
Finsbury Square, London, England
September 15, 1844
Age 44
Goole, York, England
Age 46
Whitgift, York, England
Age 47
Shireoaks, Nottingham, England
Age 49
April 3, 1862
Age 61
Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, England
St James The Great, Aston Abbotts, Buckinghamshire, England