Despite being one of the most experienced Arctic and Antarctic navigators of the first half of the 19th century, Francis Crozier never received the recognition or honors that were bestowed on his colleagues Edward Parry and James Clark Ross. Crozier was a popular commander, respected navigator, and accomplished scientist, yet in five voyages to the Arctic and one four-year circumnavigation of the Antarctic he never rose above second-in-command.
Crozier's upbringing was comfortable. His father and one of his brothers were lawyers and two other brothers became priests. Crozier chose the Navy and joined HMS Hamadryad as a first-class volunteer on June 12, 1810. All his explorations as a naval officer took place during the Golden Age of Arctic Exploration (1818-1859). Most were undertaken to study geography, natural history, and magnetism. As a midshipman, Crozier rounded Cape Horn in HMS Briton in 1814 and was a member of the first British crew to visit Pitcairn Island since the Bounty mutiny.
On May 8, 1821, midshipmen Crozier and James Ross sailed with Parry on his second expedition to determine if there was an outlet from Hudson Bay to the North West Passage. Parry proved Repulse Bay had no outlet to the west, mapped the eastern shore of the Melville Peninsula, and on July 16, 1822 discovered Fury and Hecla Strait but was unable to navigate it due to ice. Crozier was responsible for much of the wide-ranging scientific program and picked up some of the local language during the first extended contact between a European expedition and Inuit of the Canadian mainland.
On May 8,1824, Parry made his third attempt at the North West Passage, accompanied by midshipman Crozier and Lieutenant James Ross. The expedition sailed down Prince Regent Inlet, but was delayed by heavy ice. After wintering at Port Bowen and exploring the eastern shore of the inlet, ice drove the Fury aground on Somerset Island and she was abandoned with a considerable cache of supplies at Fury Beach. The crews returned to London in the Hecla. Again Crozier was involved in the scientific work.
The Navy now turned its attention to the North Pole. Parry, with lieutenants James Ross and Crozier, sailed on April 4, 1827. On June 21 with the Hecla secure in Hecla Cove, Parry set out across the ice for the pole. Crozier accompanied him partway to set up supply caches and then returned to supervise the scientific program, the results of which were published as an appendix in Parry's Narrative of an Attempt to reach the North Pole in 1827.
Between 1831 and 1835, Crozier was engaged in secret work patrolling off Portugal. In 1836, James Ross selected his friend as first lieutenant on a mission to rescue whalers beset in Davis Strait. Despite searching the ice early in the season, Ross and Crozier found no trace of the whaler William Torr or her crew.
In 1839, James Ross was given command of HMS Erebus and an expedition to circumnavigate Antarctica. He gave Crozier command of HMS Terror and put him in charge of the important magnetic studies. A pattern of simultaneous magnetic readings around the world, to some extent, determined Ross's route. The ships sailed from Chatham on September 19 and, after stopping for Crozier to take magnetic readings on the way, arrived separately at Hobart Town in Van Diemen's Land in early August 1840.
The governor of Van Diemen's Land, Sir John Franklin, had an observatory built for Crozier and entertained Ross and his crews. Crozier fell in love with Franklin's niece, Sophia Cracroft, proposed marriage, but was rebuffed.
On November 12, Ross and Crozier left Hobart Town and, on January 11, 1841, first sighted the Antarctic continent. That summer they mapped the coast and the Ross ice sheet; named Cape Crozier, the only breeding ground of the Emperor penguin; Mount Sabine; and the volcanoes Mts Erebus and Terror, the former being observed in eruption. On April 6, they returned to overwinter in Hobart Town.
On July 7, Ross sailed for Australia, where Crozier took readings and established magnetic observatories. From August to October, Crozier continued this work in New Zealand, before heading south once more on November 3. Plagued by storms and trapped in the pack ice for much of the season, the ships did not sight Antarctica before they had to retreat to winter quarters at the Falkland Islands on April 6, 1842. Word was awaiting the ships of Crozier's promotion to the rank of post-captain.
Crozier took an extensive set of magnetic readings over the winter. On September 8, both ships left the Falkland Islands, and between September 20 and November 1 Crozier took readings on Hermite Island at Cape Horn. After a brief return to the Falklands, Ross headed south on December 17. Conditions during the third season were even worse than previous and Crozier was fully occupied handling his ship. On January 6, Ross and Crozier formally took possession of Cockburn Island. On March 5, Ross ordered a return to England, and on April 4 they anchored in Simon's Bay at the Cape of Good Hope. After stops to take readings at St Helena, Ascension, and Rio de Janeiro, Erebus and Terror anchored off Folkstone on September 4, 1843.
During 1844, Franklin returned from Van Diemen's Land and Crozier again unsuccessfully pursued his suit with Sophia Cracroft. As a consolation, he went on a tour of Italy, but was called back with the offer to be Franklin's second-in-command on the upcoming traverse of the North West Passage. Oddly, Crozier was not offered the magnetic work on this expedition, which went to the inexperienced James Fitzjames.
Franklin's third expedition, with Crozier as captain of the Terror, sailed from Greenhithe on May 19,1845. Crozier took over his first independent command on the death of Franklin on June 11, 1847, and was still alive when he signed the Victory Point note on April 25, 1848. Some poorly recorded Inuit stories suggest that an officer, who may have been Crozier, was seen as late in the early 1850s as far east as the Melville Peninsula, but nothing certain is known of his fate.
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