John Biscoe

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

John Biscoe (born June 28, 1794 in London , † 1843 at sea) was an English navigator and explorer. On his expedition to the Southern Ocean from 1830 to 1832, he was the third person after James Cook and Fabian von Bellingshausen to sail around the Antarctic continent and discovered the Enderbyland , the Grahamland and the Adelaide and Biscoe Islands .


Early years

Biscoe was born in London in 1794. At 17 he volunteered for the Royal Navy and took part in the British-American War . In 1815 he retired from the army with the rank of captain. Little is known about the years that followed until 1830. Biscoe hired on merchant ships that took him to the Caribbean, among other places.

Expedition to Antarctica

In 1830 Biscoe was given command of the 150-tonne brig Tula by the London whale and seal company Samuel Enderby & Sons . The aims of the company were on the one hand to find the Aurora Islands suspected to be near South Georgia , and on the other hand to look for good hunting grounds for sealing seals on the South Sandwich Islands . On the voyage, the Tula was accompanied by the 50-ton cutter Lively . On July 10, 1830, the two ships with a crew of 29 men set sail from London.

At first, progress was slow. The Cape Verde Islands were reached on July 21, and finally the Falkland Islands on November 9 . There the captain of the Lively deserted after Biscoe had told him that the cutter could not keep up with the Lively . After supplies were replenished, Biscoe set an east course and on December 10th the first iceberg was sighted. In a subsequent fog, the two ships were briefly separated. After some odyssey, they finally found the South Sandwich Islands, which were marked on Biscoe's map 50 miles east of their actual position, and the seal hunt began there. However, there was little success, so that on December 30th both ships left the archipelago heading south-east.

During the trip, Biscoe made the discovery, which was important for later expeditions, that off the Antarctic coast the wind mainly blows from the east, which, however, made the trip difficult for him. On January 22, 1831, he crossed the Arctic Circle until, six days later, at 69 ° South and 10 ° 43 'East, it reached its southernmost position, 60 miles off the Princess Astrid coast . Thick pack ice made it impossible to continue south.

Land finally came into view on February 25, and Biscoe made his first discovery with the Enderbyland . Three days later he discovered a mountain range (the Scott Mountains ) and named the three highest peaks after the Enderby brothers Mount Charles , Mount George and Mount Henry . On March 5, the two ships were separated in a storm that drove the Tula 120 miles northwest, seriously damaging it. In the hope that the storm could also have driven away the pack ice, Biscoe set south again, and on March 16 the Enderbyland came into view again. However, the pack ice was just as dense as before, and it was not possible to find a suitable landing site in the period that followed. Since scurvy had spread among most of the team, Biscoe set a north course. On May 9th, the Tula finally reached Hobart in Tasmania . Her sister ship, the Lively , did not arrive in Hobart until August, as its original crew of ten had died of scurvy except for the captain, a sailor and the cabin boy.

After the necessary rest, Biscoe continued the journey on October 10th. First they went whaling off the north coast of New Zealand , and then seal hunts on the Chatham Islands . The Bounty Islands were sighted on December 22nd . Now they set an east course in the direction of the South Shetland Islands . Adelaide Island was discovered on February 15, 1832 . Biscoe discovered a mountain range north of the island. He named the area Grahamland after Admiral James Robert George Graham . Five days later he went ashore on Anvers Island to take possession of the area for the British Crown, mistakenly believing that he was on the mainland.

On March 5, the expedition finally reached the South Shetland Islands. Since only modest hunting successes had been achieved so far, Biscoe set course for the Falkland Islands on April 25th to go whale and seal hunting there. However, the success failed again, and the Lively was badly damaged off the coast of Mackay's Island , so that it had to be abandoned. Finally Biscoe decided to go home. On a stopover in Brazil, almost the entire crew deserted except for four sailors and three cabin boys.

Late years

Biscoe was awarded the Royal Premium Medal by the Royal Geographical Society for his discoveries . In 1833 the Enderby Society offered him another, more extensive Antarctic expedition, which Biscoe declined for unknown reasons. In the following years he sailed to the Caribbean on merchant ships. In 1836 he married Emma Crowe in London. The following year he emigrated with his family to Australia and settled first in Sydney and from 1840 in Hobart. In 1838/39 he made another trip to the Antarctic and met John Balleny on Campbell Island . In 1840 and 1841 he sailed on passenger and merchant ships between Sydney, Hobart and Port Phillip , but became increasingly impoverished and finally decided to return to England. Biscoe died during the crossing in 1843. In his honor, Biscoe Bay , the Biscoe Islands , Biscoe Point and Mount Biscoe are named in Antarctica .

Literature and web links