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Edward Belcher
27 February 1799 – 18 March 1877
Sir Edward Belcher by Stephen Pearce.jpg
Portrait by Stephen Pearce, c. 1859
Place of birth Halifax, Nova Scotia
Place of death London, England
Allegiance United Kingdom
Service/branch Royal Navy
Rank Admiral
Battles/wars First Anglo-Chinese War
Awards KCB

Admiral Sir Edward Belcher, KCB (27 February 1799 – 18 March 1877) was a British naval officer and explorer. He was the great-grandson of Governor Jonathan Belcher. His wife, Diana Jolliffe, was the stepdaughter of Captain Peter Heywood.




Early life

Belcher was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, the second son of Andrew Belcher and entered the Royal Navy in 1812. At the age of 15 or 16, as a midshipman in the Royal Navy, Belcher invented two improved ship's anchors (models of which are in the collection of the Science Museum, London)[citation needed]


In 1825, he accompanied Frederick William Beechey's expedition to the Pacific and Bering Strait, as a surveyor.[1] He subsequently commanded a surveying ship on the north and west coasts of Africa and in the British seas. Belcher married Diana Jolliffe in 1833[1] and three years thereafter took up the work which Beechey had left unfinished on the Pacific coast of South America. He was on board the bomb vessel HMS Sulphur, which was ordered to return to England in 1839 by the Trans-Pacific route. Belcher made various observations at a number of islands which he visited, was delayed by being despatched to take part in the war in China in 1840.

In 1841, the then Commander Belcher landed on Possession Point at the north shore Hong Kong Island and made the first British survey of Hong Kong harbour. After the war's end in 1842 he reached home and for his services was made a Knight Bachelor in the following year.[1] He was then engaged in HMS Samarang, in surveying work in the East Indies, the Philippines, Geomun-do (Port Hamilton) and other places, until 1847.

Arctic expedition

In 1852, he was given command of the government Arctic expedition in search of Sir John Franklin. This was unsuccessful; Belcher's inability to render himself popular with his subordinates was peculiarly unfortunate in an Arctic voyage, and he was not wholly suited to command vessels among ice. Four of the five ships (HMS Resolute, Pioneer, Assistance, and Intrepid)[2] were abandoned in pack ice, for which Belcher was court-martialed but acquitted. One of the ships, HMS Resolute, was later recovered, intact, by an American whaler. Timbers from the ship were later used to manufacture a desk, which has often been chosen by presidents of the United States for use in the White House Oval Office.

Later life

Following his last active service, he was awarded a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath in 1867 and an admiral in 1872.


Belcher is commemorated in Hong Kong through Belcher's Street, Belcher Bay and The Belcher's in Kennedy Town. His name is also commemorated in the Belcher Islands, in the Canadian Arctic.


He published a Treatise on Nautical Surveying (1835), Narrative of a Voyage round the World performed in H.M.S. Sulphur, 1836-1842 (1843), Narrative of the Voyage of H.M.S. Samarang during 1843-1846 (1848; the Zoology of the Voyage was separately dealt with by some of his colleagues, 1850), and The Last of the Arctic Voyages (1855); besides minor works, including a novel, Horatio Howard Brenton (1856), a story of the navy.


  1. ^ a b c Dod, Robert P. (1860). The Peerage, Baronetage and Knightage of Great Britain and Ireland. London: Whitaker and Co.. pp. 112. 
  2. ^ Mowat, Farley (1973) (The Fate of Franklin). Ordeal by ice; the search for the Northwest Passage. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart Ltd. p. 285. OCLC 1391959. 
  • This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.
  • Coleman, E. C. (2007). The Royal Navy and Polar exploration: from Franklin to Scott. Stroud: Tempus. (2007), The Royal Navy and Polar exploration., Stroud: Tempus, ISBN 0752442074 
  • Alexander, C. (2003). The Bounty: the true story of the mutiny on the Bounty. New York: Viking. (2003), The Bounty : the true story of the mutiny on the Bounty, New York: Viking, ISBN 067003133X 

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