George McDougall collection

Scope and Content

The collection comprises of correspondence by McDougall written during the British Naval Franklin Search Expedition, 1852-1854 (leader Henry Kellett)

Administrative / Biographical History

George Frederick McDougall was born circa 1825. He was educated at Greenwich School, joining the Royal Navy in 1839. Between 1842 and 1847, he served as master's assistant under Sir Edward Belcher in HMS Samarang, which was engaged in survey work in the South China Sea. He later served in HMS Jackal and HMS Victory until 1848 when he was transferred to the survey of the southeast coast of Ireland. In 1850, McDougall was appointed second master in HMS Resolute on the British Naval Franklin Search Expedition, 1850-1851 (leader Horatio Austin), sent by the Admiralty to search for Sir John Franklin's missing Northwest Passage expedition by way of Baffin Bay and Lancaster Sound. McDougall participated in the sledging programme, charting the shores of the strait now known as McDougall Sound in the spring of 1851. During the expedition, McDougall and Sherard Osborn, commander of HMS Pioneer, produced the ship's newspaper, the Illustrated Arctic News.

Promoted master on his return, McDougall was appointed to Resolute under Henry Kellett on the British Naval Franklin Search Expedition, 1852-1854 (leader Sir Edward Belcher), instructed by the Admiralty to search for Franklin's expedition in the region of Melville Island in company with HMS Intrepid. McDougall played a limited part in sledging operations, participating in a journey on the south coast of Melville Island, from Dealy Island to Winter Harbour, in June 1853. On the voyage home in the summer of 1853, Resolute and Intrepid became beset in Melville Sound and were forced to spend a further winter in the Arctic. Receiving orders from Belcher to abandon both vessels, the crews travelled to Beechey Island where they returned to England in the depot ship HMS North Star and the supply ships HMS Phoenix and HMS Talbot. McDougall's account of the expedition was published in 1857 and was illustrated with his own watercolours and drawings.

After the expedition, McDougall was employed in surveying the south-west coast of Ireland, later serving on a voyage to survey the south-east coast of Ceylon between 1859 and 1861. On his return to Britain, he was engaged as an assistant surveyor in Scotland and was appointed naval assistant to the Hydrographer in 1865. Promoted staff commander in 1866, he remained at the Admiralty until his death on 30 April 1871.

Published work The eventful voyage of HM discovering ship Resolute to the Arctic regions in search of Sir John Franklin and the missing crews of HM discovery ships Erebus and Terror, 1852, 1853, 1854.... by George Frederick McDougall, Longman, Brown, Green, Longmans and Roberts London (1857) SPRI Library Shelf (41)91(08)[1852-1854]


The correspondence is arranged chronologically

Access Information

By appointment.

Some materials deposited at the Institute are NOT owned by the Institute. In such cases the archivist will advise about any requirements imposed by the owner. These may include seeking permission to read, extended closure, or other specific conditions.


Anyone wishing to consult material should ensure they note the entire MS reference and the name of the originator.

The term holograph is used when the item is wholly in the handwriting of the author. The term autograph is used when the author has signed the item.

Descriptions compiled by N. Boneham, Assistant Archivist with assistance from R. Stancombe and reference to Arctic, exploration and development c500 BC to 1915, an encyclopaedia by Clive Holland Garland Publishing, London (1994) and Exploring Polar Frontiers, a historical encyclopaedia by William Mills San Diego and Oxford, 2003 and 'George Frederick McDougall, c 1825-1871', by Clive Holland in The Polar Record volume 19 number 121 January 1979 p369-371 and 'Staff-Commander G F McDougall' [sic] by LS Dawson in Memoirs of Hydrography Part II Cornmarket Press London (1969) SPRI Library Shelf 92(08)[pub.1969]

Other Finding Aids

Clive Holland Manuscripts in the Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge, England - a catalogue, Garland Publishing New York and London (1982) ISBN 0824093941.

Additional finding aids are available at the Institute.

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Further accessions possible