Sir Francis Leopold McClintock collection

Scope and Content

The collection comprises of material relating to five Arctic expeditions the British Naval Franklin Search Expedition, 1848-1849 (leader James Clark Ross) the British Naval Franklin Search expedition, 1850-1851 (leader Horatio Austin) the British Naval Franklin Search Expedition, 1852-1854 (general leader Edward Belcher) the British Franklin Search Expedition, 1857-1859 (led by McClintock) and the British North Atlantic Telegraph Expedition, 1860 (led by McClintock). The final part of the collection comprises of correspondence by McClintock.

Administrative / Biographical History

Francis Leopold McClintock was born on 8 July 1819 in Dundalk. In 1831, he joined the Royal Navy, advancing to lieutenant and serving in Frolic in the Pacific from 1845 to 1847. The following year, he was appointed second lieutenant of HMS Enterprise on the British Naval Franklin Search Expedition, 1848-1849 (leader Sir James Clark Ross), sent to the Arctic in search of the missing British Naval Northwest Passage Expedition, 1845-1848. Between May and June 1849, he led a sledge party with Ross which examined the north and west coasts of Somerset Island. Returning to the Arctic the following year, McClintock served as first lieutenant of HMS Assistance under Captain Erasmus Ommanney on the British Naval Franklin Search Expedition, 1850-1851. During this expedition, McClintock resurveyed the south coasts of Byam Martin and Melville Island.

On his return, McClintock was promoted to the rank of commander and was placed in command of HMS Intrepid on the British Naval Franklin Search Expedition, 1852-1854 (leader Sir Edward Belcher). Between April and July 1853, he discovered northern Prince Patrick Island, the northern coasts of Eglinton Island, and the west and south coasts of Emerald Isle. During his various Arctic expeditions, McClintock did much to improve and develop the system of sledging.

In 1857, McClintock was placed in command of Fox on the British Franklin Search Expedition, 1857-1859, a private expedition sponsored by Lady Franklin and public subscription to search in the area of King William Island for relics of Franklin's expedition. With the discovery of a note on the west coast of King William Island in 1859, McClintock was able to establish the date of Franklin's death (11 June 1847) and to prove that the expedition had discovered the existence of a Northwest Passage.

On his return in 1859, McClintock was knighted and published the account of his findings in The Voyage of the Fox in the Arctic Seas. In 1860, he was placed in charge of the British North Atlantic Telegraph Expedition; sailing in HMS Bulldog to make a line of soundings by way of Scotland, the Faroes, Iceland, southern Greenland and Labrador, in preparation for the laying of a second telegraph cable between Europe and North America. After this expedition, McClintock was appointed to various commands, serving in the Mediterranean, the West Indies and the North Sea, before taking up an appointment in 1872 as admiral superintendent of Portsmouth Dockyard, a post he held until 1877, when he was appointed vice admiral. In 1874, he was appointed to form a committee to assist the organization of the British Arctic Expedition, 1875-1876 (leader George Strong Nares). From 1879 to 1882, he served as commander-in-chief of the West Indian and North American station. Retiring from the Navy in 1884 with the rank of admiral, he died on 17 November 1907 in London.

Published work Reminiscences of Arctic ice-travel in search of Sir John Franklin and his companions by Francis Leopold McClintock, Journal of the Royal Dublin Society (1857) SPRI Library Shelf (41)91(091)[pub.1857]


The collection is split into six sub-fonds comprising of expedition material and correspondence respectively.

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 Life of Admiral Sir Francis Leopold McClintock by (Sir) Clements Markham, John Murray London (1909) SPRI Library Shelf 92[McClintock] and British polar exploration and research a historical and medallic record with biographies 1818-1999 Lieutenant Colonel Neville W Poulsom and Rear Admiral John A L Myres, Savannah Publications London (2000) SPRI Library Shelf 737.2 and Dictionary of National Biography Second Supplement volume 2, Smith, Elder & Co. London (1912) and 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 Antarctic Chronology, unpublished corrected revision of Chronological list of Antarctic expeditions and related historical events by Robert Keith Headland (1 December 2001) Cambridge University Press (1989) ISBN 0521309034

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.

Conditions Governing Use

Copying material by photography, electrostat, or scanning device by readers is prohibited. The Institute may be able to provide copies of some documents on request for lodgement in publicly available repositories. This is subject to conservation requirements, copyright law, and payment of fees.

Copyright restrictions apply to most material. The copyright may lie outside the Institute and, if so, it is necessary for the reader to seek appropriate permission to consult, copy, or publish any such material. (The Institute does not seek this permission on behalf of readers). Written permission to publish material subject to the Institute's copyright must be obtained from the Director. Details of conditions and fees may be had from the Archivist.


Further accessions possible

Related Material

The Scott Polar Research Institute holds a number of photographs, film and other illustrative material in the Picture Library, which includes images of McClintock. The catalogue can be searched on line by going to the Picture Library Database and selecting the Enter Polar Pictures link.