William Pullen collection

Scope and Content

The collection comprises of material relating to the British Naval Franklin Search Expedition, 1852-1854 (led by Pullen) as part of the British Naval Franklin Search Expedition, 1852-1854 (leader Sir Edward Belcher) and correspondence by Pullen

Administrative / Biographical History

William John Samuel Pullen was born on 4 December 1813 at Devonport. He entered the Navy in 1828, leaving in 1836 to serve as assistant surveyor to the surveyor general in South Australia, where he remained until 1841 surveying the mouth of the Murray River and the adjoining coast. Returning to the Navy in 1842, he was appointed to HMS Columbia and was employed in surveying on the North American Station until 1848. Promoted lieutenant in 1846, Pullen was appointed first lieutenant in HMS Plover on the British Naval Franklin Search Expedition, 1848-1852 (leader Thomas Moore) sailing in HMS Herald of the British Naval Franklin Search Expedition, 1848-1850 (leader Henry Kellett) to join HMS Plover at Kotzebue Sound, Alaska, in July 1849. The two vessels proceeded to Wainwright Inlet where Pullen set out on the British Naval Franklin Search Expedition, 1849-1851, sailing along the coast to the mouth of the Mackenzie River in search of Franklin's missing expedition. After ascending the river as far as Fort McPherson, the expedition was dispersed to spend the winter of 1849 to 1850 at the various Hudson's Bay Company posts in the area. Pullen was accommodated at Fort Simpson by the Arctic explorer John Rae, who was in charge of the Mackenzie River District. In July 1850, the expedition proceeded down the river before continuing the coastal search east as far as Cape Bathurst, where further progress was prevented by ice. Returning to Fort Simpson to spend the winter of 1850 to 1851, the expedition left for York Factory in the spring, sailing to England in the Hudson's Bay Company vessel Prince of Wales.

Promoted commander in 1850, Pullen was appointed to lead the British Naval Franklin Search Expedition, 1852-1854, commanding HMS North Star, the store ship for the British Naval Franklin Search Expedition, 1852-1854 (leader Sir Edward Belcher). North Star spent two winters at Beechey Island and was the only ship of the five in Belcher's search expedition to return to England in 1854, the other four being abandoned on Belcher's orders when beset in the ice.

In 1855, Pullen assumed command of HMS Falcon in operations in the Baltic, advancing to the rank of captain the following year. Between 1857 and 1858, he served in the Middle East, sounding the route for the submarine telegraph cable from Suez to Aden. Between 1859 and 1863, Pullen was employed in the survey of the south and east coasts of Ceylon and of Bermuda. He later served in coastguard ships until he was placed on the retired list in 1870. Promoted rear admiral in 1874, he advanced to the rank of vice admiral in 1879. He died on 11 January 1887 at Torquay.


The collection is split into two 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 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 'Pullen, William John Samuel' by Hugh Francis Pullen in Dictionary of Canadian Biography volume 11 edited by Francess G Halpenny, University of Toronto Press Toronto (1982) SPRI Library Shelf 92(08)[pub.1966-] and British polar exploration and research a historical and medallic record with biographies 1818-1999 by Lieutenant Colonel Neville W Poulsom and Rear Admiral John A L Myres, Savannah Publications London (2000) SPRI Library Shelf 737.2

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