Joseph Bellot collection

Scope and Content

The collection comprises of material relating to the British Franklin Search Expedition, 1851-1852 (leader William Kennedy) and correspondence by Bellot on polar matters.

Administrative / Biographical History

Joseph-Ren Bellot was born on 18 March 1826 in Paris. On completing his education at the Ecole Navale at Brest in 1843, he served in the Imperial Navy of France between 1844 and 1850, advancing to the rank of sub-lieutenant in 1847. Following his return to France in 1850, Bellot developed an interest in the search for Sir John Franklin's missing expedition and volunteered his services in correspondence with Jane, Lady Franklin, who was organizing her second private search expedition, and with William Kennedy, who was to command it. In 1851, he was appointed second-in-command of Prince Albert on the British Franklin Search Expedition, 1851-1852 (leader William Kennedy), sent to search for Franklin in Prince Regent Inlet and in the area southwest of Cape Walker, Barrow Strait. In February 1852, Kennedy and Bellot set out from their winter quarters in Batty Bay on a dog sledging journey, travelling south to Brentford Bay, where they discovered Bellot Strait, and continuing west to cross Prince of Wales Island to Ommanney Bay. On the return journey, they re-crossed Peel Sound and headed north to Cape Walker before returning to Batty Bay, a total trek of 1800km. Bellot's narrative of the expedition was published posthumously in 1854.

Promoted lieutenant in 1852, he was recommended by Lady Franklin for the British Naval Supply Voyage (leader Edward Inglefield), sent by the Admiralty in 1853 to deliver supplies and dispatches to the five vessels of the British Naval Franklin Search Expedition, 1852-1854 (leader Edward Belcher). Bellot was drowned in Wellington Channel in August 1853 on his way from Beechey Island to deliver messages to Belcher. A memorial grave was built on Beechey Island and an obelisk in his honour stands in front of Greenwich Hospital in London.

Published work Memoirs of Lieutenant Joseph-Ren Bellot, with his journal of a voyage in the polar seas in search of Sir John Franklin, Hurst and Blackett London (1855) SPRI Library Shelf (41)91(08)[1851-1852 Kennedy]


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 'Bellot, Joseph-Ren ' by Clive Holland in Dictionary of Canadian Biography volume 8, edited by Francess G Halpenny University of Toronto Press Toronto (1985) 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 and Arctic, exploration and development c500 BC to 1915, an encyclopaedia by Clive Holland Garland Publishing, London (1994)

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 include images of Bellot. The catalogue can be searched on line by going to the Picture Library Database and selecting the Enter Polar Pictures link.