George Lyons collection

Scope and Content

The collection comprises of correspondence by Lyons to Sir Francis Beaufort regarding the British Naval Exploring Expedition, 1824 (led by Lyon)

Administrative / Biographical History

George Francis Lyon was born in 1795 at Chichester. In 1808, he entered the Navy and was appointed lieutenant in HMS Berwick in 1814, later serving in HMS Albion at the Battle of Algiers and participating in an expedition to North Africa. Promoted commander in 1821, he was placed in command of HMS Hecla on the British Naval Northwest Passage Expedition, 1821-1823 (leader William Edward Parry), sent by the Admiralty in company with HMS Fury to search for a passage along the west coast of the unexplored Foxe Basin in the Canadian Arctic. After two attempts to sail through Fury and Hecla Strait were hindered by the ice, the expedition was forced to return in 1823. Promoted captain on his return, Lyon published his account of the expedition in 1824 and his sketches were used to illustrate Parry's narrative of the expedition.

In 1824, Lyon led the British Naval Exploring Expedition, sent by the Admiralty to Repulse Bay, northwest Hudson Bay, with the objectives of crossing Melville Peninsula to the north coast of mainland America and of exploring that coast westward to Turnagain Point, Kent Peninsula. Setting out in HMS Griper in June 1824, the expedition landed on Coats Island, northern Hudson Bay and reported on the Eskimo whom they met there. In Roes Welcome Sound, they were twice nearly shipwrecked and were forced to turn home before reaching Repulse Bay.

After the expedition, Lyon worked briefly for a Mexican mining company but lost most of his possessions when the ship in which he was returning was wrecked in 1827. He worked for mining companies in South America until 1832 when failing eyesight forced him to set sail for Britain. He died at sea on 8 October 1832 during the return journey.

Published work The private journal of Captain G F Lyon, of HMS Hecla, during the recent voyage of discovery under Captain Parry John Murray, London (1824) SPRI Library Special Collection (41)91(08)[1821-1823 Parry] A brief narrative of an unsuccessful attempt to reach Repulse Bay through Sir Thomas Rowe's Welcome, in HM Ship Griper, in the year 1824 by George Francis Lyon, John Murray London (1825) SPRI Library Special Collection (41)91(08)[1824 Lyon]


The correspondence with Beaufort 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) ISBN number 0824076486 and Exploring Polar Frontiers, a historical encyclopaedia by William Mills San Diego and Oxford, 2003 and Dictionary of National Biography volume 34, Smith, Elder & Co. London (1893) 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.

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