Sir James Ross on McClure's Claim to the NW Passage (1855_July_20)

Martis,die Julii, 1855.

Mr. Mackinnon. Captain Scobell.
Admiral Walcott. Mr. Stephenson.
Sir Thomas Herbert. Mr. Isaac Butt.
Lord Stanley. Mr. Talbot.
Mr. Edward Ellice. Sir Robert Peel.
Mr. Gordon.


Captain Sir James Clark Ross, R.N., called in ; and Examined.

96. Chairman.] YOU have been long conversant with the Arctic Seas? – Yes ; I have been many voyages to that region.

97. You are well aware what we are assembled here for ; will you state generally your opinion as to what was accomplished by Captain M‘Clure, with reference to the discovery of the North-west Passage? – There can be but one opinion of Captain M‘Clure having accomplished the remaining portion of the passage, that portion which was left undone by Sir Edward Parry. The discovery of the North-west Passage may properly be said to have been made by Sir Edward Parry, Sir John Franklin, and Sir John Richardson ; but Captain M‘Clure has completed in a ship that which Sir Edward Parry had left unaccomplished.

98. Admiral Walcott.] The question which the Committee desire to ask you is not as to the comparative merits of Captain M‘Clure and Sir Edward Parry, and others (whose indomitable perseverance and meritorious exertions all must acknowledge) ; but the question is, whether to Captain M‘Clure does not belong the merit of having solved the problem of the North-west Passage in so far as this : that he went it at one end, and came out the other? – There cannot be the least doubt about it ; but as it is upon record that Sir Edward Parry had found a portion of the North-west Passage, and received a reward for it, I meant to say that it was the remaining part of the North-west Passage that Captain M‘Clure has accomplished in the “Investigator.”

99. Captain Scobell.] If Captain Parry received a reward for performing part of the North-west Passage, does not that circumstance lessen the claim of any person who performed the whole of the North-west Passage? – I should think so. In the first place, the reward was offered to any person who should sail through the North-west Passage ; that was modified after the first voyage in 1818 and it was apportioned out in four parts: 5,000 l. for passing 110˚, 10,000 l. for passing 130˚, 15,000 l. for passing 150˚ west longitude, and 20,000 l. for going through ; the first portion of which was received by Sir Edward Parry ; and if the Board of Longitude had not been dissolved, Captain M‘Clure and his crew would have been entitled to the other 15,000 l.

100. Mr. Ellice.] Captain M‘Clure is the only one who has gone through? – He is the only one who has gone entirely through, except his officers and crew.

101. Chairman.] He is the only one who has taken a belt round America? – Yes

102. Mr. Ellice.] He may be said to be the first and hitherto the only real discoverer of the through passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific? – Certainly, he has been the first to go entirely through. Captain Collinson may be said also to have discovered a passage, but that was a year later, and he did not go through.

About this document ...

  • Written by: Select Committee on Arctic Expedition
  • Published in: Sessional papers, Reports from committees, v. 7, no. 409
  • Published by: House of Commons
  • Place: London
  • Date: 1855_July_20
  • URL:
  • Notes: From pages 7-8 in original publication. From Report of the Select Committee on Arctic Expedition; together with the proceedings of the Committee, minutes of evidence, and appendix.
Sunken ship