James Booth Lockwood (1852 - 1884)

Portrait is from the Hassan Cigarette Card series "The World's Greatest Explorers" issued in 1914.

The son of General Henry Hayes Lockwood and his wife Anna, he was born on October 9th 1852 in Annapolis, Maryland. After finishing his education at St.John's College he became a railroad surveyor in Texas and then he entered the United States Army in 1873. In 1881  as a Lieutenant, he volunteered for the Lady Franklin Bay Expedition , a scientific expedition to the Arctic being planned by the US Army Signal Corps, according to recommendations of the 1879 International Polar Geographical Conference, which had designated 1882-83 as the first International Polar Year and aimed to establish a chain of arctic meteorological stations. The expedition leader was Adolphus Washington Greely and the team consisted of three officers, eight non-commissioned officers, twelve enlisted men, two Eskimos, and one civilian photographer. The expedition was under funded from the start with only $25,000 available. Of this sum, three-quarters was spent on the hire of the whaler Proteus to transfer the team northwards. On board was a pre-fabricated insulated hut measuring 60 feet by 17 feet which the team would live in, as the boat would sail straight back after transporting the team. Included in their equipment were several dog sleds, a steam-driven launch, and two barks.

They sailed in July 1881 from Newfoundland aboard the USS Proteus and via Upernavik, Greenland landed in August at Lady Franklin Bay on the eastern shore off Ellesmere Island. Here by a little inlet called Discovery Harbour, they established Fort Conger, named after the Michigan senator Omar Conger who's powerful support enabled the expedition to go ahead. Just as the Proteus was to depart Lady Franklin Bay, the second in command Lieutenant Frederick Kislingbury, an old friend of Greely, stated that he wished to leave. Greely being a stickler for military protocol demanded a formal letter of resignation. Before Kislingbury could complete the letter, the Proteus abruptly departed due to an opening in the accumulating ice. Greely then made Lockwood his second in command. One of Lockwood's first tasks was to lay down depots for the spring expeditions. From Fort Conger, detailed meteorological, magnetic, biological, oceanographic and geophysical observations were carried out and from which exploratory expeditions set out for the interior, discovering Lake Hazen.

Map from Microsoft Encarta World Atlas 1999

Picture from "Safe Return Doubtful" (1988) by John Maxtone-Graham

In April 1882, James Lockwood led a team of eleven men northwards from Fort Conger. A final depot was set up at the end of April at Cape Bryant from where James Lockwood set out with David Brainnard and Frederick Christian (one of the Eskimo drivers) on their epic journey. Within 3 days they had passed Cape Britannia and in a further 10 days they had traveled another 100 miles to reach the most northerly point ever visited.

 At this point they spent an entire day making and then re-checking their observations. Lieutenant Lockwood would flop belly down in the snow to make his measurements. The results were a consistent latitude 8324' North, (some books state 23' and some 24'), longitude 40 West, three nautical miles better than Markham's record set above Cape Columbia in 1876. The island that he stood on became Lockwood Island and is about 10 miles long and 4 miles wide and is 350 miles from the North Pole. They all then sledged back to Fort Conger achieving a total distance of 1,072 miles in sixty days arriving back on June 1 1882.


Picture used with permission of the Lockwood Family Trust.

In the spring of 1883, Lockwood crossed Ellesmere Island naming Geely Fjord and Cape Lockwood. As the relief ships had not arrived in either the summer of 1882 (the Neptune had been unable to go any further north than Cape Hawks) or 1883 (the Proteus was crushed by ice just north of Smith Sound), Greely followed his original orders and began a hazardous 200-mile trek southward to Cape Sabine in August 1883 using the steam-driven launch and two barks. Reaching Cape Sabine, they set up Camp Clay, and built a stone cabin and again waited; only 50 days of supplies remained. As the supplies dwindled the men fell ill with scurvy. Drained by lack of nourishment and bitter cold, they began to slowly die. The cabin collapsed and they were forced to take shelter in a tent. James Booth Lockwood died there on 9th April 1884.

Map from Microsoft Encarta World Atlas 1999

Three relief ships were sent in 1884 under the command of Commander Winfield Scott Schley. The Bear departed New York in late April, the Thetis one week later and the Alert on May 10. On 23 June 1884 sailors of the Thetis, a sealing ship, spotted the remnants of the expedition's camp. Ripping open the tent, which had collapsed, they found seven survivors: Lt. Adolphus Greely, Sergeants David Brainhard, Francis Long and Julius R. Frederick, Hospital Steward Henry Biederbick, and privates Joseph Elison (who died three days later) and Maurice Connell. The men were unable to stand, their bodies resembling skeletons, eyes sunken deep in the sockets, jaws hanging freely, and joints swollen. The expedition provided the scientific community with valuable information, discovered new lands, and established the record for latitude. To the men of the expedition, however, it provided a cold, harsh, bitter memory.

Several accounts of this expedition have been published: