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Description found in Archives



Place of creation


6 watercolours.

Scope and content

Series consists of six watercolours by George Back or by an unknown artist and attributed to George Back depicting: The expedition doubing Cape Barrow, N.W.T., 1821; Expedition encamped at Point Turnagain, 1821; Expedition Landing in a storm, August 1821; H.M. Brig. Trent north of Magdalena Bay, Spitsbergen, 1818; Warping through the ice, 1818; and Taking the pack, northwest of Spitsbergen, 1818.

Graphic (art)
90: Open
Archival reference no.
Former archival reference no.

Terms of use

Watercolours: No restrictions. Copyright expired.

Watercolours: All items are described at item-level in MINISIS-ICON. (Electronic)

Additional name(s)

Biography / Administrative history

George Back was born in 1796 and joined the Royal Navy as a first-class volunteer in 1808. He was captured the following year, and spent five years as a prisoner in Verdun, France, where he studied mathematics, French, and drawing. He returned to active service in 1814, serving as a midshipman on board HMS Akbar on the Halifax station. In 1818, he volunteered for Arctic exploration service under Commanders Buchan and John Ross, and was appointed midshipman on board HMS Trent, which with the HMS Dorothea attempted the Northeast Passage via Spitsbergen and over the North Pole to Bering Strait. Although the attempt failed, the expedition achieved a record latitude of 82 degrees 34 minutes N. Back's commanding officer Lieutenant John Franklin was impressed by his ability, and asked Back to join his overland expedition (1819-1822) to chart the northern coast of Canada from the mouth of the Coppermine River to Repulse Bay. The expedition spent three years on its efforts, during which Back carried out extensive exploratory work, and recorded hundreds of sketches of Arctic scenery, flora, fauna, and peoples.

In 1825, he joined Franklin's second overland expedition (1825-27), this time to explore the Arctic coast to the east and west of the Mackenzie River, and if possible to join up with the sea expedition led by Captain Frederick Beechey. Again Back recorded many sketches of the expedition, a number of which were published in the account of the expedition. In 1833, Back led an exploratory party (1833-35) down the Great Fish River (later renamed the Back in his honour) to further chart the Arctic coast. In 1836, he led an expedition by sea on board HMS Terror to trace the coast of the Polar Sea between Repulse Bay and Point Turnagain, the furthest point reached in Franklin's first overland expedition. The trials suffered by Back on this expedition incapacitated him for six years, and ended his active career as an Arctic explorer. He published a "Narrative of the Arctic Land Expedition to the Mouth of the Great Fish River", 1836 and a "Narrative of an Expedition in the ship H.M.S. Terror", 1838. Knighted in 1839, and promoted Admiral in 1876, Back maintained an intense interest in Arctic exploration for the rest of his life. Dictionary of National Biography, Vol. I (Oxford University Press); Dictionary of Canadian Biography Vol. X (1871-1880) (University of Toronto Press, 1972).