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Crozier, Francis Rawdon Moira 1796-1848 (?)

Francis Rawdon Moira Crozier was born in September 1796 at Banbridge, Ireland. He entered the Royal Navy in 1810, serving in Hamadryad and in Briton, before spending nearly two years on the Thames guardship Meander and the Portsmouth flagship Queen Charlotte. After passing his examination in 1817, he served as mate in the sloop Doterel, sailing to the Cape of Good Hope in 1818.  On his return to Britain, Crozier accompanied Edward Parry in two successive expeditions in search of a Northwest Passage, as midshipman on HMS Fury on the British naval Northwest Passage expedition, 1821 – 1823, and on HMS Hecla on the British naval Northwest Passage expedition, 1824 – 1825. On 2 March 1826, Crozier received his lieutenant’s commission and rejoined Hecla under Parry on the British naval North Polar expedition (1827).  During this expedition, Crozier remained onboard Hecla, anchored in Treurenburg Bay, Spitsbergen, while Parry and James Clark Ross attempted to reach the North Pole over the ice with two boat-sledges. Between 1831 and 1835, Crozier served on the Stag, stationed off the coasts of Spain and Portugal. In December 1835, he was appointed first lieutenant and second-in-command of HMS Cove on the British relief expedition from Hull (leader James Clark Ross), sent to rescue the crews of eleven whaling vessels which had been beset and forced to winter in the Davis Strait in 1835.

Crozier was appointed to command HMS Terror on the British naval expedition, 1839 – 1843 (leader James Clark Ross), organized to conduct a series of magnetic observations in the southern hemisphere and to locate and reach the South Magnetic Pole if possible. Establishing magnetic observatories in St. Helena, Cape Town, and Iles Kerguelen, and taking running observations en route, Terror and HMS Erebus reached Hobart, Tasmania early in 1840. A geophysical observatory ‘Rossbank’ was established in Hobart with the co-operation of the Governor, Sir John Franklin.  Later in the same year, the two vessels headed south into the Southern Ocean, crossing the Antarctic Circle on 1 January 1841 and were the first vessels to force a way through the pack ice of the Ross Sea where extensive discoveries were made including Victoria Land, Ross Island and the Ross Ice Shelf. After wintering in Australia, the expedition returned to the Ross Sea in December 1841, before visiting the South Shetland Islands and the Falkland Islands, and proceeding into the South Atlantic sector of Antarctica, where a number of discoveries were made off the east coast of the Antarctic Peninsula.

Crozier commanded Terror again on the ill-fated British naval Northwest Passage expedition, 1845 – 1848 (leader Sir John Franklin), sent by the Admiralty to search for a Northwest Passage beyond Lancaster Sound and Barrow Strait in the unexplored region south-west of Barrow Strait. Terror and Erebus were last seen by two whalers in northern Baffin Bay in late July 1845, heading for Lancaster Sound. After that, the expedition disappeared and its members were never again seen alive by Europeans. Many searches were conducted for the missing expedition between 1847 and 1859, during the course of which the main facts regarding the route taken and final fate of the expedition were established. The two vessels had become beset north of King William Island, where they had spent two winters between September 1846 and April 1848. Franklin died on 11 June 1847 and the command had devolved to Crozier. Abandoning the two vessels on 22 April 1848, the 105 survivors led by Crozier set out toward Back River. All perished during the journey through a mixture of starvation, scurvy and exposure.

Further Information

Holland, C.A. (1994) Arctic exploration and development c.500 b.c. to 1915: an encyclopedia. New York: Publishing Inc.

Dictionary of National Biography Vol.13 Smith. London: Elder & Co.

Francis Crozier (1796 – 1848?) by Geraldine Rahmani in Arctic Vol. 37 no. 1 March 1986 p68-69.