Three Polar Explorers from Ireland Provided Furniture for the White House

The News Letter (Belfast, Northern Ireland), July 29, 2016 | Go to article overview

Three Polar Explorers from Ireland Provided Furniture for the White House


When Roamer first mentioned Titanic Belfast's on-going 'Race to the End of the Earth' exhibition several weeks ago, the main focus was on two courageous Antarctica explorers -Roald Amundsen and Captain Robert Falcon Scott.

After losing the race to be first to the South Pole, Captain Scott's 17-month trek ended tragically in a tent, battered by relentless gales and blizzards, on March 29, 1912.

Inniskilling Dragoon Captain 'Titus' Oates died towards the end of Scott's beleaguered but heroic attempt to win the race.

Other polar explorers with Irish connections emerged from News Letter readers' notes to Roamer, including Ernest Shackleton from County Kildare, Banbridge's Francis Crozier, and Kerry-man Tom Crean who was one of Scott's most experienced team-leaders.

It seems that these Polar-Irish connections are just the tip of an iceberg!

Vice Admiral Sir Leopold McClintock from Dundalk, whose family tree is well-rooted in County Antrim, has a channel in the Arctic named in his honour.

Some of Sir Leopold's land and sea expeditions in the mid-1800s were shared on this page last week, and we have more introductions to historic, ice-bound Irishmen today: Captain Henry Kellet from Tipperary, George Mecham from Cobh, and Captain Robert McClure from Wexford.

Rather aptly, as the world waits to know who'll move into the White House, there's a big wooden desk awaiting the next American President which featured profoundly in the three Irish Polar explorers' expeditions!

Roamer has been referred to a number of books about Ireland's multitude of polar adventurers, one recounting 12-year-old Leopold McClintock's first ship in 1831 - the Frigate Samarang, on the Thames.

The young trainee officer noted "breakfast was at eight, consisting of cocoa and biscuit; dinner was at 12, salt junk (hard salt beef eaten at sea) or pork with biscuit, and plum duff on 'duff days', sometimes pumpkin pie; tea at five. Allowances of rum were taken up, but youngsters seldom touched it."

As his career progressed to colder lands, Leopold's memoirs become much less domesticated, recalling fearful ice flows, gale-swept sledge treks, frostbitten crewmen, horrifying shipwrecks, accidents, life-threatening illnesses and virtual starvation.

'Seek the Frozen Lands', a book by adventurer, explorer, mountaineer and author Frank Nugent, tells of Irish polar explorers from 1740 to 1922.

Published by the Collins Press, Nugent's gripping narrative introduces Arthur Dobbs from Carrickfergus, the first Irishman to make a significant contribution to Arctic exploration in the 18th century by initiating and supporting two voyages in search of the North-West passage.

The book recounts Edward Bransfield of Ballinacurra, Cork, one of the earliest Irish explorers to put his name on the charts when he became the first man to sight mainland Antarctica. …

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