The Yellow Earl in the Arctic lecture by Rob David, September 2015

The Yellow Earl in the Arctic 1888 – 1889 Dr Rob David 3rd September 2015

Dr David’s lecture was based on his research of the papers, journals, letters and photographs in the Lonsdale archives plus contemporary newspaper reports from both the UK and North America. The London Illustrated News and the People newspaper, in particular, carried lengthy reports of his exploits illustrated by engravings. The Earl’s motivations for his trip are unclear: to reach the North Pole, hunting with the emphasis on the polar bear, a tour of Alaska and the Yukon, assessing the conditions of the indigenous populations, a temporary escape from the publicity surrounding a paternity suite. His route took him across Canada by train, from Toronto to Fort Qu’Appell, north-west of Winnipeg; then north-west by sledge and boat to Liverpool Bay – the northernmost point of his travels.

The Earl’s greatest adventure was in the Liverpool bay area when he went Whale hunting with Inuits and had to defend himself against a knife attack. From there he headed west into the Yukon, down the Yukon River to the Alaskan coast and by steamer to San Francisco. His journals record his hunting activities, including shooting a number of polar bears, and show that he had to endure some very difficult conditions; extreme cold, shortage of food and coping with torrents and ice packed rivers. He brought back a large numbers of artefacts and animal skins. Many of these went on display in the Hall but the best were presented to the British Museum. A polar bear and musk ox are on display in Kendal Museum. It is unlikely that the Earl made new discoveries but he was admired for ‘having enough pluck to go’. His expedition also marked a watershed between old style expeditions and the later trend to hunting and tourist type visits.

Mike Hornung

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