Sir George Back

On a search mission for John ROSS in 1834, Back found and travelled the Thlew-ee-choh R, later named for him.

Back, George
On a search mission for John Ross in 1834, Back found and travelled the river later named for him (courtesy National Portrait Gallery).

Back, Sir George

Sir George Back, arctic explorer, naval officer, artist (b at Stockport, Eng 6 Nov 1796; d at London, Eng 23 June 1878). Back made his first voyage N in 1818 and thereafter spent much of his life exploring the Arctic. He was stationed in Halifax in 1814 and accompanied Lt John FRANKLIN to the Coppermine R in 1819. His heroism in saving comrades' lives during this expedition is recorded. He joined Franklin in 1824 and accompanied him overland to Great Bear Lk and the Arctic coast in 1825.

On a search mission for John ROSS in 1834, Back found and travelled the Thlew-ee-choh R, later named for him. Though his final expedition (1836) was aborted because of severe ice conditions, Back's lifetime accomplishment was honoured with the medal of the Royal Geographical Society and a knighthood (1839).

Back is said to have learned watercolour techniques while a prisoner of war in France (1809-14), and he was the most important Arctic topographer of his day. Using a camera lucida, he sketched forest fires, rapids, rock formations, campsites and native life along the routes. Records of the second Franklin expedition and Back's overland expedition up the Thlew-ee-choh R are preserved in the National Archives of Canada.