Sunday, November 19, 2006

Sherard Osborn

Sherard Osborn (25 April 1822 – 6 May 1875), was an English admiral and Arctic explorer.

Born in Madras, he was the son of an Indian army officer, Osborn entered the navy as a first-class volunteer in 1837. In 1838, he was entrusted with the command of a gunboat at the attack on Kedah in the Malay Peninsula, and was present at the reduction of Canton in 1841 and at the capture of the batteries of Woosung in 1842. From 1844 until 1848 he was gunnery mate and lieutenant on the flag-ship Sir George Seymour in the Pacific. He took a prominent part in 1849 in advocating a new search expedition for Sir John Franklin, and in 1850 was appointed to the command of the steam-tender Pioneer in the Arctic expedition under Captain Austin, in the course of which he performed (1851) a remarkable sledge-journey to the western extremity of Prince of Wales Island.

He published an account of this voyage, entitled Stray Leaves from an Arctic Journal (1852), and was promoted to the rank of commander shortly afterwards. In the new expedition (1852-1854) under Sir Edward Belcher he again took part as commander of the Pioneer. In 1856 he published the journals of Capt. Robert Le M. MacClure, giving a narrative of the discovery of the Northwest Passage.

Early in 1855 he was called to active service in connection with the Crimean War, and being promoted to post-rank in August of that year was appointed to the Medusa, in which he commanded the Sea of Azov squadron until the conclusion of the war. For these services he received the C.B., the Cross of the Légion d'honneur, and the Turkish Order of the Medjidie of the fourth class.

As commander of the Furious he took a prominent part in the operations of the Second Opium War, and performed a piece of difficult and intricate navigation in taking his ship up the Yangtse to Hankow (1858). He returned to England in broken health in 1859, and at this time contributed a number of articles on naval and Chinese topics to Blackwood's Magazine, and wrote The Career, Last Voyage and Fate of Sir John Franklin (1860).

In 1861 he commanded the Donegal in the Gulf of Mexico during the trouble there, and in 1862 undertook the command of a squadron fitted out by the Chinese government for the suppression of piracy on the coast of China; but owing to the non-fulfilment of the condition that he should receive orders from the imperial government only, he threw up the appointment.

In 1864 he was appointed to the command of the Royal Sovereign in order to test the turret system of ship-building, to which this vessel had been adapted. In 1865 he became agent to the Great Indian Peninsula Railway Company, and two years later managing director of the Telegraph Construction and Maintenance Company. In 1873 he attained flag-rank.

His interest in Arctic exploration had never ceased, and in 1873 he induced Commander Albert Markham to undertake a summer voyage for the purpose of testing the conditions of ice-navigation with the aid of steam, with the result that a new Arctic expedition, under Sir George Nares, was determined upon. He was a member of the committee which made the preparations for this expedition, and died a few days after it had sailed.

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