Frederick William Beechey

British, 1796–1856

HMS Hecla in Baffin Bay, illustration from Journal of a Voyage for the Discovery of a Northwest Passage, 1819–20 in His Majesty’s Ships Hecla and Griper, London, 1821
11 x 9 x 1 ¾ in. (28 x 23 x 4.5 cm)
Linda Hall Library of Science, Engineering and Technology, Kansas City, Missouri

Frederick William Beechey, a naval officer, artist, and later president of the Royal Geographical Society, accompanied William Edward Parry on his famous journey in search of the Northwest Passage. He contributed drawings that were reproduced in the expedition journal.

The artist depicts Parry’s ship silhouetted against a towering iceberg and penned in by floating sea ice. The Hecla, almost crushed between these formations, was saved by the heroic rowing efforts of the crew, who towed the ship to safety. Melding fantasy and observation, Beechey captures the bizarre shape of an iceberg, a motif that appealed to the public’s curiosity about the Arctic.

Anchoring his ships as far as Melville Island, Parry was the first European to reach beyond 110 degrees latitude.  He became the nineteenth century’s first hero-explorer, and his exploits inspired one of the greatest polar landscapes, Caspar David Friedrich’s Sea of Ice (1824).