Francis Crozier was born in Banbridge, County Down. He entered the navy in Cork as a volunteer at the age of fourteen and rose through the ranks, passing his exams in 1817. He sailed with Captain Parry on three of his Arctic voyages, in 1821, 1824 and 1827, when he served as lieutenant. After a mission to find missing whalers, he was appointed commander in 1837.
He commanded the Terror, under Captain Ross on a voyage to the Antarctic Ocean, and again in 1845 under Franklin, on an expedition to find the North-West Passage. This expedition did not return, and it was not until 1850 that the missing ships were discovered. In 1854, Dr Rae learned from the Inouit that the whole party had died of cold and starvation on Montreal Island. In 1857 Captain McClintock spent two years trying to locate traces, and discovered a document which verified that the ships had been deserted, along with other evidence. The extreme west point of King William's Island was named 'Cape Crozier', and it is generally acknowledged that Sir John Franklin, Captain Crozier and the crews were the first discoverers of the North-West Passage. As well as carrying out botanical research, he compiled books of data on tides and navigation and set up observatories.
He was a Fellow of the Royal Society and received a medal for Arctic discoveries. The forensic scientist, Dr Beatty later examined the remains of some of those who had perished during the expedition, and these revealed a vitamin C deficiency and evidence of cannibalism. In comparison to Inouit bones, those of crew members also had huge doses of lead, which he suspects was contained in the pottery glaze and the table-ware on board, as well as in primitive canned foods. The symptoms of lead poisoning and scurvy are very similar: anorexia, weakness, anaemia, abdominal pains, poor decision-making and neurosis. Tests on hair showed acute lead poisoning from the first eight months of the voyage and decreased considerably as the crew ate less. Death rates among officers was higher because they always ate off pewter.
Banbridge has erected a monument to Captain Crozier's memory.
||17 September 1796