Frederick William Beechey
Life and career
He was the son of two painters, Sir William Beechey, RA and his second wife, Anne Jessop. Born in London on 17 February 1796, he entered the Royal Navy at the age of 10. He was promoted to midshipman the following year and saw active service during the wars with France and America.
In early 1818, and now a lieutenant, Beechey sailed on HMS Trent under Lieutenant John Franklin in David Buchan's Arctic expedition, of which at a later period he published a narrative. In the following year he accompanied Lieutenant W. E. Parry in HMS Hecla, sailing as far north as Melville Island. In 1821, as an officer on HMS Adventure, he took part in the survey of the Mediterranean coast of Africa under the direction of Captain William Henry Smyth. His brother, Henry William Beechey, and he made an overland survey of this coast and published a full account of their work in 1828 under the title of Proceedings of the Expedition to Explore the Northern Coast of Africa from Tripoly [sic] Eastward in 1821-1822.
In 1825, Beechey was appointed to command HMS Blossom. His task was to explore the Bering Strait in concert with Franklin and Parry operating from the east. In the summer of 1826, he passed the strait and a barge from his ship reached 71°23'31" N., and 156°21'30" W. near Point Barrow, which he named, a point only 146 miles west of that reached by Franklin's expedition from the Mackenzie River. The whole voyage lasted more than three years, and in the course of it, Beechey discovered several islands in the Pacific, and an excellent harbour near Cape Prince of Wales.
In 1826, he visited a Catholic mission in California. He wrote, "...with whips, canes and goads or sharp, pointed sticks to preserve silence and maintain order, and what seemed more difficult than either, to keep the congregation in their kneeling posture. The goads would reach a long way and inflict a sharp puncture without making any noise. The end of the church was occupied by a guard of soldiers under arms with fixed bayonets."
In July 1826, he named the three islands in the Bering Strait. Two were the Diomede Islands that Vitus Bering had named in 1728: "Ratmanoff Island" (Big Diomede) and "Krusenstern Island" (Little Diomede). Beechey called the uninhabited third islet "Fairway Rock", which is still its contemporary name. One of his crew, Petty Officer John Bechervaise, gave a detailed account of the voyage in his Thirty-six Years of a Seafaring Life by an Old Quartermaster, published privately in 1839. (The crewmember's namesake and great-great-grandson John Béchervaise (1910–1998) was a noted explorer of Antarctica.) In 1831, there appeared Beechey's Narrative of a Voyage to the Pacific and Bering's Strait to Co-operate with the Polar Expeditions, 1825-1828.
In 1835 and '36, Captain Beechey was employed on the coast survey of South America, and from 1837 to 1847, carried on similar work along the Irish coasts, and in the North Sea and English Channel. He carried out detailed tidal surveys during this period, which were published, with charts, in two Royal Society papers in 1848 and 1851. This was the first published work of its kind since Edmond Halley's tidal chart appeared in about 1702. He was appointed in 1850 to preside over the Marine Department of the Board of Trade.
Beechey Island, where Sir John Franklin wintered, was named by him after his father.
Family of painters
- — (1828). Proceedings of the Expedition To Explore The Northern Coast of Africa, From Tripoly Eastward; In MDCCCXXI and MDCCCXXII Comprehending An Account of The Greater Syrtis And Cyranaeica. London: John Murray.
- — (1832). Narrative Of A Voyage To The Pacific And Beering's Strait, To Co-Operate With The Polar Expeditions Performed In His Majesty's Ship Blossom, Under The Command Of Captain F. W. Beechey, R. N. In The Years 1825, 26, 27, 28. Philadelphia: Carey & Lea.
- — (1843). A Voyage Of Discovery Towards The North Pole, Performed In His Majesty's Ships Dorothea And Trent, Under The Command Of Captain David Buchan, R. N., 1818. London: Richard Bentley.
- — (1848). "Report of Observations Made Upon the Tides in the Irish Sea, and Upon the Great Similarity of Tidal Phenomena of the Irish and English Channels, and the Importance of Extending the Experiments Round the Land's End and up the English Channel. Embodied in a Letter to the Hydrographer". Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. 138: 105–116. doi:10.1098/rstl.1848.0006. JSTOR 108287.
- — (1850). "Report of Further Observations Made upon the Tidal Streams of the English Channel and German Ocean, under the Authority of the Admiralty, in 1849 and 1850". Abstracts of the Papers Communicated to the Royal Society of London. 6: 68–70. doi:10.1098/rspl.1850.0024.
- — (1851). "Report of Further Observations upon the Tidal Streams of the North Sea and English Channel, with Remarks upon the Laws by Which Those Streams Appear to be Governed". Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. 141: 703–718. doi:10.1098/rstl.1851.0034. JSTOR 108420.
- —; Bershad, Sonia S (1980). "The Drawings and Watercolours". Arctic. 33 (1): 117–167. doi:10.14430/arctic2551. JSTOR 40509279.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Beechey, Frederick William". Encyclopædia Britannica. 3 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
- Dunmore, John (1992). Who's Who in Pacific Navigation. Carlton, Victoria, Australia: Melbourne University Press. ISBN 0-522-84488-X.
- Laughton, John Knox (1885). Stephen, Leslie (ed.). Dictionary of National Biography. 4. London: Smith, Elder & Co. . In
- Laughton, J. K.; Lambert, Andrew. "Beechey, Frederick William (1796–1856)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/1946. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
- Narrative of a voyage... 1825-28, by Captain F.W. Beechey, London, 1831, Page 337