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Secrets of Scotland’s great Arctic explorers to be unfrozen

Sir John RossThe lives of three of Scotland’s greatest Arctic adventurers are to be explored at a major event held in the mansion which one of them built.

Sir John Ross (pictured on right), his nephew James Clark Ross, and John Richardson will be the subjects of a study weekend on ‘The Arctic Scots and the Quest for the North West Passage’ from 12-14 October. It will take place at the North West Castle Hotel in Stranraer which Sir John built for himself in 1820.

The hunt for the North West Passage - the sea route linking the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans - excited explorers for centuries. The seminars will take place in International Polar Year, which is focusing on the impact of climate warming.

"The voyages in search of the North West Passage seized the imaginations of contemporaries much as space travel does today,” said Ted Cowan, Professor of History at Glasgow University, who will lead the study weekend.

“This trio’s achievements, in one of the harshest environments on Earth, were incredible."

All three were from Dumfries and Galloway. John Ross and James Clark Ross hailed from Stranraer while John Richardson was a native of Dumfries.

The Rosses accomplished the formidable feat of overwintering for four years (1829-33) in the Arctic. James Clark Ross discovered the magnetic North Pole. Richardson explored the shores of the Arctic Ocean and became the foremost authority on the flora and fauna of North America.

The North West Castle’s bar, built as a facsimile of Sir John Ross's cabin on his ship the Victory, was originally used by him to demonstrate polar navigation to his guests

Sir John, then aged 73, and his nephew also took part in separate expeditions in search of fellow North West Passage explorer Sir John Franklin who died with all 129 crew in the Arctic on his voyage which began in 1845.

“It is remarkable that all three of these intrepid adventurers came from South West Scotland yet even such distinguished people are generally not well known in their home region,” Professor Cowan said.

“The study weekend is aimed at everyone interested in polar exploration as well as the lives of some of Dumfries and Galloway’s greatest sons,” he added.

A two nights full board stay at North West Castle, Stranraer, including all lectures, costs from £199 per person with extra nights from £40 for dinner, bed and breakfast.

To make a booking or for more information call 01776-704413, email or see


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