Kane, Elisha Kent

Kane, Elisha Kent,

1820–57, American physician and arctic explorer, b. Philadelphia. Seeking adventure after medical school, Kane entered naval service and before he was 30 had seen many parts of the world and had served in the Mexican War. As senior medical officer he sailed (1850) on the first Grinnell expedition in search of the lost Franklin party. Kane's U.S. Grinnell Expedition in Search of Sir John Franklin (1853; repr. in part as Adrift in the Arctic Ice Pack, 1915) stirred such interest that he was able to organize and lead the second Grinnell expedition (1853–55). This expedition, of which the American physician and arctic explorer I. I. Hayes was medical officer, passed northward through Smith Sound at the head of Baffin Bay, discovered and explored Kane Basin, and discovered Kennedy Channel beyond. Several sledging journeys were undertaken, on one of which a record of lat. 80°10'N was achieved. Humboldt Glacier was sighted, and scientific observations resulted in valuable new information on the Arctic regions. Frozen in at Rensselaer Bay, the party abandoned ship, and Kane led a difficult retreat by land to Upernavik, Greenland. Kane's expedition had contributed more knowledge of Greenland than that of anyone before him. His health, never robust, was weakened by the rigors of his adventurous life, and he lived only long enough to complete his narrative of the second expedition, Arctic Explorations (1856), which had tremendous sales. The spiritualist Margaret Fox (see Fox sistersFox sisters,
family of American spiritualists including Margaret, 1836–93, Leah, 1814–90, and Catherine, 1841–92. In 1848, Margaret and Catherine claimed to hear mysterious rappings in their Arcadia, N.Y., home.
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) claimed after his death that she had been his wife. The Love Life of Dr. Kane (1866) contains many of his letters to Margaret Fox.


See studies by J. Mirsky (1954, repr. 1971), O. M. Villarejo (1965), and G. W. Corner (1972).

Kane, Elisha Kent


Born Feb. 3, 1820, in Philadelphia; died Feb. 16, 1857, in Havana. American arctic explorer; doctor.

Kane was a member of two expeditions sent in search of J. Franklin and financed by the capitalist H. Grinnell. Kane advanced the hypothesis of the existence of an open polar sea north of Smith Sound, through which he believed the ships of Franklin’s expedition could have passed. The first expedition, undertaken in 1850–51 under the command of E. De Haven, discovered Grinnell Peninsula (the northwestern projection of Devon Island). The second expedition (1853–55), which was commanded by Kane, discovered Kane Basin and Kennedy Channel by advancing by sledge to 80° 40’ N lat., as well as Grinnell Land (a section of the northeastern coast of Ellesmere Island) and Humboldt Glacier and Washington Land (in north-western Greenland). In Kane’s Basin Kane and his companions abandoned their ship and moved by boat to 74° N lat., where they were picked up by a whaleboat. A sea of the Arctic Ocean has been named Kane Basin in honor of Kane.


In Russian translation:
Puteshestviia i otkrytiia 2-i Grinel’skoi ekspeditsii v severnye poliarnye strany dlia otyskaniia sera Dzhona Franklina, sovershennye v 1853, 1854 i 1855 gg. St. Petersburg, 1860.


Arkticheskie pokhody Dzhona Franklina. Leningrad, 1937.

Kane, Elisha Kent

(1820–57) physician, explorer; born in Philadelphia. As a surgeon with the U.S. Navy, he traveled widely and served with distinction in the Mexican War. He was the surgeon and naturalist for an Arctic expedition (1850–51) and he commanded a second one (1853–55), which discovered Kennedy Channel. His goal was to find a route to the North Pole but he died prematurely in Havana, Cuba.
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