Elisha Kane

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Elisha Kent Kane
Elisha Kent Kane.png
Assistant Surgeon Elisha Kent Kane
Born (1820-02-28)February 28, 1820
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Died February 16, 1857(1857-02-16) (aged 36)
Havana, Cuba
Buried at Laurel Hill Cemetery; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania[1] (Lua error in Module:Coordinates at line 668: callParserFunction: function "#coordinates" was not found.)
Service/branch United States Navy

Elisha Kent Kane (February 28, 1820 – February 16, 1857) was an American explorer, and a medical officer in the United States Navy during the first half of the 19th century. He was a member of two Arctic expeditions to rescue the explorer Sir John Franklin. He was present at the discovery of Franklin's first winter camp, but he did not find out what had happened to the fatal expedition.

Life and career

Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Kane was the son of John Kintzing Kane, a U.S. district judge, and Jane Duval Leiper. His brother was attorney, diplomat, abolitionist, and American Civil War general Thomas L. Kane. Kane graduated from the University of Pennsylvania Medical School in 1842. On September 14, 1843, he became Assistant Surgeon in the Navy. He served in the China Commercial Treaty mission under Caleb Cushing, in the Africa Squadron,[2] and in the United States Marine Corps during the Mexican-American War. One battle that Kane fought in was at Nopalucan on January 6, 1848. At (sic) Napoluca, he captured, befriended and saved the life of Mexican General Antonio Gaona and the General's wounded son.[3]

Kane was appointed senior medical officer of the Grinnell Arctic expedition of 1850–1851 under the command of Edwin de Haven, which searched unsuccessfully for the lost expedition of Sir John Franklin.[4] During this expedition, the crew discovered Sir John Franklin's first winter camp. Kane then organized and headed the Second Grinnell expedition which sailed from New York on May 31, 1853, and wintered in Rensselaer Bay. Though suffering from scurvy, and at times near death, he pushed on and charted the coasts of Smith Sound and the Kane Basin, penetrating farther north than any other explorer had done up to that time. At Cape Constitution he discovered the ice-free Kennedy Channel, later followed by Isaac Israel Hayes, Charles Francis Hall, Augustus Greely, and Robert E. Peary in turn as they drove toward the North Pole.[5]

In 1852, Kane met the Fox sisters, famous for their spirit rapping séances, and he became enamored with the middle sister, Margaret. Kane was convinced that the sisters were frauds, and sought to reform Margaret. She would later claim that they were secretly married in 1856—she changed her name to Margaret Fox Kane—and engaged the family in lawsuits over his will. (After Kane's death, Margaret converted to the Roman Catholic faith, but she would eventually return to spiritualism.)[6] [7]

Kane finally abandoned the icebound brig Advance on May 20, 1855 and made an 83-day march of indomitable courage to Upernavik. The party, carrying the invalids, lost only one man. Kane and his men were saved by a sailing ship. Kane returned to New York on October 11, 1855 and the following year published his two-volume Arctic Explorations.[5]

After visiting England to fulfill his promise to deliver his report personally to Lady Franklin, he sailed to Havana, Cuba in a vain attempt to recover his health, after being advised to do so by his doctor. He died there on February 16, 1857.[5]

His body was brought to New Orleans, and carried by a funeral train to Philadelphia; the train was met at nearly every platform by a memorial delegation, and is said to have been the longest funeral train of the century excepting only Lincoln's.


Dr. Kane received medals from Congress, the Royal Geographical Society, and the Société de Géographie.

The destroyer USS Kane (DD-235) was named for him, as was a later oceanographic research ship, the USNS Kane (T-AGS-27).

Kane was a member of Holland Lodge No. 8 F&AM, and a prominent Masonic lodge in New York City (Lodge No. 454) was renamed the Kane Lodge.

The crater Kane on the Moon was also named for him.

On May 28, 1986, the United States Postal Service issued a 22 cent postage stamp in his honor, depicting his route to the Arctic.[8]

The Anoatok historic home at Kane, Pennsylvania was named to allude to his Arctic adventures.


Second winter in Greenland, Kane is the center figure


  1. "Elisha Kent Kane (1820–1857)". Find A Grave Memorial. Retrieved October 6, 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "Kane Elisha Kent". Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online. Retrieved January 21, 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Joe Musso, Kane Knife [1] October 28, 2004
  4. "The U.S. Grinnell Expedition in Search of Sir John Franklin: a Personal Narrative". World Digital Library. 1854. Retrieved 2013-10-02.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Chisholm 1911.
  6. Doyle 1926: volume 1, 89–94
  7. [2]
  8. Scott catalog # 2220.

 Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Kane, Elisha Kent". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Further reading

External links