Elisha Kent Kane (28 February 1820 – 16 February 1857) was 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.
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 cavalry general Thomas L. Kane. Kane graduated from the University of Pennsylvania Medical School in 1842. On 14 September 1843, he became Assistant Surgeon in the Navy. He served in the China Commercial Treaty mission under Caleb Cushing, in the Africa Squadron, and in the Marines during the Mexican-American War.
Kane became senior medical officer of the unsuccessful Arctic expedition searching for explorer Sir John Franklin in 1850 and 1851. Kane organized and headed a second rescue expedition which sailed from New York 31 May 1853, and wintered in Rensselaer Bay. Though suffering from scurvy, and at times near death, he resolutely pushed on and chartered the coasts of Smith Sound (later called Kane Basin) and penetrated 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.
Kane finally abandoned the icebound brig Advance 20 May 1855 and escaped the clutches of the frozen north by an 83-day march of indomitable courage to Upernavik. The party, carrying the invalids, lost only one man in the retreat to stand in the annals of Arctic exploration as the archetype of victory over defeat. Kane returned to New York 11 October 1855 and the following year published his two-volume "Arctic Explorations."
After visiting England, he sailed to Havana, Cuba, where he died.
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.
This article includes text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships.
- William Elder, Biography of Elisha Kent Kane (Philadelphia, 1857)
- Margaret Fox. Love Life of Dr. Kane (New York, 1866)
- A. W. Greely, American Explorers and Travelers (New York, 1894)
- The Royal Navy in Polar Exploration from Franklin to Scott, E C Coleman 2006 (Tempus Publishing)
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