Admiral John Fiot Lee Pearse Maclear

Commander Jack - Challenger Expedition

John Maclear (1838-1907) served in the Royal Navy from 1851 to 1891, including Commander aboard HMS Challenger, and eventually as Admiral in 1903. He was the 8th child (of 11) and 2nd eldest son (of 4) of Sir Thomas Maclear, astronomer.


Major Events in Jack's Life

1838 - Born in Cape Town, 27 June
1851 - frigate Castor, naval cadet
1851 - Kaffir War
1854 - 1856 - served on the Algiers, Midshipman in Baltic & Black Sea
1856 - Turkish, Baltic & Crimean medals, clasp for Sevastopol
1857 - served on the Cyclops, mate
1858 - outbreak at Jeddah, Red Sea
1859 - appointed to Sphinx, lieutenant
1860-1862 - several operations at the China Station,
        - medal-with-clasp for capture of Taku forts
1863 - Excellent, gunnery lieutenant
1864 - Princess Royal, flagship on China station
1867 - first lieutenant of frigate Octavia, flagship of Commodore Heath, East Indies
1868 - medal for Abyssinian campaign
1868 - promoted to commander
1872 - commander on Challenger (captained by Sir George Nares)
1876 - promoted to captain
1878 - married Julia Herschel daughter of Sir John F. W. Herschel, 4 June
1879-1882 - command of Alert for surveying work in Magellan Straits and Queensland coast
1883-1887 - command of Flying Fish, surveying (including Christmas Island)
1890-1905 - compilation of several volumes of sailing directions
1891 - rear-admiral
1891 - retired
1897 - vice-admiral
1903 - admiral
1907 - died at Niagara Falls, 17 July

Obituary from The Times

Friday, July 19, 1907, Page 10, Column 5

"A Reuter telegram from Niagara Falls, dated July 17, states that Admiral Maclear dropped dead from heart failure, superinduced by heat, in the verandah of an hotel there. The body will be taken to England for internment.

Admiral John Fiot Lee Pearse Maclear was the son of Sir T. Maclear, at one time the Astronomer Royal of the Cape of Good Hope, where the admiral was born in 1839 [1838 - JR]. After being privately educated, he joined the Castor as a naval cadet in 1851, and was present in that vessel during the Kaffir War of that year. On the outbreak of the war with Russia he was appointed midshipman of the Algiers, and served in her both in the Baltic and Black Sea until 1856, receiving the Turkish, Baltic, and Crimean medals, with a clasp for Sevastopol. He was made mate in 1857, and in that capacity served in the Cyclops in the Red Sea during the outbreak at Jeddah in 1858. In the following year he was promoted to lieutenant and appointed to the Sphinx, in which vesssel he served on the China Station, and was present during several of the operations of the war from 1860 to 1862. For his service at the capture of the Ta-kn Forts he received the medal, with clasp. In 1864 he qualified as gunnery lieutenant, and after a commission at home was appointed first lieutenant of the Octavia, then flying the broad pennant of the Commodore Heath to the East Indies. For his service in the Abyssinian campaign of 1868 he recieved the medal and was promoted to commander.

It was at this time that he began to take an interest in that department of the naval service in which he subsequently distinguished himself as scientific officer. When Sir George Richards was Hydrographer the Challenger expedition was decided upon, and in 1872, when the ship was commissioned with Sir George Nares as her captain, Maclear was appointed commander, and held that position during her voyage round the world until 1876, when on her return he was promoted to captain. Later on he succeded Sir George Nares in command of the Alert to finish the surveying work which was being carried out in Magellan Straits, and paying off this ship in 1862 commissioned the Flying Fish on surveying service until 1887, carrying out a large amount of valuable scientific work in addition to the survey of coasts and harbours. In June, 1891 he was made a rear-admiral, and retired in the same year, receiving his subsequent steps to vice-admiral in 1897 and admiral in 1903. Admiral Maclear was a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and of the Royal Meteorological Society. He assited in the compilation of several volumes of hydrographic Sailing Directions, and was particularly interested in meteorology and natural history. He married in 1878 a daughter of the late Sir John F. W. Herschel, the distinguished astronomer."

Dictionary of National Biography

Dictionary of National Biography 20th Century

1901-1911 Supplement, Page 539

"MACLEAR, JOHN FIOT LEE PEARSE (1838-1907), admiral, son of Sir Thomas Maclear [q. v.], astronomer royal at the Cape of Good Hope, was born at Cape Town on 27 June 1838. He entered the navy in Sept. 1851 as a cadet on board the Castor, frigate, then bearing the broad pennant of Christopher Wyvill, commodore in command on the Cape station. In her he saw service during the Kaffir war of 1851, and afterwards, as a midshipman of the Algiers, served in the Baltic and in the Black Sea from 1854 to 1856, receiving, the Baltic, Turkish, and Crimean medals, with the clasp for Sevastopol. He passed his examination in July 1857, and served on board the Cyclops in the Red Sea as mate during the outbreak at Jeddah in 1858. On 19 May 1859 he was promoted, to lieutenant, and shortly afterwards appointed to the Sphinx, in which he served on the China station until 1862, being present at several engagements during the second Chinese war, and especially at Taku Forts, for which he received the clasp. In 1863 he went to the Excellent to qualify, as a gunnery lieutenant, and in Feb. 1864, was appointed to the Princess Royal, flagship on the China station. He returned home in her, and in Oct. 1867 was chosen to be first lieutenant of the Octavia, frigate, flagship of Commodore Heath [see HEATH, SIR LEOPOLD GEORGE, Suppl. II] in the East Indies. In her he took part in the, Abyssinian campaign of 1868, earning the medal and his promotion to commander, which was dated 14 Aug. 1868.

In 1872 the Challenger was commissioned by Sir George Nares, with Maclear as his commander, for the voyage of scientific discovery in which the ship went round the world. Returning home in her in 1876, Maclear was on 14 August promoted to captain. In 1879 he succeeded Sir George Nares in command of the Alert, sloop, and remained in her until 1882, completing the survey of the Straits of Magellan. From 1883 to 1887 he commanded the Flying Fish on surveying service, carrying out other valuable scientific work during the same time. On 20 June 1891 he reached flag rank, and two months later retired. He was promoted to vice-admiral on the retired list in 1897, and to admiral in 1903. After leaving the sea, Maclear assisted in the compilation of several volumes of the official sailing directions, especially those for the Eastern Archipelago (1890 and 1893), for the West Coasts of Central America and the United States (1896), for Bering Sea and Alaska (1898), and the' Arctic Pilot' (vol. ii. 1901 and vol. iii. 1905). He was a fellow of the Royal Geographical and Royal Meteorological societies.

He died from heart failure in an hotel at Niagara on 17 July 1907, and his body was brought to England for burial. He married on 4 June 1878 Julia, sixth daughter of Sir John Frederick William Herschel [q. v.].

[The Times, 19 July 1907 ; Journal of Roy. Geogr. Soc. 1907; Proc. Meteorol. Soc. 1907 ; Sir Charles Wyville Thomson, The Voyage of the Challenger, 2vols. 1877; W. J. J. Spry, Cruise of H.M.S. Challenger, 1876.] L. G. C. L. "

Challenger Expedition

- Encyclopedia Britannica, Micropedia Vol II, 15th Ed, 1974, p714

"The Challenger Expedition was a prolonged exploration cruise from Dec 7, 1872 to May 26, 1876, covering 127,600 kilometres (68,890 nautical miles) and carried out through cooperation of the British Admiralty and the Royal Society. HMS "Challenger", a wooden corvette of 2,306 tons, was commanded by Captain (later Sir) George Strong Nares; Sir Charles Wyville Thomson supervised the scientific staff.

The expedition gathered observations from 362 stations and made 492 deep soundings and 133 dredgings. Among the results of the "Challenger" Expedition were determinations of oceanic temperature, ocean currents and the depths and contours of the great ocean basins, charting, surveying, and biological investigations were carried on. Later explorations supplemented these findings but did not materially alter them; the scope and thoroughness of the expedition made it a landmark in the history of undersea exploration.

The Challenger Report was issued in 50 volumes between 1890 and 1895; much of the data gathered at that time is still used today [sic]."

The portrait at the top of this page is taken from a facsimile of the volume of Challenger portraits presented to Dr John Murray on completion of the official Reports in 1895. The original, and the facsimile, are held in the Library of the Natural History Museum, London, and is taken from the Challenger Society for Marine Science page by Tony Rice.

For additional information on the Challenger Expedition see here and here.

Report on Port Darwin as Imperial Coaling Station and Arsenal,
by J.P. Maclear, Captain R.N., 1887

Ordered to be printed by the South Australian House of Assembly, November 1st, 1887 [No. 105]

[This is a report and covering letter by J.P. Maclear, Captain of H.M.S. Flying Fish forwarded 6 July, 1887 to Rear-Admiral Sir George Tyron of the Royal Navy. It was commissioned by the Admiralty in 1887 for the South Australian House of Assembly on the suitability of Port Darwin as a place for Imperial Purposes. - JR]

Cranleigh, 6th July, 1887

Sir - In obedience to your letter of 2nd July, I forward report on the suitability of Port Darwin as an Imperial coaling station and arsenal.

With it are forwarded charts, &c., posted separately :-
1. Chart of Port Darwin, showing Government reserves.
2. Two plans of Palmerston, Northern Territory.
3. Sheet I. of a plan of overland telegraph.
4. Brochure description of Northern Territory.
5. Seven photographs of Port Darwin, by P. Foelsche, Esq.
I trust that the report and enclosures contain the information required.

I have, &c.,
J.P. MACLEAR, Captain R.N.

[Report on Port Darwin as Imperial Coaling Station and Arsenal]

Port Darwin, from its position on the N.W. of Australia, is a very important port with relation to the trade of Australia, China, Straits Settlement, and Dutch colonies, but as regards European traffic the route by Port Darwin has at present no advantage over the Southern routes, as the following distance table will show:-

Colombo - 3,253 miles to Port Darwin, 2,400 to Sydney = 5,653 miles.
Colombo - 3,390 miles to King George's Sound, 2,052 miles to Sydney = 5,542 miles.
Colombo - 3,390 miles to King George's Sound, 1,007 miles to Glenelg = 4,397 miles.

The Port Darwin route has, however, the advantage of smooth water, and when the railway now in progress meets the Queensland system it is possible it may be preferred for the eastern port of Australia.

Port Darwin is of great importance as the terminus of the Australian telegraph cable, and in time of war it would be necessary to defend this either by keeping one or two corvettes in the neighborhood, or by batteries erected at the entrance of the harbor. It may also become the terminus of a great transcontinental railway; a railway jetty has been built, accessible at all times to large steamers, and in November last a railway was commenced to Pine Creek, distance 150 miles; it is contemplated to extend the rail, eventually, to Adelaide. Should it be made from Pine Creek to join the Queensland line of rails, it will shorten the sea voyage to Eastern Australia by 1,144 miles, the difference between the distance from Colombo to Port Darwin and from Colombo to Glenelg.

Port Darwin would prove a valuable station for protecting the China and Australia trade in time of was; the harbor is very good, and could well be protected by batteries on the Government reserves at the entrance points (marked in red on the accompanying chart of P.D.). At present all coal is stored on board the E. and A. Company's hulk, generally less than 500 tons, and can be put on board steamers alongside at the rate of 100 tons per day, but if the Government should keep a store of coal it might be better to keep in on shore near the railway pier, which would give facilities for running it alongside quickly. The nearest coal stations are Kopang, in Timor, distance 450 miles, where coal can be obtained at the maximum rate of fifty to sixty tons per day, and at Thursday Island, distance 730 miles, where there is a coal hulk. It must be considered that during eight months of the year an east wind prevails between Port Darwin to Torres Straits, and in the heart of the season blows hard with a high sea.

As an arsenal Port Darwin is the only suitable place that I am aware of in North Australia, and for that it is very well adapted; the harbor is capacious, and sheltered from all winds but N.W. by W., the holding ground is excellent, and the tides, though strong, are not more difficult to deal with than in our English harbors. The immediate difficulty would be to obtain shore frontage for buildings and stores on account of the extensive mud flats and mangrove swamps northward and eastward to the railway jetty. The most invaluable site is undoubtedly between Fort Hill and the railway jetty. Should commerce increase to the extent that it has in other colonies, that part of the harbor would be converted into a basin, with docks. The site N.N.E. of the railway jetty would be the best for naval stores, but some expense would be incurred dredging, or in reclaiming and facing to low waterline.

Fresh provisions can be obtained now, and if water were laid on from a watershed which is favourably spoken of, meat and vegetables would be plentiful. Labor is very scarce, especially skilled labor, and although it could be obtained in any quantity at low rates from China, the antipathy of the poorer colonists to compete with Chinese labor is so great that it would have to be seriously considered in any scheme for works. When these were once completed, it would be well to be independent of manual labor, as much as possible, by the use of steam cranes and rails, as well as of steam distilling boilers.

For description of the neighboring territory and resources, I enclose a brochure by Mr. Knight. I also forward chart of P.D. with the Government reserve marked O, two maps, and sheet I of plan of overland telegraph, and some photographs of Port Darwin, by Mr. Foelsche, Inspector of Police.

Forwarded 6th July, 1887
J.P. Maclear, Captain of H.M.S. Flying Fish

Port Darwin 1888
Port Darwin 1888

Maclear Island, Australia

Latitude -14.2167 Longitude 144.2500
Lat (DMS) 14 deg 13' 0S Long (DMS) 144 deg 15' 0E
Detailed map of Maclear%20Island.
116.3 nm east and west of Maclear Island. Mercator projection.
Mid-range map of Maclear%20Island Large range map of Maclear%20Island

Places near Maclear Island

heading Distance Name
0.0 deg 2.0 nm Flinders Group
0.0 deg 2.0 nm Flinders Island
44.1 deg 1.4 nm Flinders Peak
135.7 deg 1.4 nm Denham Island
270.0 deg 1.9 nm Blackwood Island

Courtesy of Falling Rain Genomics, Inc.

Mount Maclear, Australia

Latitude -20.3167 Longitude 148.7833
Lat (dms) 20 deg 19' 0S Long (dms) 148 deg 46' 60E
detailed map of maclear%2c%20mount.
112.5 nm east and west of Maclear, Mount. Mercator projection.
Mid-range map of Maclear%2c%20Mount Large range map of Maclear%2c%20Mount

Places near Mount Maclear

Proserpine and Conway National Park, Queensland

Courtesy of Falling Rain Genomics, Inc.

Maclear Island, Papua New Guinea

Latitude -1.9500 Longitude 146.5833
Lat (dms) 1 deg 57' 0S Long (dms) 146 deg 34' 60E
detailed map of maclear%2c%20island.
119.9 nm east and west of Maclear Island. mercator projection.
Mid-range map of Maclear%2c%20Mount Large range map of Maclear%2c%20Mount

Courtesy of Falling Rain Genomics, Inc.

Rattus Macleari

The now extinct rodent Rattus Macleari, or Maclear's Rat of Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean was so named by species author Thomas(1887) when Jack captained the Flying Fish (Jack named Flying Fish Cove on Christmas Island). Its extinction is attributed to disease acquired from introduced black rats. The last record of the species is 1903.