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Joseph René Bellot (March 18, 1826August 18, 1853) was a Frenchmarker Arctic explorer.

Bellot was born at Parismarker, the son of a farrier, but moved to Rochefortmarker with his family in 1831. With the aid of the authorities of Rochefort he was enabled at the age of 15 to enter the Ecole Navale at Brestmarker, in which he studied two years and earned a high reputation. He then took part in the Anglo-French expedition of 1845 to Madagascarmarker, and received the cross of the Legion of Honor for distinguished conduct. He afterwards took part in another Anglo-French expedition, that of Parana to South America, which opened the Río de la Platamarker to commerce.

In 1851 he joined the Arctic expedition under the command of Captain William Kennedy in search of Sir John Franklin. (To harden himself for the Arctic winters, Bellot is said to have allowed himself only a thin mattress and one blanket on bare boards. When he met his first Eskimos he endeared himself to them by constructing an artificial leg for a man who was disabled).

In February 1852, Kennedy and Bellot set out from their winter quarters in Batty Baymarker on a dog sledging journey, travelling south to Brentford Baymarker, where they discovered Bellot Straitmarker (a strait between Boothia Felixmarker and Somerset Islandmarker). They then continued west to cross Prince of Wales Islandmarker to Ommanney Baymarker, returning to Batty Bay via Peel Soundmarker and Cape Walker - a total trek of (Bellot's narrative of the expedition was published posthumously in 1854).

Early in 1852 he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant, and in the same year accompanied the Franklin search expedition under Captain Edward Inglefield. As on the previous occasion, his intelligence, devotion to duty and courage won him wide admiration. While making a perilous journey with two comrades for the purpose of communicating with Sir Edward Belcher, he suddenly disappeared in an opening between the broken masses of ice in the Wellington Channelmarker (August 1853). A memorial grave was built on nearby Beechey Islandmarker. A pension was granted to his family by the emperor Napoleon III.

The young explorer was mourned widely, and £2,000 was raised after his death of which £500 went towards a granite memorial obelisk (designed by Philip Hardwick and unveiled in 1855) in his memory on the Thames riverside in front of Greenwich Hospital; a nearby Greenwichmarker street, Bellot Street SE10, also carries his name. The remainder of the money went towards supporting his sisters.

In 1935 a crater on the Moon was named Bellotmarker in his honour.


  • The Royal Navy in Polar Exploration from Franklin to Scott, E C Coleman 2006 (Tempus Publishing)
  • Memoirs of Lieutenant Joseph Rene Bellot, ... With His Journal of a Voyage in the Polar Seas, in Search of Sir John Franklin, London, Hurst and Blackett, 1855.
  • Memoirs of Lieutenant Joseph Rene Bellot: With His Journal of a Voyage in the Polar Seas, in Search of Sir John Franklin, Kessinger Publishing, 2007. ISBN 1432677470

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