Review of Reviews,  7 (1893), 371–86.

Character Sketch: April. Mr. W. Parker Snow—Sailor, Explorer, and Author



Regular Feature, Biography

Relevant illustrations:

eng. [5], map [4]


Exploration, Imperialism, Heroism, Ethnography, Psychical Research, Spiritualism

Publications cited:

Skewes 1889

    Relates the experiences of the naval explorer W Parker Snow, who, unlike other 'subjects selected for our Character Sketches', represents the 'much greater number of those who have failed—failed, that is to say, in winning recognition, competence, and what the world calls success' (371). After a varied career in the navy and as a literary amanuensis, Snow, then living in New York, discovered that he was 'naturally psychic, living near the edge of the fourth dimension'. In January 1850 he received 'a kind of clairvoyant vision' of the exact whereabouts of the survivors of John Franklin's ill-fated Arctic expedition to discover the north-west passage (376). This 'dream made so strong an impression upon him that he wrote to Lady Franklin that very day', and she soon 'decided that her private search expedition should go to just those places where the vision had shown the survivors to be'. The 'survivors were not discovered in 1850', however, because the commander of the Prince Albert, on which Snow 'sailed [...] practically as second in command', decided abruptly to return home just when those they were supposed to be 'saving [...] were almost within hail'. (378) It was not until a further nine years had passed that the expedition led by Francis L McClintock brought news of the fate of Franklin's unfortunate expedition, but if in 1850 'the Admiralty had paid attention to the suggestions and strange notifications given they would have saved the country half a million of money, and probably have rescued at least one half of the Franklin expedition. It is a curious story and may well be borne in mind at a time when it is the cue of the unbeliever to assert that spiritualistic manifestations have never brought to light the existence of any fact which was not already known' (380). Although Snow's 'pamphlets have been suppressed, and all his efforts to bring the facts before the public have failed', he was never inclined to believe that 'McClintock had settled everything. In his opinion many of the crew were still alive, and, strange to say, he is by no means inclined to admit that they are all dead even now' (382), holding that some are 'still living among the Esquimaux' (381).

© Science in the Nineteenth-Century Periodical Project, Universities of Leeds and Sheffield, 2005 - 2020

Printed from Science in the Nineteenth-Century Periodical: An Electronic Index, v. 4.0, The Digital Humanities Institute <> [accessed ]