Kane, Elisha Kent

Elisha Kent Kane, explorer, physician, naval officer (b at Philadelphia, Pa 3 Feb 1820; d at Havana, Cuba 16 Feb 1857). A graduate of University of Pennsylvania medical school, he travelled widely in the Far East. In 1845 Kane joined the US Navy as assistant surgeon, and saw action in the Mexican-American War of 1848. He served in the Grinnell expedition of 1850-51 sent north to search for the lost Franklin expedition (seeFRANKLIN SEARCH), and became an advocate of the idea of an "open polar sea."

From 1853 to 1855 he commanded an American-sponsored polar expedition. Based at Kane Basin, the expedition, though plagued by disease and insubordination, achieved a "farthest north" of 81°22´. Trapped by ice, the men travelled 2100 km by small boat and on foot to Upernavik, Greenland; 3 did not survive. Kane has been widely hailed as America's greatest explorer, and it was he who pioneered the idea that northern explorers should adopt the Inuit way of life, particularly in clothing and diet.