Royal Navy Gores in Australia—part two

Royal Navy Gores in Australia—part two
From Goulburn to the Arctic
14 July 2015

Previously, Richard traced the Gore family through three Johns, beginning with Captain John Gore who served as third in command on the H.M.S. Endeavour—Royal Navy Gores in Australia—part one. Here, he continues his journey. 

Graham Gore as a Royal Navy midshipman was at the Battle of Navarino, 1827. Promoted to lieutenant he was on H.M.S. Terror under Captain Back in the Arctic (1836–1837). Back’s diary says that Christmas Day dinner 1836 was a “haunch of reindeer shot by Mr Gore”—shades of the grandfather Master Hunter. In 1839 he was at the Capture of Aden and a year later in the First Opium War, the Battle of Kowloon.

In late 1840, still unmarried, in India he saw a chance to see his parents, sisters and brother at Lake Bathurst. In Sydney, April 1841, he was on H.M.S. Beagle’s third exploration voyage under Captain Lort Stokes. Graham was able to see his family on Gilmour and in April 1842 from the Beagle in Sydney he wrote to his sister, "Dear Eliza ...I guaranteed Mrs Stokes that Father would send his gig as far as Berrima for her...last evening was at the Campbells...Skip Campbell at the piano, Mr Palmer on the tambourine, your humble servant on the flute."

Graham Gore letter to sister Eliza (detail)  5 April 1842, Gore Family Papers, MS 7955

Graham Gore was not only a musician but an accomplished artist and provided illustrations for Lort Stokes’ Discoveries in Australia 1837–1843. The Library holds one of Gore's paintings, Burial Reach Flinders River Queensland. Stokes relates how in the Gulf of Carpentaria his "much valued friend Mr Gore" nearly blew off his own hand whilst shooting "on recovering from his swoon, the first words uttered were—killed the bird—an expression truly characteristic of a sportsman". 

Graham Gore, Burial Reach Flinders River Queensland  1842, nla.pic-an2288558 

In May 1845, Gore was on H.M.S. Erebus with the Sir John Franklin on the North West Passage expedition along with the H.M.S. Terror. In the Arctic, in 1847, both vessels became trapped in ice and all 130 officers and crew perished. Their fate became mystery and legend with searches organised by Lady Franklin (‘This Errant Lady’) continuing into the 1860s. Newly promoted to Commander, Gore was a prominent member of the expedition, writing one of the few documents found, known as the Victory Point Note which gave important details for possible rescuers. 

Victory Point Note (detail) signed by Lt Graham Gore  28 May 1847, National Maritime Museum Greenwich

In September 2014, the Canadian Government announced the finding of the H.M.S. Erebus on the Arctic seafloor after a decade of searching, “thus solving one of the world’s greatest archaeological mysteries”. The vessel appears to be intact according to sonar images.

H.M.S. Erebus found after 167 years, image courtesy of Parks Canada

Admiral John and Sarah Gore are buried in St Saviours Cemetery Goulburn. Their gravestone also contains the only known memorial anywhere to their Arctic explorer son. The inscription in full reads:

“To the memory of John Gore, late Admiral R.N. died at Gilmour 6 March 1853 aged 78 years; also his relict Sarah Gore died 7 April 1857 aged 80 years; also Graham Gore eldest son of the above aged 40 years, late Commander R.N., supposed to have been lost in the late Arctic Expedition with Sir John Franklin about AD 1850

Gore Grave Headstone St Saviours Cemetery Goulburn plot 444

All three Gores rose to senior ranks in the Royal Navy and were intimately connected with the early history of Australia. From 1760–1850 all three were closely involved with a who’s who of successive English explorers, naval and scientific men.

The name lives on. Cook named Gore Cove and Gore Bay in New Zealand; Gore Island, Queensland; Gore’s Channel Alaska; Gore Island, Bering Sea. Lort Stokes named Gore Point in the Gulf of Carpentaria. Sir John Franklin named Gore Point on King William Island, Canadian Arctic.

The recent finding by the Canadian Government of H.M.S. Erebus and with H.M.S. Terror yet to be found—more successful archaeology searches—could mean the Gore story is not yet over.