Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Kellett, Henry

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KELLETT, Sir HENRY (1806–1875), vice-admiral, son of John Dalton Kellett of Clonacody in county Tipperary, Ireland, was born on 2 Nov. 1806. He entered the navy in 1822, and after five years' service in the West Indies was appointed to the Eden with Captain William Fitzwilliam Owen [q. v.], going out to the coast of Africa, and being more especially employed in the scheme for the colonisation of Fernando Po. Kellett was promoted to be lieutenant on 15 Sept. 1828, but continued in the Eden during a very trying commission, till she was paid off in the summer of 1831. He was then appointed to the Ætna surveying vessel, with Captain Belcher [see Belcher, Sir Edward], and after she was paid off in 1835 to command the Starling cutter, employed on the survey of the west coast of South America. In 1840 he took this little vessel across the Pacific to China, where as surveyor and pilot he played a very important part in the operations of the war in the Canton river and in the Yang-tse-Kiang. He was promoted to be commander on 6 May 1841, but continued in the Starling, which was afterwards officially rated as a sloop of war, in order to give him the sea time necessary for his promotion to post rank on 23 Dec. 1842. He was at the same time nominated a C.B. He returned to England in the summer of 1843, and in February 1845 was appointed to command the Herald, a small frigate commissioned as a surveying vessel in the Pacific. Her most important work there was the exact survey of the coast of Columbia between Guayaquil and Panama, but this was interrupted by three summer voyages, 1848–49–50, through Behring's Strait, to co-operate with the Franklin search expeditions. She afterwards returned home across the Pacific, touching at Hong Kong, Singapore, and the Cape of Good Hope, and arriving in England in the summer of 1851. The story of the commission was written at full length by Mr. Berthold Seemann, the naturalist of the survey, under the title of ‘Narrative of the Voyage of H.M.S. Herald, 1845–51’ (2 vols. 8vo, 1853).

In February 1852 Kellett commissioned the Resolute for the search of Sir John Franklin, and sailed under the orders of his old captain Sir Edward Belcher. Going up Baffin's Bay and through Lancaster Sound, the Resolute wintered at Melville Island. In August 1853 she was driven out of her winter quarters and passed the next winter in the pack. On 15 May 1854 she was abandoned by positive orders from Belcher and contrary to Kellett's strongly expressed views (McDougall, pp. 449, 457; Osborn, p. 264), with which naval opinion has generally concurred. The ship's company, after a fortnight's journey over the ice, were received on board the North Star and returned to England in September 1854. The Resolute, left to herself, passed uninjured through Lancaster Sound, down Baffin's Bay, and on 16 Sept. 1855 was picked up by Captain Buddington of the American whaler George Henry, who brought her to New London. Mr. Crampton, the English minister, waived all claim to her. She was then bought by the United States Government, thoroughly refitted, and sent to England. She anchored at Spithead on 12 Dec. 1856, and was formally presented to ‘the queen and people of Great Britain.’ She was, however, never again commissioned, though her name continued on the list of the navy till 1879. On his return to England from arctic service, Kellett was immediately appointed commodore at Jamaica, 1855–9. On 16 June 1862 he was promoted to be rear-admiral, and from 1864 to 1867 he was superintendent of Malta dockyard. On 8 April 1868 he became vice-admiral, was nominated a K.C.B. on 2 June 1869, was commander-in-chief in China from 1869 to 1871, and died at Clonabody on 1 March 1875.

[O'Byrne's Nav. Biog. Dict.; Dawson's Memoirs of Hydrography, ii. 36, where there is a list of thirty-three charts published from Kellett's Surveys; Annual Register, 1875, p. 136; Seemann's Voyage of H.M.S. Herald; McDougall's Eventful Voyage of H.M. discovery ship Resolute; Osborn's Discovery of a North-West Passage.]

J. K. L.