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Murray, James

Murray, James

Alias: None

Dates: 1865-1914

Nationality: British

Awards: Polar Medal (silver)

James Murray was born on 21 July 1865 in Glasgow, Scotland. He began the study of medicine, but gave that up to study sculpture at the Glasgow School of Art. After travelling in the United States and Europe, he returned to Glasgow and became a member of the Natural History Society of Glasgow, publishing papers on flora and fauna. In 1902, Murray was appointed biologist on the Scottish Loch Survey, working principally on rotifera and tardigrada. While engaged in this work, he was selected as biologist and naturalist on the British Antarctic Expedition 1907-09 (Nimrod).

During the absence of the two parties attempting to reach the South Magnetic and Geographical Poles, Murray was placed in charge of the winter quarters, Cape Royds, and spent much of his time examining the flora and fauna of the surrounding district. He took part in one sledging trip, the second Mount Erebus expedition, which was halted by a blizzard. Murray contributed some of the most important scientific achievements of the expedition, including conducting the first examination of freshwater lakes in the Antarctic, resulting in the discovery of numerous new species of rotifers and tardigrades.

On his return from the Antarctic, Murray co-wrote 'Antarctic Days' with George Marston about the life of Antarctic explorers. In 1911 he joined the Bolivian Boundary Commission as naturalist to chart the jungle region of the Peru-Bolivian border, publishing notes on his scientific work in the region. He was ill-prepared for the conditions and had to be sent back because of his health.

In June 1913 Murray joined the Canadian Arctic Expedition 1913-18 (led by Vilhjalmur Stefansson) as oceanographer on board the ship Karluk. The expedition aimed to explore the Parry Archipelago, and the Karluk was originally assigned the role of establishing a base for Stefansson and the scientists on the north-western fringe of the Canadian Arctic archipelago. However, after transporting Stefansson to Alaska, Karluk became beset in the ice and sank. Led by the ship's captain Bob Bartlett, a camp was established on the ice at the site of the wreck. On 5 February 1914, Murray left with three companions in an attempt to cross the sea ice and reach Wrangel Island; the last sighting of the four men was as they approached Herald Island.

Murray's contribution to Antarctic science is commemorated by Mount Murray 79°09' S 161°50' E, a sharp granite peak which was first charted by the British Antarctic Expedition.


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