Jacob Cross

Jacob Cross

I recently visited a friend in Dundee for their 30th birthday Ceilidh. It is a long way to go from Leeds so we stayed for the weekend to do some touristy poking around. We ended up at the excellent RSS Discovery museum and it was there that I discovered this weeks #TechncianOTW. I have not been able to find a lot of information about him but it is a life worth knowing about. The Ceilidh was excellent by the way – in case you were wondering.

Jacob Cross (18–1946) was a Petty Officer (1st class R.N.) on the Discovery when it sailed in 1901 under the British National Antarctic Expedition. With Robert Falcon Scott as Captain, the Discovery was to make magnetic surveys and carry out meteorological, oceanographic, geological and biological research in the Antarctic.

Jacob Cross
Jacob Cross [1]

Cross’s primary roles were those of helmsman and quarter-master. However, according to one obituary he, “proved himself in all respects an excellent explorer. He had the temperament and physique most suitable for Polar conditions.”[2]

One of the aims of the expedition was to collect and record the flora and fauna of the antarctic. Along side his role as junior surgeon, Edward A. Wilson had been appointed the Discovery’s vertebrate zoologist and artist [3]. He spent his time on board describing and sketching Antarctic birds and seals for later publication in the Discovery reports. He also collected and preserved samples of these creatures where possible and that was where Jacob Cross was so important.

Discovery crew
Discovery crew [4]

Cross expressed an interest in natural history and was taken on by Wilson as his right-hand man. Wilson said of Cross, “What a good right hand I was given in Cross, who not only learned to make good skins for our bird collection, but who, in the matter of making Emperor Penguin’s skins, improved upon his teacher. Always willing and thoroughly capable, it was to a large extent thanks to him that I was enabled at times to save much of what otherwise would have been lost, when, as on our visit to the Macquarie islands, we had far more in hand than one man could possibly have managed.” [2]

RRS Discovery
RRS Discovery [4]

The Discovery returned home after its four year voyage but only after being rescued from the Antarctic ice, where it had become stuck. Arriving back home Jacob Cross left the ship and returned to the Royal Navy. He served through WW1 then he retired and settled in Gillingham, Kent.


[1] Dundee Heritage Trust

[2] Jacob Cross obituary (PDF)

[3] Edward A. Wilson, Discovery Museum website.

[4] Cool Antarctica website

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