Nathaniel Portlock

Nathaniel Portlock.
Nathaniel Portlock


FULL NAME: Nathaniel Portlock
BORN: c. 1748
DEATH: September 12th, 1817


Nathaniel Portlock was a British ship captain, fur trader, and author. In 1772, he joined the Royal Navy, serving aboard the HMS St. Albans. He later served as the master’s mate of the HMS Discovery in 1776, being part of the third Pacific voyage of James Cook. He was transferred to the HMS Resolution during the expedition in August, 1779.

On September 7th, 1780, Portlock passed his lieutenant’s examination, leading him to serve on the HMS Firebrand in the Channel fleet. In 1785, Portlock, along with Richard Cadman Etches and George Dixon, helped form the fur trade.

Dixon have previously served on the HMS Resolution with Portlock under Cook. In September, 1785, he and Portlock sailed from England, with Portlock on the (BOM) King George and Dixon on the (BOM) Queen Charlotte.

They sailed together for a majority of their three-year voyage, crossing the Atlantic Ocean and reaching the Falkland Islands in January, 1786. Crossing over to the Pacific Ocean, they reached the Hawaiian islands on May 24th. Though they did not go ashore, they anchored in Kealakekua Bay, where Cook had been killed seven years before.

From there, they went on to what is now Alaska, where they stayed for two years. His visit in August, 1787 led him to name a bay along the west coast of Chichagof Island after himself – Portlock Harbor – in 1789.

Portlock and Dixon continued on to North America, finally reaching Macao in November, 1788. When the two finally returned from their grand voyage, Portlock and Dixon published an account of their adventures.

Portlock returned to the Royal Navy in 1791 and was appointed to command the HMS Assistant on a voyage to Tahiti. He returned to England in 1793, where he was promoted to commander, commanding the HMS Arrow.

In 1799, Nathaniel Portlock was promoted to captain, but had no further employment at sea. He died on September 12th, 1817 at Greenwich Hospital.

In the early and middle 20th century, Portlock, Alaska served as a cannery settlement on the Kenai Peninsula. Both the town and Portlock Glacier were named in his honor.

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