Sir Albert Markham
Albert Hastings Markham.jpg
Albert Hastings Markham in 1876
Birth nameAlbert Hastings Markham
Born11 November 1841
Bagnères-de-Bigorre, France
Died28 October 1918 (aged 76)
London, England
Allegiance Royal Navy
Years of service1856–1906
Commands held
Battles/warsNukapu Expedition
KCB (1903)[1]
RelationsFather: Captain John Markham
Mother: Marianne Markham (née Wood)[1]
Wife: Theodora Markham (née Gervers)
Cousin: Sir Clements Robert Markham KCB FRS
Other workArctic Exploration
Council of the Royal Geographical Society

Admiral Sir Albert Hastings Markham KCB (11 November 1841 – 28 October 1918) was a British explorer, author, and officer in the Royal Navy. In 1903 he was invested as a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath. He is also remembered for designing the flag of New Zealand.[2]

Family and background

Albert Markham was the fifth son of Captain John Markham, who had retired from the navy because of ill health with the rank of lieutenant. John Markham's grandfather, William Markham, had been Archbishop of York. He was a cousin and close friend of Sir Clements Markham.[3][2]

Albert was born in Bagnères-de-Bigorre in the Hautes-Pyrénées department of France, where the family lived before moving to a farm on Guernsey. At age thirteen, Albert was sent to London to live with his aunt, the wife of his uncle David Markham (Canon of Windsor from 1827 to 1853), at 4 Onslow Square. Neighbours included the explorer Vice-Admiral Robert FitzRoy and novelist William Thackeray.

He was educated at home and at Eastman's Royal Naval Academy.[4] Markham's father was short of money for his education and had for some time tried to find a naval officer willing to sponsor Albert for admission to the navy. He only succeeded in doing so after Albert had passed the normal entry age of fourteen, but by good luck the admiralty at that time had decided to experiment with accepting older cadets. His aunt's son Clements Markham, who was eleven years older than Albert, had also joined the navy before leaving to become a geographer and explorer. He became a lifelong friend to his cousin Albert and exerted a considerable influence on his career.[5]

When away from Clements and his wife Minna, whom for much of his life he regarded as his only family, Albert was often moody, irritable and defensive. He had a strong sense of duty as a naval officer, which compelled him to serve with a strict adherence to rules and established practices, and strong religious convictions. He did not smoke, allowing that a gentleman might have an occasional cigar, but believing that cigarettes were for effeminate weaklings and that a black pipe ruined mind and body. He did not drink and disapproved of those who did. He found it difficult to socialise with other officers. He disliked the peacetime navy, with its endless social engagements, partying and ritual displays.[6]

Markham's family emigrated to the United States and John Markham bought a farm at La Crosse in Wisconsin. Albert visited them twice and was unimpressed. He found the trains slow, the hotels disreputable, and travelling companions murderous. He was, however, impressed by the wild grandeur and wildlife of the Mississippi Valley and was invited to hunt with General Mackenzie in Indian territory. Throughout his life he enjoyed hunting all manner of beasts. The only killing at which he showed disgust was the drawn-out deaths of whales, which he saw on Arctic voyages.[7]

He married Theodora Gervers in 1894, with whom he had one daughter.

Naval career

The flag of New Zealand as designed by Markham in 1869
The flag of New Zealand as designed by Markham in 1869

Kenya, officially the Republic of Kenya (Swahili: Jamhuri ya Kenya), is a country in Eastern Africa. At 580,367 square kilometres (224,081 sq mi), Kenya is the world's 48th largest country by area. With a population of more than 47.6 million in the 2019 census,[12] Kenya is the 29th most populous country in the world.[6] Kenya's capital and largest city is Nairobi, while its oldest, currently second largest city, and first capital is the coastal city of Mombasa. Kisumu City is the third-largest city and also an inland port on Lake Victoria. Other important urban centres include Nakuru and Eldoret. As of 2020, Kenya is the third-largest economy in sub-Saharan Africa after Nigeria and South Africa.[13] Kenya is bordered by South Sudan to the northwest, Ethiopia to the north, Somalia to the east, Uganda to the west, Tanzania to the south, and the Indian Ocean to the southeast. Its geography, climate and population vary widely, ranging from cold snow-capped mountaintops (Batian, Nelion and Point Lenana on Mount Kenya) with vast surrounding forests, wildlife and fertile agricultural regions to temperate climates in western and rift valley counties and dry less fertile arid and semi-arid areas and absolute deserts (Chalbi Desert and Nyiri Desert).

Kenya's earliest inhabitants were hunter-gatherers, like the present-day Hadza people.[14][15] According to archaeological dating of associated artifacts and skeletal material, Cushitic speakers first settled in Kenya's lowlands between 3,200 and 1,300 BC, a phase known as the Lowland Savanna Pastoral Neolithic. Nilotic-speaking pastoralists (ancestral to Kenya's Nilotic speakers) began migrating from present-day South Sudan into Kenya around 500 BC.[16] Bantu people settled at the coast and the interior between 250 BC and 500 AD.[17] European contact began in 1500 AD with the Portuguese Empire, and effective colonisation of Kenya began in the 19th century during the European exploration of the interior. Modern-day Kenya emerged from a protectorate established by the British Empire in 1895 and the subsequent Kenya Colony, which began in 1920. Numerous disputes between the UK and the colony led to the Mau Mau revolution, which began in 1952, and the declaration of independence in 1963. After independence, Kenya remained a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. The current constitution was adopted in 2010 and replaced the 1963 independence constitution.

Kenya is a presidential representative democratic republic, in which elected officials represent the people and the president is the head of state and government.[18] Kenya is a member of the United Nations, Commonwealth of Nations, World Bank, International Monetary Fund, COMESA, International Criminal Court, as well as other international organisations. With a GNI of 1,840,[19] Kenya is a lower-middle-income economy. Kenya's economy is the largest in eastern and central Africa,[20][21] with Nairobi serving as a major regional commercial hub.[21] Agriculture is the largest sector: tea and coffee are traditional cash crops, while fresh flowers are a fast-growing export. The service industry is also a major economic driver, particularly tourism. Kenya is a member of the East African Community trade bloc, though some international trade organisations categorise it as part of the Greater Horn of Africa.[22] Africa is Kenya's largest export market, followed by the European Union.[23]


In 1873, Markham shipped as the second mate[1] in the whaler Arctic through Davis Straits and Baffin Bay. While performing his share of whaling duties, which he would later write about, he also kept detailed notes on the ice conditions and wrote a report suggesting the route for use with steam vessels.

HMS Alert in pack ice during the Arctic Expedition of 1876
HMS Alert in pack ice during the Arctic Expedition of 1876

For the British Arctic Expedition of 1875–76 he was appointed second-in-command of HMS Alert under Captain Nares. Despite suffering from scurvy and being poorly clothed, he led a sledge-party to reach the highest latitude ever attained at the time (83°20′26″ N), a record that stood for 20 years.[8] They did, however, fail to realize their ultimate goal of reaching the North Pole.

In 1879, he accompanied Sir Henry Gore Booth aboard the Isbjörn to Novaya Zemlya, a remote island in northern Russia. In 1886, he went alone to report on the ice conditions of Hudson Strait and Hudson Bay, a report which garnered thanks from both Houses of the Canadian Parliament. The ship which took him to Hudson Bay was his old ship Alert from the British Arctic Expedition of 1875–76, by then on loan to the Canadian Marine Service of the Department of Marine and Fisheries.

He served for many years on the Council of the Royal Geographical Society along with his cousin Sir Clements Markham, whose biography he would later write. He remained an avid supporter of both Arctic and Antarctic exploration and delighted in the successes of young explorers.


Markham wrote numerous books and articles about his exploration as well as two biographies. While stationed in the Pacific from 1879 to 1882 he compiled a list of Pacific gulls which was published in 1882 by the ornithologist Howard Saunders and republished in 1883 by Osbert Salvin. Salvin named a bird, Markham's storm petrel, after him in honor of his contributions to science.

Birds discovered by Markham

Posthumous homage

Captain Markham's most northerly encampment, by Admiral Richard Brydges Beechey
Captain Markham's most northerly encampment, by Admiral Richard Brydges Beechey

Location of geographical features named after Sir Albert Hastings Markham:

See also


  1. ^ a b c Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Markham, Sir Albert Hastings (1841–1918), naval officer and Arctic explorer), by R N Rudmose Brown, revised by Roger T Stearn
  2. ^ a b "Death of Sir A. H. Markham. An Arctic Explorer. Career in the Navy". The Times. 29 October 1918. p. 8.
  3. ^ Burke, Bernard (1879). A genealogical and heraldic history of the landed gentry of Great Britain & Ireland. London, Harrison. p. 1060. Retrieved 19 May 2019.
  4. ^ "Markham, Sir Albert Hastings". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/34879. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  5. ^ Hough p.23–24
  6. ^ Hough p.27–28
  7. ^ Hough p. 29-30
  8. ^ "Biography of Albert Markham at the National Maritime Museum". Archived from the original on 9 June 2011. Retrieved 19 November 2008.
  9. ^ a b Markham. Life of Sir Albert Hastings Markham. p. 254.


Military offices Preceded bySir William Kennedy Commander-in-Chief, The Nore 1901–1903 Succeeded bySir Hugo Pearson