HOPPNER, HENRY PARKYNS, naval officer, explorer, and painter; b. 1795 in London, fourth of five children of John Hoppner and Phoebe Wright; d. unmarried 22 Dec. 1833 in Lisbon.
Henry Parkyns Hoppner was born into an artistically inclined family. His father was an eminent portraitist and his mother the daughter of a popular American sculptress, Patience Lovell Wright. In 1808 he joined the Royal Navy and, during the Napoleonic Wars and the War of 1812, he saw continuous service off northern Spain, in the English Channel, and on the east coast of the United States. Commissioned in September 1815, he was a junior lieutenant aboard the frigate Alceste in 1816 when it carried Lord Amherst on a diplomatic mission to China. After the Alceste was lost in the Strait of Gaspar (Selat Gelasa, Indonesia), Hoppner conveyed Amherst to Batavia (Djakarta) and then returned to relieve his comrades with the Indiaman Lion.
Hoppner’s intrepidity on this occasion and the development of his artistic talents probably motivated his appointment on 18 Jan. 1818 as second in command to Lieutenant William Edward Parry* aboard the brig Alexander in an expedition led by John Ross* to Baffin Bay in search of a northwest passage. Having scientific as well as exploratory objectives, the party required one or two artists to make a pictorial record of the landscape, people, plants, and animals encountered; the voyage lasted seven months.
Subsequently, Hoppner participated in three voyages of exploration led by Parry himself. During the first, from May 1819 to October 1820, he was lieutenant on board the gun-brig Griper, while another artist, Frederick William Beechey*, was Parry’s lieutenant aboard the Hecla, bomb. Hoppner and Beechey charted and surveyed in addition to drawing. During the winter, spent on the south coast of Melville Island, Hoppner was active in the ships’ theatre company, one of the novelties introduced by Parry to relieve the tedium of wintering in the Arctic. On the return journey Hoppner sketched an Inuk encountered in Baffin Bay. Parry recorded of the man: “It required . . . some shew of authority, as well as some occasional rewards, to keep him quietly seated on a rock for a time sufficient for this purpose; the inclination they have to jump about, when much pleased, rendering it a penalty of no trifling nature for them to sit still for half an hour together.”
On Parry’s second expedition, from April 1821 to October 1823, Hoppner was lieutenant on board Hecla. In mid September 1821 he surveyed a large inlet adjoining Lyon Inlet, Melville Peninsula (N.W.T.), and Parry named it for him. He was active in the Royal Arctic Theatre, which helped the men while away two winters near the shores of Melville Peninsula. Having been promoted commander on 25 Jan. 1822, Hoppner was commanding officer of the Fury, bomb, when it accompanied Hecla on Parry’s third expedition, which left England in May 1824. After wintering at Port Bowen on the east shore of Prince Regent Inlet, the ships encountered pressure from ice off Somerset Island in late July and early August 1825. Fury was driven aground, and, despite heroic efforts by Hoppner and his men, eventually had to be abandoned near Fury Point. The expedition immediately returned home on board Hecla. The requisite court martial attached “no blame whatever” to Hoppner for the loss of his ship. On 30 December he was promoted captain.
Already in poor health by the end of this voyage, Hoppner was unable to join Parry in the latter’s attempt on the North Pole in 1827, and his application to accompany Ross in 1829 was rejected. Often severely ill thereafter, he died in Lisbon during a visit to southern Europe.
Hoppner was reportedly an “excellent officer and worthy man.” In 1826 Parry had written of his “constant companion” in the exploration of the Arctic: “I feel every possible obligation for his steady and persevering zeal . . . and for his advice and assistance on every occasion.” Hoppner’s work illustrated some of Parry’s published narratives, notably the Journal of a third voyage for the discovery of a north-west passage. Hoppner Inlet in Melville Peninsula, Cape Hoppner on Melville Island, and Hoppner Strait, between Winter Island and Melville Peninsula, all commemorate him.
G. F. Lyon, The private journal of Captain G. F. Lyon, of H.M.S. “Hecla,” during the recent voyage of discovery under Captain Parry (new ed., London, 1825), 426–27, 435. W. E. Parry, Journal of a voyage for the discovery of a north-west passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific; performed in the years 1819–20 . . . (London, 1821); Journal of a second voyage for the discovery of a north-west passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific; performed in the years 1821–22–23 . . . (London, 1824); Journal of a third voyage for the discovery of a north-west passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific; performed in the years 1824–25 . . . (London, 1826). John Ross, A voyage of discovery, made under the orders of the Admiralty, in his majesty’s ships “Isabella” and “Alexander,” for the purpose of exploring Baffin’s Bay, and enquiring into the probability of a north-west passage (London, 1819). Times (London), 1 Jan. 1834. C. R. Markham, The Arctic navy list; or, a century of Arctic & Antarctic officers, 1773–1873; together with a list of officers of the 1875 expedition and of their services (London, 1875). John Marshall, Royal naval biography . . . (4v. in 6 and 2v. supp., London, 1823–35), 3, pt.i: 279–80. William McKay and William Roberts, John Hoppner, R.A. (London, 1909).