BEAN, JOHN, HBC sailor and explorer; fl. 1751–57.
John Bean served as a second mate on the Hudson’s Bay Company ship Prince Rupert for three voyages to Hudson Bay between 1751 and 1753, and was then appointed master of the Churchill sloop in the bay at an annual salary of £40. He reached Prince of Wales Fort (Churchill Man.) at a time when interest in the possibility of finding a northwest passage along the west coast of the bay had revived with Indian reports of a great inlet, “Kish- Stack-Ewen,” whose entrance reputedly lay in latitude 64° – about the same latitude as Chesterfield Inlet, discovered but never fully explored by the private expedition of 1746–47 under William Moor’s command.
Since 1750 the London committee had instructed its sloopmaster at Churchill to explore the coast during his summer trading voyage north among the Eskimos, but not until Bean’s first voyage in 1755 was any serious attempt made to carry out these orders. In 1755 and again in 1756 Bean made as thorough an examination of the Winchester Inlet and Daly Bay region as the short navigational season allowed, but he overlooked Chesterfield Inlet, which lay slightly south of the area where he began his search. By the end of the 1756 season Bean was convinced that “this fly away River Resembells old Brazill viz not to be seen but by some chimerical persons,” and his final voyage in the company’s employ in 1757 was a routine trading one. Though unsuccessful in his quest, Bean’s detailed journals show him to have been a courageous seaman who carried out his exploration of a dangerous coast, often in bad weather, regardless of the fact that he sailed without a consort. At a time when the HBC was often criticized for its lethargy in exploration Bean’s brief career showed that among its employees were men of resource and enterprise.
[Bean’s journals for 1755–57 are in HBC Arch. B.42/a/45, 47, and 49. Details of his service are in HBC Arch. A.1/38–39. The search for a passage north of Churchill is mentioned in HBC Arch. A.11/13, and in B.42/a/39–48. A brief description of Bean’s voyages and their background is given in Williams, British search for the northwest passage. g.w.]