HANBURY, DAVID THEOPHILUS, traveller, geographer, and author; b. 8 March 1864 in England, fourth of the four sons of Charles Addington Hanbury and Christina Isabella Mackenzie; m. 23 May 1906 Marie Eleanor Mansfield in Castro Valley, Calif., and they had one son; d. 26 Oct. 1910 in San Francisco.
Born into the landed gentry, David Theophilus Hanbury was educated in Elstree and at Clifton College in Bristol, England. He began to travel at an early age, and visited the Rocky Mountains, Chinese Turkistan, Siberia, and other places. An obituary noted that it was “with a view to making his journeys more valuable to geographers” that he studied surveying and geology under the auspices of the Royal Geographical Society, of which he became a member in 1894. Between 1898 and 1902 he travelled extensively in the Canadian north. During the South African War Hanbury joined Roberts’ Light Horse, and he took part with it in the capture of Pretoria. He spent his last years as a farmer on an island in San Francisco Bay.
Hanbury’s most important journeys were made in northern Canada, where he described and mapped little-known sections of the Keewatin district of the North-West Territories. In 1899, with two companions and an Inuit guide, Milook, Hanbury travelled by dog-team from Churchill (Man.) to Marble Island and through Chesterfield Inlet to Baker Lake, where the party changed to canoe and kayaks. He mapped and described the Arkeleenik (Thelon) River for 182 miles and ascended its western branch for 117 miles; most of this area is now the Thelon Game Sanctuary. From Clinton-Colden Lake the party went into Great Slave Lake and on to Fort McMurray (Alta) and Edmonton.
A second journey was begun in July 1901. Hanbury backtracked his route from Great Slave Lake to Baker Lake, and then to Chesterfield Inlet and Depot Island, where he collected supplies from the whaling ship Francis Allyn. With two companions, one of whom was Hubert Darrell, and the Inuit guides Uttungerlah and Ameroryuak, he mapped a course from Chesterfield Inlet to the mouth of the Coppermine River on the Arctic coast and returned by way of Great Slave Lake. Hanbury’s Sport and travel in the northland of Canada (London, 1904) concentrates on his second and more successful trip. The work included descriptions of musk-ox hunting, fishing, and dog-sled travel, and observations of Indian and Inuit life. The appendices include Aivilik Inuit word lists, notes on rock, plant, and butterfly collections, meteorological observations, and maps of the area.
The most outstanding feature of Hanbury’s accounts of his travels is his careful and consistent use of aboriginal names for the places he visited and the people he encountered. It was his belief that the use of descriptive rather than honorific nomenclature would lead to increased knowledge of the country, and he always ascertained and adhered to local and native names when travelling in undocumented regions. Despite his objections, however, the western branch of the Thelon River was named in his honour by Joseph Burr Tyrrell* for the Canadian Board on Geographical Names.
In addition to his book, David Theophilus Hanbury published two accounts of his northern explorations in the Geographical Journal (London): “A journey from Chesterfield Inlet to Great Slave Lake, 1898–9,” 16 (July–December 1900): 63–77, and “Through the barren ground of north-eastern Canada to the Arctic coast,” 22 (July–December 1903): 178–91.
Hanbury’s journals are preserved in the Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge, England.
Alan Cooke and Clive Holland, The exploration of northern Canada, 500 to 1920: a chronology (Toronto, 1978). Geographical Journal, 36 (July–December 1910): 738. Wallace, Macmillan dict.