Albert Hastings Markham was born on 11 November 1841 at Bagneres-de-Bigorre, France. After being educated at home and at Eastman's Royal Naval Academy, Southsea, he entered the Royal Navy in 1856, serving in China, the Mediterranean and Australia. He was promoted lieutenant in 1862 and commander in 1872. While on leave in 1873, he sailed to the Davis Strait region in the whaler Arctic on the British whaling and reconnaissance expedition (leader William Adams), in order to study ice conditions with a view to further polar exploration.
On his return, while serving as commander in HMS Sultan, he was appointed to command HMS Alert on the British Arctic Expedition, 1875-1876 (leader George Strong Nares). This expedition was sent by the Admiralty to attempt to reach the North Pole by way of Smith Sound, and to explore the coasts of Greenland and adjacent lands. Markham was selected to lead the Polar sledging party, which set out in April 1876, man-hauling heavy sledges over sea ice. Struggling north under great hardship, the party achieved a record latitude of 83°20 minutes 26 seconds North on 12 May. For his services during this expedition, Markham was promoted captain.
Markham sailed again to the Arctic in 1879, as a guest on a private British sport-hunting expedition to Novaya Zemlya, returning with animal, plant and geological specimens. From 1879 to 1882, he served with the Navy in the Pacific, and from 1883 to 1886, was captain of HMS Vernon, the naval torpedo school at Portsmouth. Returning to the Arctic in Alert on the Canadian Hudson Bay Expedition in 1886, he made a careful survey of ice conditions in Hudson Strait and Bay. Later on in the same year, he was offered command of the Training Squadron with the rank of commodore, a post he held until 1889, when he was appointed to the command of the Portsmouth Steam Reserve. Promoted rear admiral in 1891, he continued in service until his retirement in 1906. He was knighted in 1903. During the First World War, he devoted himself to the interests of the minesweeping service. He died in London on 28 October 1918. In addition to books describing his own travels, he was the author of several biographies of Arctic explorers.
Published work, The great frozen sea. A personal narrative of the voyage of the Alert during the Arctic expedition of 1875-1876 by (Sir) Albert Hastings Markham, Daldy, Isbister & Co. London (1878) SPRI Library Shelf (42;41)91(08)[1875-1876 Nares] The life of Sir Clements R. Markham, K.C.B., F.R.S. by (Sir) Albert Hastings Markham, John Murray London (1917) SPRI Library Shelf 92[Markham, C.R.]
Biographical, The life of Sir Albert Hastings Markham by M.E. Markham and F.A. Markham, Cambridge University Press Cambridge (1927) SPRI Library Shelf 92[Markham, A.H.]
From the guide to the Sir Albert Markham collection, 1873-1912, (Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge)