Edward Bransfield was born in County Cork, Ireland, circa 1783. In June 1803, he was pressed into the Royal Navy from a merchant vessel as an ordinary seaman and by August 1805 had been promoted to able seaman. He had a successful career, advancing to quartermaster and midshipman in 1808, and to second master in April 1813. He was appointed master of Phoebe in May 1815, continuing to command various ships for the next few years.
In September 1817, at the request of Captain W.H. Shirreff, the Senior British Naval Officer of the West Coast of South America, Bransfield was appointed master to Andromache and left for South America, reaching Chile in May 1818. It was at this time that Captain William Smith of the ship Williams reported his discovery of New South Britain (the South Shetland Islands) to the British naval authority in Valparaiso. Captain Shirreff then chartered the vessel in order to conduct a survey of the islands, placing Bransfield in charge of the British Expedition, 1819-1820, with the help of three midshipmen. During the course of the voyage Bransfield charted the South Shetland Islands, sighted the Antarctic mainland (just three days after the first sighting by Fabian von Bellingshausen), and reached 63.83°South. He was the first man to chart a portion of mainland Antarctica and his name is commemorated in a peak and an island close to the tip of the Peninsula, as well as in Bransfield Strait to the south of the South Shetland Islands.
Bransfield left the Navy in September 1821 and commanded several ships for the merchant service, he retired to Brighton, where he died on 31 October 1852.
From the guide to the Edward Bransfield collection, 1819-1839, (Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge)