Joseph-Ren Bellot was born on 18 March 1826 in Paris. On completing his education at the Ecole Navale at Brest in 1843, he served in the Imperial Navy of France between 1844 and 1850, advancing to the rank of sub-lieutenant in 1847. Following his return to France in 1850, Bellot developed an interest in the search for Sir John Franklin's missing expedition and volunteered his services in correspondence with Jane, Lady Franklin, who was organizing her second private search expedition, and with William Kennedy, who was to command it. In 1851, he was appointed second-in-command of Prince Albert on the British Franklin Search Expedition, 1851-1852 (leader William Kennedy), sent to search for Franklin in Prince Regent Inlet and in the area southwest of Cape Walker, Barrow Strait. In February 1852, Kennedy and Bellot set out from their winter quarters in Batty Bay on a dog sledging journey, travelling south to Brentford Bay, where they discovered Bellot Strait, and continuing west to cross Prince of Wales Island to Ommanney Bay. On the return journey, they re-crossed Peel Sound and headed north to Cape Walker before returning to Batty Bay, a total trek of 1800km. Bellot's narrative of the expedition was published posthumously in 1854.
Promoted lieutenant in 1852, he was recommended by Lady Franklin for the British Naval Supply Voyage (leader Edward Inglefield), sent by the Admiralty in 1853 to deliver supplies and dispatches to the five vessels of the British Naval Franklin Search Expedition, 1852-1854 (leader Edward Belcher). Bellot was drowned in Wellington Channel in August 1853 on his way from Beechey Island to deliver messages to Belcher. A memorial grave was built on Beechey Island and an obelisk in his honour stands in front of Greenwich Hospital in London.
Published work Memoirs of Lieutenant Joseph-Ren Bellot, with his journal of a voyage in the polar seas in search of Sir John Franklin, Hurst and Blackett London (1855) SPRI Library Shelf (41)91(08)[1851-1852 Kennedy]
From the guide to the Joseph Bellot collection, 1851-1853, (Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge)