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Comer, George, 1858-1937



  • Existence: 1858 - 1937


George Comer was born in Quebec City in 1858. He grew up in East Haddam, Connecticut where he attended school for only two years. In 1875, Comer made the first of his Arctic voyages at age 17 as a green hand before the mast on the whaler "Nile," bound for Cumberland Sound, Baffin Island. In 1895, he became captain of his first ship. From 1895-1912, Comer was the master on six whaling cruises to the Hudson Bay, including wintering in Roes Welcome Sound on the "Era." In 1915, Comer served as ice master on the "George B. Cluett", chartered by the American Museum of Natural History to bring back Donald MacMillan's men from the Crocker Land Expedition at Etah, in northern Greenland. En route, the Cluett became ice trapped for two years, giving Comer opportunity to perform archaeological excavations at Mount Dundas where he unearthed evidence of what is now referred to as the Thule people, ancestors of the Inuit. Comer's last Arctic trip occurred in 1919, in part as a farewell to his Inuit friends. It was a charter by Arctic explorer/ethnologist Christian Leden to study amongst the Inuit. But the schooner, the "Finback," grounded at Cape Fullerton and was lost. Comer was highly regarded for his Arctic anthropology, ethnology, natural history, geography, and cartography work. Lacking formal training, Comer was mentored by anthropologist Franz Boas. In return, Comer provided Boas with information that was used by Boas's in his 1888 book, "The Central Eskimo." Comer published papers in 1910 and 1913 in the "Bulletin of the American Geographical Society of New York" providing improved maps and charts of Southampton Island. In appreciation for his cartography, the government of Canada named the narrow strait around the bend of Roes Welcome Sound that separates northern Southampton Island from White Island "Comer Strait" in his honor. Comer died in 1937.

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

George Comer papers

Identifier: Mss-204
Stefansson Mss-204
Date(s): 1905 to 1985

George Comer (1858-1937), whaler, ethnographer and cartographer. Consist of papers and photographs relating to his career as a whaler in the Arctic.