McClintock was Second Lieutenant on James Clark Ross's Enterprise during the Arctic Expedition of 1848-49, First Lieutenant under Ommanney on the 1850-51 expedition and Commander in Resolute 1852-54. He found fame as the leader of Lady Jane Franklin's privately sponsored expedition to discover the fate of her husband, Sir John Franklin, whose expedition in search of the North West Passage of 1845-48 had vanished without trace in the Arctic. McClintock commanded Lady Franklin's Fox on the Franklin search expedition of 1857-59 and found the first traces Franklin and his companions at King William's Island in 1859. Promoted to Captain in 1854, McClintock was knighted on his return from the Arctic in 1859 (see lot 131). He was Admiral Superintendant of Portsmouth Dockyard 1872-77 and appointed, with Admirals Richards and Osborn, to form a committee to assist in the organisation of the Arctic Expedition of 1874-75.
His Arctic Medal, 1818-1855, was awarded on his return from Ross's 1848-49 expedition.