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CASSELLS NATIONAL LIBRARY.
JOURNAL OF THE THIRD VOYAGE FOR THE DISCOVERY OF A NORTH-WEST PASSAGE.
BY CAPT. W. E. PARRY, R.N., F.R.S., AND COMMANDER OF THE EXPEDITION.
CASSELL & COMPANY, LIMITED: LONDON, PARIS, NEW YORK & MELBOURNE. 1889.
William Edward Parry, the son of a physician, was born at Bath in December, 1790. At the age of thirteen he was entered as a first-class volunteer on board the flag-ship of the Channel fleet, and after seven years service and careful study of his profession he obtained a commission in 1810 as lieutenant in the navy. He was then at once, aged twenty, sent to the Arctic seas, where he was during two or three years in command of a ship for protection of the British whale fisheries and for revision of the admiralty charts. In 1813 he was recalled from that service and sent on blockade service to the North American station, where he remained about four years, and occupied his leisure in writing a book on Nautical Astronomy by Night, which he published upon his return to England in 1817.
At that time the search for a North-West Passage to Eastern Asia had been suspended for more than half a century. No expedition had been sent out since 1746. But after Lieutenant Parrys return from the North American station, an expedition was prepared under Sir John Ross in the Isabella, which sailed in April, 1818, accompanied by the Alexander, to the command of which Parry was appointed, Sir John Ross being chief of the expedition. They went by Daviss Straits to Lancaster Sound, where Sir John Ross gave up hope of success and turned back; though Lieutenant Parry would have gone on. Next year Parry was entrusted with an expedition of his own, which set out in May, 1819, and reached Lancaster Sound in July, discovered Prince Regents Inlet, and Barrow Straits, named after Sir John Barrow, Secretary to the Admiralty, who was active promoter of these expeditions. Parry wintered among the ice and returned next year, having pushed Arctic discovery by thirty degrees of longitude farther than any who had gone before. That was Parrys first voyage, from which he returned to be received with triumph by his countrymen. He was advanced to the rank of Commander in November, 1820, and made a Fellow of the Royal Society. He had shown in what direction to proceed with further search, and at the age of thirty had established for himself a place of lasting honour in the history of English navigation.
Commander Parry was sent on a second expedition in 1821, from which he returned in 1823. He was to explore the Fox Channel, for the purpose of ascertaining whether it was connected with the Arctic Sea of his first voyage. This voyage had no important results; and in 1824 Parry started again on the third voyage, of which this volume contains his Journal. In 1827 he sailed again in the Hecla, but found himself sledging over ice that floated southward as fast as he travelled forward on it northward. He returned then to the work ashore, as a hydrographer, for which his thorough knowledge of navigation marked him out. Desire for a more active life caused him to spend four or five years in Australia (from 1829 to 1834) as Commissioner to the Agricultural Company of Australia. He was knighted, and became in 1852 a Rear-Admiral. Sir Edward Parry was Lieutenant-Governor of Greenwich Hospital at the time of his death, in July, 1855.
THIRD VOYAGE FOR THE DISCOVERY OF A NORTH-WEST PASSAGE.
Notwithstanding the want of success of the late Expedition to the Polar Seas, it was resolved to make another attempt to effect a passage by sea, between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The chief attentions in the equipment of the present expedition consisted in the placing of Sylvesters warming stove in the very bottom of the ships hold, in substituting a small quantity of salt beef for a part of the pork, and in furnishing a much larger supply of newly corned beef. Preserved carrots and parsnips, salmon, cream, pickles of onions, beetroot, cabbage, and, to make the most of our stowage, split pease instead of whole ones, were supplied. A small quantity of beef pemmican, made by pounding the meat with a certain portion of fat, as described by Captain Franklin, was also furnished.
To the officers, seamen, and marines my best acknowledgments are once more due, for the zealous support I have at all times received from them in the course of this service; and I am happy to repeat my conviction that, had it depended on their conduct and exertion, our most sanguine expectations would, long ere this, have been crowned with complete success.
Passage to the Whale-fish Islands, and Removal of Stores from the TransportEnter the Ice in Baffins BayDifficulties of Penetrating to the WestwardQuit the Ice in Baffins BayRemarks on the Obstructions encountered by the Ships, and on the Severity of the Season.
The equipment of the Hecla and Fury, and the loading of the William Harris transport, being completed, we began to move down the river from Deptford on the 8th of May, 1824, and on the 10th, by the assistance of the steamboat, the three ships had reached Northfleet, where they received their powder and their ordnance stores. Two days were here employed in fixing, under the superintendence of Mr. Barlow and Lieutenant Foster, the plate, invented by the former gentleman, for correcting the deviation of the compass produced by the attraction of the ships iron; and the continuance of strong easterly winds prevented our getting to the Nore till the 16th. During our stay at Northfleet the ships were visited by Viscount Melville, and the other Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, who were pleased to approve of our general equipment and arrangements.
During our passage across the Atlantic in June, and afterwards on our way up Daviss Strait, we threw overboard daily a strong copper cylinder, containing the usual papers, giving an account of our situation. We also took every opportunity afforded by light winds, to try the temperature of the sea at different depths, as compared with that at the surface.
I now determined, as the quickest and most secure mode of clearing the transport, to anchor at the Whale-fish Islands, rather than incur the risk of hampering and damaging her among the ice. Fresh gales and thick weather, however, prevented our doing so till the 26th, when we anchored at eight A.M., in seventeen fathoms, mooring the ships by hawsers to the rocks, and then immediately commenced our work. In the meantime the observatory and instruments were landed on a small island, called by the Danes Boat Island, where Lieutenant Foster and myself carried on the magnetic and other observations during the stay of the Expedition at this anchorage, of which a survey was also made.
Early on the morning of the 3rd of July, the whole of our stores being removed, and Lieutenant Pritchard having received his orders, together with our despatches and letters for England, the William Harris weighed with a light wind from the northward, and was towed out to sea by our boats. The day proving calm, we employed it in swinging the Hecla, in order to obtain the amount of the deviation of the magnetic needle, and to fix afresh the iron plate for correcting it. On the following morning, the wind being southerly, the pilots came on board, and the Hecla weighed to run through the north passage; in doing which she grounded on a rock lying directly in the channel, and having only thirteen feet upon it at low water, which our sounding boats had missed, and of which the pilot was ignorant. The tide being that of ebb we were unable to heave the ship off immediately, and at low water she had sewed three feet forward. It was not till half-past one P.M., that she floated, when it became necessary to drop her down between the rock and the shore with hawsers; after which we made sail, and being soon after joined by the Fury, which came out by the other channel, we stood round the islands to the northwards. This rock was not the only one found by our boats which may prove dangerous to ships going in and out of this harbour, and with which our pilots were unacquainted. Another was discovered by Mr. Head, about one-third of the distance across from Kron Prins Island to the opposite shore of the S.E. entrance, and has not more than eighteen feet water on it at low tide; it lies very much in the way of ships coming in at that channel, which is the most commonly used. The latitude of the island, on which the observations were made, called by the Danes Boat Island, is 74° 28 15; its longitude by our chronometers, 53° 12 56; the dip of the magnetic needle, 82° 53 66; and the variation, 70° 23 57 westerly. The time of high water, at new moon, on the 26th of June, was a quarter-past eight, the highest tides being the third and fourth after the conjunction, and the perpendicular rise seven feet and a half.
The ships standing in towards Lievely on the afternoon of the 5th, Lieutenant Graah very kindly came off to the Fury, which happened to be the nearest in shore, for the purpose of taking leave of us. On his quitting the ship a salute of ten guns was fired at Lievely, which we returned with an equal number; and I sent to Lieutenant Graah, by a canoe that came on board the Hecla, an account of the situation of the rocks we had discovered. Light northerly winds, together with the dull sailing of our now deeply laden ships, prevented our making much progress for several days, and kept us in the neighbourhood of numerous icebergs, which it is dangerous to approach when there is any swell. We counted from the deck, at one time, no less than one hundred and three of these immense bodies, some of them from one to two hundred feet in height above the sea; and it was necessary, in one or two instances, to tow the ships clear of them with the boats. We had occasion, about this time, to remark the more than usual frequency of fogs with a northerly wind, a circumstance from which the whalers are accustomed to augur a considerable extent of open water in that direction.
The ice soon beginning to close around us, our progress became so slow that, on the 17th, we saw a ship at the margin of the pack, and two more on the following day. We supposed these to be whalers, which, after trying to cross the ice to the northward, had returned to make the attempt in the present latitude; a supposition which our subsequent difficulties served to strengthen. From this time, indeed, the obstructions from the quantity, magnitude, and closeness of the ice, were such as to keep our people almost constantly employed in heaving, warping, or sawing through it; and yet with so little success that, at the close of the month of July, we had only penetrated seventy miles to the westward, or to the longitude of about 62° 10. Here, while closely beset, on the 1st of August, we encountered a hard gale from the south-east, which pressing the ice together in every direction, by mass overlaying mass for hours together, the Hecla received several very awkward nips, and was once fairly laid on her broadside by a strain which must inevitably have crushed a vessel of ordinary strength. In such cases, the ice is forced under a ships bottom on one side, and on the other up her side, both powers thus acting in such a manner as to bring her on her beam-ends. This is, in fact, the most favourable manner in which a ship can receive the pressure, and would perhaps only occur with ice comparatively not very heavy, though sufficiently so, it is said, to have run completely over a ship in some extreme and fatal cases. With ice of still more formidable dimensions a vessel would probably, by an equal degree of pressure, be absolutely crushed, in consequence of the increased difficulty of sinking it on one side, and causing it to rise on the other.
Sept. 9th.I shall doubtless be readily excused for not having entered in this journal a detailed narrative of the obstacles we met with, and of the unwearied exertions of the officers and men to overcome them, during the tedious eight weeks employed in crossing this barrier. I have avoided this detail because, while it might appear an endeavour to magnify ordinary difficulties, which it is our business to overcome rather than to discuss, I am convinced that no description of mine, nor even the minute formality of the log-book, could convey an adequate idea of the truth. The strain we constantly had occasion to heave on the hawsers, as springs to force the ships through the ice, was such as perhaps no ships ever before attempted; and by means of Phillipss invaluable capstan, we often separated floes of such magnitude as must otherwise have baffled every effort. In doing this, it was next to impossible to avoid exposing the men to very great risk from the frequent breaking of the hawsers. On one occasion, three of the Heclas seamen were knocked down as instantaneously as by a gunshot by the sudden flying-out of an anchor; and a marine of the Fury suffered in a similar manner when working at the capstan; but, providentially, they all escaped with severe contusions. A more serious accident occurred in the breaking of the spindle of the Furys windlass, depriving her of the use of the windlass-end during the rest of the season.
The constant besetment of the ships, and our daily observations for latitude and longitude, afforded a favourable opportunity for ascertaining precisely the set of any currents by which the whole body of ice might be actuated. By attending very carefully to all the circumstances, it was evident that a daily set to the southward obtained, when the wind was northerly, differing in amount from two or three to eight or ten miles per day, according to the strength of the breeze; but a northerly current was equally apparent, and fully to the same amount, whenever the wind blew from the southward. A circumstance more remarkable than these, however, forced itself strongly upon my notice at this time, which was, that a westerly set was very frequently apparent, even against a fresh breeze blowing from that quarter. I mention the circumstance in this place, because I may hereafter have to offer a remark or two on this fact in connection with some others of a similar nature noticed elsewhere.
With respect to the dimensions of the ice through which we had now scrambled our way, principally by warping and towing a distance of between three and four hundred miles, I remarked that it for the most part increased, as well in the thickness as the extent of the floes, as we advanced westward about the parallel of 71°. During our subsequent progress to the north, we also met with some of enormous dimensions, several of the floes, to which we applied our hawsers and the power of the improved capstan, being at their margin more than twenty feet above the level of the sea, and over some of these we could not see from the mast-head. Upon the whole, however, the magnitude of the ice became somewhat less towards the north-west; and within thirty miles of that margin the masses were comparatively small, and their thickness much diminished. Bergs were in sight during the whole passage; but they were more numerous towards the middle of the pack, and rather the most so to the southward.
Enter Sir James Lancasters SoundLand at Cape WarrenderMeet with young iceShips beset and carried near the shoreDriven back to Navy-board InletRun to the westward, and enter Prince Regents InletArrival at Port Bowen.
All our past obstacles were in a moment forgotten when we once more saw an open sea before us; but it must be confessed that it was not so easy to forget that the middle of September was already near at hand, without having brought us even to the entrance of Sir James Lancasters Sound. That not a moment might be lost, however, in pushing to the westward, a press of canvas was crowded, and being happily favoured with an easterly breeze, on the morning of the 10th of September we caught a glimpse of the high bold land on the north side of the magnificent inlet up which our course was once more to be directed. From the time of our leaving the main body of ice we met with none of any kind, and the entrance to the Sound was, as usual, entirely free from it, except here and there a berg, floating about in that solitary grandeur of which these enormous masses, when occurring in the midst of an extensive sea, are calculated to convey so sublime an idea.
On the morning of the 11th, the ships being taken a-back with a fresh westerly breeze when near Cape Warrender, I landed in a small bay close to the westward of it, accompanied by several of the officers, in order to examine the country, and to make the necessary observations.
On the morning of the 12th we were once more favoured with a breeze from the eastward, but so light and unsteady that our progress was vexatiously slow; and on the 13th, when within seven leagues of Cape York, we had the mortification to perceive the sea ahead of us covered with young ice, the thermometer having for two days past ranged only from 18° to 20°. On reaching it we had, as usual, recourse to sallying, breaking it with boats ahead, and various other expedients, all alike ineffectual without a fresh and free breeze furnishing a constant impetus; so that, after seven or eight hours of unsuccessful labour in this way, we were obliged to remain as we were, fairly and immovably beset.
It now appeared high time to determine as to the propriety of still continuing our efforts to push to the westward or of returning to England, according to my instructions on that head under particular circumstances. As the crossing of the ice in Baffins Bay had of itself unexpectedly occupied nearly the whole of one season, it could not, of course, be considered that the attempt to penetrate to the westward in the manner directed by their lordships had as yet been made, nor could it, indeed, be made during the present year. I could not, therefore, have a moments hesitation as to the propriety of pushing on as far as the present season would permit, and then giving a fair trial during the whole of the next summer to the route I was directed by my instructions to pursue. In order, however, to confirm my own opinion on this subject, I requested to be furnished with that of Captain Hoppner; and finding that his views entirely agreed with my own, I resolved still to pursue our object by all the means in our power.
The next breeze sprang up from the westward, drawing also from the southward at times, out of Prince Regents Inlet, and for three days we were struggling with the young ice to little or no purpose, now and then gaining half a mile of ground to windward in a little hole of open water, then losing as much by the necessity of bearing up or wearing (for the ice was too strong to allow us to tack), sallying from morning to night with all hands, and with the watch at night, two boats constantly under the bows; and, after all, rather losing ground than otherwise, while the young ice was every hour increasing in thickness.
On the 17th, when we had driven back rather to the eastward of Admiralty Inlet, an easterly breeze again enabled us to make some progress. The sea was now for the most part covered with young ice, which had become so thick as to look white throughout its whole extent. The holes of water could now, therefore, be more distinctly seen, and by taking advantage of these we succeeded in making a few miles of westing, the leads taking us more in-shore, towards Admiralty Inlet, than before. Towards sunset we became more and more hampered, and were eventually beset during the night. A breeze sprang up from the westward, which increasing to a fresh gale, we found ourselves at daylight far to the eastward, and also within two miles of the land, near a long low point, which on the former voyages had not been seen. The sea was covered with ice between us and the shore, all of this years formation, but now of considerable thickness and formidable appearance. The wind continuing strong, the whole body was constantly pressed in upon the land, bearing the ships along with it, and doubling one sheet over another, sometimes to a hundred thicknesses. We quickly shoaled the water from seventy to forty fathoms, the latter depth occurring about a mile from the beach; and after this we drifted but little, the ice being blocked up between the point and a high perpendicular berg lying aground off it.
The sails being furled, and the top-gallant yards got down, we now considered ourselves fortunate in our situation; for had we been only a quarter of a mile farther out we should have been within the influence of a current that was there sweeping the whole body of ice to the eastward, at the rate of a mile and a half an hour. Indeed, at times this current was disposed to approach us still nearer, carrying away pieces of ice close to our quarter; but by means of long hawsers, secured to the heaviest and most compact of the small floes in-shore of us, we contrived to hold on. Under such circumstances, it evidently became expedient to endeavour, by sawing, to get the ships as close in-shore as possible, so as to secure them either to grounded ice or by anchoring within the shelter of a bay at no great distance inside of us; for it now seemed not unlikely that winter was about to put a premature stop to all further operations at sea for this season. At all events it was necessary to consult the immediate safety of the ships, and to keep them from being drifted back to the eastward. I therefore gave orders for endeavouring to get the ships in towards the bay by cutting through what level floes still remained. At the same time an officer was despatched to examine the shore, which was found safe, with regular soundings in every part. So strong had been the pressure while the ice was forcing in upon us, that on the 20th, after liberating the Hecla on one side, she was as firmly cemented to it on the other as after a winters formation, and we could only clear her by heavy and repeated sallying. After cutting in two or three hundred yards, while the people were at dinner on the 21st, our canal closed, by the external pressure coming upon the parts which we had weakened, and in a few minutes the whole was once more in motion, or, as the seamen not inaptly expressed it, alive, mass doubling under mass, and raising those which were uppermost to a considerable height. The ice thus pressed together was now about ten feet in thickness in some places, and on an average not less than four or five, so that while thus forced in upon a ship, although soft in itself, it caused her to tremble exceedingly; a sensation, indeed, commonly experienced in forcing through young ice of considerable thickness. We were now once more obliged to be quiet spectators of what was going on around us, having with extreme difficulty succeeded in saving most of our tools that were lying on the ice when the squeezing suddenly began. Towards evening we made fast to a stationary floe, at the distance of one mile from the beach, in eighteen fathoms, where we remained tolerably quiet for the night, the ice outside of us, and as far as we could see, setting constantly at a great rate to the eastward. Some of our gentlemen, who had landed in the course of the day, and who had to scramble their way on board over the ice in motion, described the bay as deeper than it appeared from the offing. Dr. Neill found, on such parts of the beach as were not covered with ice or snow, fragments of bituminous shale, flinty slate, and iron-stone, interspersed amongst a blue-coloured limestone gravel. As far as he was able to travel inland, the surface was composed of secondary limestone, partially covered with a thin layer of calc-sinter. From the scantiness of the vegetation here, the limestone seemed likely to contain a large proportion of magnesia. Dr. Neill was about to examine for coal, which the formation led him to expect, when the ice was observed to be in motion, obliging him hastily to return on board. Lieutenant Ross found, about two-thirds up a small peaked insulated hill of limestone, between three and four hundred feet above the level of the sea, several pieces of coal, which he found to burn with a clear bright flame, crackling much, and throwing off slaty splinters.
Hares burrows were numerous on this hill; Lieutenant Ross saw two of these animals, one of which he killed. A fox was also observed in its summer dress; and these, with a pair of ravens, some wingless ducks, and several snow-buntings, were all the animals noticed at this place.
A sudden motion of the ice on the morning of the 22nd, occasioned by a change of wind to the S.E., threatened to carry us directly off the land. It was now more than ever desirable to hold on, as this breeze was likely to clear the shore, and at the same time to give us a run to the westward. Hawsers were therefore run out to the land-ice, composed of some heavy masses, almost on the beach. With the Hecla this succeeded, but the Fury, being much farther from the shore, soon began to move out with the whole body of ice, which, carrying her close to the large berg off the point, swept her round the latter, where, after great exertion, Captain Hoppner succeeded in getting clear, and then made sail to beat back to us. In the meantime the strain put upon the Heclas hawsers being too great for them, they snapped one after another, and a bower-anchor was let go as a last resource. It was one of Hawkinss, with the double fluke, and immediately brought up, not merely the ship, but a large floe of young ice, which had just broken our stream-cable. All hands were sent upon the floe to cut it up ahead, and the whole operation was a novel and, at times, a fearful one; for the ice, being weakened by the cutting, would suddenly gather fresh way astern, carrying men and tools with it, while the chain-cable continued to plough through it in a manner which gave one the idea of something alive, and continually renewing its attacks. The anchor held surprisingly, and after this tremendous strain had been put upon it for above an hour, we had fairly cut the floe in two, and the ship was riding in clear water about half a mile from the shore.
I was now in hopes we should have made some progress, for a large channel of clear water was left open in-shore; a breeze blew off the land, and the temperature of the atmosphere had again risen considerably. We had not sailed five miles, however, when a westerly wind took us aback, and a most dangerous swell set directly upon the shore, obliging me immediately to stand off the land; and the Fury being still to the eastward of the point, I ran round it, in order to rejoin her before sunset. The current was here setting very fast to the eastward, not less, I think, in some places, than two miles an hour, so that, even in a clear sea, we had little chance of stemming it, much less beset as we were in young ice during an unusually dark night of nine or ten hours duration, with a heavy fall of snow. The consequence was, that when we made the land on the morning of the 23rd, we had been drifted the incredible distance of eight or nine leagues during the night, finding ourselves off the Wollaston Islands at the entrance of Navy Board Inlet. We stood in under the islands to look for anchorage during the night, but the water being everywhere too deep close to the shore, we made fast at sunset to some very heavy ice upon a point, which we took to be the main land, but which Captain Hoppner afterwards found to be upon one of the islands, which are at least four in number.
After midnight on the 27th the wind began to moderate, and by degrees also drew more to the southward than before. At daylight, therefore, we found ourselves seven or eight miles from the land; but no ice was in sight, except the sludge, of honey-like consistence, with which almost the whole sea was covered. A strong blink, extending along the eastern horizon, pointed out the position of the main body of ice, which was farther distant from the eastern shore of the inlet than I ever saw it. Being assisted by a fine working breeze, which at the same time prevented the formation of any more ice to obstruct us, we made considerable progress along the land, and at noon were nearly abreast of Jackson Inlet, which we now saw to be considerably larger than our distant view of it on the former voyage had led us to suppose. We found also that what at a distance appeared an island in the entrance was in reality a dark-looking rocky hill, on the south side. A few more tacks brought us to the entrance of Port Bowen, which for two or three days past I had determined to make our wintering-place, if, as there was but little reason to expect, we should be so fortunate as to push the ships thus far. My reasons for coming to this determination, in which Captain Hoppners opinion also served to confirm me, will be sufficiently gathered from the operations of the preceding fortnight, which convinced me that the precarious chance of making a few miles more progress could no longer be suffered to weigh against the evident risk now attending further attempts at navigation: a risk not confined to the mere exposure of the ships to imminent danger, or the hazard of being shut out of a winter harbour, but to one which, I may be permitted to say, we all dreaded as much as thesethe too obvious probability of our once more being driven back to the eastward, should we again become hampered in the young ice. Joining to this the additional consideration that no known place of security existed to the southward on this coast, I had not the smallest hesitation in availing myself of the present opportunity to get the ships into harbour. Beating up, therefore, to Port Bowen, we found it filled with old and hummocky ice, attached to the shores on both sides, as low down as about three-quarters of a mile below Stoney Island. Here we made fast in sixty-two fathoms of water, running our hawsers far in upon the ice, in case of its breaking off at the margin.
On entering Port Bowen, I was forcibly struck with the circumstance of the cliffs on the south side of the harbour being, in many places, covered with a layer of blue transparent-looking ice, occasioned undoubtedly by the snow partially thawing there, and then being arrested by the frost, and presenting a feature very indicative of the late cold summer. The same thing was observed on all the land to which we made a near approach on the south side of Barrows Strait this season, especially about Cape York and Eardley Bay; but as we had never been close to these parts of the shore in 1819, it did not occur to me as anything new or worthy of notice. At Port Bowen, however, which in that year was closely examined, I am quite certain that no such thing was to be seen, even in the month of August, the cliffs being then quite clear of snow, except here and there a patch of drift.
Late as we had this year been (about the middle of October) in reaching Sir James Lancasters Sound, there would still have been time for a ship engaged in a whale-fishery to have reaped a tolerable harvest, as we met with a number of whales in every part of it, and even as far as the entrance of Port Bowen. The number registered altogether in our journals is between twenty and thirty, but I have no doubt that many more than these were seen, and that a ship expressly on the look-out for them would have found full occupation for her boats. Several which came near us were of large and payable dimensions. I confess, however, that had I been within the Sound, in a whaler, towards the close of so unfavourable a season as this, with the young ice forming so rapidly on the whole extent of the sea, I should not have been disposed to persevere in the fishery under circumstances so precarious, and to a ship unprepared for a winter involving such evident risk. It is probable, however, that on the outside the formation of young ice would have been much retarded by the swell; and I am inclined to believe that a season so unfavourable as this will be found of rare occurrence.
We observed a great many narwhals in different parts of Barrows Strait, and a few walruses, and should perhaps have seen many more of both, but for the continual presence of the young ice.
Winter ArrangementsImprovements in Warming and Ventilating the ShipsMasquerades adopted as an Amusement to the MenEstablishment of SchoolsAstronomical ObservationsMeteorological Phenomena.
October.Our present winter arrangements so closely resembled, in general, those before adopted, that a fresh description of them here would prove little more than a repetition of that already contained in the narratives of our former voyages. On each succeeding occasion, however, some improvements were made which, for the benefit of those hereafter engaged in similar enterprises, it may be proper to record. For all those whose lot it may be to succeed us, sooner or later, in these inhospitable regions, may be assured that it is only by rigid and unremitted attention to these and numberless other little things that they can hope to enjoy the good state of health which, under the Divine blessing, it has always been our happiness, in so extraordinary a degree, to experience.
In the description I shall offer of the appearances of nature, and of the various occurrences, during this winter, I know not how I can do better than pursue a method similar to that heretofore practised, by confining myself rather to the pointing out of any difference observed in them now and formerly, than by entering on a fresh description of the actual phenomena. To those who read, as well as to those who describe, the account of a winter passed in these regions can no longer be expected to afford the interest of novelty it once possessed; more especially in a station already delineated with tolerable geographical precision on our maps, and thus, as it were, brought near to our firesides at home. Independently, indeed, of this circumstance, it is hard to conceive any one thing more like another than two winters passed in the higher latitudes of the Polar regions, except when variety happens to be afforded by intercourse with some other branch of the whole family of man. Winter after winter, nature here assumes an aspect so much alike, that cursory observation can scarcely detect a single feature of variety. The winter of more temperate climates, and even in some of no slight severity, is occasionally diversified by a thaw, which at once gives variety and comparative cheerfulness to the prospect. But here, when once the earth is covered, all is dreary, monotonous whitenessnot merely for days or weeks, but for more than half a year together. Whichever way the eye is turned, it meets a picture calculated to impress upon the mind an idea of inanimate stillness, of that motionless torpor with which our feelings have nothing congenial; of anything, in short, but life. In the very silence there is a deadness with which a human spectator appears out of keeping. The presence of man seems an intrusion on the dreary solitude of this wintry desert, which even its native animals have for awhile forsaken.
As this general description of the aspect of nature would suit alike each winter we have passed in the ice, so also, with very little variation, might our limited catalogue of occurrences and adventures serve equally for any one of those seasons. Creatures of circumstance, we act and feel as we did before on every like occasion, and as others will probably do after us in the same situation. Whatever difference time or events may have wrought in individual feelings, and however different the occupations which those feelings may have suggested, they are not such as, without impertinence, can be intruded upon others; with these the stranger intermeddleth not. I am persuaded, therefore, that I shall be excused in sparing the dulness of another winters diary, and confining myself exclusively to those facts which appear to possess any scientific interest, to the few incidents which did diversify our confinement, and to such remarks as may contribute to the health and comfort of any future sojourners in these dreary regions.
It may well be supposed that, in this climate, the principal desideratum which art is called upon to furnish for the promotion of health, is warmth, as well in the external air as in the inhabited apartments. Exposure to a cold atmosphere, when the body is well clothed, produces no bad effect whatever beyond a frost-bitten cheek, nose, or finger. As for any injury to healthy lungs from the breathing of cold air, or from sudden changes from this into a warm atmosphere, or vice versâ, it may with much confidence be asserted that, with due attention to external clothing, there is nothing in this respect to be apprehended. This inference, at least, would appear legitimate, from the fact that our crews, consisting of one hundred and twenty persons, have for four winters been constantly undergoing, for months together, a change of from eighty to a hundred degrees of temperature, in the space of time required for opening two doors (perhaps less than half a minute), without incurring any pulmonary complaints at all. Nor is a covering for the mouth at all necessary under these circumstances, though to most persons very conducive to comfort; for some individuals, from extreme dislike to the condensation and freezing of the breath about the comforter generally used for this purpose, have never worn any such defence for the mouth; and this without the slightest injurious effect or uncomfortable feeling beyond that of a cold face, which becomes comparatively trifling by habit.
In speaking of the external clothing sufficient for health in this climate, it must be confessed that, in severe exposure, quite a load of woollen clothes, even of the best quality, is insufficient to retain a comfortable degree of warmth; a strong breeze carrying it off so rapidly that the sensation is that of the cold piercing through the body. A jacket made very long, like those called by seamen pea-jackets, and lined with fur throughout, would be more effectual than twice the weight of woollen clothes, and is indeed almost weather-proof. For the prevention of lumbago, to which our seamen are especially liable, from their well-known habit of leaving their loins imperfectly clothed, every man should be strictly obliged to wear, under his outer clothes, a canvas belt a foot broad, lined with flannel, and having straps to go over the shoulder.
It is certain, however, that no precautions in clothing are sufficient to maintain health during a Polar winter, without a due degree of warmth in the apartments we inhabit. Most persons are apt to associate with the idea of warmth, something like the comfort derived from a good fire on a winters evening at home; but in these regions the case is inconceivably different: here it is not simple comfort, but health, and therefore ultimately life, that depends upon it. The want of a constant supply of warmth is here immediately followed by a condensation of all the moisture, whether from the breath, victuals, or other sources, into abundant drops of water, very rapidly forming on all the coldest parts of the deck. A still lower temperature modifies, and perhaps improves the annoyance by converting it into ice, which again an occasional increase of warmth dissolves into water. Nor is this the amount of the evil, though it is the only visible part of it; for not only is a moist atmosphere thus incessantly kept up, but it is rendered stagnant also by the want of that ventilation which warmth alone can furnish. With an apartment in this state, the mens clothes and bedding are continually in a moist and unwholesome condition, generating a deleterious air, which there is no circulation to carry off; and whenever these circumstances combine for any length of time together, so surely may the scurvy, to say nothing of other diseases, be confidently expected to exhibit itself.
With a strong conviction of these facts, arising from the extreme anxiety with which I have been accustomed to watch every minute circumstance connected with the health of our people, it may be conceived how highly I must appreciate any means that can be devised to counteract effects so pernicious. Such means have been completely furnished by Mr. Sylvesters warming apparatusa contrivance of which I scarcely know how to express my admiration in adequate terms. The alteration adopted on this voyage, of placing this stove in the very bottom of the hold, produced not only the effect naturally to be expected from it, of increasing the rapidity of the current of warm air, and thus carrying it to all the officers cabins with less loss of heat in its passage; but was also accompanied by an advantage scarcely less important, which had not been anticipated. This was the perfect and uniform warmth maintained during the winter in both cable-tiers, which, when cleared of all the stores, gave us another habitable deck, on which more than one-third of the mens hammocks were berthed, thus affording to the ships companies, during seven or eight months of the year, the indescribable comfort of nearly twice the space for their beds, and twice the volume of air to breathe in. It need scarcely be added, how conducive to wholesome ventilation, and to the prevention of moisture below, such an arrangement proved; suffice it to say, that we have never before been so free from moisture, and that I cannot but chiefly attribute to this apparatus the unprecedented good state of health we enjoyed during this winter.
Every attention was, as usual, paid to the occupation and diversion of the mens minds, as well as to the regularity of their bodily exercise. Our former amusements being almost worn threadbare, it required some ingenuity to devise any plan that should possess the charm of novelty to recommend it. This purpose was completely answered, however, by a proposal of Captain Hoppner, to attempt a masquerade, in which officers and men should alike take part, but which, without imposing any restraint whatever, would leave every one to their own choice, whether to join in this diversion or not. It is impossible that any idea could have proved more happy or more exactly suited to our situation. Admirably dressed characters of various descriptions readily took their parts, and many of these were supported with a degree of spirit and genuine humour which would not have disgraced a more refined assembly; while the latter might not have disdained, and would not have been disgraced by copying the good order, decorum, and inoffensive cheerfulness which our humble masquerades presented. It does especial credit to the dispositions and good sense of our men that, though all the officers entered fully into the spirit of these amusements, which took place once a month alternately on board each ship, no instance occurred of anything that could interfere with the regular discipline, or at all weaken the respect of the men towards their superiors. Ours were masquerades without licentiousnesscarnivals without excess.
But an occupation not less assiduously pursued, and of infinitely more eventual benefit, was furnished by the re-establishment of our schools, under the voluntary superintendence of my friend Mr. Hooper in the Hecla, and of Mr. Mogg in the Fury. By the judicious zeal of Mr. Hooper, the Heclas school was made subservient, not merely to the improvement of the men in reading and writing (in which, however, their progress was surprisingly great), but also to the cultivation of that religious feeling which so essentially improves the character of a seaman, by furnishing the highest motives for increased attention to every other duty. Nor was the benefit confined to the eighteen or twenty individuals whose want of scholarship brought them to the school-table, but extended itself to the rest of the ships company, making the whole lower-deck such a scene of quiet, rational occupation as I never before witnessed on board a ship. And I do not speak lightly, when I express my thorough persuasion that to the moral effects thus produced upon the minds of the men were owing, in a very high degree, the constant yet sober cheerfulness, the uninterrupted good order, and even, in some measure, the extraordinary state of health which prevailed among us during this winter.
Immediately after the ships were finally secured, we erected the observatory on shore, and commenced our arrangements for the various observations to which our attention was to be directed during the winter. The interest of these, especially of such as related to magnetism, increased so much as we proceeded, that the neighbourhood of the observatory assumed ere long almost the appearance of a scattered village, the number of detached houses, having various needles set up in them, soon amounting to seven or eight.
The extreme facility with which sounds are heard at a considerable distance in severely cold weather has often been a subject of remark; but a circumstance occurred at Port Bowen which deserves to be noticed, as affording a sort of measure of this facility, or at least conveying to others some definite idea of the fact. Lieutenant Foster, having occasion to send a man from the observatory to the opposite shore of the harbour, a measured distance of 6696 feet, or about one statute mile and two-tenths, in order to fix a meridian mark, had placed a second person half-way between to repeat his directions; but he found, on trial, that this precaution was unnecessary, as he could without difficulty keep up a conversation with the man at the distant station. The thermometer was at this time -18°, the barometer 30.14 inches, and the weather nearly calm, and quite clear and serene.
The meteorological phenomena observed during this winter, like most of its other occurrences, differed so little in character from those noticed on the former voyages, as to render a separate description of each wholly unnecessary.
This winter certainly afforded but few brilliant displays of the Aurora. The following notice includes all that appear to me to require a separate description.
Late on the night of the 21st of December the phenomenon appeared partially, and with a variable light, in different parts of the southern sky for several hours. At seven on the following morning it became more brilliant and stationary, describing a well-defined arch, extending from the E.S.E. horizon to that at W.N.W., and passing through the zenith. A very faint arch was also visible on each side of this, appearing to diverge from the same points in the horizon, and separating to twenty degrees distance in the zenith. It remained thus for twenty minutes, when the coruscations from each arch met, and after a short but brilliant display of light, gradually died away. Early on the morning of the 15th of January, 1825, the Aurora broke out to the southward, and continued variable for three hours, between a N.W. and S.E. bearing. From three to four oclock the whole horizon, from south to west, was brilliantly illuminated, the light being continuous almost throughout the whole extent, and reaching several degrees in height. Very bright vertical rays were constantly shooting upwards from the general mass. At half-past five it again became so brilliant as to attract particular notice, describing two arches passing in an east and west direction, very near the zenith, with bright coruscations issuing from it; but the whole gradually disappeared with the returning dawn. At dusk the same evening, the Aurora again appeared in the southern quarter, and continued visible nearly the whole night, but without any remarkable feature.
About midnight on the 27th of January, this phenomenon broke out in a single compact mass of brilliant yellow light, situated about a S.E. bearing, and appearing only a short distance above the land. This mass of light, notwithstanding its general continuity, sometimes appeared to be evidently composed of numerous pencils of rays, compressed, as it were, laterally into one, its limits both to the right and left being well defined and nearly vertical. The light, though very bright at all times, varied almost constantly in intensity, and this had the appearance (not an uncommon one in the Aurora) of being produced by one volume of light overlaying another, just as we see the darkness and density of smoke increased by cloud rolling over cloud. While Lieutenants Sherer and Ross, and myself, were admiring the extreme beauty of this phenomenon from the observatory, we all simultaneously uttered an exclamation of surprise at seeing a bright ray of the Aurora shoot suddenly downward from the general mass of light, and between us and the land, which was there distant only three thousand yards. Had I witnessed this phenomenon by myself, I should have been disposed to receive with caution the evidence even of my own senses, as to this last fact; but the appearance conveying precisely the same idea to three individuals at once, all intently engaged in looking towards the spot, I have no doubt that the ray of light actually passed within that distance of us.
About one oclock on the morning of the 23rd of February, the Aurora again appeared over the hills in a south direction, presenting a brilliant mass of light, very similar to that just described. The rolling motion of the light laterally was here also very striking, as well as the increase of its intensity thus occasioned. The light occupied horizontally about a point of the compass, and extended in height scarcely a degree above the land, which seemed, however, to conceal from us a part of the phenomenon. It was always evident enough that the most attenuated light of the Aurora sensibly dimmed the stars, like a thin veil drawn over them. We frequently listened for any sound proceeding from this phenomenon, but never heard any. Our variation-needles, which were extremely light, suspended in the most delicate manner, and from the weak directive energy susceptible of being acted upon by a very slight disturbing force, were never in a single instance sensibly affected by the Aurora, which could scarcely fail to have been observed at some time or other, had any such disturbance taken place, the needles being visited every hour for several months, and oftener, when anything occurred to make it desirable.
The meteors called Falling-stars were much more frequent during this winter than we ever before saw them, and particularly during the month of December. On the 8th, at a quarter past seven in the evening, a particularly large and brilliant meteor of this kind fell in the S.S.W., the weather being very fine and clear overhead, but hazy near the horizon. On the following day, between four and five P.M., another very brilliant one was observed in the north, falling from an altitude of about thirty-five degrees till lost behind the land; the weather was at this time clear and serene, and no remarkable change took place. On the 12th, no less than five meteors of this kind were observed in a quarter of an hour, and as these were attended with some remarkable circumstances, I shall here give the account furnished me by Mr. Ross, who with Mr. Bell observed these phenomena. From seven to nine P.M. the wind suddenly increased from a moderate breeze to a strong gale from the southward. At ten it began to moderate a little; the haze, which had for several hours obscured every star, gradually sinking towards the horizon, and by eleven oclock the whole atmosphere was extremely clear above the altitude of five or six degrees. The thermometer also fell from -5° to -9° as the haze cleared away. At a quarter past eleven my attention was directed by Mr. Bell to some meteors which he observed, and in less than a quarter of an hour five were seen. The two first, noticed only by Mr. Bell, fell in quick succession, probably not more than two minutes apart. The third appeared about eight minutes after these, and exceeded in brilliancy any of the surrounding stars. It took a direction from near Tauri, and passing slowly towards the Pleiades, left behind it sparks like the tail of a rocket, these being visible for a few seconds after the meteor appeared to break, which it did close to the Pleiades. The fourth meteor made its appearance very near the same place as the last, and about five minutes after it. Taking the course of those seen by Mr. Bell, it passed to the eastward, and disappeared half way between Tauri and Gemini. The fifth of these meteors was seen to the eastward, passing through a space of about five degrees from north to south parallel to the horizon, and moving along the upper part of the cloud of haze which still extended to the altitude of five or six degrees. It was more dim than the rest, and of a red colour like Aldebaran. The third of these meteors was the only one that left a tail behind it, as above described. There was a faint appearance of the Aurora to the westward near the horizon.
On the 14th of December several very bright meteors were observed to fall between the hours of five and six in the evening, at which time the wind freshened from the N.W. by N. in a very remarkable manner. On this occasion, as well as on the 12th of December, there appeared to be an evident coincidence between the occurrence of the meteors and the changes of the weather at the time.
Particular attention was paid to the changes in the barometer during this winter, to which much encouragement was given by the excellence of the instruments with which we were now furnished. The times of register at sea had been three and nine, A.M. and P.M.; those hours having been recommended as the most proper for detecting any horary oscillations of the mercurial column. When we were fixed for the winter, and our attention could be more exclusively devoted to scientific objects, the register was extended to four and ten, and subsequently to five and eleven oclock. The most rigid attention to the observation and correction of the column, during several months, discovered an oscillation amounting only to ten thousandth-parts of an inch. The times of the maximum and minimum altitude appear, however, decidedly to lean to four and ten oclock, and to follow a law directly the reverse, as to time, of that found to obtain in temperate climates, the column being highest at four, and lowest at ten oclock, both A.M. and P.M.
The barometer did not appear to indicate beforehand the changes of the weather with any degree of certainty. Indeed the remark that we had always before made, that alterations in the mercurial column more frequently accompany than precede the visible changes of weather in these regions, was equally true of our present experience; but on one or two occasions hard gales of considerable duration occurred without the barometer falling at all below the mean altitude of the column in these regions, or even rose steadily during the continuance of the gale. During one week of almost constant blowing weather, and two days of very violent gales from the eastward, in the month of April, the barometer remained considerably above thirty inches the whole time. It is necessary for me here to remark that the unusual proportion of easterly winds registered in our journals during this winter must, in my opinion, be attributed to the local situation of our winter-quarters, which alone appears to me sufficient to account for the anomaly. The lands on each side of Port Bowen, running nearly east and west, and rising to a height of six to nine hundred feet above the sea, with deep and broad ravines intersecting the country in almost every direction, may be supposed to have had considerable influence on the direction of the wind. In confirmation of this supposition, indeed, it was usually noticed that the easterly winds were with us attended with clear weather, while the contrary obtained with almost every breeze from the west and north-west, thus reversing in this respect also the usual order of things. It was moreover observed that the clouds were frequently coming from the north-west, when the wind in Port Bowen was easterly. I must, however, except the gales we experienced from the eastward, which were probably strong enough to overcome any local deflection to which a light breeze would be subject; and indeed these were always accompanied with overcast weather and a high thermometer. After the middle of October the gales of wind were very few till towards the middle of April, when we experienced more blowing weather than during the whole winter.
Meteorological Phenomena continuedRe-equipment of the ShipsSeveral Journeys undertakenOpen Water in the OffingCommence sawing a Canal to liberate the ShipsDisruption of the IceDeparture from Port Bowen.
The height of the land about Port Bowen deprived us longer than usual of the suns presence above our horizon. Some of our gentlemen, indeed, who ascended a high hill for the purpose, caught a glimpse of him on the 2nd of February; on the 15th it became visible at the observatory, but at the ships not till the 22nd, after an absence of one hundred and twenty-one days. It is very long after the suns reappearance in these regions, however, that the effect of his rays, as to warmth, becomes perceptible; week passes after week with scarcely any rise in the thermometer except for an hour or two during the day; and it is at this period more than any other, perhaps, that the lengthened duration of a polar winters cold is most wearisome, and creates the most impatience. Towards the third week in March, thin flakes of snow lying upon black painted wood or metal, and exposed to the suns direct rays in a sheltered situation, readily melted. In the second week of April any very light covering of sand or ashes upon the snow close to the ships might be observed to make its way downward into holes; but a coat of sand laid upon the unsheltered ice, to the distance of about two-thirds of a mile, for dissolving a canal to hasten our liberation, produced no such sensible effect till the beginning of May. Even then the dissolution was very trifling till about the first week in June, when pools of water began to make their appearance, and not long after this a small boat would have floated down it. On shore the effect is in general still more tardy, though some deception is there occasioned by the dissolution of the snow next the ground, while its upper surface is to all appearance undergoing little or no change. Thus a greater alteration is sometimes produced in the aspect of the land by a single warm day in an advanced part of the season than in many weeks preceding, in consequence of the last crust of snow being dissolved, leaving the ground at length entirely bare. We could now perceive the snow beginning to leave the stones from day to day as early as the last week in April. Towards the end of May a great deal of snow was dissolved daily, but owing to the porous nature of the ground, which absorbed it as fast as it was formed, it was not easy to procure water for drinking on shore, even as late as the 10th of June. In the ravines, however, it could be heard trickling under stones before that time, and about the 18th, many considerable streams were formed, and constantly running both night and day. After this, the thawing proceeded at an inconceivably rapid rate, the whole surface of the floes being covered with large pools of water rapidly increasing in size and depth.
We observed nothing extraordinary with respect to the suns light about the shortest day; but as early as the 20th of November Arcturus could very plainly be distinguished by the naked eye, when near the south meridian at noon. About the first week in April the reflection of light from the snow became so strong as to create inflammation in the eyes, and notwithstanding the usual precaution of wearing black crape veils during exposure, several cases of snow-blindness occurred shortly afterwards.
There are perhaps few things more difficult to obtain than a comparative measure of the quantity of snow that falls at different places, owing to the facility with which the wind blows it off a smooth surface, such as a floe of level ice, and the collection occasioned by drift in consequence of the smallest obstruction. Thus, its mean depth at Port Bowen, measured in twenty different places on the smooth ice of the harbour, was three inches on the 5th of April, and on the 1st of May it had only increased to four and a half inches, while an immense bank, fourteen feet deep, had formed on one side of the Hecla, occasioned by the heavy drifts. The crystals were, as usual, extremely minute during the continuance of the cold weather, and more or less of these were always falling, even on the clearest days.
The animals seen at Port Bowen may now be briefly noticed. The principal of those seen during the winter were bears, of which we killed twelve, from October to June, being more than during all the other voyages taken together; and several others were seen. One of these animals was near proving fatal to a seaman of the Fury, who, having straggled from his companions, when at the top of a high hill saw a large bear coming towards him. Being unarmed, he prudently made off, taking off his boots to enable him to run the faster, but not so prudently precipitated himself over an almost perpendicular cliff, down which he was said to have rolled or fallen several hundred feet; here he was met by some of the people in so lacerated a condition as to be in a very dangerous state for some time after.
A she-bear, killed in the open water on our first arrival at Port Bowen, afforded a striking instance of maternal affection in her anxiety to save her two cubs. She might herself easily have escaped the boat, but would not forsake her young, which she was actually towing off by allowing them to rest on her back, when the boat came near them. A second similar instance occurred in the spring, when two cubs having got down into a large crack in the ice their mother placed herself before them, so as to secure them from the attacks of our people, which she might easily have avoided herself.
This unusual supply of bears flesh was particularly serviceable as food for the Esquimaux dogs we had brought out, and which were always at work in a sledge; especially as, during the winter, our number was increased by the birth of six others of these useful animals.
One or two foxes (Canis Lagopus) were killed, and four caught in traps during the winter, weighing from four pounds and three-quarters to three pounds and three-quarters. The colour of one of these animals, which lived for some time on board the Fury and became tolerably tame, was nearly pure white till the month of May, when he shed his winter-coat and became of a dirty chocolate colour, with two or three light brown spots. Only three hares (Lepus Variabilis) were killed from October to June, weighing from six to eight pounds and three-quarters. Their fur was extremely thick, soft, and of the most beautiful whiteness imaginable. We saw no deer near Port Bowen at any season, neither were we visited by their enemies the wolves. A single ermine and a few mice (Mus Hudsonius) complete, I believe, our scanty list of quadrupeds at this desolate and unproductive place.
Of birds, we had a flock or two of ducks occasionally flying about the small lanes of open water in the offing, as late as the 3rd of October; but none from that time to the beginning of June, and then only a single pair was occasionally seen. A very few grouse were met with also after our arrival at Port Bowen; a single specimen was obtained on the 23rd of December, and another on the 18th of February. They again made their appearance towards the end of March, and in less than a month about two hundred were killed; after which we scarcely saw another, for what reason we could not conjecture, except that they might possibly be on their way to the northward, and that the utter barrenness of the land about Port Bowen afforded no inducement for their remaining in our neighbourhood.
Lieutenant Ross, who paid great attention to ornithology, remarked that the grouse met with here are of three kinds, namely, the ptarmigan (Tetrao Lagopus), the rock-grouse, (Tetrao Rupestris), and the willow-partridge (Tetrao Albus). Of these only the two former were seen in the spring, and by far the greater number killed were of the first-mentioned species. They usually had in their maws the leaves of the Dryas Integrifolia, buds of the Saxifraga Oppositifolia, Salix Arctica, and Draba Alpina, the quantities being according to the order in which the plants have here been named. A few leaves also of the Polygonum Viviparum were found in one or two specimens. The snow-bunting, with its sprightly note, was, as usual, one of our earliest visitants in the spring; but these were few in number and remained only a short time. A very few sand-pipers were also seen, and now and then one or two glaucous, ivory, and kittiwake gulls. A pair of ravens appeared occasionally during the whole winter here, as at most of our former winter stations.
With a view to extend our geographical knowledge as much as our means permitted, three land journeys were undertaken as soon as the weather was sufficiently warm for procuring any water. The first party, consisting of six men, under Captain Hoppner, were instructed to travel to the eastward, to endeavour to reach the sea in that direction and to discover the communication which probably exists there with Admiralty Inlet, so as to determine the extent of that portion of insular land on which Port Bowen is situated. They returned on the 14th, after a very fatiguing journey, and having with difficulty travelled a degree and three-quarters to the eastward of the ships, in latitude 73° 19, from which position no appearance of the sea could be perceived. Captain Hoppner described the ravines as extremely difficult to pass, many of them being four or five hundred feet deep and very precipitous. These being numerous and running chiefly in a north and south direction, appearing to empty themselves into Jacksons Inlet, preclude the possibility of performing a quick journey to the eastward. During the whole fortnights excursion scarcely a patch of vegetation could be seen. Indeed, the hills were so covered in most parts with soft and deep snow that a spot could seldom be found on which to pitch their tent. A few snow-buntings and some ivory gulls were all the animals they met with to enliven this most barren and desolate country; and nothing was observed in the geological character differing from that about Port Bowen.
In the bed of one of the ravines Captain Hoppner noticed some immense masses of rock, thirty or forty tons in weight, which had recently fallen from above, and he also passed over several avalanches of snow piled to a vast height across it.
The two other parties, consisting of four men each, under the respective commands of Lieutenants Sherer and Ross, were directed to travel, the former to the southward, and the latter to the northward, along the coast of Prince Regents Inlet, for the purpose of surveying it accurately, and of obtaining observations for the longitude and variation at the stations formerly visited by us on the 7th and 15th of August, 1819. I was also very anxious to ascertain the state of the ice to the northward to enable me to form some judgment as to the probable time of our liberation.
These parties found the travelling along shore so good as to enable them not only to reach those spots, but to extend their journeys far beyond them. Lieutenant Ross returning on the 15th, brought the welcome intelligence of the sea being perfectly open and free from ice at the distance of twenty-two miles to the northward of Port Bowen, by which I concludedwhat, indeed, had long before been a matter of probable conjecture,that Barrows Strait was not permanently frozen during the winter. From the tops of the hills about Cape York, beyond which promontory Lieutenant Ross travelled, no appearance of ice could be distinguished. Innumerable ducks, chiefly of the king, eider, and long-tailed species, were flying about near the margin of the ice, besides dovekies, looms, and glaucous, kittiwake, and ivory gulls. Lieutenant Sherer returned to the ships on the evening of the 15th, having performed a rapid journey as far as 72¼°, and making an accurate survey of the whole coast to that distance. In the course of this journey a great many remains of Esquimaux habitations were seen, and these were much more numerous on the southern part of the coast. In a grave which Lieutenant Sherer opened, in order to form some idea whether the Esquimaux had lately been here, he found the body apparently quite fresh; but as this might in a northern climate remain the case for a number of years, and as our board erected in 1819 was still standing untouched and in good order, it is certain these people had not been here since our former visit. Less numerous traces of the Esquimaux, and of older date, occur near Port Bowen and in Lieutenant Rosss route along shore to the northward, and a few of the remains of habitations were those used as winter residences. I have since regretted that Lieutenant Sherer was not furnished with more provisions and a larger party to have enabled him to travel round Cape Kater, which is probably not far distant from some of the northern Esquimaux stations mentioned in my Journal of the preceding voyage.
Towards the end of June, the dovekies (Colymbus Grylle) were extremely numerous in the cracks of the ice at the entrance of Port Bowen, and as these were the only fresh supply of any consequence that we were able to procure at this unproductive place, we were glad to permit the men to go out occasionally with guns, after the ships were ready for sea, to obtain for their messes this wholesome change of diet; while such excursions also contributed essentially to their general health and cheerfulness. Many hundreds of these birds were thus obtained in the course of a few days. On the evening of the 6th of July, however, I was greatly shocked at being informed by Captain Hoppner that John Cotterell, a seaman of the Fury, had been found drowned in one of the cracks of the ice, by two other men belonging to the same party who had been with him but a few minutes before. We could never ascertain precisely in what manner this accident happened, but it was supposed that he must have overreached himself in stooping for a bird that he had killed. His remains were committed to the earth on Sunday the 10th, with every solemnity which the occasion demanded, and our situation would allow; and a tomb of stones with a suitable inscription was afterwards erected over the grave.
In order to obtain oil for another winters consumption before the ships could be released from the ice, and our travelling parties having seen a number of black whales in the open water to the northward, two boats from each ship were, with considerable labour, transported four miles along shore in that direction, to be in readiness for killing a whale and boiling the oil on the beach, whenever the open water should approach sufficiently near. They took their station near a remarkable peninsular piece of land on the south side of the entrance to Jacksons Inlet, which had on the former voyage been taken for an island. Notwithstanding these preparations, however, it was vexatious to find that on the 9th of July the water was still three miles distant from the boats, and at least seven from Port Bowen. On the 12th, the ice in our neighbourhood began to detach itself, and the boats under the command of Lieutenants Sherer and Ross being launched on the following day, succeeded almost immediately in killing a small whale of five feet bone, exactly answering our purpose. Almost at the same time, and as it turned out very opportunely, the ice at the mouth of our harbour detached itself at an old crack, and drifted off, leaving only about one mile and a quarter between us and the sea. Half of this distance being occupied by the gravelled canal, which was dissolved quite through the ice in many parts and had become very thin in all, every officer and man in both ships were set to work without delay to commence a fresh canal from the open water, to communicate with the other. This work proved heavier than we expected, the ice being generally from five to eight feet, and in many places from ten to eleven, in thickness. It was continued, however, with the greatest cheerfulness and alacrity from seven in the morning till seven in the evening daily, the dinner being prepared on the ice and eaten under the lee of a studding sail erected as a tent.
On the afternoon of the 19th a very welcome stop was put to our operations by the separation of the floe entirely across the harbour, and about one-third from the ships to where we were at work. All hands being instantly recalled by signal, were on their return set to work to get the ships into the gravelled canal, and to saw away what still remained in it to prevent our warping to sea. This work, with only half an hours intermission for the mens supper, was continued till half-past six the following morning, when we succeeded in getting clear. The weather being calm, two hours were occupied in towing the ships to sea, and thus the officers and men were employed at very laborious work for twenty-six hours, during which time there were, on one occasion, fifteen of them overboard at once; and, indeed, several individuals met with the same accident three times. It was impossible, however, to regret the necessity of these comparatively trifling exertions, especially as it was now evident that to have sawed our way out, without any canal, would have required at least a fortnight of heavy and fatiguing labour.
Sail over towards the Western Coast of Prince Regents InletStopped by the IceReach the Shore about Cape SeppingsFavourable Progress along the LandFresh and repeated Obstructions from IceBoth Ships driven on ShoreFury seriously damagedUnsuccessful Search for a Harbour for heaving her down to repair.
July 20.On standing out to sea, we sailed with a light southerly wind towards the western shore of Prince Regents Inlet, which it was my first wish to gain, on account of the evident advantage to be derived from coasting the southern part of that portion of land called in the chart North Somerset, as far as it might lead to the westward; which, from our former knowledge, we had reason to suppose it would do as far at least as the longitude of 95°, in the parallel of about 72°. After sailing about eight miles, we were stopped by a body of close ice lying between us and a space of open water beyond. By way of occupying the time in further examination of the state of the ice, we then bore up with a light northerly wind, and ran to the south-eastward to see if there was any clear water between the ice and the land in that direction; but found that there was no opening between them to the southward of the flat-topped hill laid down in the chart, and now called Mount Sherer. Indeed, I believe that at this time the ice had not yet detached itself from the land to the southward of that station. On standing back, we were shortly after enveloped in one of the thick fogs which had, for several weeks past, been observed almost daily hanging over some part of the sea in the offing, though we had scarcely experienced any in Port Bowen until the water became open at the mouth of the harbour.
On the clearing up of the fog on the 21st, we could perceive no opening of the ice leading towards the western land; nor any appearance of the smallest channel to the southward along the eastern shore. I was determined, therefore, to try at once a little farther to the northward, the present state of the ice appearing completely to accord with that observed in 1819, its breadth increasing as we advanced from Prince Leopolds Islands to the southward. As, therefore, I felt confident of being able to push along the shore if we should once gain it, I was anxious to effect the latter object in any part rather than incur the risk of hampering the ships by a vain, or, at least, a doubtful attempt to force them through a body of close ice several miles wide, for the sake of a few leagues of southing, which would soon be regained by coasting.
Light winds detained us very much, but being at length favoured by a breeze, we carried all sail to the north-west, the ice very gradually leading us towards the Leopold Isles. Having arrived off the northernmost on the morning of the 22nd, it was vexatious, however curious, to observe the exact coincidence of the present position of the ice with that which it occupied a little later in the year 1819. The whole body of it seemed to cling to the western shore, as if held there by some strong attraction, forbidding, for the present, any access to it. We now stood off and on, in the hope that a southerly breeze, which had just sprung up, might serve to open us a channel. In the evening the wind gradually freshened, and before midnight had increased to a strong gale, which blew with considerable violence for ten hours, obliging us to haul off from the ice and to keep in smooth water under the eastern land until it abated; after which not a moment was lost in again standing over to the westward. After running all night, with light and variable winds, through loose and scattered ice, we suddenly found ourselves, on the clearing up of a thick fog, through which we had been sailing on the morning of the 24th, within one-third of a mile of Cape Seppings, the land just appearing above the fog in time to save us from danger, the soundings being thirty-eight fathoms, on a rocky bottom. The Fury being apprised by guns of our situation, both ships were hauled off the land, and the fog soon after dispersing, we had the satisfaction to perceive that the late gale had blown the ice off the land, leaving us a fine navigable channel from one to two miles wide, as far as we could see from the mast-head along the shore. We were able to avail ourselves of this but slowly, however, in consequence of a light southerly breeze still blowing against us.
We had now an opportunity of discovering that a long neck of very low land runs out from the southernmost of the Leopold Islands, and another from the shore to the southward of Cape Clarence. These two had every appearance of joining, so as to make a peninsula, instead of an island, of that portion of land which, on account of our distance preventing our seeing the low beach, had in 1819 been considered under the latter character. It is, however, still somewhat doubtful, and the Leopold Isles, therefore, still retain their original designation on the chart. The land here, when closely viewed, assumes a very striking and magnificent character, the strata of limestone, which are numerous and quite horizontally disposed, being much more regular than on the eastern shore of Prince Regents Inlet, and retaining nearly their whole perpendicular height of six or seven hundred feet, close to the sea. The south-eastern promontory of the southernmost island is particularly picturesque and beautiful, the heaps of loose débris lying here and there up and down the sides of the cliff giving it the appearance of some huge and impregnable fortress, with immense buttresses of masonry supporting the walls. Near Cape Seppings, and some distance beyond it to the southward, we noticed a narrow stratum of some very white substance, the nature of which we could not at this time conjecture. I may here remark that the whole of Barrows Strait, as far as we could see to the N.N.E. of the islands, was entirely free from ice; and from whatever circumstance it may proceed, I do not think that this part of the Polar Sea is at any season very much encumbered with it.
It was the general feeling, at this period, among us, that the voyage had but now commenced. The labours of a bad summer, and the tedium of a long winter, were forgotten in a moment when we found ourselves upon ground not hitherto explored, and with every apparent prospect before us of making as rapid a progress as the nature of this navigation will permit towards the final accomplishment of our object.
Early on the morning of the 25th, we passed the opening in the land delineated in the former chart of this coast, in latitude 73° 34, which we now found to be a bay about three miles deep, but apparently open to the sea. I named it after my friend, Hastings Elwin, Esq., of Bristol, as a token of grateful esteem for that gentleman. The wind falling very light, so that the ships made no progress, I took the opportunity of landing in the fore-noon, accompanied by a party of the officers, and was soon after joined by Captain Hoppner. We found the formation to consist wholly of lime, and now discovered the nature of the narrow white stratum observed the day before from the offing, and which proved to be gypsum, mostly of the earthy kind, and some of it of a very pure white. A part of the rock near our landing-place contained a quantity of it in the state of selenite in beautiful transparent laminæ of a large size. The abundance of gypsum hereabouts explained also the extreme whiteness of the water near the whole of this part of the coast, which had always been observed in approaching it, and which had at first excited unnecessary apprehensions as to the soundings along the shore. This colour is more particularly seen near the mouths of the streams, many of which are quite of a dirty milk colour, and tinge the sea to the distance of more than a mile, without any alteration in the depth, except a gradual diminution in going in. The vegetation in this place was, as usual, extremely scanty, though much more luxuriant than on any of the land near our winter quarters, and no animals were seen. The latitude of our landing-place was 73° 27 23, the longitude by chronometers 90° 50 34.6, and the variation of the magnetic needle 125° 34 42 westerly. From half-past nine A.M. till a quarter past noon the tide fell two feet three inches; and as it was nearly stationary at the latter time, it was probably near low water.
A breeze enabling us again to make some progress, and an open channel still favouring us of nearly the same breadth as before, we passed during the night a second bay, about the same size as the other, and also appearing open to the sea; it lies in latitude (by account from the preceding and following noon) 73° 19 30, and its width is one mile and a half. It was called Batty Bay, after my friend Captain Robert Batty, of the Grenadier Guards. We now perceived that the ice closed completely in with the land a short distance beyond us, and having made all the way we could, were obliged to stand off and on during the day in a channel not three-quarters of a mile wide. This channel being still more contracted towards the evening, we were obliged to make fast to some grounded land ice upon the beach in four fathoms water, there to await some change in our favour. We here observed traces of our old friends the Esquimaux, there being several of their circles of stones, though not of recent date, close to the sea. We also found a more abundant vegetation than before, and several plants familiar to us on the former voyages, but not yet procured on this, were now added to our collections. The geological character of the land was nearly the same as before, but we found here some gypsum of the fibrous kind, occurring in a single stratum about an inch and a half wide. About a mile to the north of us was a curious cascade or spout of water, issuing from a chasm in the rock, and falling more than two hundred feet perpendicular. Our gentlemen, who visited the spot, described it as rendered the more picturesque by innumerable kittiwakes having their nests among the rocks, and constantly flying about the stream. The latitude was 73° 06 17, the longitude by chronometers 91° 19 52.3, the dip of the magnetic needle 88° 02.1, and the variation 128° 23 17 westerly.
The ice opening in the afternoon of the 27th, we cast off and run four or five miles with a northerly breeze. This wind, however, always had the effect of making the ice close the shore, while a southerly breeze as uniformly opened it, so that on this coast, as on several others that I have known, a contrary windhowever great the paradox may seemproved, on the whole, the most favourable for making progress. This circumstance is simply to be attributed to the greater abundance of open water in the parts we have left behind (in the present instance the open sea of Barrows Strait) than those towards which we are going. We were once more obliged to make fast, therefore, to some grounded ice close to the beach, rather than run any risk of hampering the ships, and rendering them unable to take advantage of a change in our favour.
A light southerly breeze on the morning of the 28th gradually cleared the shore, and a fresh wind from the N.W. then immediately succeeded. We instantly took advantage of this circumstance, and casting off at six A.M. ran eight or nine miles without obstruction, when we were stopped by the ice, which, in a closely packed and impenetrable body, stretched close into the shore as far as the eye could reach from the crows nest. Being anxious to gain every foot of distance that we could, and perceiving some grounded ice which appeared favourable for making fast to, just at a point where the clear water terminated, the ships were run to the utmost extent of it, and a boat prepared from each to examine the depth of water at the intended anchoring place. Just as I was about to leave the Hecla for that purpose, the ice was observed to be in rapid motion towards the shore. The Fury was immediately hauled in by some grounded masses, and placed to the best advantage; but the Hecla being more advanced was immediately beset in spite of every exertion, and after breaking two of the largest ice-anchors in endeavouring to heave in to the shore, was obliged to drift with the ice, several masses of which had fortunately interposed themselves between us and the land. The ice slackening around us a little in the evening, we were enabled, with considerable labour, to get to some grounded masses, where we lay much exposed, as the Fury also did. In this situation, our latitude being 72° 51 51, we saw a comparatively low point of land three or four leagues to the southward, which proved to be near that which terminated our view of this coast in 1819.
On the 29th, the ice being slack for a short distance, we shifted the Hecla half a mile to the northward, into a less insecure berth. I then walked to a broad valley facing the sea near us, where a considerable stream discharged itself, and where, in passing in the ships, a large fish had been observed to jump out of the water. In hopes of finding salmon here, we tried for some time with several hand-nets, but nothing was caught or seen. In this place were a number of the Esquimaux stone circles, apparently of very old date, being quite overgrown with grass, moss, and other plants. In the neighbourhood of these habitations the vegetation was much more luxuriant than anything of the kind we had seen before during this voyage. The state of this years plants was now very striking, compared with those of the last, and afforded strong evidence, if any had been wanting, of the difference between the two seasons. I was particularly struck with the appearance of some moss collected by Mr. Hooper, who pointed out to me upon the same specimen the last years miserable seeds just peeping above the leaves, while those of the present summer had already shot three-quarters of an inch beyond them. Another circumstance which we noticed about this time, and still more so as the season advanced, was the rapid progress which the warmth had already made in dissolving the last years snow, this being always easily known by its dingy colour, and its admixture with the soil. Of the past winters snow not a particle could be seen at the close of July on any part of this coast. These facts, together with the beautiful weather we had enjoyed for many weeks past, all tended to show that we were now favoured with an unusually fine summer. We found in this place, in the dry bed of an old stream, innumerable fossils in the limestone, principally shells and madrepore. On a hill abreast of the Hecla, and at an elevation of not less than three or four hundred feet above the sea, one particular spot was discovered in which the same kind of shells first found in Barrows Strait in 1819 occurred in very great abundance and perfection, wholly detached from the lime in which for the most part they were found embedded in other places on this coast. Indeed, it was quite astonishing, in looking at the numberless fossil animal remains occurring in many of the stones, to consider the countless myriads of shell fish and marine insects which must once have existed on this shore. The cliffs next the sea, which here rise to a perpendicular height of between four and five hundred feet, were continually breaking down at this season, and adding, by falls of large masses of stone, to the slope of débris lying at their foot. The ships lay so close to the shore as to be almost within the range of some of these tumbling masses, there being at high water scarcely beach enough for a person to walk along the shore. The time of high water, near the opposition of the moon this night, was between half-past eleven and midnight, being nearly the same as at Port Bowen at full and change.
The ice opening for a mile and a half along shore on the 30th, we shifted the Heclas berth about that distance to the southward, chiefly to be enabled to see more distinctly round a point which before obstructed our view, though our situation, as regarded the security of the ship, was much altered for the worse. The Fury remained where she was, there being no second berth even so good as the bad one where she was now lying. In the afternoon it blew a hard gale, with constant rain, from the northward, the clouds indicating an easterly wind in other parts. This wind, which was always the troublesome one to us, soon brought the ice closer and closer, till it pressed with very considerable violence on both ships, though the most upon the Fury, which lay in a very exposed situation. The Hecla received no damage but the breaking of two or three hawsers, and a part of her bulwark torn away by the strain upon them. In the course of the night we had reason to suppose, by the Furys heeling, that she was either on shore, or still heavily pressed by the ice from without. Early on the morning of the 31st, as soon as a communication could be effected, Captain Hoppner sent to inform me that the Fury had been forced on the ground, where she still lay; but that she would probably be hove off without much difficulty at high water, provided the external ice did not prevent it. I also learned from Captain Hoppner that a part of one of the propelling wheels had been destroyed, the chock through which its axis passed being forced in considerably, and the palm broken off one of the bower anchors. Most of this damage, however, was either of no very material importance, or could easily be repaired. A large party of hands from the Hecla being sent round to the Fury towards high water, she came off the ground with very little strain, so that, upon the whole, considering the situation in which the ships were lying, we thought ourselves fortunate in having incurred no very serious injury. The Fury was shifted a few yards into the best place that could be found, and the wind again blowing strong from the northward, the ice remained close about us. A shift of wind to the southward in the afternoon at length began gradually to slacken it, but it was not till six A.M. on the 1st of August that there appeared a prospect of making any progress. There was, at this time, a great deal of water to the southward, but between us and the channel there lay one narrow and not very close stream of ice touching the shore. A shift of wind to the northward determined me at once to take advantage of it, as nothing but a free wind seemed requisite to enable us to reach this promising channel. The signal to that effect was immediately made, but while the sails were setting, the ice, which had at first been about three-quarters of a mile distant from us, was observed to be closing the shore. The ships were cast with all expedition, in hopes of gaining the broader channel before the ice had time to shut us up. So rapid, however, was the latter in this its sudden movement, that we had but just got the ships heads the right way, when the ice came bodily in upon us, being doubtless set in motion by a very sudden freshening of the wind almost to a gale in the course of a few minutes. The ships were now almost instantly beset, and in such a manner as to be literally helpless and unmanageable. In such cases, it must be confessed that the exertions made by heaving at hawsers or otherwise are of little more service than in the occupation they furnish to the mens minds under circumstances of difficulty; for when the ice is fairly acting against the ship, ten times the strength and ingenuity could in reality avail nothing.