Royal Naval Biography/Franklin, John
SIR JOHN FRANKLIN, Knt.
Doctor of the Civil Law; Fellow of the Royal Society, &c. &c. &c.
[Post-Captain of 1822.]
This officer is a brother to the late Sir Willingham Franklin, Knt., one of the Puisne Judges at Madras, and was born at Spilsby, co. Lincoln, in the year 1786. He entered the royal navy, at the age of fourteen years, as midshipman on board the Polyphemus 64, Captain (now Admiral) John Law ford, which ship was attached to Lord Nelson’s division, and sustained a loss of five men killed and twenty-five wounded, at the daring and successful attack on the Danish line of defence before Copenhagen, April 2d, 1801. We afterwards find him proceeding to New Holland, in the Investigator sloop. Captain Matthew Flinders, under whose command he continued until that vessel, proving unfit for further service, was laid up at Port Jackson, in July, 1803. He was then received as supernumerary master’s-mate, on board the Porpoise store-ship. Lieutenant (now Captain) Robert Merrick Fowler, with whom he suffered shipwreck on a coral reef, in lat. 22° 11' S. long. 155° 13' E., Aug. 17th following. “His activity and perseverance in assisting to save the stores and provisions on that occasion, were truly praiseworthy;” and his subsequent behaviour on board the Earl Camden, East Indiaman, where he had the superintendence of the signals in Captain Dance’s celebrated rencontre with Mons. Linois, was such as to gain him the warmest commendations. The loss of the Porpoise, and the discomfiture of the French squadron, are described in pp. 367–378 of Suppl. Part. II.
Mr. Franklin next joined the Bellerophon 74, and “had charge of the signal department, the duties of which he performed with very conspicuous zeal and activity,” at the memorable battle of Trafalgar. The loss then sustained by that always highly distinguished ship amounted, according to the official returns, to 27 officers and men, including her captain (John Cooke) killed, and 123 wounded; we are informed, however, that at least ten men received wounds, some of a severe nature, who did not report themselves injured. Of about forty persons stationed with Mr. Franklin on the poop, not more than eight escaped unhurt. Among the fortunate few was a veteran sailor, named Christopher Beaty, yeoman of the signals, who, seeing the ensign shot away a third time, mounted the mizen-rigging with the largest union-jack he could lay his hand upon, deliberately stopped the four corners of it, with as much spread as possible, to the shrouds, and regained the deck unhurt, the French riflemen in the tops, and on the poop of l’Aigle 74, seeing what he was about, and seemingly in admiration of such daring conduct, having suspended their fire for the few seconds that he remained aloft: this forbearance on the part of the enemy was the more noble, as they had previously picked off every man that appeared before the Bellerophon’s mizen-mast.
Mr. Franklin continued in the same ship until Oct. 1807, when he joined the Bedford 74, Captain (now Rear-Admiral) James Walker, of which latter he was appointed an acting lieutenant on the 6th of December following: his first commission bears date Feb. 11th, 1808.
The Bedford formed part of the squadron sent, by Sir W. Sidney Smith, to escort the royal family of Portugal from Lisbon to South America, where she was commanded for several months by the late Captain Adam Mackenzie, but latterly by Captain Walker. On her return to Europe, she was attached to the North Sea fleet; and principally employed in the blockade of Flushing, until the peace with France in 1814. She then assisted in escorting the allied sovereigns from Boulogne to England; and afterwards proceeded with the expedition against New Orleans. On the 14th Dec. in the same year. Lieutenant Franklin was slightly wounded, while leading the Bedford’s boats to the attack of five large American gun-vessels, stationed in Lac Borgne, the capture of which force has been described at p. 4, et seq. of Suppl. Part IV.
The laborious exertions and great privations of the officers and seamen employed with the army during the subsequent operations against New Orleans, very few of whom ever slept one night on board their ships for a period of about seven weeks, have seldom been equalled: an outline of the services they performed is given at p. 637, et seq. of our first volume; but it is here necessary to add, that a party under Lieutenant Franklin assisted in cutting a canal across the entire neck of land between the Bayou Catalan and the Mississippi, of sufficient width and depth to admit of boats being brought up from Lac Borgne, for the purpose of transporting a military detachment, with 300 sailors and marines, to the right bank of the river, as a diversion in favor of the main attack upon the enemy’s entrenched position. The fatigue undergone, in the prosecution of this work, no words can sufficiently describe; yet it was pursued without repining, and so far effected as to enable boats enough for the conveyance of 600 men to reach their destination: the soil through which the canal was dug being soft, parts of the bank gave way, and, choking up the channel, prevented the heaviest of the boats from getting forward: otherwise it was intended to have pushed over 1400 men. The brilliant result of the dash across the Mississippi, on the morning of Jan. 8th, 1815, is stated in our memoir of Captain Rowland Money, C.B., under whom Lieutenant Franklin was then serving, at the head of the Bedford’s small arm men.
After the failure of the principal attack upon the enemy’s lines, the armament proceeded to Isle Dauphine, where Sir John Lambert, who had succeeded to the command of the army on the fall of Sir Edward Pakenham, addressed the following letter to Vice-Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane:
“The operations on which the two services are engaged being interrupted for the present, and as there is some uncertainty whether they may again he resumed, I wish to take the opportunity, previous to your sailing, of expressing how much the army is indebted to the active co-operations and zealous services of the navy.
“It would be presumption in me to call to your notice the distinguished flag-officers and captains of the fleet under your command; but there are a few individuals of junior rank whose exertions and intelligence have so repeatedly been the admiration of the general and superior officers under whose orders they have been acting on shore, at every service, from the first arrival of the forces under the late Major-General Ross on the coast of America, that I feel I should be deficient in my duty if I did not lay those names before you, in the hope that they may be transmitted by you to my Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, sanctioned by your approbation and recommendation for promotion, viz.; Lieutenants Curzon and Haymes, who have each acted as aide-de-camp to general officers; Lieutenants Fletcher, of H.M.S. Norge; Franklin, of the Bedford; and Foster, of the Asia. Lieutenant Haymes received the last words of the much lamented Major-General Ross, and afterwards was attached to the late Major-General Gibbs. I have the honor to be, &c.
A copy of this letter was transmitted by Sir Alexander Cochrane to the Admiralty.
Lieutenant Franklin’s next appointments were, – Sept. 7th, 1815, to be first of the Forth 40, Captain Sir William Bolton, which ship was paid off after conveying the Duchess d’Angoulême from England to Dieppe; – and, Jan. 14th, 1818, to command the Trent hired brig, under the orders of Captain Edward Buchan, to whom was assigned the task of inquiring into the state of the Polar Sea, to the northward of Spitzbergen, while another expedition, under Captain John Ross, was directed to examine the unexplored part of the cast coast of North America, within the Arctic circle, and to endeavour to pass along the northern shore of that continent to Behring’s Strait.
On his return from the above service, of which an authentic account will be found in our memoir of the officer who conducted it. Lieutenant Franklin volunteered to attempt reaching the North Pole, from the shores of Spitzbergen, by travelling with sledge-boats over the ice, or through any spaces of open water that might occur. The plan which he then suggested was afterwards followed up, in its most essential particulars, by Captain Parry, whose proceedings we have related at pp. 365–374 of Suppl. Part IV.
In the beginning of 1819, Lieutenant Franklin was appointed by Earl Bathurst to the command of an expedition, destined to proceed over land from the shores of Hudson’s Bay to the Arctic Ocean, in order to amend the very defective geography of the northern part of North America; but more particularly to ascertain the actual position of the mouth of the Copper mine River, and the exact trending of the shores of the Polar Sea to the eastward of that river. The gentlemen selected by the Admiralty to accompany him were Dr. John Richardson, a naval surgeon, well skilled in natural history, mineralogy, &c.; and Messrs. George Back and Richard Hood, midshipmen; with whom he embarked on board the ship Prince of Wales, at Gravesend, May 23d, and, after a narrow escape from being wrecked on Resolution Island, arrived in safety at York Factory, the principal depôt of the Hudson’s Bay Company, Aug. 30th, 1819: he was also accompanied thither by two English sailors, and four Orkney boatmen, the latter of whom he had engaged at Stromness, to assist his progress as far as Lake Athabasca. Having communicated to Mr. Williams, the governor of the Hudson’s Bay Company’s posts, the objects of the expedition, and that he had been directed to consult with him, and the several district masters, as to the best mode of proceeding, Lieutenant Franklin was gratified by his assurance that every possible assistance should be given to facilitate the execution of the service. The following particulars are extracted from the official narratives of the officers engaged in this extremely hazardous undertaking:
“It was suggested in my instructions,” says the commander, “that we might probably secure a schooner at this place, to proceed north as far as Wager Bay; but the vessel alluded to was lying at Moose Factory completely out of repair; independently of which, the route directly to the northward was rendered impracticable by the impossibility of procuring hunters and guides on the coast. The opinions of all the gentlemen (resident at York Factory) were so decidedly in favor of the route by Cumberland House, and through the chain of posts to the Great Slave Lake, that I determined on pursuing it, and immediately communicated my intention to the governor, with a request that he would furnish me with the means of conveyance as speedily as possible. He selected one of the Company’s largest boats for our use on the journey; but he was able to furnish us only with a steersman; and we were obliged to make up the rest of the crew with the men brought from Stromness, and our two attendants, John Hepburn and Samuel Wilks.”
This appears to have been occasioned by the arrival of the Prince of Wales and two other ships from England having given full occupation to the Company’s boatmen, the whole of whom were required to convey the necessary stores to the posts in the interior, before the commencement of winter.
On the 9th of September, our enterprising travellers commenced the laborious ascent of the different rapid streams between York Factory and Cumberland House, a distance by water of about 600 miles, which they were not able to accomplish before the 23d of the following month. The published charts of their route convey so correct a view of the numerous rivers, rapids, portages, and lakes, and the difficulties and impediments which occur in the long river-navigations of North America; and these obstructions have been so minutely detailed by Messrs. Hearne and Mackenzie, that it is unnecessary for us to extract more than one passage relative to them: the little space we can afford will be better appropriated to matters of higher interest.
“The whole of the 2d of October,” says Lieutenant Franklin, “was spent in carrying the cargoes over a portage of 1300 yards in length, and in launching the empty boats over three several ridges of rock which obstruct the channel of the White-Fall river, and produce as many cascades. I shall long remember the rude and characteristic wildness of the scenery which surrounded these falls; rocks piled on rocks, hung in rude and shapeless masses over the agitated torrents which swept their bases, whilst the bright and variegated tints of the mosses and lichens, that covered the face of the cliffs, contrasting with the dark green of the pines, which crowned their summits, added both beauty and grandeur to the general effect of the scene. In the afternoon, whilst on my way to superintend the operations of the men, a stratum of loose moss gave way under my feet, and I had the misfortune to slip from the summit of a rock into the fiver, betwixt two of the falls. My attempts to regain the bank were, for a time, ineffectual, owing to the rocks within my reach having been worn smooth by the action of the water; but after I had been carried a considerable distance down the stream, I caught hold of a willow, by which I held until two gentlemen of the Hudson’s Bay Company came in a boat to my assistance. During the night the frost was severe, and at sun-rise, on the 3d, the thermometer stood at 25°.”
Oh his arrival at Cumberland House, which is situated between Pine Island Lake and the Saskatchawan River, Lieutenant Franklin found it impracticable to advance farther by water, before the return of spring; but being soon convinced of the necessity of proceeding, during the winter, into the Athabasca district, the residents of which are best acquainted with the nature and resources of the country to the north of the Great Slave Lake, and from whence alone guides, hunters, and interpreters can be procured, he immediately resolved to set out for Carlton House, Isle à la Crosse, and Fort Chepewyan, where, by his presence, he hoped to prevent delay in the necessary preparations for his ulterior proceedings. The manner in which he performed this long and dreary journey, the following extracts will shew:–
“The general dress of the winter traveller in this region is a capot, having a hood to put up under the fur cap in windy weather, or in the woods, to keep the snow from his neck; leathern trowsers, and Indian stockings, which are closed at the ancles, round the upper part of his mocassins, or Indian shoes, to prevent the snow from getting into them. Over these he wears a blanket, or leathern coat, which is secured by a belt round his waist, to which his fire-bag, knife, and hatchet, are suspended.
“Mr. Back and I were accompanied by John Hepburn, and provided With two carioles and two sledges: their drivers and dogs were furnished in equal proportions by the two trading Companies. Fifteen days’ provisions so completely filled the sledges, that it was with difficulty we found room for a small sextant, one suit of clothes, and three changes of linen, together with our bedding. Notwithstanding we thus restricted ourselves, and even loaded the carioles with part of the baggage, instead of going in them ourselves, we did not set out without considerable grumbling from the drivers, respecting the overloading of their dogs. The weight usually placed upon a sledge, drawn by three dogs, cannot, at the commencement of a journey, be estimated at less than three hundred pounds, which, however, suffers a daily diminution from the consumption of provisions. The sledge itself weighs about thirty pounds. When the snow is hard frozen, or the track well trodden, the rate of travelling is about fifteen miles a day. If the snow is loose, the speed is necessarily much less, and the fatigue greater.
“At eight in the morning of the 18th Jan. 1820, we took leave of our hospitable friend. Governor Williams, whose kindness and attention I shall ever remember with gratitude. Dr. Richardson, Mr. Hood, and Mr. Connelly (the resident partner of the N.W. Company), accompanied us along the Saskatchawan until the snow became too deep for their walking without snow-shoes. We then parted from our associates, with sincere regret at the prospect of a long separation. Being accompanied by Mr. Mackenzie, of the Hudson’s Bay Company, who was going to Isle à la Crosse, with four sledges under his charge, we formed quite a procession, keeping in an Indian file, in the track of the man who preceded the foremost dogs; but, as the snow was deep, we proceeded slowly on the surface of the river. At the place of our encampment we could scarcely find sufficient pine branches to floor ‘the hut,’ as the Orkneymen term the spot where travellers rest. Its preparation, however, consists only in clearing away the snow to the ground, and covering that space with pine branches, over which the party spread their blankets and coats, and sleep in warmth and comfort, by keeping a good fire at their feet, without any other canopy than the heaven, even though the thermometer should be far below zero.
“The arrival at the place of encampment gives immediate occupation to every one of the party; and it is not until the sleeping place has been arranged, and a sufficiency of wood collected as fuel for the night, that the fire is allowed to be kindled. The dogs alone remain inactive during this busy scene, being kept harnessed to their burdens until the men have leisure to unstow the sledges, and hang upon the trees every species of provision out of the reach of these rapacious animals. We had ample experience, before morning, of the necessity of this precaution, as they contrived to steal a considerable part of our stores, almost from underneath Hepburn’s head, notwithstanding their having been well fed at supper.
“Jan. 19. – The task of beating the track for the dogs was so very fatiguing, that each of the men took the lead in turns, for an hour and a half. The termination of the next day’s journey was a great relief to me, who had been suffering during the greater part of it, in consequence of my feet having been galled by the snow-shoes: this, however, is an evil which few escape on their initiation to winter travelling; it excites no pity from their more experienced companions, who travel on as fast as they can, regardless of the pain of the sufferers.
“On the 26th, after a fatiguing march, we halted at the Upper Nippéween, a deserted establishment; and performed the comfortable operations of shaving and washing, for the first time since our departure from Cumberland, the weather hitherto having been too severe. We passed an uncomfortable and sleepless night, and agreed to encamp in future in the open air, as preferable to the imperfect shelter of a forsaken house without doors or windows. The wolves serenaded us through the night of the 27th with a chorus of their agreeable howling, but none of them ventured near the encampment. Mr. Back’s repose was disturbed by a more serious evil; his buffalo robe caught fire, and the shoes on his feet, being contracted by the heat, gave him such pain, that he jumped up in the cold, and ran into the snow as the only means of obtaining relief.
“On the 28th, we had a strong and piercing wind in our faces, and much snow-drift. We were compelled to walk as quick as we could, and to keep constantly rubbing the exposed parts of the skin, to prevent their being frozen; but some of the party suffered in spite of every precaution. The night was miserably cold; our tea froze in the tin pots before we could drink it, and even a mixture of spirits and water became thick by congelation.
“Jan. 31st. – soon as day-light permitted, the party commenced their march, in the expectation of reaching Carlton House; but we did not arrive until noon, although the track was good. We were received by Mr. Prudens, the gentleman in charge of the post, with that friendly attention which Governor Williams’s circular was calculated to ensure at every station; and were soon afterwards regaled with a substantial dish of buffalo steaks, which would have been thought excellent under any circumstances, but were particularly relished by us, though eaten without either bread or vegetables. After this repast, we had the comfort of changing our travelling dresses, which had been worn for fourteen days.”
On the 9th Feb., Lieutenant Franklin resumed his travels; and on the 23d, arrived at the Hudson’s Bay Company’s fort, near Isle à la Crosse, where he received much valuable information respecting the country to the north of the Great Slave Lake, and was furnished by Mr. Chirk, the superintendant, with a list of stores he supposed the expedition would require. At the neighbouring post, some letters were found which Lieutenant Franklin had addressed to the partners of the N.W. Company, in the Athabasca district, shortly after his arrival at Cumberland House – a circumstance which proved the necessity of his proceeding to Fort Chipewyan, where, on the 26th March, he terminated a journey of 857 statute miles, performed in the depth of winter, with a weight of between two and three pounds almost constantly attached to his feet and ancles.
“We had the pleasure,” continues Lieutenant Franklin, ”of being received by Messrs. Keith and Black, the partners of the N.W. Company in charge of Fort Chipewyan, in the most kind and hospitable manner. Our first object was to obtain some certain information respecting our future route, and we received from one of their interpreters, named Beaulieu, a half-breed, who had been brought up amongst the Dog-ribbed and Copper Indians, some satisfactory intelligence, which we afterwards found tolerably correct, respecting the mode of reaching the Copper-mine River, which he had descended a considerable way; as well as of the course of that river to its mouth. The Copper Indians, however, he said, would be able to give us more accurate information as to the latter part of its course, as they occasionally pursue it to the sea. He sketched on the door a representation of the river, and a line of coast according to his idea of it. Just as he had finished, an old Chipewyan Indian, named Black Meat, unexpectedly came in, and instantly recognized the plan. He then took the charcoal from Beaulieu, and inserted a track along the sea-coast, which he had followed in returning from a war excursion, made by his tribe against the Esquimaux. He detailed several particulars of the coast and the sea, which he represented as studded, with well wooded islands, and free from ice close to the shore, but not to a great distance, in the month of July. He likewise described two other rivers to the eastward of the Copper-mine, which also fall into the Northern Ocean; but he represented them both as being shallow, and too much interrupted by barriers for being navigated in any other than small Indian canoes.
“Having received this intelligence, I wrote immediately to the gentlemen in charge of the posts at the Great Slave Lake, to communicate the object of the expedition, and our proposed route; and to solicit any information they possessed, or could collect from the Indians, relative to the countries we had to pass through, and the best manner of proceeding. As the Copper Indians frequent the establishment on the north side of the Lake, I particularly requested them to explain to that tribe the object of our visit, and to endeavour to procure from them some guides and hunters to accompany our party.”
“On the 10th of May we were gratified by the appearance of spring; the trees began to put forth their leaves, and the mosquitoes visited the warm rooms. On the 17th and 18th there were frequent showers of rain, and much thunder and lightning. This weather caused the ice to waste so rapidly, that, by the 24th, it had entirely disappeared from the Lake Athabasca. The gentlemen belonging to both the companies quickly arrived from the posts in this department, bringing their winter’s collection of furs, which are forwarded from these establishments to the depots.”
Lieutenant Franklin now began to make some arrangements respecting the obtaining of men, and the stores he should require for their equipment, as well as for presents for the Indians; but he learnt with regret, that in consequence of the recent lavish expenditure of the Companies’ goods, in support of a determined commercial opposition, their supply to the expedition would, of necessity, be very limited. The men, too, were backward in offering their services, especially those of the Hudson’s Bay Company, who demanded a much higher rate of wages than he considered it would be proper to grant.
“June 3. – Mr. Smith, a partner of the N.W. Company, arrived from the Great Slave Lake, and (says Lieutenant Franklin) was the bearer of the very gratifying intelligence that Akaitcho, the principal chief of the Copper Indians, had received the communication of our arrival with joy, and given all the information he possessed respecting the route to the sea coast by the Copper-mine River; also that he and a party of his men, at the instance of Mr. Frederick Wentzel, a clerk of the N.W. Company, whom they wished might go along with them, had engaged to accompany the expedition as guides and hunters. They were to await our arrival at Fort Providence, on the north side of the Slave Lake. Their information coincided with that given by Beaulieu. They had no doubt of our being able to obtain the means of subsistence in travelling to the coast. This agreeable intelligence had a happy effect upon the minds of the Canadian voyagers; many of their fears being removed: several of them seemed now disposed to volunteer; indeed, on the same evening, two men from the N.W. Company offered themselves, and were accepted. Mr. Smith was left in charge of Fort Chipewyan during the summer, and he soon evinced his desire to further our progress, by directing a canoe to be built for our use, which was finished on the 2d July. Its extreme length was 32 feet 6 inches, including the bow and stern pieces; its greatest breadth was 4 feet 10 inches; but it was only 2 feet 9 inches forward, where the bowman sat, and 2 feet 4 inches behind, where the steersman was placed; and its depth was 1 foot 11¾ inches; there were seventy-three hoops of thin cedar, and a layer of slender laths of the same wood within the frame. These feeble vessels of bark will carry twenty-five pieces of goods, each weighing ninety pounds, exclusive of the necessary provision and baggage for the crew of five or six men, amounting in the whole to about 3,300 pounds weight. This great lading they annually carry between the depots and the posts in the interior; and it rarely happens that any accidents occur, if they are managed by experienced bowmen and steersmen, on whose skill the safety of the canoe entirely depends in the rapids and difficult places. Its weight is estimated at 300 pounds, exclusive of the poles and oars.”
At Cumberland House, which is situated four degrees and three quarters to the southward of Fort Chipewyan, it was not before the 10th or 12th of April, that the return of the swans, geese, and ducks, gave certain indications of the advance of spring. “On the 15th,” says Mr. Hood, “fell the first shower of rain we had seen for six months; and, on the 17th, the thermometer rose to 77° in the shade. The whole face of the country was deluged by the melted snow. On the 28th, the Saskatchawan swept away the ice which had adhered to its banks, and the next day a boat came down from Carlton House with provisions. We received such accounts of the state of vegetation at that place, that Dr. Richardson determined to visit it, in order to collect botanical specimens, as the period at which the ice was expected to admit of the continuation of our journey was still distant. Accordingly he embarked on the 1st of May.”
Agreeable to directions left by Lieutenant Franklin, applications were now made to the chiefs of the Hudson’s Bay and N.W. Companies’ posts, for two canoes, with proper crews, and a supply of stores, for the use of the expedition; but they were not able to comply with this requisition till the arrival of their respective returns from Isle à la Crosse and the Saskatchawan departments. Even then, the most material stores they could supply did not amount to more than two barrels of gunpowder, a keg of spirits, and two pieces of tobacco, with pemmican for sixteen days. The crews of the canoes were not completed before the 11th of June; and a heavy storm of wind and rain prevented Dr. Richardson and Mr. Hood from leaving Cumberland House till the 13th, on which day they entered the mouth of the Sturgeon river, on their route to Isle à la Crosse and Fort Chipewyan. Their arrival at the latter post is thus noticed by Lieutenant Franklin:
“July 13th. – This morning Mr. Back and I had the sincere gratification of welcoming our long separated friends, who arrived in perfect health, with two canoes, having made a very expeditions journey from Cumberland, notwithstanding they were detained near three days in consequence of the melancholy loss of one of their bow-men, by the upsetting of a canoe in a strong rapid. The zeal and talent displayed by Dr. Richardson and Mr. Hood, in the discharge of their several duties, since my separation from then), drew forth my highest approbation. The Canadians whom they brought were most desirous of continuing with us, and we felt great pleasure in being able to keep men who were so zealous in the cause, and who had given proofs of their activity on their recent passage to this place, by discharging those men who wore less willing to undertake the journey.
“July 18th – The stores were distributed to the three canoes. Our stock of provision unfortunately did not amount to more than sufficient for one day’s consumption, exclusive of two barrels of flour, three cases of preserved meat, some chocolate, arrow-root, and portable soup, which we had brought from England, and intended to reserve for our journey to the coast next season. It was gratifying, however, to perceive that this scarcity of food did not depress the spirits of our Canadian companions, who cheerfully loaded their canoes, and embarked in high glee, after receiving the customary dram.”
On the 29th of July, Lieutenant Franklin and his party reached Fort Providence, in lat. 62° 17' 19" N., long. 114° 9' 28" W., which was the last station of the N.W. Company, and exclusively occupied by them; the Hudson’s Bay Company having no settlement to the northward of Moose-Deer-Island, where the expedition had halted for two days, and obtained a small supply of dried meat.
On the 1st of August, the Indian guides set out for the mouth of the Yellow Knife River, where they were joined, on the 3d, by Lieutenant Franklin and his companions, all in high spirits, being heartily glad that the time had at length arrived when their course was to be directed towards the Polar Sea, and through a line of country which had not previously been visited by any European. The expedition was then composed of Lieutenant Franklin, Dr. Richardson, Messrs. Back, Hood, and Wentzel, John Hepburn, sixteen Canadian voyageurs, one Iroquois, and two interpreters, – three women accompanied their husbands, in a small canoe, for the purpose of making shoes and clothes for the whole party, at the winter establishment; and there were also three children belonging to two of these women: – total 31 persons, old and young. “Our provision,” says Lieutenant Franklin, “was two casks of flour, two hundred dried reindeer tongues, some dried moose meat, portable soup, and arrowroot, sufficient in the whole for ten days’ consumption, besides two cases of chocolate, and two canisters of tea.” Several of the Copper-Indians’ canoes were managed by women, who proved to be noisy companions, for they quarrelled frequently, and the weakest was generally profuse in her lamentations.
So great and so numerous were the difficulties experienced from the want of provisions, and from the impediments in the navigation of the numerous rivers and lakes, on account of the rapids of the one and the shallows of the other, together with the frequent portages, that their progress was exceedingly slow and tedious; and they did not arrive at the spot where it was found necessary to hut themselves for the winter, which was situated in lat. 64° 28' N., long. 113° 6' W., and distant from Fort Chipewyan only 553 miles, before the 20th of August. With regard to the interruptions from the portages, they became more frequent, and the dragging of the boats more fatiguing, in proportion as they advanced to the northward; and thus the sufferings of the Canadians from want of sufficient sustenance were greatly aggravated. It not unfrequently happened, that in one day they had to land the stores and reload the canoes with them five or six times. The united length of the portages they crossed between Fort Providence and the spot chosen for their winter residence, was 21½ statute miles; and as they had to traverse each portage four times, with a load of 180 pounds, and return three times light, they walked in the whole upwards of 150 miles. We cannot, therefore, be surprised, that these men, who had been accustomed to live, when at the trading Companies’ forts, entirely on animal food, the daily allowance of which is eight pounds per man, should be disheartened, and exhibit symptoms of insubordination, when they found themselves reduced to one scanty meal a day. Lieutenant Franklin’s narrative informs us, that for some days they murmured at their meagre diet, strove to get the whole stock of provision to consume at once, and at length, on the 11th of August, broke out into open discontent, threatening that they would not proceed unless more food was given to them.
“This conduct,” says he, “was the more unpardonable, as they saw we were rapidly approaching the fires of the hunters, and that provision might be soon expected. I, therefore, felt the duty incumbent on me to address them in the strongest manner on the danger of insubordination, and to assure them of my determination to inflict the heaviest punishment on any that should persist in their refusal to go on, or in any other way attempt to retard the expedition. I must admit, however, that the present hardships of our companions were of a kind which few could support without murmuring, and no one could witness without feeling a sincere pity for their sufferings. Just as we had encamped, we were delighted to see four of the hunters arrive, with the flesh of two rein-deer. This seasonable supply instantly revived the spirits of our companions, and they immediately forgot all their cares. As we did not afterwards experience any deficiency of food, during this stage of our journey, they worked extremely well, and never again reflected upon us as they had done before, for rashly bringing them into an inhospitable country, where the means of subsistence could not be procured.”
On the morning of the 25th August, Lieutenant Franklin was surprised by some early symptoms of the approach of winter; the small pools were frozen over, and a flock of geese passed to the southward. Up to this period, he had cherished the hope of fixing his winter-quarters at the mouth of the Copper-mine River; but Akaitcho now declared, that the very attempt would be rush and dangerous, as the weather was cold, the leaves were falling, and the winter would shortly set in; and that, as he considered the lives of all who went on such a journey would be forfeited, he neither would go himself, nor permit his people to accompany them. On the morning of the 27th, Lieutenant Franklin held a consultation with his officers, when all agreed that the descent to the Polar Sea this season could not be attempted, without hazarding a complete rupture with these Indians; and it was resolved that they should content themselves with making an excursion to the head of the Copper-mine river, in Point Lake, about 60 miles to the northward of their present resting place, merely to satisfy themselves of its size and position.
“During our little expedition,” says Lieutenant Franklin, “Mr. Wentzel had made great progress in the erection of our winter-house, (Fort Enterprise,) having nearly roofed it in. The men continued to work diligently, and by the 30th of September had almost completed it for our reception, when a heavy fall of rain washed the greater part of the mud off the roof. This rain was remarked by the Indians as unusual, after what they had deemed so decided a commencement of winter. In the mean time, we resided in our tents, which proved very cold habitations, although we maintained a fire in front of them, and also endeavoured to protect ourselves from the piercing winds by a barricade of pine branches. On the 6th of October, the house being completed, we removed into it; and having filled our capacious clay-built chimney with fagots, we spent a cheerful evening before the invigorating blaze. It was merely a log-building, 50 feet long, and 24 wide, divided into a hall, three bed-rooms, and a kitchen. The walls and roof were plastered with clay, the floor laid with planks rudely squared with the hatchet, and the windows closed with parchment of deer skin. The clay, which, from the coldness of the weather, required to be tempered before the fire with hot water, froze as it was daubed on, and afterwards cracked in such a manner as to admit the wind from every quarter. We took up our abode at first on the floor; but our working party, who had shewn such skill as house-carpenters, soon proved themselves to be, with the same tools, the hatchet and crooked knife, excellent cabinet-makers, and daily added a table, a chair, or a bedstead, to the comforts of our establishment.
“The weather becoming daily colder, all the lakes in the neighbourhood of the house were completely frozen over by the middle of the month. The rein-deer now began to quit us for more southerly and better sheltered pastures. Indeed their residence in our neighbourhood would have been of little service to us, for our ammunition was almost completely expended, although we had dealt it of late with a very sparing hand to the Indians. We had, however, already secured in the storehouse the of 180 deer, together with 1000 pounds of suet, and some dried meat; and had, moreover, eighty deer stowed up at various distances from the house. The fishing failed as the weather became more severe, and was given up on the 5th. It had procured us about 1200 white fish from two to three pounds each.”
But this stock of provision was barely sufficient for the party at Fort Enterprise, including the Indians and their families, who returned from hunting before the end of the month, and gave scope to their natural love of ease as long as there seemed plenty in store.
On the 18th of October, Messrs. Back and Wentzel set out for Fort Providence, accompanied by two Canadians, two Indians, and the wives of the latter. Mr. Back had most handsomely volunteered to go and make the necessary arrangements for transporting the stores expected from Cumberland House, and to endeavour to obtain some additional supplies from the establishment at Slave Lake. If any accident should have prevented the arrival of the stores, and the Companies’[errata 1] establishments at Moose-deer Island should be unable to supply the deficiency, he was, if he found himself equal to the task, to proceed to Chipewyan.
“Ammunition,” says his commander, “was essential to our existence, and a considerable supply of tobacco was also requisite, not only for the comfort of the Canadians, who use it largely, and had stipulated for it in their engagements, but also as a means of preserving the friendship of the Indians. Blankets, cloth, and iron-work, were scarcely less indispensable to equip our men for the advance next season. Mr. Wentzel accompanied Mr. Back, to assist him in obtaining from the traders, on the score of old friendship, that which they might be inclined to deny to our necessities.
“Towards the end of October, the men completed their house, and took up their abode in it. It was 34 feet long and 18 feet wide, divided into two apartments, and placed at right angles to the officers’ dwelling; as was also the store-house. The weather in December, 1820, was the coldest we experienced during our residence in America. The thermometer sunk on one occasion to 57° below zero, and never rose beyond 6° above it: the mean for the month was -29.7°. The trees froze to their very centres, and became as hard as stones, and more difficult to cut. Some of the axes were broken daily, and by the end of the month we bad but one left that was fit for felling trees. By entrusting it only to one ot the party, who had been bred a carpenter, and who could use it with dexterity, it was fortunately preserved until the arrival of our men with Others from Fort Providence. A thermometer, hung in our bed-room at the distance of sixteen feet from the fire, but exposed to its direct radiation, stood even in the day-time occasionally at 15° below zero, and was observed more than once, previous to the kindling of the fire in the morning, to he as low as -40°.
“As it may be interesting to the reader to know how we passed our time at this season of the year, I shall mention briefly, that a considerable portion of it was occupied in writing up our journals. Some newspapers and magazines, that we had received from England with our letters, were read again and again, and commented upon, at our meals; and we often exercised ourselves with conjecturing the changes that might take place in the world before we could hear from it again. The probability of our receiving letters, and the period of their arrival, were calculated to a nicety. We occasionally paid the wood-cutters a visit, or took a walk for a mile or two on the (Winter) river.
“In the evenings we joined the men in the hall, and took a part in their games, which generally continued to a late hour; in short, we never found the time to hang heavy on our hands; and the peculiar operations of each of the officers afforded them more employment than might at first be supposed. I re-calculated the observations made on our route; Mr. Hood protracted the charts, and made drawings of birds, plants, and fishes, which have been the admiration of every one who has seen them. Each of the party sedulously and separately recorded their observations on the aurora; and Dr. Richardson contrived to obtain from under the snow, specimens of most of the lichens in the neighbourhood, and to make himself acquainted with the mineralogy of the surrounding country.
“The Sabbath was always a day of rest with us: the woodmen were required to provide for the exigencies of that day on Saturday, and the party were dressed in their best attire. Divine service was regularly performed, and the Canadians attended, and behaved with great decorum, although they were all Roman Catholics, and but little acquainted with the language in which the prayers were read. I regretted much that we had not a French prayer-book, but the Lord’s prayer and creed were always read to them in their own language.
“Our diet consisted almost entirely of rein-deer meat, varied twice a week by fish, and occasionally by a little flour; but we had no vegetables of any description. On the Sunday mornings we drank a cup of chocolate; but our greatest luxury was tea (without sugar), of which we regularly partook twice a-day. With rein-deers’ fat, and strips of cotton shirts, we formed candles; and Hepburn acquired considerable skill in the manufacture of soap, from the wood-ashes, fat, and salt. Such are our simple domestic details.”
On the 1st of Jan. 1821, Messrs. Franklin, Back, and Hood, were promoted: the former to the rank of commander, and the two latter to be lieutenants. At this period, nine more men were employed in bringing up supplies from the southward. On the 27th, Mr. Wentzel returned from the Great Slave Lake, with two Esquimaux interpreters, who had been sent thither by Governor Williams; but the 17th of March arrived before Mr. Back again made his appearance. His journey on foot, in the depth of winter, as far as Fort Chipewyan and back, is among the many instances of extraordinary exertion and determined perseverance which this expedition afforded. He thus concludes his interesting report, from which, in another part of our work, we shall, probably, give some other extracts:–
“I had the pleasure of meeting my friends all in good health, after an absence of nearly five months, during which time I had travelled one thousand one hundred and four miles, on snow-shoes, and had no other covering at night, in the woods, than a blanket and deer-skin, with the thermometer frequently at -40°, and once at -57°; and sometimes passing two or three days without tasting food.”
At Fort Enterprise, the last of the winter’s stock of deers’ meat was expended on the 23d of March, and Captain Franklin was compelled to issue a little pounded meat which he had reserved for making pemmican for summer use. To divert the attention of the men from their wants, he encouraged the practice of sliding, upon sledges, down the steep bank of the river near their residence. These vehicles descended the snowy slope with much velocity, and ran a great distance upon the ice. The officers joined in the sport, and had numerous overturns: on one occasion, when Captain Franklin had been thrown from his seat and almost buried in the snow, a fat Indian woman drove her sledge over him, and sprained his knee severely.
It was not until the 14th of June, that the Indians considered the ice to have sufficiently broken up in the Copper-mine river, to admit of its being navigated by canoes. Dr. Richardson had just before advanced with twenty men, women, and children, to the borders of Point Lake, where he found the snow deeper in many parts than it had been at any time during the winter, near Fort Enterprise; and he likewise reported that the ice on the lake had scarcely begun to decay. As the time of departure approached, the Indians began to manifest a decided reluctance to proceed; and, on the 22d June, only five of them remained to accompany the expedition, which was then encamped in lat. 65° 12' 40" N., long. 113° 8' 25" W.
The Copper-mine river, like all those which they had hitherto navigated, was found to be full of rocks, rapids, and shoals, and in many places bridged with large masses of ice. The grassy plains on either side, however, abounded with game, particularly with those singular little animals known by the name of the musk-oxen, of which they killed several, but all of them lean, and the flesh by no means palatable; the weight of the largest did not exceed 300 pounds.
On the 7th of July, the expedition reached the most westerly part of that river; and on the 11th, Captain Franklin, with his officers, ascended a range of the Copper Mountains, varying in height from 1200 to 1500 feet, where they travelled for nine hours over a considerable space of ground, but found only a few small pieces of native copper. On the following day, the tents were pitched, under the shelter of a high hill, in lat. 67° 23' 14" N., long. 116° 6' 51" W. Some vestiges of an old Esquimaux encampment were observed near to this spot, and the stumps of the trees bore marks of the stone hatchets used by that people. It was now deemed expedient to send forward the two Esquimaux interpreters (Augustus and Junius), in order, if possible, to tranquillize the minds of their countrymen, with regard to the object of the expedition; and a strict watch was ordered to be kept at night, both by officers and men.
The herds of deer in this part of the country, attract great numbers of wolves, which are so sagacious, as rarely to be caught in any kind of trap. Inferior in speed to the deer, those creatures have recourse to a stratagem which seldom fails to succeed, in places where extensive plains are bounded by precipitous cliffs.
“Whilst the deer are quietly grazing, the wolves assemble in great numbers, and, forming a crescent, creep slowly towards the herd, go as not to alarm them much at first; but when they perceive that they have fairly hemmed in the unsuspecting creatures, and cut off their retreat across the plain, they move more quickly, and with hideous yells terrify their prey, and urge them to flight by the only open way, which is that towards the precipice; appearing to know, that when the herd is once at full speed, it is easily driven over the cliff, the rearmost urging on those that are before. The wolves then descend at their leisure, and least on the mangled carcases.”
This stratagem was attempted on Dr. Richardson, near the above encampment.
“Having the first watch, he had gone to the summit of the hill, and remained there contemplating the river that washed the precipice under his feet, long after dusk had hid distant objects from his view. His thoughts were, perhaps, far distant from the surrounding objects, when he was roused by an indistinct noise behind him, and on looking round perceived that nine white wolves had ranged themselves in form of a crescent, and were advancing, apparently with the intention of driving him into the river. On his rising up they halted, and when he advanced they made way for his passage down to the tents. He had a gun in his hand, but forebore to fire, lest there should be Esquimaux in the neighbourhood. During the middle watch, the wolves appeared repeatedly on the summit of the hill, and at one time they succeeded in driving a deer over.”
The first view of the Polar Sea was obtained by Dr. Richardson, from the top of a lofty hill, which he ascended after supper, on the 14th of July. Next day, the expedition arrived at the “Bloody Fall” of Hearne, situated in lat. 67° 42' 35" N., long. 115° 49' 33" W. The appearance of many different bands of Esquimaux, in the neighbourhood of this place, terrified the Indians to such a degree, that they determined not to proceed any farther, lest they should be surrounded and their retreat cut off. Captain Franklin endeavoured, by the offer of any remuneration they would choose, to prevail upon one or two of them to go on, but in vain; and he had much difficulty even in obtaining their promise to wait at the Copper Mountains for Mr. Wentzel, and four men whom he intended to discharge on his arrival at the ocean, then only nine miles distant. The fears which the two Canadian interpreters now entertained respecting the voyage were also so great, that they requested to be discharged, urging that their services could no longer be requisite, as the Indians were going away; but these were the only two men of the party on whose skill in hunting Captain Franklin could rely, and he therefore peremptorily refused to part with them.
“Our Canadian voyagers,” says he, “were amused with their first view of the sea, and particularly with the sight of the seals that were swimming about near the entrance of the river; hut these sensations gave place to despondency before the evening had elapsed. They were terrified at the idea of a voyage through an icy sea in bark canoes. They speculated on the length of it, – the roughness of the water, – the uncertainty of procuring provisions, – the exposure to cold where we could expect no fuel, – and the prospect of having to traverse the barren grounds, to get to some establishment. The two interpreters (St. Germain and Adam) expressed their apprehensions with the least disguise, and again urgently applied to be discharged. Judging that the constant occupation of their time, as soon as we were enabled to commence the voyage, would prevent them from conjuring up so many causes of fear, and that familiarity with the scenes on the coast would, in a short time, enable them to give scope to their natural cheerfulness, the officers endeavoured to ridicule their fears, and happily succeeded for the present. The manner in which our faithful Hepburn viewed the element that he had been so long accustomed to, contributed not a little to make them ashamed of their fears.
“The despatches being finished, were delivered this evening to Mr. Wentzel, who parted from us at 8 p.m., with the Canadians whom I had discharged for the purpose of reducing our expenditure of provisions as much as possible. The remainder of the party, including officers, amounted to twenty persons. The situation of our encampment was ascertained to be[errata 2] in lat. 67° 47' 50" N., and long. 115° 36' 49" W.; the variation of the compass 46° 25' 62" E., and the dip of the needle 88° 5' 7".
“It will be perceived, that the position of the mouth of the river, given by our observations, differs widely from that assigned by Mr. Hearne; hut the accuracy of his description, conjoined with Indian information, assured us that we were at the very part he visited. I have, therefore, named the most conspicuous promontory we then saw ‘Cape Hearne’, as a just tribute to the memory of that persevering traveller.”
A strong N.E. gale and a dense fog detained Captain Franklin at this resting place until noon on the 21st of July, when he embarked his party in two canoes, and commenced the navigation of the Arctic Ocean; with a voyage before him of not less than 1200 geographical miles, Fort Churchill, on the western shore of Hudson’s Bay, being the nearest spot at which he could hope to meet with a civilized human being. He had, it is true, some faint hope of meeting with Esquimaux along the coast, with whom he might, if necessary, pass the winter; but not one was to be seen, though the vestiges of their habitations were occasionally visible. The following will suffice to shew the desperate nature of this undertaking:
“July 26. – We had constant rain with thunder during the night. The nets furnished only three salmon-trout. Embarking at six a.m., we paddled against a cold breeze, until the spreading of a thick fog caused us to land. At noon, the wind coming from a favorable quarter tempted us to proceed, although the fog was unabated. We kept as close as we could to the main shore, but having to cross some bays, it became a matter of doubt whether we had not left the main, and were running along an island. Just as we were endeavouring to double a bold cape, the fog partially cleared away, and allowed us an imperfect view of a chain of islands on the outside, and of much heavy ice which was pressing down upon us. The shore near us was so steep and rugged, that no landing of the cargoes could be effected, and we were preserved only by some men jumping on the rocks, and thrusting the ice off with poles. There was no alternative but to continue along this dreary shore, seeking a channel between the different masses of ice which had accumulated at the various points. In this operation both the canoes were in imminent danger of being crushed by the ice, which was now tossed about by the waves that the gale had excited. We effected a passage, however, and keeping close to the shore, landed at the entrance of Detention Harbour, at nine p.m., having come 28 miles. I have named this cape after Mr. Barrow, of the Admiralty.
“We had much wind and rain during the night; and by the morning of the 26th a great deal of ice had drifted into the inlet. We embarked at four, and attempted to force a passage, when the first canoe got enclosed, and remained for some time in a very perilous situation, the pieces of ice, crowded together by the action of the current and wind, pressing strongly against its feeble sides. On the morning of the 27th, the ice remaining stationary at the entrance, we went to the bottom of the harbour, and carried the canoes and cargoes about a mile and a half across the point of land that forms the ea^t side of it; but the ice was not more favorable there for our advancement than at the place we had left. On the morning of the 27th, the ice appearing less compact, we embarked to change our our situation, having consumed all the fuel within our reach. The wind came off the land just as the canoes had started, and we determined on attempting to force a passage along the shore; in which we fortunately succeeded, after seven hours’ labour, and much hazard to our frail vessels. They fortunately received no material injury, though they were split in two places. Our observations place the entrance of Detention Harbour in lat. 67° 53' 45", long. 110° 41' 20’. Dr. Richardson discovered near the beach a small vein of galena, traversing gneiss rocks, and the people collected a quantity of it, in the hope of adding to our stock of halls; but their endeavours to smelt it, were, as may be supposed, ineffectual.
“Embarking at four on the morning of the 12th, we proceeded against a fresh N.E. wind, which raised the waves to a height that quite terrified our people, accustomed only to the navigation of rivers and lakes. We were obliged, however, to persevere in our advance, feeling as we did, that the short season for our operations was hastening away.
“Aug. 13. – We paddled close to the shore for some miles, and then ran before the breeze with reefed sails, scarcely two feet in depth. Both of the canoes shipped much water, and one of them struck twice on sunken rocks.
“Aug. 15. – In the evening we were exposed to much inconvenience and danger from a heavy rolling sea, the canoes receiving many severe blows, and shipping a good deal of water, which induced us to encamp, at five p.m. Shortly after the tents were pitched, Mr. Back reported that both canoes had sustained material injury during this day’s voyage. I found on examination, that fifteen timbers of the first canoe were broken some of them in two places; and that the second was so loose in the frame, that its timbers could not be bound in the usual secure manner, and consequently there was danger of its bark separating from the gunwales if exposed to a heavy sea. Distressing as were these circumstances, they gave me less pain than the discovery that our people, who had hitherto displayed a courage beyond our expectation, now felt serious apprehensions for their safety, which so possessed their minds, that they were not restrained, even by the presence of their officers, from expressing them. Their fears, we imagined, had been principally excited by the (Canadian) interpreters, who from the outset had foreboded every calamity; and we strongly suspected that their recent want of success in their hunting excursions, had proceeded from an intentional relaxation in their efforts to kill deer, in order that the want of provision might compel us to put a period to our voyage. I must now mention, that many concurrent circumstances had caused me, during the few last days, to meditate on the approach of this painful necessity. The strong breezes we had encountered led me to fear that the season was breaking up, and severe weather would soon ensue, which we could not sustain in a country destitute of fuel. Our stock of provision was now reduced to a quantity of pemmican only sufficient for three days’ consumption, and the prospect of increasing it was not encouraging. It was evident that the time spent in exploring the Arctic and Melville Sounds, and Bathurst’s Inlet, had precluded the hope of reaching Repulse Bay, which at the outset of the voyage we had fondly cherished; and it was equally obvious, that as our distance from any of the trading establishments would increase as we proceeded, the hazardous traverse across the barren grounds, which we should have to make, if compelled to abandon the canoes upon any part of the coast, would become greater.
“I this evening communicated to the officers my sentiments on these points, as well as respecting our return, and was happy to find that their opinions coincided with my own. We were all convinced of the necessity of putting a speedy termination to our advance, and I announced my determination of returning at the end of four days, unless we should previously meet the Esquimaux, and be enabled to make some arrangement for passing the winter with them. This communication was joyfully received by the men.
“Aug. 16th. – We rounded a cape, which now bears the name of my lamented friend Captain Flinders, and had the pleasure to find the coast trending N.N.E., with the sea in the offing unusually clear of islands; a circumstance which afforded matter of wonder to our Canadians, who had not previously had an uninterrupted view of the ocean. Our course was continued along the coast until eight p.m., when a change of wind, and a threatening thunder squall, induced us to encamp. The Canadians had now an opportunity of witnessing the effect of a storm upon the sea; and the sight increased their desire of quitting it. The following observations were obtained, – lat. 68° 18' 50" N.; long. 110° 5' 15" W., (but l09° 25' was used in the construction of the chart, as the chronometers were afterwards found to have altered their rates); variation 44° 15' 46" E.; and dip of the needle 89° 31' 12".
“Aug. 18th. – The stormy weather and sea continuing, there was no prospect of our being able to embark. Dr. Richardson, Mr. Back, and I, therefore, set out on foot to discover whether the land within a day’s march inclined more to the east. We went from ten to twelve miles along the coast, which continued flat, and kept the same direction as the encampment. The most distant land we saw had the same bearing, N.N.E., and appeared like two islands, which we estimated to be six or seven miles off: the shore on their inside seemingly trended more to the east, so that it is probable Point Turnagain, for so this spot was named, forms the pitch of a low flat cape.
“Though it will appear from the chart, that the position of Point Turnagain is only six degrees and a half to the east of the mouth of the Copper-mine River, we sailed, in tracing this deeply indented coast, 555 geographical miles, which is little less than the distance between that river and Repulse Day; supposing the latter to be in the longitude assigned to it by Middleton.
“When the many perplexing incidents which occurred during the survey of the coast are considered, in connection with the shortness of the period during which operations of the kind can be carried on, and the distance we had to travel before we could gain a place of shelter for the winter, I trust it will be judged that we prosecuted the enterprise as far us was prudent, and abandoned it only under a well-founded conviction that a further advance would endanger the lives of the whole party, and prevent the knowledge of what had been done from reaching England. The active assistance I received from the officers, in contending with the fears of the men, demands my warmest gratitude. Our researches, as far as they have gone, seem to favor the opinion of those who contend for the practicability of a North-West Passage. The general line of coast probably runs east and west, nearly in the latitude assigned to Mackenzie’s River, the Sound into which Kotzebue entered, and Repulse Bay; and very little doubt can, in my opinion, be entertained of the existence of a continued sea, in or about that line of direction. The portion of the sea over which we passed is navigable for vessels of any size; the ice we met, particularly after quitting Detention Harbour, would not have arrested a strong boat. The chain of islands,” fringing the whole line of coast between the mouth of the Copper-mine river and Point Turnagain, and now named the Duke of York’s Archipelago, “affords shelter from all heavy seas; and there are good harbours at convenient distances.”
Captain Franklin’s original intention, in the event of his being compelled to relinquish the survey of the coast, was to return bv the Copper-mine river, and to travel to Great Slave Lake through the line of woods extending thither by the Great Bear and Marten Lakes; but his scanty stock of provisions, and the length of the voyage back from his present encampment, near Cape Flinders, obliged him to make for a nearer place. His voyage on the Arctic Sea, during which he had gone over 650 geographical miles, terminated on the 25th of August, at the mouth of a river named after Lieutenant Hood, the first rapid of which is situated in lat. 67° 19' 23" N., long. 109° 44' 30" W. Here he left an assortment of iron materials, beads, &c. in a conspicuous situation, for the Esquimaux; and planted the union-jack on a sandy eminence, where it might be seen by any ships passing in the offing. He also deposited in a tin box, for the information of Captain Parry, who was then employed in exploring the Arctic Sea from the eastward, a letter containing an outline of his proceedings, the latitudes and longitudes of the principal places he had visited, and the course he intended to pursue towards Slave Lake.
The discoveries made by this canoe expedition, will be best understood by an inspection of the well executed chart attached to Captain Franklin’s published narrative. We shall merely observe, that Point Turnagain was the only part of the coast seen by him that extended as high as the latitude of 681/2°; and that the shores between Cape Barrow and Cape Flinders, may be comprehended in one great gulf, running to the southward as low down as 661/2°, or the Arctic circle; every where studded with islands, and indented with deep sounds, extensive bays, and convenient harbours. This he has distinguished by the appellation of “George IV’s Coronation Gulf.”
After proceeding only thirteen miles from the first rapid of Hood’s River, the expedition arrived at a magnificent cascade about 250 feet in height, beyond which the river appeared so rapid and shallow, that it seemed useless to attempt advancing any farther in such large canoes. Captain Franklin therefore determined on taking them to pieces, and constructing out of their materials two smaller ones, of sufficient size to contain three persons, for the purpose of crossing any lakes or rivers that might be found to obstruct his progress, in as direct a line as possible, to the part of Point Lake opposite his spring encampment, which was then distant 149 miles. Every part of the luggage that could possibly be dispensed with, was left near the cascade; the officers carried such a portion of the stores as their strength would permit, and the weight of each man’s load was thus reduced to about ninety pounds. The canoes were finished by the 31st of August, and the march through this barren and hitherto unknown country, commenced at an early hour on the following day, the party advancing at the rate of about a mile an hour, including rests. In the evening a lean cow was secured, out of a large drove of musk oxen; but the men were too much laden to carry more than a small portion of its flesh.
The evening of the 4th of September was warm, but dark clouds overspread the sky. Heavy rain commenced at midnight, and continued without intermission for five hours, when it was succeeded by snow, on the wind changing to N.W., which soon increased to a violent gale.
“As we had nothing to eat,” says Captain Franklin, “and were destitute of the means of making a fire, we remained in our beds all the day; but our blankets were insufficient to prevent us from feeling the severity of the frost, and suffering inconvenience from the drifting of the snow into our tents. There was no abatement of the storm next day; our tents were completely frozen, and the snow had drifted around them to the depth of three feet; even in the inside there was a covering of several inches on our blankets. The morning of the 7th cleared up a little, but the wind was still strong, and the weather extremely cold. From the unusual continuance of the storm, we feared the winter had set in with all its rigour, and that by longer delay we should only be exposed to an accumulation of difficulties; we therefore prepared for our journey, although we were in a very unfit condition for starting, being weak from fasting, and our garments stiffened by the frost. We had no means of making a fire to thaw them; the moss, at all times difficult to kindle, being now covered with ice and snow. A considerable time was consumed in packing up the frozen tents and bed-clothes, the wind blowing so strong that no one could keep his hands long out of his mittens.
“Just as we were about to commence our march I was seized with a fainting fit, in consequence of exhaustion and sudden exposure to the wind; but after eating a morsel of portable soup, I recovered so far as to be able to move on. The ground was covered a foot deep with snow, and the swamps over which we had to pass were entirely frozen; but the ice not being sufficiently strong to bear us, we frequently plunged knee-deep in water. Those who carried the canoes were repeatedly blown down by the violence of the wind, and they often fell, from making an insecure step on a slippery stone; on one of these occasions, the largest canoe was so much broken as to be rendered utterly unserviceable. This we felt was a serious disaster, as the remaining canoe having through mistake been made too small, it was doubtful whether it would be sufficient to carry us across the river. I may here remark, that our people had murmured a good deal at having to carry two canoes, though they were informed of the necessity of taking both, in case it should be deemed advisable to divide the party, in order to give the whole a better chance of procuring subsistence, and also for the purpose of sending forward some of the best walkers to search for Indians, and to get them to meet us with supplies of provisions. The power of doing this was now at an end. As the accident could not be remedied, we turned it to the best account, by making a fire of the bark and timber of the broken vessel, and cooked the remainder of our portable soup and arrow-root. This was a scanty meal after three days’ fasting, but it served to allay the pangs of hunger, and enabled us to proceed at a quicker pace than before.”
Their only resource now was lichens of the genus gyrophora, which the Canadians term tripe de roche; but this unpalatable weed soon became quite nauseous to the whole party, and in several persons it produced severe bowel complaints: Mr. Hood, in particular, suffered greatly from this cause.
On the 13th, the expedition reached the borders of Rum Lake, connected with which was a river, about 300 yards wide, flowing with great velocity through a broken rocky channel. Here a serious and nearly fatal accident occurred, which is thus related by Captain Franklin:
“Having searched for a part whore the current was most smooth, the canoe was placed in the water at the head of a rapid, and St. Germain, Solomon Belanger, and I, embarked in order to cross. We went from the shore very well, but in mid-channel the canoe became difficult to manage under our burden, as the breeze was fresh. The current drove us to the edge of the rapid, when Belanger unluckily applied his paddle to avert the apparent danger of being forced down it, and lost his balance. The canoe was overset in consequence, in the middle of the rapid. We fortunately kept hold of it, until we touched a rock where the water did not reach higher than our waists; here we kept our footing, notwithstanding the strength of the current, until the water was emptied out of the canoe. Belanger then held it steady whilst St. Germain placed me in it, and afterwards embarked himself in a very dexterous manner. It was impossible, however, to embark Belanger, as the canoe would have been hurried down the rapid, the moment he raised his foot from the rock. We were, therefore, compelled to leave him in his perilous situation; but had not gone twenty yards before the canoe, striking on another sunken rock, went down. The place being shallow, we were again enabled to empty it, and the third attempt brought us to the shore. In the mean time Belanger was suffering extremely, immersed to his middle in the centre of a rapid, the temperature of which was very little above the freezing point, and the upper part of his body covered with wet clothes, exposed, in a temperature not much above zero, to a strong breeze. He called piteously for relief, and St. Germain on his return endeavoured to embark him, but in vain. The canoe was hurried down the rapid, and when he landed he was rendered by the cold incapable of further exertion. At length, when Belanger’s strength seemed almost exhausted, the canoe reached him with a small cord, and he was dragged perfectly senseless through the rapid. It is impossible to describe my sensations as I witnessed the various unsuccessful attempts to relieve Belanger. The distance prevented my seeing distinctly what was going on, and I continued pacing up and down, regardless of the coldness of my drenched and stiffening garments. The canoe, in every attempt to reach him, was hurried amongst the rocky islets, with a rapidity that seemed to threaten certain destruction; once, indeed, I fancied that I saw it overwhelmed in the waves. Such an event would have been fatal to the whole party. Separated as I was from my companions, without gun, ammunition, hatchet, or the means of making a fire, my doom would have been speedily sealed. My companions too, driven to the necessity of coasting the lake, must have sunk under the fatigue of rounding its innumerable arms and bays, which, as we have since learned from the Indians, are very extensive. By the goodness of Providence, however, we were spared at that time, and some of us have been permitted to offer up our thanksgivings, in a civilized land, for the signal deliverances we then and afterwards experienced.”
On the 18th, no tripe de roche was seen, but in clearing the snow, to pitch the tents for the night, some Iceland moss was found, and boiled for supper. This weed, however, not having been soaked, proved so bitter, that few of the party could eat it. On the 21st, just before noon, the sun beamed through the haze for the first time for six days, and an observation was obtained in lat. 65° 7' 6" N. By this the officers discovered that they had kept to the eastward of the proper course, which may be attributed partly to the difficulty of preserving a straight line through an unknown country, unassisted by celestial observations, and in such thick weather that their view was often limited to a few hundred yards; but chiefly, to their total ignorance of the amount of the variation of the compass. On the 23d, the canoe, which had already been much injured by repeated falls, was wilfully broken, and no arguments were sufficient to prevail on the Canadians to carry it any farther; the officers being of a less robust habit, and less accustomed to privations, their strength was inadequate to the task. They had now been a whole day upon the borders of an extensive lake, and the appearance of some dwarf pines and willows, larger than usual, induced them to suppose that the Copper-mine river was near. On the following day, they were drenched with rain, and reduced to the necessity of eating their old shoes; but the next morning they succeeded in killing five small deer, which unexpected supply reanimated the drooping spirits of the men, and filled every heart with gratitude. Never was the bounty of Providence more seasonably manifested.
“The voyagers,” says Captain Franklin, “instantly petitioned for a day’s rest, which we were most reluctant to grant, being aware of the importance of every moment at this critical period of our journey. But they so earnestly and strongly pleaded their recent sufferings, and their conviction that the quiet enjoyment of two substantial meals, after eight days’ famine, would enable them to proceed next day more vigorously, that we could not resist their entreaties. We all suffered much inconvenience from eating animal food after our long abstinence, but particularly those men who indulged themselves beyond moderation. The Canadians, with their usual thoughtlessness, had consumed above a third of their portions that evening.”
On the 26th, the expedition reached the Copper-mine River, and encamped at the east end of Point Lake, about forty miles distant from Fort Enterprise. Here Captain Franklin commences one of the most dreadful tales of human misery on record.
“The men did not believe that this was the Copper-mine river, and so little confidence had they in our reckoning, and so much had they bewildered themselves on the march, that some of them asserted it was Hood’s River, and others that it was the Bethe-tessey, which rises from a lake to the northward of Rum Lake, and holds a course to the sea parallel with that of the Copper-mine. In short, their despondency had returned, and they all despaired of seeing Fort Enterprise again. However, the steady assurances of the officers made some impression upon them, and they then deplored their folly and impatience in breaking the canoe. St. Germain being called upon to endeavour to construct a frame with willows, stated that he was unable to make one sufficiently large. It became necessary, therefore, to search for pines of sufficient size to form a raft; and being aware that such trees grow on the borders of Point Lake, we considered it best to trace its shores in search of them.
“As there was little danger of losing the paths of our hunters, I determined on sending Mr. Back forward, with the interpreters, to hunt. I had in view in this arrangement, the further object of enabling Mr. Back to get across the lake with two of these men, to convey the earliest possible account of our situation to the Indians. Accordingly, I instructed him to halt at the first pines he should come to, and then prepare a raft; if his hunters had killed animals, so that the party could be supported whilst we were making our raft, he was to cross immediately with St. Germain and Beauparlant, and send the Indians to us as quickly as possible with supplies of meat.
“Mr. Back and his companions set out at six in the morning, and we started at seven. As there were no means of distinguishing the footsteps of stragglers, I gave strict orders for all the party to keep together; our people, however, had become careless and disobedient, and had ceased to dread punishment, or hope for reward. Much time was lost in halting and firing guns to collect them, but the labour of walking was so much lightened by the disappearance of the snow, that we advanced seven or eight miles along the lake before noon, exclusive of the loss of distance in rounding its numerous hays. At length, we came to an end, running away to the N.E., and apparently connected with the lake which we had coasted on the 22d, 23d, and 24th.
“The idea of again rounding such an extensive piece of water, and of travelling over so barren a country, was dreadful; and we feared that other arms, equally large, might obstruct our path, and that the strength of the party would entirely fail, long before we could reach the only part where we were certain of finding wood, distant in a direct line 25 miles. While we halted to consider of this subject, and to collect the party, the carcase of a deer was discovered. It was putrid, but little leas acceptable to us on that account; and a fire being kindled, a large portion was devoured on the spot. The men, cheered by this unlooked-for supply, became sanguine in the hope of being able to cross the stream on a raft of willows, although they had before declared such a project impracticable, and they unanimously entreated us to return back to the first rapid – a request which accorded with our own opinion, and was therefore acceded to. We supped on the remains of the putrid deer, and the men added its intestines to their meal.
“Sept. 28th. – The men commenced cutting willows for the construction of the raft; and, as an excitement to exertion, I promised a reward of 300 livres to the first person who should convey a line across the river, by which it could be managed in transporting the party.
“Sept. 29th. – Temperature of the rapid 38°. The raft was finished by seven; but as the willows were green, it proved to be very little buoyant, and was unable to support more than one man at a time. Several attempts were made by Belanger and Benoit, the strongest men of the party, to convey it across the stream, but they failed for want of oars. The tent poles tied together proved too short to reach the bottom, at a short distance from the shore; and a paddle which had been carried from the sea-coast by Dr. Richardson, did not possess sufficient power to move the raft in opposition to a strong breeze, which blew from the other side. All the men suffered extremely from the coldness of the water, in which they were necessarily immersed up to the waist, in their endeavours to aid Belanger and Benoit; and having witnessed repeated failures, they began to consider the scheme as hopeless.
“At this time. Dr. Richardson, prompted by a desire of relieving his suffering companions, proposed to swim across the river with a line, and to haul the raft over. He launched into the stream with the line round his middle; but when he had got a short distance from the bank, his arms were benumbed with cold, and he lost the power of moving them: still he persevered, and, turning on his back, had nearly gained the opposite bank, when his legs also became powerless, and to our infinite alarm we beheld him sink. We instantly hauled upon the line, and he came again on the surface, and was gradually drawn ashore in an almost lifeless state. Being rolled up in blankets, he was placed before a good fire of willows, and fortunately was just able to give some slight directions respecting the manner of treating him. He recovered strength gradually, and through the blessing of God, was enabled in the course of a few hours to converse, and by the evening was sufficiently recovered to remove into the tent. We then regretted to learn, that the skin of his whole left side “was deprived of feeling, in consequence of exposure to too great heat. He did not perfectly recover the sensation of that side until the following summer. I cannot describe what every one felt at beholding the skeleton which the Doctor’s debilitated frame exhibited. When he stripped, the Canadians simultaneously exclaimed, ‘Ah! que nous sommes maigres!’ I have omitted to mention, that when he was about to step into the water, he put his foot on a dagger, which cut him to the bone; but this misfortune could not stop him from attempting the execution of his generous undertaking.
“On the 1st of October, we were rejoiced to see Mr. Back and his party. They had traced the lake about fifteen miles farther than we did, and found it unconnected with the one we fell in with on the 22d of September. St. Germain now proposed to make a canoe of the fragments of painted canvass in which we wrapped our bedding. In the afternoon, we had a heavy fall of snow, which continued all night. A man, who had been hunting, brought in the antlers and back bone of a doer. The wolves and birds of prey had picked them dean, but there still remained a quantity of the spinal marrow, which they had not been able to extract. This, although putrid, was esteemed a valuable prize; and the spine being divided into portions, was distributed equally. After eating the marrow, which was so acrid as to excoriate the lips, we rendered the bones friable by burning, and ate them also.
“On the following morning the ground was covered with snow to the depth of a foot and a half, and the weather was very stormy. It continued so all the day and night, and during the forenoon of the 3d. Having persuaded the people to gather some tripe de roche, I partook of a meal with them, and afterwards set out with the intention of going to St. Germain to hasten his operation!s; but, though he was only three-quarters of a mile distant, I spent three hours in a vain attempt to reach him, my strength being unequal to the labour of wading through the snow; and I returned quite exhausted, and much shaken by the numerous falls I had got. My associates were also in the same debilitated state, and poor Hood was reduced to a perfect shadow. Back was so feeble as to require the support of a stick in walking, and Dr. Richardson had lameness super-added to weakness. The voyagers were somewhat stronger than ourselves, but more indisposed to exertion, on account of their despondency. The sensation of hunger was no longer felt by any of us, yet we were scarcely able to converse upon any other subject than the pleasures of eating.
“Oct. 4. – The canoe being finished, St. Germain embarked, and amidst our prayers for his success, succeeded in reaching the opposite shore. The canoe was then drawn back again, and another person transported, and in this manner we were all conveyed over without any serious accident. By these frequent traverses the canoe was materially injured; and latterly it filled each time with water before reaching the shore, so that all our garments and bedding were wet, and there was not a sufficiency of willows upon the southern side of the river to dry them.”
That no time might be lost in procuring relief. Captain Franklin immediately despatched Mr. Back, with three men to search for the Copper-Indians, directing him to go to Fort Enterprise, where it was expected they would be, or where, at least, a note from Mr. Wentzel would be found to direct him in his search for them. Junius, the Esquimaux, had previously strayed in search of the remains of animals, and never rejoined the expedition. The remainder of the officers and men went supperless to bed.
“Showers of snow fell frequently during the night. We were all on foot by day-break, but from the frozen state of our tents and bed-clothes, it was long before the bundles could be made, so that it was eight o’clock before we started. I kept with the foremost men, to cause them to halt occasionally until the stragglers came up. All of us were much fatigued, particularly Mathew Crédit; the tripe de roche disagreed with this man and with Registe Vaillant, in consequence of which, they were the first whose strength totally failed. We had a small quantity of this weed in the evening, and the rest of our supper was made up of scraps of roasted leather. The distance walked to-day was six miles.
“As Credit was very weak in the morning, his load was reduced to little more than his personal luggage, consisting of his blanket, shoes, and gun. Previous to setting out, the whole party ate the remains of their old shoes and whatever scraps of leather they had, to strengthen their stomachs. We left the encampment at nine, and pursued our route over a range of black hills. The wind having increased to a strong gale, became piercingly cold, and the drift rendered it difficult for those in the rear to follow the track over the heights; whilst in the valleys, where it was sufficiently marked, from the depth of the snow, the labour of walking was proportionably great. About noon, François Samandré coming up, informed us that Crédit and Vaillant could advance no further. Some willows being discovered in a valley near us, I proposed to halt there, whilst Dr. Richardson (weak as he was from his late exertion) went back to visit them. He found Vaillant about a mile and a half in the rear, much exhausted with cold and fatigue. Having encouraged him to advance to the fire, after repeated solicitations he made the attempt, but fell down amongst the deep snow at every step. Leaving him in this situation, the Doctor went about half a mile farther back, to the spot where Crédit was said to have halted; but the track being nearly obliterated by the snow drift, it became unsafe for him to go further. Returning he passed Vaillant, who, having only moved a few yards in his absence, was unable to rise, and could scarcely answer his questions. Being unable to afford him any effectual assistance, he hastened on to inform us of his situation. When J. B. Belanger had heard the melancholy account, he went immediately to aid Vaillant, and found him lying on his back, benumbed with cold, and incapable of being roused. The stoutest men of the party were now earnestly entreated to bring him to the fire, but they declared themselves unequal to the task.”
As there was every reason to fear that other men would speedily sink under the combined pressure of famine, fatigue, and inclement weather; and as those who were strongest urged Captain Franklin to allow them to throw down their loads, and push on with their utmost speed for Fort Enterprise, though they knew not a foot of the way, and none of the officers were sufficiently strong to keep up at the pace they would then walk; Dr. Richardson and Mr. Hood generously proposed to remain, with a single attendant, at the first place where sufficient wood and tripe de roche should be found for ten days’ consumption, and that Captain Franklin should proceed as expeditiously as possible to the house, and thence send them immediate relief. They strongly urged, that this arrangement would contribute to the safety of the rest of the party, by relieving them from the burden of a tent and several other articles, and that they might afford aid to Crédit, if he should unexpectedly come up. Captain Franklin was distressed beyond description at the thought of leaving them in such a situation, but there was no other alternative, and therefore he reluctantly acceded to their wishes. This resolution was communicated to the men, who promised, with great appearance of earnestness, to return to those officers upon obtaining the first supply of food. The remainder of the 6th of October was spent without even their usual nauseous repast, as the weather did not permit the gathering of tripe de roche; and, says Captain Franklin, “the painful retrospection of the melancholy events of the day banished sleep; and we shuddered as we contemplated the dreadful effects of this bitterly cold night on our late companions, if still living. Some faint hopes were entertained of Crédit surviving the storm, as he was provided with a good blanket, and had some leather to eat.”
“The weather was mild next morning. We left the encampment at nine, and, a little before noon, came to a pretty extensive thicket of small willows, near which there appeared a supply of tripe de roche on the face of the rocks. At this place, Dr. Richardson and Mr. Hood determined to remain with John Hepburn, who volunteered to stop with them. Their tent was securely pitched, a few willows were collected, and the ammunition and all other articles deposited, except each man’s clothing, the other tent, a sufficiency of ammunition for the journey, and the officers’ journals. I had only one blanket, which was carried for me, and two pair of shoes. The offer was now made for any of the men, who felt themselves too weak to proceed, to remain behind; but none of them accepted it. Michel, the Iroquois, alone felt some inclination to do so. After we had united in thanksgiving and prayers to Almighty God, I separated from my friends, deeply affected that a train of melancholy circumstances should have demanded of me the severe trial of parting, in such a condition, from persons who had become endeared to me by their constant kindness and co-operation, and a participation of numerous sufferings.
“We set out without waiting to take any of the tripe de roche; and the labour of wading through the snow so fatigued the whole of us, that we were compelled to halt, after a march of four miles and a half. J. B. Belanger and Michel were left far behind, and, when they joined us, appeared quite exhausted. The former, bursting into tears, declared his inability to proceed, and both of them begged me to let them go back next morning. the sudden failure in the strength of these men cast a gloom over the rest, which I tried in vain to remove, by repeated assurances that the distance to Fort Enterprise was short, and that we should, in all probability, reach it in four days. Not being able to find any tripe de roche, we drank an infusion of the Labrador tea plant (ledum pulustre), and ate a few morsels of burnt leather for supper. We were unable to raise the tent, and found its weight too great to carry it on; we therefore cut it up, and each person took a part of the canvass for a cover. The night was bitterly cold, and though we lay as close to each other as possible, having no shelter, we could not keep ourselves sufficiently warm to sleep.
“In the morning of the 8th, Belanger and Michel renewed their request to be permitted to go back to the officers’ encampment, assuring me they were still weaker than on the preceding evening, and urging that the stopping at a place where there was a supply of tripe de roche was their only chance of preserving life. Under these circumstances, I could not do otherwise than yield to their desire. Michel was very particular in his enquiries respecting the direction of Fort Enterprise, and the course we meant to pursue; he also said, that if he should be able, he would go and search for Vaillant and Crédit.
“Scarcely were our arrangements finished before Ignace Perrault and Vincenza Fontano were seized with a fit of dizziness, and betrayed other symptoms of extreme debility. Some tea was quickly prepared for them, and after drinking it, and eating a few morsels of burnt leather, they recovered, and expressed their desire to go forward; but other men, alarmed at what they had just witnessed, became doubtful of their own strength, and, giving way to absolute dejection, declared their inability to move. After much entreaty, I got them to set out at ten a.m.
“By the time we had gone about 200 yards, Perrault became again dizzy, and desired us to halt, which we did, until he, recovering, offered to march on. Ten minutes more had hardly elapsed before he again desired us to stop, and, bursting into tears, declared he was totally exhausted, and unable to accompany us further. As the spot at which we rested last night was not more than a quarter of a mile distant, we recommended that he should return to it, and rejoin Belanger and Michel, whom we knew to be still there, from perceiving the smoke of a fresh fire. He readily acquiesced in the proposition, and turned back, keeping his gun and ammunition. During these detentions, Augustus, becoming impatient of the delay, had walked on, and we lost sight of him. The labour we experienced in wading through the deep snow induced us to cross a moderate sized lake, which lay in our track, but we found this operation far more harassing. As the surface of the ice was perfectly smooth, we slipt at almost every step, and were frequently blown down by the wind, with such force as to shake our whole frames.
“Poor Fontano was completely exhausted by the labour of this traverse, and we made a halt until his strength was recruited, by which time the party was benumbed with cold. Proceeding again, he got on tolerably well for a little time; but being once more seized with faintness and dizziness, he fell often, and at length exclaimed that he could go no further. I cannot describe my anguish on the occasion of separating from another companion under circumstances so distressing. There was, however, no alternative. The extreme debility of the rest of the party put the carrying him quite out of the question, as he himself admitted; and it was evident that the frequent delays he must occasion, if he accompanied us, and did not gain strength, would endanger the lives of the whole. By returning he had the prospect of getting to the officers’ tent, where tripe de roche could be obtained, which agreed with him better than with any other of the party, and which he was always very assiduous in gathering. After some hesitation, he determined on going back (instead of remaining where he was, which he at first seemed desirous to do), and set out, having bid each of us farewell in the tenderest manner.
“The party was now reduced to five persons, Jean Baptiste Adam, Joseph Peltier, Joseph Benoit, François Samandré, and myself.
“Next morning the wind was moderate and the weather mild, which enabled us to collect some tripe de roche, and to enjoy the only meal we had had for four days. Without the strength it supplied, we should certainly have been unable to oppose the strong breeze we met in the afternoon. At length (on the 11th of October) we reached Fort Enterprise, and to our infinite disappointment and grief, found it a perfectly desolate habitation. There was no deposit of provision, no trace of the Indians, nor no letter from Mr. Wentzel to point out where they might be found. It would be impossible to describe our sensations after entering this miserable abode, and discovering how we had been neglected: the whole party shed tears, not so much for our own fate, as for that of our friends in the rear, whose lives depended entirely on our sending them immediate relief.
“I found a note, however, from Mr. Back, stating that he had reached the house two days before, and was going in search of the Indians, at a part where St. Germain deemed it probable they might be found. If he was unsuccessful, he proposed walking on to Fort Providence, and sending succour from thence; but he doubted whether he or his party could perform the journey to that place in their present debilitated state.
“We now looked round for the means of subsistence, and were gratified to find several deer-skins which had been thrown away during our former residence here. The bones were gathered from the heap of ashes, and these, with the skins, and the addition of tripe de roche, we considered would support us tolerably well for a time. As to the house, the parchment being torn from the windows, the apartment we selected for our abode was exposed to all the rigour of the season. The temperature was now between 15° and 20° below zero. We procured fuel by pulling up the flooring of the other rooms, and water for cooking by melting the snow. Whilst we were seated round the fire, singeing the deer-skin for supper, we were rejoiced by the unexpected appearance of Augustus, he had followed quite a different course from ours, and the circumstance of his having found his way through a part of the country he had never been in before, must be considered as a remarkable proof of sagacity.
“When I arose the following morning, my body and limbs were so swollen that I was unable to walk more than a few yards. Adam was in a still worse condition, being quite incapable of rising without assistance. My other companions happily experienced this inconvenience in a less degree, and went to collect bones and some tripe de roche, which supplied us with two meals. On the 13th, the wind blew violently from S.E., and the snow drifted so much that the party were confined to the house. In the afternoon of the following day, Solomon Belanger arrived with a note from Mr. Back, stating that he had seen no trace of the Indians, and desiring further instructions as to the course he should pursue. Belanger’s situation, however, required our first care, as he came in almost speechless, and covered with ice, having fallen into a rapid, (on his way from Round-Rock Lake,) and, for the third time since we left the sea-coast, narrowly escaped drowning.
“The absence of all traces of Indians on Winter River convinced me that they were at this time on their way to Fort Providence, and that by proceeding towards that post we should overtake them, as they move slowly when they have their families with them. This route also offered us the prospect of killing deer in the vicinity of Rein-Deer Lake. Upon these grounds, I determined on taking the route to Fort Providence as soon as possible, and wrote to Mr. Back, desiring him to join me at Rein-Deer Lake, and detailing the occurrences since we parted, that our friends might receive relief, in case of any accident happening to me. Belanger did not recover sufficient strength to leave us before the 18th.
“In making arrangements for our departure, Adam disclosed to me, for the first time, that he was affected with oedematous swellings in some parts of the body, to such a degree as to preclude the slightest attempt at marching. It now became necessary to abandon the original intention of proceeding with the whole party, and Peltier and Samandré having volunteered to remain with Adam, I determined on setting out with Benoit and Augustus, intending to send them relief by the first party of Indians we should meet. Having patched up three pair of snow-shoes, and singed a quantity of skin for the journey, we started on the morning of the 20th.
“At first we were so feeble as scarcely to be able to more forwards, and the descent of the bank of the river through the deep snow was a severe labour. After walking six hours upon the ice, where the snow was less deep, we had only gained four miles, and were then compelled by fatigue to halt on the borders of Round-Rock Lake. We found the night bitterly cold, and the wind pierced through our famished frames.
“The next morning was mild and pleasant for travelling, but we had not gone many yards before I had the misfortune to break my snowshoes by falling between two rocks. This accident prevented me from keeping pace with Benoit and Augustus, and in the attempt I became quite exhausted. Feeling convinced that their being delayed on my account, might prove of fatal consequence to the rest, I resolved on returning to the house, and letting them proceed alone in search of the Indians. I therefore halted them only whilst I wrote a note to Mr. Back, stating the reason of my return, and desiring he would send meat from Rein-Deer Lake by these men, if St. Germain should kill any animals there. If Benoit should miss Mr. Back, I directed him to proceed to Fort Providence, and furnished him with a letter to the gentleman in charge of that post, requesting immediate supplies.
“On my return to the house, I found Samandré very dispirited, and too weak, as he said, to render any assistance to Peltier, upon whom the whole labour of getting wood and collecting the means of subsistence would have devolved. Conscious too that his strength would have been unequal to these tasks, they had determined upon taking only one meal each day; so that I felt my going back particularly fortunate, as I hoped to stimulate Samandré to exertion, and at any rate could contribute some help to Peltier. I undertook the office of cooking, and insisted they should eat twice a-day, whenever food could be procured; but as I was too weak to pound the bones (for making soup), Peltier agreed to do that in addition to his more fatiguing task of getting wood. We had a violent snow-storm all the next day, and this gloomy weather increased the depression of spirits under which Adam and Samandré were labouring. Neither of them would quit their beds, and they scarcely ceased from shedding tears all day; in vain did Peltier and myself endeavour to cheer them. Our situation was indeed distressing, but, in comparison with that of our friends in the rear, we thought it happy. Their condition gave us unceasing solicitude, and was the principal subject of our conversation.
“On the 26th, having expended all the wood which we could procure from our present dwelling without danger of its fall, Peltier began to pull down the partitions of the adjacent houses. Though these were only distant about twenty yards, yet the increase of labour in carrying the wood fatigued him so much that by the evening he was exhausted. On the next day his weakness was such, especially in the arms, that he with difficulty lifted the hatchet; still he persevered, while Samandré and I assisted him in bringing in the wood; but our united strength could only collect sufficient to replenish the fire four times in the course of a day. As the insides of our mouths had become sore from eating the bone-soup, we relinquished the use of it, and now boiled the skin, which mode of dressing we found more palatable than frying it, as we had hitherto done.
“On the 29th, we endeavoured to pick some tripe de roche, but in vain, as it was entirely frozen. In searching for bones, under the snow, I found several pieces of bark, which proved a valuable acquisition, as we were almost destitute of dry wood proper for kindling the fire. Whilst we were seated this evening, discussing about the anticipated relief, the conversation was suddenly interrupted by Peltier’s exclaiming with joy, ‘Ah! le monde!’ imagining that he heard the Indians in the other room; immediately afterwards, to his bitter disappointment, Dr. Richardson and Hepburn entered, each carrying his bundle. When I saw them alone my mind was instantly filled with apprehensions respecting our other companions, which were immediately confirmed by the Doctor’s melancholy communication, that Mr. Hood and Michel w»re dead. Perrault and Fontano had neither reached the tent, nor been heard of by them. This intelligence produced a melancholy despondency in the minds of my party, and on that account the particulars were deferred until another opportunity. We were all shocked at beholding the emaciated countenances of the Doctor and Hepburn, as they strongly evidenced their extremely debilitated state. The alteration in our appearance was equally distressing to them; for since the swellings had subsided we were little more than skin and bone. The Doctor particularly remarked the sepulchral tone of our voices, which he requested us to make more cheerful if possible, unconscious that his own partook of the same key.
“Hepburn having shot a partridge, which was brought to the house, the Doctor tore out the feathers, held it to the fire a few minutes, and then divided it into six portions. I and my companions ravenously devoured our shares, as it was the first morsel of flesh either of us had tasted for thirty-one days, unless, indeed, the small gristly particles which we found occasionally adhering to the pounded bones may be termed flesh. The doctor having brought his prayer-book and testament, some prayers and psalms, and portions of scripture appropriate to our situation, were read, and we retired to bed.”
The dismal tale of what had befallen Mr. Hood and the Iroquois is well and feelingly told by Dr. Richardson.
It appears that, after Captain Franklin had bidden the tent party farewell, they remained seated by the fireside as long as the willows cut by the Canadians lasted. They had no tripe de roche that day, but drank an infusion of the country tea-plant, which was grateful from its warmth, although it afforded no sustenance. They then retired to bed, and remained there all the next day, as the weather was stormy, and the snow-drift so heavy as to destroy every prospect of success in their endeavours to kindle another fire. The officers of the expedition, previous to leaving London, had been furnished by a lady with a small collection of religious books, “of which,” says the Doctor, “we still retained two or three, and they proved of incalculable benefit to us. We read portions of them to each other as we lay in bed, in addition to the morning and evening service, and found that they inspired us on each perusal with so strong a sense of the omnipresence of a beneficent God, that our situation, even in these wilds, appeared no longer destitute; we conversed, not only with calmness, but with cheerfulness, detailing with unrestrained confidence the past events of our lives, and dwelling with hope on our future prospects. Had my poor friend (Hood) been spared to revisit his native land, I should look back to this period with unalloyed delight.
“On the morning of the 9th of October,” continues Dr. Richardson, “the weather was clear, and I went out in quest of tripe de roche, leaving Hepburn to cut willows for a fire, and Mr. Hood in bed. I had no success, as yesterday’s snow-drift was so frozen on the surface of the rocks that I could not collect any of the weed; but on my return to the tent I found that Michel, the Iroquois, had come with a note from Captain Franklin, which stated that this man and Jean Baptiste Belanger were about to return to us, and that a mile beyond our present encampment there was a clump of pine-trees, to which he recommended us to remove the tent. Michel informed us that, having missed his way, he had passed the night on the snow a mile or two to the northward of us. Belanger, he said, being impatient, left the fire about two hours earlier, and as he had not arrived, he supposed must have gone astray. It will be seen in the sequel, that we had more than sufficient reason to doubt the truth of this story.
“Michel now produced a hare and a partridge, which he had killed in the morning. This unexpected supply of provision was received by us with a deep sense of gratitude to the Almighty for his goodness, and we looked upon the Iroquois as the instrument he had chosen to preserve all our lives. Michel complained of cold, and Mr. Hood offered to share his buffalo robe with him at night. I gave him one of two shirts which I wore, whilst Hepburn, in the warmth of his heart, exclaimed, ‘How I shall love this man if I find that he does not tell lies like the others!’ Our meals being finished, we arranged that the greatest part of the things should be carried to the pines the next day; and, after reading the evening service, retired to bed, full of hope.
“Early in the morning, Hepburn, Michel, and myself, carried the ammunition, and most of the other heavy articles, to the pines. Michel was our guide, and it did not occur to us at the time, that his conducting us perfectly straight was incompatible with his story of having mistaken his road in coming to us. He now informed me that he had, on his way to the tent, left on a hill above the pines a gun and forty-eight balls, which Perrault had given to him when, with the rest of Captain Franklin’s party, he took leave of him. It will be seen on a reference to the Captain’s journal, that Perrault carried his gun and ammunition with him when they parted from Michel and Belanger. After we had made a fire, and drank a little of the country tea, Hepburn and I returned to the tent, where we arrived in the evening, much exhausted with our journey. Michel preferred sleeping where he was, and requested us to leave him the hatchet. Mr. Hood remained in bed all this day. Seeing nothing of Belanger we gave him up for lost.
“On the 11th, after waiting until late in the morning for Michel, who did not come to assist us, Hepburn and I loaded ourselves with the bedding, and, accompanied by Mr. Hood, set out for the pines. Mr. Hood was much affected with dimness of sight, giddiness, and other symptoms of extreme debility, which caused us to move very slowly, and to make frequent halts. On arriving at the pines, we were much alarmed to find that Michel was absent. We feared that he had lost his way in coming to us, although it was not easy to conjecture how that could have happened, as our footsteps of yesterday were very distinct. Hepburn went back for the tent, and returned with it after dusk, completely worn out with the fatigue of the day. Michel too arrived at the same time, and relieved our anxiety on his account. He reported that he had been in chase of some deer which passed near his sleeping-place in the morning, and although he did not come up with them, yet that he found a wolf which had been killed by the stroke of a deer’s horn, and had brought a part of it. We implicitly believed this story then, but afterwards became convinced from circumstances, the detail of which may be spared, that it must have been a portion of the body of Belanger or Perrault. A question of moment here presents itself; namely, whether he actually murdered these men, or either of them, or whether he found the bodies in the snow. Captain Franklin, who is the best able to judge of this matter, from knowing their situation when he parted from them, suggested the former idea. When Perrault turned back. Captain Franklin watched him until he reached a small group of willows, which was immediately adjoining to the fire, and concealed it from view, and at this time the smoke of fresh fuel was distinctly visible. Captain Franklin conjectures that Michel, having already destroyed Belanger, completed his crime by Perrault’s death, in order to screen himself from detection: the subsequent conduct of the man showed that he was capable of committing such a deed. It is not easy to assign any other adequate motive for bis concealing from us that Perrault had turned back; while his request overnight that we should leave him the hatchet, and his cumbering himself with it when he went out in the morning, unlike a hunter, who makes use only of bis knife when he kills a deer, seem to indicate that he took it for the purpose of cutting up something that he knew to be frozen. These opinions, however, are the result of subsequent considerations.
“On the following morning the tent was pitched; Michel went out early, refused my offer to accompany him, and remained away the whole day. On the 14th he again set out, as he said, to hunt, but returned un-expectedly in a very short time. This conduct surprised us, and his contradictory and evasory answers to our questions excited some suspicions, but they did not turn towards the truth. In the course of the 15th he expressed much regret that he had stayed behind Captain Franklin’s party, and declared that he would set out for the house at once if he knew the way. Next day he refused either to hunt or cut wood, spoke in a very surly manner, and threatened to leave us. Under these circumstances, Mr. Hood and I deemed it better to promise, if he would hunt diligently for four days, that then we would give Hepburn a letter for Captain Franklin, a compass, inform him what course to pursue, and let them proceed together to the fort. We had the fullest confidence in Hopburn’s returning the moment he could obtain assistance.
“On the 17th. I went to conduct Michel to where Vaillant’s blanket was left; and after walking about three miles, pointed out the hills to him at a distance, and returned to the tent, having gathered a bagful of tripe de roche on the way. He returned in the afternoon of the 18th having found the blanket, together with a bag containing two pistols, and some other things which had been left beside it. Mr. Hood was now so weak as to be scarcely able to sit up at the fire-side, and complained that the least breeze of wind seemed to blow through his frame. We lay close to each other during the night, but the heat of the body was no longer sufficient to thaw the frozen rime formed by our breaths on the blankets that covered him.
“At this period we avoided as much as possible conversing upon the hopelessness of our situation, and generally endeavoured to lead the conversation towards our future prospects in life. The fact is, that with the decay of our strength, our minds decayed, and we were no longer able to bear the contemplation of the horrors that surrounded us. Each of us, if I may be allowed to judge from my own case, excused himself from so doing, by a desire of not shocking the feelings of the others; for we were sensible of one another’s weakness of intellect, though blind to our own. Yet we were calm and resigned to our fate; not a murmur escaped us, and we were punctual and fervent in our addresses to the Supreme Being.
“On the 19th Michel refused to hunt, or even to assist in carrying a log of wood to the fire, which was too heavy for Hepburn’s strength and mine: amongst other angry expressions, he made use of the following remarkable one: – “It is no use hunting; there are no animals; you had better kill and eat me.” At length, however, he went out, but returned very soon, with a report that he had seen three deer, which he was unable to follow from having wet his foot in a small stream of water thinly covered with ice, and being consequently obliged to come to the fire.
“Sunday, Oct. 20. – In the morning we again urged Michel to go a hunting, that he might if possible leave us some provision, to-morrow being the day appointed for his quitting us; but he shewed great unwillingness, and lingered about the fire, under the pretence of cleaning his gun. After we had read the morning service, I went about noon to gather some tripe de roche, leaving Mr. Hood sitting before the tent at the fire-side arguing with Michel; Hepburn was employed in cutting down a tree, at a short distance from the tent, being desirous of accumulating a quantity of fire-wood before he left us. A short time after I went out I heard the report of a gun, and about ten minutes afterwards, Hepburn called to me, in a voice of great alarm, to come directly. When I arrived, I found poor Hood lying lifeless at the fire-side, a ball having apparently entered his forehead. I was at first horror-struck with the idea, that in a fit of despondency he had hurried himself into the presence of his Almighty Judge, by an act of his own hand; but the conduct of Michel soon gave rise to other thoughts, and excited suspicions which were confirmed when, upon examining the body, I discovered that the shot had entered the back part of the head, and passed out at the forehead, and that the muzzle of the gun had been applied so close as to set fire to the night-cap behind. The gun, which was of the longest kind supplied to the Indians, could not have been placed in a position to inflict such a wound, except by a second person. Upon inquiring of Michel how it happened, he replied, that Mr Hood had sent him into the tent for the short gun, and that during his absence the long one had gone off, he did not know whether by accident or not. He held the short gun in his hand at the time he was speaking to me. Hepburn afterwards informed me, that, previous to the report of the gun, Mr. Hood and Michel were speaking to each other in an elevated angry tone; that Mr. Hood, being seated at the fire-side, was hid from him by intervening willows; but that on hearing the report, he looked up and saw Michel rising from before the tent-door, or just behind where Mr. Hood was seated, and then going into the tent. Thinking that the gun had been discharged for the purpose of cleaning it, he did not go to the fire at first; and when Michel called out to him that Mr. Hood was dead, several minutes had elapsed. Although I dared not openly to evince any suspicion that I thought Michel guilty of the deed, yet he repeatedly protested that he was incapable of committing such an act, kept constantly on his guard, and carefully avoided leaving Hepburn and me together. He was evidently afraid of permitting us to converse in private, and whenever Hepburn spoke, he inquired if he accused him of the murder. It is to be remarked, that he understood English very imperfectly, yet sufficiently to render it unsafe for us to speak on the subject in his presence. We removed the body into a clump of willows behind the tent, and, returning to the fire, read the funeral service in addition to the evening prayers. The loss of a young officer, of such distinguished and varied talents and application, may be felt and duly appreciated by the eminent characters under whose command he bad served; but the calmness with which he contemplated the probable termination of a life of uncommon promise, and the patience and fortitude with which he sustained, I may venture to say, unparalleled bodily sufferings, can only be known to the companions of his distresses. Owing to the effect that the tripe de roche invariably had, when he ventured to taste it, he undoubtedly suffered more than any of the survivors of the party. ‘Bickersteth’s Scripture Help’ was lying open beside the body, as if it had fallen from his hand; and it is probable, that he was reading it at the moment of his death. We passed the night in the tent together, without rest, every one being on his guard.
“Next day, having determined on going to the fort, we began to patch and prepare our clothes for the journey. We singed the hair off the buffalo robe that belonged to Mr. Hood, and boiled and ate a part of it. In the afternoon, a flock of partridges coming near the tent, Michel killed several, and shared them with us.
“Thick snowy weather and a head-wind prevented us from starting the following day; but on the morning of the 23d, we set out, carrying with us the remainder of the singed robe. In the course of the march Michel alarmed us much by his gestures and conduct, was constantly muttering to himself, expressed an unwillingness to go to the fort, and tried to persuade me to go to the woods on the Copper-mine river, where he said he could maintain himself all the winter by killing deer. In consequence of this behaviour, and the expression of his countenance, I requested him to leave us, and to go to the southward by himself. This proposal increased his ill-nature; he threw out some obscure hints of freeing himself from all restraint on the morrow; and I overheard him muttering threats against Hepburn, whom he openly accused of having told stories against him. He also, for the first time, assumed such a tone of superiority in addressing me, as evinced that he considered us to be completely in his power; and he gave vent to several expressions of hatred towards the white people, some of whom, he said, had killed and eaten his uncle and two other of his relations. In short, taking every circumstance of his conduct into consideration, I came to the conclusion that he would attempt to destroy us on the first opportunity that offered, and that he had hitherto abstained from doing so from his ignorance of his way to the fort, but that he would never suffer us to go thither in company with him. In the course of the day, he had several times remarked that we were pursuing the same course that Captain Franklin had done, and that by keeping towards the setting sun he could find the way himself. Hepburn and I were not in a condition to resist even an open attack, nor could we by any device escape from him. Our united strength was far inferior to his, and, beside his gun, he was armed with two pistols, an Indian bayonet, and a knife. In the afternoon, coming to a rock on which there was some tripe de roche, he halted, and said he would gather it whilst we went on, and that he would soon overtake us. Hepburn and I being now left together, for the first time since Mr. Hood’s death, he acquainted me with several material circumstances which he had observed of Michel’s behaviour, and which confirmed me in the opinion that there was no safety for us except in his death, and he offered to be the instrument of it. I determined, however, as I was thoroughly convinced of the necessity of such a dreadful act, to take the whole responsibility upon myself; and, immediately upon Michel’s coming up, I put an end to his life by shooting him through the head with a pistol. Had my own life alone been threatened, I would not have purchased it by such a measure; but I considered myself as entrusted also with the protection of Hepburn’s; a man who, by his humane attentions and devotedness, had so endeared himself to me, that I felt more anxiety for his safety than for my own, Michel had gathered no tripe de roche, and it was evident to us that he had halted for the purpose of putting his gun in order, with the intention of attacking us, perhaps, whilst we were in the act of encamping.”
On the day after his arrival at Fort Enterprise, the Doctor scarified the swelled parts of Adam’s body, when a large quantity of water flowed out, and he obtained some ease, but still kept his bed. In less than 48 hours afterwards, the only other Canadians there, Peltier and Samandré, breathed their last; and Captain Franklin himself was so dreadfully reduced, that he could scarcely render the least assistance in collecting bones and fuel. The strength of Dr. Richardson and the faithful Hepburn also rapidly declined, and was very nearly exhausted when, providentially, on the 7th of November, the long-expected relief arrived, by the hands of three Indians, from Akaitcho’s encampment.
“They brought but a small supply, that they might travel quickly. It consisted,” says Captain Franklin, “of dried deer’s meat, some fat, and a few tongues. Dr. Richardson, Hepburn, and I, eagerly devoured the food, which they imprudently presented to us in too great abundance, and in consequence we suffered dreadfully from indigestion, and had no rest the whole night. Adam, being unable to feed himself, was more judiciously treated by them, and suffered less; his spirits revived hourly. The circumstance of our eating more food than was proper in our present condition, was another striking proof of the debility of our minds. We were perfectly aware of the danger, and Dr. Richardson repeatedly cautioned us to be moderate; but he was himself unable to practise the caution he so judiciously recommended.
“The youngest of the Indians, after resting about an hour, returned to Akaitcho, with the intelligence of our situation, and he conveyed a note from me to Mr. Back, requesting another supply of meat as soon as possible. The two others, ‘Crooked-Foot’ and ‘The Rat,’ remained to take care of us, until we should be able to move forward. They set about every thing with an activity that amazed us; and the improved state of our apartment, and the large and cheerful fires they kept up, produced in us a sensation of comfort to which we had long been strangers.”
By these men, Captain Franklin also received a letter from Mr. Back, stating that one of his little party had fallen a victim to cold, fatigue, and hunger, about the middle of October. We must now hasten to the conclusion of this moat disastrous journey.
Eight days elapsed, and the inmates of Fort Enterprise were again reduced to the necessity of eating putrid deerskin, ere a second supply of provisions could be conveyed to them. They were then rejoiced to learn, by a note from Mr. Back, dated Nov. 11th, that he and his two surviving companions, St. Germain and Solomon Belanger, had so recruited their strength, that they were preparing to proceed from the Indian hunters’ encampment to Fort Providence.
On the 16th, Captain Franklin and his party set out for the abode of Akaitcho, which they reached in safety after a painful, but gradually improving march of ten days. Their feelings on quitting the house where they had formerly enjoyed much comfort, if not happiness, and latterly experienced a degree of misery scarcely to be paralleled, may be more easily conceived than described. A short extract from the published narrative will enable the reader to form an idea of the dreadful state to which they had previously been reduced.
“The Indians,” says Captain Franklin, “treated us with the utmost tenderness, gave us their snow-shoos, and walked without any themselves keeping by our sides, that they might lift us when we fell. They prepared our encampment, cooked for us, and fed us as if we had been children; evincing humanity that would have done honor to the most civilized people. We were received by the party assembled in the leader’s tent with looks of compassion and profound silence, winch lasted about a quarter of an hour, and by which they meant to express their condolence for our sufferings.”
Captain Franklin and Dr. Richardson continued to sojourn with Akaitcho, who was moving very slowly to the southward, until Dec. 8th: and then pushed on for Fort Providence, where they met with a hearty welcome. On the 19th they arrived at Moose-Deer Island, and there found Lieutenant Back, whose sufferings had scarcely been less than their own, and to whose exertions, under Almighty guidance, they felt the preservation of their lives to be owing. By the end of February, 1822, the swellings of their limbs had entirely subsided, and they were able to walk to any part (if the island. Their appetites gradually moderated, and they nearly regained their ordinary state of body before the spring. Hepburn alone suffered from a severe attack of rheumatism, which confined him to his bed for some weeks. On the 26th of May, the whole of the surviving officers and men, with the exception of Adam, who had formed an alliance with the Copper Indians at Fort Providence, embarked for Chipewyan, where the remainder of the Canadians, then only three in number, were discharged. Captain Franklin, Lieutenant Back, Dr. Richardson, John Hepburn, and Augustus, the Esquimaux, returned to York Factory, on the 14th of July. “Thus,” says the commander of the expedition, “terminated our long, fatiguing, and disastrous travels in North America, having journeyed by water and land (including our navigation of the Polar Sea), 5550 miles.”
Captain Franklin obtained post rank, Nov. 20th, 1822; and married, Aug. l6th, 1823, Eleanor Anne, youngest daughter of William Porden, Esq. of Berners Street, London. In April following, Dr, Richardson was appointed Surgeon of the Chatham division of royal marines; and, about the same period, Lieutenant Back proceeded to the Leeward Islands’ station, in the Superb 74; Captain Sir Thomas Staines. The manner in which these highly distinguished travellers were next employed will be seen by the following extract from Captain Franklin’s “Narrative of a Second Journey to the Shores of the Polar Sea:”
“His Majesty’s Government having, towards the close of 1923, determined upon another attempt to effect a northern passage by sea between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, and Captain Parry, the commander of the two preceding expeditions, having been again entrusted with its execution, success, as far as ability, enterprise, and experience could ensure it, appeared likely to he the result. Yet, as the object was one for which Great Britain had thought proper to contend for upwards of three centuries, it seemed to me that it might be desirable to pursue it by more ways than one; I therefore ventured to submit a plan for an expedition overland to the month of the Mackenzie River, and thence, by sea, to the north-western extremity of America, with the combined object, also, of surveying the country between the Mackenzie and Copper-mine Rivers.
“I was well aware of the sympathy excited in the English public by the sufferings of those engaged in the former overland expedition, and of the humane repugnance of Government to expose others to a like fate; but I was enabled to show satisfactorily that, in the proposed course, similar dangers were not to be apprehended, while the objects to he attained, were important at once to the naval character, scientific reputation, and commercial interests of Great Britain; and I received directions from Earl Bathurst to make the necessary preparations for the equipment of the expedition, to the command of which I had the honor to be nominated.
“My much valued friend. Dr. Richardson, offered his services as naturalist and surgeon, and also volunteered to undertake the survey of the coast to the eastward, while I should be occupied in endeavouring to reach Icy Cape. Lieutenant Bushnan, who had served under Captains Ross and Parry, was likewise appointed to accompany me; but, long before the party was to leave England, I had to lament the premature death of that excellent young officer, who was eminently qualified for the service, by his skill in astronomical observations, surveying, and drawing. Many naval officers, distinguished for their talent and ability, were desirous of filling the vacancy; but my friend and former companion, Lieutenant Back, having returned from the West Indies, the appointment was offered to him, and accepted with his wonted zeal, Mr. Edward Nicholas Kendall, admiralty mate, and recently assistant-surveyor with Captain Lyon, was appointed to accompany Dr. Richardson in his voyage from the mouth of the Mackenzie to the eastward, and to do the duty of assistant-surveyor to the expedition at large, whilst it continued united. Lastly, Mr. Thomas Drummond, of Forfar, was appointed assistant-naturalist.
“A residence in the northern parts of America, where the party must necessarily depend for subsistence on the daily supply of fish, or on the still more precarious success of Indian hunters, involves many duties which require the superintendence of a person of long experience in the management of these duties, and in the arrangement of the Canadian voyagers and Indians: we had many opportunities, during the former journey, of being acquainted with the qualifications of Mr. Peter Warren Dease, a chief trader of the Hudson’s Bay Company, for these services, and I therefore procured the sanction of His Majesty’s Government for his being employed on the expedition.
“As soon as I had authority from Earl Bathurst, I entered into a correspondence with the Governor and Directors of the Hudson’s Bay Company; and these gentlemen, taking the most lively interest in the. objects of the expedition, promised their utmost support to it, and forthwith sent injunctions to their officers in the Fur Countries to provide, the necessary depots of provisions at the places which I pointed out, and to give every other aid in their power.
“Pemmican, the principal article of provision used in travelling, being made during the winter and spring, the orders for providing; the extra quantity required for the expedition, though sent out from England by the earliest conveyance, so as to reach the provision posts in the summer of 1824, could not be put into effect sooner than the spring of 1825; hence, it was not proper that the main body of the expedition should reach the Fur Countries before the latter period. Some stores were forwarded from England, by way of New York, in March, 1824, for the purpose of relieving the expedition as much as possible from the incumbrance of heavy baggage, and thus enabling it, by moving quickly, to reach its intended winter quarters at Great Bear Lake, as well as to provide for its more comfortable reception at that place. These stores, with the addition of other articles obtained in Canada, sufficed to load three north canoes, manned my eighteen voyagers; and they were delivered, before the winter set in, to Mr. Dease, at the Athabasca Lake.
“Three light boats were also sent out to York Factory, in June 1824, together with a further supply of stores, two carpenters, and a party of men, with a view of their reaching Cumberland House the same season; and, starting from thence as soon as the navigation opened in the following spring, that they might be as far as possible advanced on their way to Bear Lake before they were overtaken by the officers of the expedition. The latter, proceeding by way of New York and Canada, would have the advantage of an earlier spring in travelling through the more southern districts; and, further to expedite their progress, I directed two large canoes, with the necessary equipments and stores, to be deposited at Penetanguishene, the naval depot of Lake Huron, in the autumn of 1824, to await our arrival in the following spring; having been informed that, in ordinary seasons, we should, by commencing our voyage at that place, arrive in the N.W. country ten days earlier than by the usual way of proceeding up the Utawas River from Montreal.”
The three boats mentioned by Captain Franklin were constructed at Woolwich under his own superintendence. To fit them for the ascent and descent of the many rapids between York Factory and Mackenzie River, and to render their transport over the numerous portages more easy, it was necessary to have them as small, and of as light a construction as possible; and, in fact, as much like a birch-bark canoe as was consistent with the stability and capacity required for their voyage at sea. They were built of mahogany, with timbers of ash, both ends exactly alike, and fitted to be steered either with a sweep-oar or a rudder. Each of them had two lug-sails. The largest boat, 26 feet long and 5½ broad, was adapted for six rowers, a steersman, and an officer; it could be borne on the shoulders of six men, and was found, on trial, to be capable of carrying three tons weight, in addition to the crew. The others were each 21 feet long, 4½ broad, and capable of receiving five rowers, a steersman, and an officer, with an additional weight of 5600 pounds.
Captain Franklin and his officers, with four marines as attendants, embarked at Liverpool, on board the American packet-ship Columbia, Feb. 16th, 1825; and about the same period, the Blossom sloop[errata 3], was commissioned at Woolwich by Commander F. W. Beechey, and ordered to proceed round Cape Horn, for the purpose of meeting the western branch of the expedition in Behring’s Strait, and conveying that party either to the Sandwich Islands or Canton, as might seem most advisable to Captain Franklin, who was instructed to take a passage to England in any merchant ship that he might find about to sail for Europe. The eastern branch was to return overland from the mouth of the Copper-mine River to Great Bear Lake, where alone a sufficient supply of fish could be procured for the support of so many persons.
When Captain Franklin left London to proceed on this expedition, he had to undergo a severe struggle between the feelings of affection and a sense of duty; his wife then lying at the point of death, and, with heroic fortitude, urging his departure at the very day appointed – entreating him, as he valued her peace and his own glory, not to delay a moment on her account. She expired on the sixth day after his embarkation, leaving a daughter, eight months old. Previous to her union with Captain Franklin, this amiable lady had published two poems, one entitled “The Veils, or the Triumph of Constancy;” and the other, “The Arctic Expedition.” She subsequently published a very spirited “Ode on the Coronation of His Majesty George the Fourth;” and a poem in sixteen cantos, entitled, “Coeur de Lion, or the Third Crusade.” Her father was the architect who erected the King’s stables at Brighton, and other buildings which placed his name high in the line to which he belongs.
The boats of the expedition, accompanied by Augustus and another Esquimaux interpreter, named Ooligbuck, had advanced from York Factory into the interior, 1200 miles, before they were joined by Captain Franklin and Dr. Richardson; whilst the latter, from taking a more circuitous route, by New York and Upper Canada, travelled 2800 miles, to reach the same point. This junction took place on the 29th of June, 1825, in the Methye River, which is almost at the head of the waters that run from the north into Hudson’s Bay. In no part of the journey was the presence of the officers more requisite to animate and encourage the crews. The river itself, besides being obstructed by three impassable rapids, is usually so shallow, through its whole course of forty miles, as scarcely to admit of a flat-bottomed bateau floating with half its cargo. This river and its impediments being surmounted, the Methye Portage, 10¾ miles long, which is always held up to the inexperienced voyager as the most laborious part of the journey, was at no great distance. But whatever apprehensions the men might have entertained on this subject, seemed to vanish when the captain and his able coadjutor landed amongst them. Lieutenant Back and Mr. Kendall were at this time employed in bringing up three heavily laden canoes from Lake Superior; and Mr. Drummond, who had been left behind at Cumberland House, had already commenced his botanical labours, between the Saskatchawan River and the Rocky Mountains.
On the 7th of August, having reached Fort Norman, situated on the left bank of the Mackenzie, in lat. 64° 40' 30" N., long. 124° 53' 22" W., and within twelve leagues of the stream that runs into that river from Great Bear Lake, Captain Franklin resolved on continuing his course to the sea, in the largest boat, accompanied by Mr. Kendall and the faithful Augustus, for the purpose of collecting whatever information could be obtained from the Loucheux Indians and Esquimaux wanderers, as well as from personal observation, respecting the general state of the ice, in the summer and autumn, and the trending of the coast, east and west of Whale Island, – the limit of Mackenzie’s voyage. In the meantime, Dr. Richardson employed himself in surveying the shores of Great Bear Lake, and fixing upon a spot, the nearest to the Copper-mine River, to which he might conduct his party the following year. The important operations necessary for the comfortable residence and subsistence of the expedition during the fast approaching winter, were superintended by Messrs. Back and Dease.
The descent from Fort Norman to the mouth of the Mackenzie, including a short stoppage at Fort Good Hope, the lowest of the Company’s posts, and which had been but recently established, for the convenience of the Loucheux tribe, occupied only six days. The river was found to discharge itself into the Arctic Ocean through many channels, formed by low islands, which at certain seasons are quite inundated. The north-eastern extremity of the main channel is in lat. 69° 1½' N., long. 135° 57' W.
From this point, at which the coast begins to trend to the southward of east, an island was discovered much farther out, and Captain Franklin immediately directed his course towards it, in search of salt water, none that he had yet tasted being at all brackish.
In the middle of the traverse,” says he, “we wore caught by a strong contrary wind, against which our crews cheerfully contended for five hours, though drenched by the spray, and even by the waves, which came into the boat. Unwilling to return without attaining the object of our search, when the strength of the rowers was nearly exhausted, as a last resource, the sails were set double-reefed, and our excellent boat mounted over the waves in the most buoyant manner. An opportune alteration of the wind enabled us, in the course of another hour, to fetch into smoother water, under the shelter of the island. We then pulled across a line of strong ripple which marked the termination of the fresh water, that on the seaward side being brackish; and in the further progress of three miles to the island, we had the indescribable pleasure of finding it decidedly salt.
“The sun was setting us the boat touched the beach, and we hastened to the most elevated part of the island, about 250 feet high, to look around. Never was a prospect more gratifying than that which lay open to us. The Rocky Mountains were seen from S.W. to W.½N.; and from the latter point, round by the north, the sea appeared in all its majesty, entirely free from ice, and without any visible obstruction to it; navigation. Many seals, and black and white whales, were sporting on its waves; and the whole scene was calculated to excite in our minds the most flattering expectations as to our own success, and that of our friends in the Hecla and the Fury. I wrote, for Captain Parry, an account of our progress, with such information as he might require in case he wished to communicate with Fort Good Hope, or our party, and deposited my letter, with many others that I had in charge for him and his officers, under a pole erected for the purpose, on which we left a blue and red flag flying to attract his attention.”
It will be seen, by reference to Suppl. Part IV. p. 363, that Captain Parry was then in lat. 72° 42' 30" N., long. 91° 50' 05" W. Captain Franklin’s place of encampment on this newly discovered island, which he named after Nicholas Garry, Esq. (the Deputy Governor of the Hudson’s Bay Company), was in lat. 69° 29' N., long. 136° 41' W.; and he there displayed, for the first time, a silk union-jack, which was sewed by his “deeply-lamented wife,” and presented to him, “as a parting gift, under the express injunction that it was not to be unfurled before the expedition reached the sea.” “I will not,” says he, “attempt to describe my emotions as it expanded to the breeze – however natural, and, for the moment, irresistible, I felt that it was my duty to suppress them, and that I had no right, by an indulgence of my own sorrows, to cloud the animated countenances of my companions. Joining, therefore, with the best grace that I could command, in the general excitement, I endeavoured to return, with corresponding cheerfulness, their warm congratulations on having thus planted the British flag on this remote island of the Polar Sea.”
On his return from Garry’s Island to the terra firma (Aug, 17th), Captain Franklin observed some deer and wildfowl feeding quietly near the water; and he therefore concluded, that in the open season, there could be no lack of food for the skilful hunter. Next day, a strong gale of wind came on from N.W., followed by violent squalls, which, from the appearance of the clouds, and the rapid descent of the thermometer, seemed likely to be of some continuance: – the crane, the goose, and the swan, warned by this sudden change in the weather, took advantage of the fair wind, and hastened away to the southward.
On the 1st of September, Captain Franklin quitted the muddy waters of the Mackenzie, and began to ascend the Great Bear Lake River. On the 5th, he arrived at his winter-quarters, where the members of the expedition were then, for the first time, all assembled. The officers, he found, had done him the honor of giving the name of Franklin to the “fort,” which he felt a grateful pleasure in retaining at their desire, though he had intended naming it Fort Reliance. Its position was determined to be in lat. 65° 11' 56" N., long. 123° 12' 44" W.; the number of persons belonging to the establishment, at this period, including three Indian women and six children, amounted to fifty.
The consideration of next importance to furnishing this large party with food, was to provide regular occupation for the men, who had not the resources to employ their time which the officers possessed. Accordingly some were appointed to attend exclusively to the fishing nets, others to bring home the meat whenever the hunters killed any deer; some were stationed to fell wood for fuel, others to convey it to the store-house, and a third set to split it for use. Two of the most expert travellers on snow-shoes were kept in nearly constant employment, conveying letters to and from the posts on the Mackenzie River and Slave Lake. As the days shortened, it was necessary to find employment during the long evenings, and a school was therefore established on three nights of the week, from seven o’clock to nine, for their instruction in reading, writing, and arithmetic; and it was attended by most of the British. They were divided in equal portions amongst the officers, whose labour was amply repaid by the advancement their pupils made: some of those who began with the alphabet, learned to read and write with tolerable correctness. Sunday was a day of rest, and, with the exception of two or three of the Canadians, the whole party uniformly attended Divine service, morning and evening. If, on the other evenings, for which no particular occupation was appointed, the men felt the time tedious, or if they expressed a wish to vary their employments, the hall of the principal building was at their service, to play any game they might choose; and on these occasions they were invariably joined by the officers. By thus participating in their amusements, the men became more attached to their superiors, at the same time that the latter contributed to their health and cheerfulness. The hearts and feelings of the whole were united in one common desire to make the time pass as agreeably as possible to each other, until the return of spring should enable them to resume the great object of the expedition.
Every thing seems to have gone on pretty well till the end of the year; but, owing to the extreme severity of the weather in the months of January and February, 1826, the sources from whence they had derived their food failed them. All the animals but the wolf and the fox had migrated to the southward; the stock of dried meat was expended; the fish caught did not allow more than three or four small herrings to each man per day, and, being out of season, not only afforded very little nourishment, but caused frequent and general indisposition. Under such circumstances, they were obliged to have recourse to the pemmican, arrow-root, and portable soup, which had been set apart for their voyage along the sea-coast. Towards March, however, their situation began to improve. Mr. Back had by this time been promoted to the rank of commander.
On the 24th of May a new boat was finished, and named the Reliance. It was constructed of fir, with birch timbers, after the model of the Lion, but with a more full bow, and a finer run abaft. Its length was 26 feet, and breadth of 5⅔. It was fastened in the same manner as the other boats, but with iron instead of copper. To procure sufficient nails the blacksmith was obliged to cut up all the spare axes, ice-chisels, and other implements. Being without tar, the carpenters, one of whom had had the misfortune to break his leg in the spring of 1825, substituted strips of water-proof canvas, soaked in some caoutchouc varnish, to lay between the seams of the planks; and for paint, they made use of resin (procured from the pine-trees in the vicinity), boiled and mixed with grease.
On the 1st of June, the preparations for the voyage along the coast being in a state of forwardness, Captain Franklin’s attention was directed to the providing for the return of Dr. Richardson’s party in the following autumn, and to the securing means of support for all the members of the expedition, in the event of the western branch being compelled to return to Great Bear Lake. Among other arrangements, Mr. Dease was instructed to keep the fort well stored with provision until the spring of 1828, in case the latter party should not meet with the Blossom, and be obliged to winter on the coast. Fourteen men, including Augustus, were appointed to accompany Captain Franklin and Commander Back, in the Lion and Reliance; and twelve, including Ooligbuck, to go with the naturalist and assistant-surveyor, in the two smaller boats, which were named the Dolphin and Union. On the 18th of June, the whole of these officers and men assembled at Divine service, dressed in sky-blue, water-proof, uniforms, which, together with an abundance of warm clothing, had been provided in England; and on the 24th, we find them again afloat, and descending Great Bear Lake River, with provision sufficient for eighty days, at full allowance. In the evening of the 3d of July, having reached the expansion of the Mackenzie, whence its different channels branch off, and being anxious not to take the Dolphin and Union out of their course, Captain Franklin gave orders to encamp, and made the necessary arrangements for the separation that was about to take place. As the parties entertained for each other sentiments of true friendship and regard, it will easily be imagined that their last evening together was spent in the most cordial and cheerful manner. They felt that they were only separating to be employed on services of equal interest; and they looked forward with delight to their next meeting, when, after a successful termination, they might recount the incidents of their respective voyages. The best supper their means afforded was provided, and a bowl of punch crowned the parting feast. This was in lat. 67° 38' N., long. 133° 53' W.
On quitting the Mackenzie, July 7th, Captain Franklin fell in with a large body of Esquimaux, who made a daring attempt to plunder his boats, but only succeeded in carrying off a few articles of inconsiderable value. After this, the western branch of the expedition met with no interruption from the natives, with whom they had frequent intercourse as they proceeded along the coast, sometimes meeting with very numerous parties. Their progress to the westward, however, was very slow, owing to the unfavorable state of the ice and weather; and it was the 31st of July before they reached long. 141°, which is the boundary between the British and Russian dominions on the northern coast of America. The following extracts from Captain Franklin’s narrative, will shew the nature of the difficulties he had to contend with in the summer of 1826:
“This point seems to be much resorted to by the Esquimaux, as we found here many winter houses, and four large stages. A favorable breeze now sprang up; and having ascertained that there was still a channel of open water between a low island and the main shore, we set sail to follow its course; but at the end of three miles we found the depth of water gradually decrease from three fathoms to as many feet, and shortly afterwards the boats repeatedly took the ground. In this situation we were enveloped by a thick fog, which limited our view to a few yards. We therefore dragged the boats to the land, until we could see our way; when it was discovered from the summit of an eminence about two miles distant, that, though the channel was of some extent, it was very shallow, and seemed to be barred by ice to the westward. We also ascertained that it was bounded to seaward by a long reef. The night proved very stormy, and we were but scantily supplied with drift wood.
“Though the 1st of August commenced with a heavy gale from E.N.E. and very foggy weather, we proceeded to the reef, after much fatigue in dragging the boats over the flats, supposing that our best choice of getting forward would be bypassing on the outside of it. But there finding heavy ice lying aground, and so closely packed as to preclude the possibility of putting the boats into the water, it was determined to examine the channel by walking along the edge of the reef. An outlet to the sea was discovered, but gulls were, in most parts, wading across it; and there was, therefore, no other course than to await the separation of the ice from the reef. On the dispersion of the fog in the afternoon, we perceived that some of the masses were from 20 to 30 feet high; and we derived little comfort from beholding an unbroken surface of ice to seaward.
“The gale blew without the least abatement until noon of the 2d, when it terminated in a violent gust, which overthrew the tents. The field of ice was broken in the offing, and the pieces put in motion; in the evening there appeared a large space of open water, but we could not take advantage of these favorable circumstances, in consequence of the bergs still closely besetting the reef. The astronomical observations place our encampment in lat. 69° 43' N., long. 141° 30' W.
“On the morning of the 3d, a strong wind set in from the cast, which caused a higher flood in the channel than we had yet seen, and the hope of effecting a passage by its course was revived. As the ice was still fast to the reef, and likely to continue so, it was considered better to occupy ourselves in dragging the boats through the mud, than to continue longer in this irksome spot, where the wood was already scarce, and the water indifferent. The boats accordingly proceeded with four men in each, while the rest of the crew walked along the shore, and rendered assistance wherever it was necessary, to drag them over the shallow parts. After four hours’ labour, we reached the eastern part of the bay, which I have named after my friend Captain Beaufort, R.N., and which was then covered with ice. We had also the happiness of finding a passage that led to seaward, and enabled us to get on the outside of the reef; but still our situation, for the next four hours, was attended with no little anxiety. The appearance of the clouds bespoke the return of fog, and we were sailing with a strong breeze through narrow channels, between heavy pieces of drift ice, on the outside of a chain of reefs that stretch across Beaufort Bay, which we knew could not be approached within a mile, owing to the shallowness of the water. Beyond the western part of this bay, the water being deep close to the coast, we sailed on in more security, and completed a run of 28 miles, the greatest distance we had made on one day since our departure from the Mackenzie. A black whale and several seals having been seen just before we landed to sup, the water being now decidedly salt, and the ice driving with great rapidity to the westward, were circumstances that we hailed with heartfelt joy as affording the prospect of moving speedily forward.”
On the 4th of August, the water was again found very shallow, and the boats repeatedly touched the ground, even at the distance of two miles from the shore. Next day their progress was obstructed, for several hours, by closely packed ice, on the outer border of a reef, in lat. 70° 7' N., long. 145° 27' W.; and they afterwards received several heavy blows while passing through the loose ice between that and an island, to which the name of Flaxman was given, in honor of the late eminent sculptor. The Rocky Mountains either terminated abreast of the above reef, or receded so far to the southward as to be imperceptible from the coast a few miles beyond it.
The view from the S.E. part of Flaxman Island, which is about four miles long and two broad, led Captain Franklin to suppose that he would be able to proceed by keeping close to its southern shore; but in making the attempt, the boats often got aground, and he was at length obliged to seek a passage by the north side.
“At the end of a mile in that direction.” continues he, “we were stopped by the ice being unbroken from the shore, and closely packed to seaward. Since the day after our departure from the Mackenzie, when we first came to the ice, we had not witnessed a more unfavorable prospect than that before us. No water was to he seen, either from the tents, which were pitched about thirty feet above the horizon, or from the different points of the island which we visited. We were now scantily supplied with fuel, the drift timber being covered by the ice high up the bank, except just where the boats had landed. In the evening a gale came on from the east, and blew throughout the following day: we vainly hoped this would produce some favorable change. The position of our encampment was in lat. 70° 11' N., long. 145° 50' W.
“The easterly gale gave place to a calm, on the morning of the 7th; and as this change, though it produced no effect in loosening the ice to the northward, caused more water to flow into the channel between the island and the main, we succeeded with little difficulty in crossing the flats that had before impeded us. Beyond this bar, the water gradually deepened to three fathoms; and, a favorable breeze springing up, we steered for the outer point of land in sight. The main shore, to the westward of Flaxman Island, is so low that it cannot be seen at the distance of a league, with the exception of three small hummocks, which look like islands.
“Our course was continued until we came to an island lying three miles from the shore, and which proved to be connected with it by a reef, fordable at low water. Dazzled by the glare of the sun in our eyes, the surf on this reef was mistaken for a ripple of the tide; and, although the sails were lowered as a precautionary measure, we wore so near before the mistake was discovered, that the strength of the wind drove the Lion aground, by which accident she took in much water. The exertions of the crew soon got her afloat, and both boats were then rowed to windward: the sails were then set, close-reefed, and we stood along the weather shore, looking out for a favorable landing place, that we might obtain shelter from the approaching storm, which the appearance of the sky indicated; and also to repair the damage which the Lion had sustained. At length, some posts, erected by the Esquimaux on a point of land, denoted an approachable part, and we effected a landing after carrying part of the cargoes 200 yards through the water. By midnight we were prepared to go forward; but were prevented front moving by a very thick fog, which continued till eleven on the morning of the 8th, when it cleared away for the space of two hours, and enabled us to perceive that the ice, which, in the preceding evening, had been observed at a considerable distance from the land, was now tossing about, in large masses, close to the border of the shallow water. we were also enabled, during this short interval of clear weather, to ascertain the latitude. 70° 16' 27" N., and longitude, 117° 38' 20" W. At this encampment we remarked the first instance of regularity in the tide. It was low water at 9-30 p.m. on the 7th, and high water at half-past two the following morning; the rise being sixteen inches. An equally regular tide was observed on the 8th; but we could not ascertain the direction of the flood.”
Thick fogs, and heavy gales of wind, prevented the boats from finally quitting this island until the morning of the 16th; previous to which, the whole of the vegetation had assumed the autumnal tint; the temperature had fallen to 35°; and young ice had already formed on the small pools near the tents, which were previously so saturated with wet as to be very comfortless abodes, – particularly as the quantity of drift-wood would only admit of a fire being made for cooking. Captain Franklin thus describes the termination of his voyage to the westward:–
“The weather became clear, after the sun rose, on the 16th, and we embarked as soon as the flowing of the tide enabled us to launch the boats, all in the highest spirits at the prospect of escaping from this detestable island. We took advantage of the fair wind, set the sails, and steered parallel to the coast. We had never more than from three to six feet water until we passed round the reef that projects from Point Anxiety, a distance of seven miles. Between this and Point Chandos, which is eight miles further to the westward, the land was occasionally seen; but after rounding the latter point we lost sight of it, and steered to the westward, across the month of Yarborough Inlet, the soundings varying from five feet to two fathoms. The fog returned; and the wind freshening, soon created such a swell upon the flats, that it became necessary to haul further from the land; and the drift-ice beginning to close around us, we could no longer proceed with safety, and therefore endeavoured to find a landing place, but were frustrated by the shoalness of the water, and the height of the surf. the increasing violence of the gale, however, and the density of the fog, rendering it absolutely necessary for us to obtain some shelter, we stood out to seaward, with the view of making fast to a large piece of ice. In our way, we fell among gravelly reefs, and, arriving at the same time suddenly in smooth water, we effected a landing on one of them. A temporary dispersion of the fog, allowed that we were surrounded with banks, nearly on a level with the water, and protected to seaward by a large body of ice lying aground. The patch of gravel, on which we were encamped, was about 500 yards in circumference, destitute of water, and with no more drift-wood than a few willow branches, barely sufficient to make one fire.
“The period had now arrived when it was incumbent on me to consider, whether the prospect of our attaining the object of the voyage was sufficiently encouraging to warrant the exposure of the party to daily increasing risk, by continuing on. We were now only half-way along the Mackenzie River to Icy Cape; and the chance of reaching the latter depended on the nature of the coast that was yet unexplored, and the portion of the summer which yet remained for our operations. I knew, from the descriptions of Cook and Burney, that the shore about Icy Cape resembled that which we had already passed, in being flat, and difficult of approach; while the general trending of the coast from the Mackenzie to the W.N.W., nearly in the direction of Icy Cape, combined with the information we had collected from the Esquimaux, led me to conclude that no material change would be found in the intermediate portion. The preceding narrative shows the difficulties of navigating such a coast, even during the finest part of the summer; if, indeed, any portion of a season which had been marked by a constant succession of fogs and gales could be called fine. No opportunity of advancing had been let slip, after the time of our arrival in the Arctic Sea; and the unwearied zeal and exertion of the boats’ crews had been required, for an entire month, to explore the ten degrees of longitude between Herschel Island and our present situation. I had, therefore, no reason to suppose that the ten remaining degrees could be navigated in much less time. The ice, it is true, was more broken up, and the sea around our present encampment was clear; but we had lately seen how readily the drift ice was packed upon the shoals by every breeze of wind blowing towards the land. The summer, bad as it had been, was now nearly at an end; and on this point I had the experience of the former voyage for a guide. At Point Turnagain, two degrees to the south of our present situation, the comparatively warm summer of 1821 was terminated on the 17th of August, by severe storms of wind and snow; and in the space of a fortnight afterwards, winter set in with all its severity.
“While a hope remained of reaching Behring’s Strait, I looked upon the hazard to which we had, upon several occasions, been exposed, of shipwreck on the flats or on the ice, as inseparable from a voyage of this nature; and if such an accident had occurred, I should have hoped, with a sufficient portion of the summer before me, to conduct my party in safety back to the Mackenzie. But the loss of the boats when we should have been far advanced, and at the end of the season, would have been fatal. No Esquimaux had been lately seen, nor any winter-houses, to denote that this part of the coast was much frequented; and if we did meet with them under adverse circumstances, we could not, with safely, trust to their assistance for a supply of provision; nor do I believe that, if willing, oven they would have been able to support our party for any length of time.
“Till our tedious detention at Foggy Island, we had had no doubt of ultimate success; and it was with no ordinary pain that I could now bring myself even to think of relinquishing the great object of my ambition, and of disappointing the flattering confidence that had been reposed in my exertions. But I had higher duties to perform than the gratification of my own feelings; and a mature consideration of all the above matters forced me to the conclusion, that we had reached that point beyond which perseverance would be rashness, and our best efforts must be fruitless. In order to put the reader completely in possession of the motives which would have influenced me, had I been entirely a free agent, I have mentioned them without allusion to the clause in my instructions which directed me to commence my return on the 15th or 20th of August, ‘if, in consequence of slow progress, or other unforeseen accident, it should remain doubtful whether we should be able to reach Kotzebue’s Inlet the same season.’
“In the evening I communicated my determination to the whole party; they received it with the good feeling that had marked their conduct: throughout the voyage, and they assured me of their cheerful acquiescence in any order I should give. The readiness with which they would have prosecuted the voyage, had it been advisable to do so, was the more creditable, because many of them had their legs swelled and inflamed from continually wading in ice-cold water while launching the boats, not only when we accidentally ran on shore, but every time that it was requisite to embark, or to land upon this shallow coast. Nor were these symptoms to be overlooked in coming to a determination; for though no one who knows the resolute disposition of British sailors can be surprised at their more than readiness to proceed, I felt that it was my business to judge of their capability of so doing, and not to allow myself to be seduced by their ardour, however honorable to them, and cheering to me. Could I have known, or by possibility imagined, that a party from the Blossom had been at only the distance of 160 miles from me, no dangers, difficulties, nor discouraging circumstances, should have prevailed on me to return; but taking into account the uncertainty of all voyages in a sea obstructed by ice, I had no right to expect that the Blossom had advanced beyond Kotzebue Inlet, or that any party from her had doubled Icy Cape. It is useless now to speculate on the probable result of a proceeding which did not take place, but I may observe, that, had we gone forward as soon as the weather permitted, namely on the 18th, it was scarcely possible that any change of circumstances could have enabled us to overtake the Blossom’s barge.”
The point at which Captain Franklin’s voyage towards Behring’s Strait terminated is in lat. 70° 20' N., and long. 148° 52' W.; but his discoveries extend to a hummock, named Point Beechey, in lat. 70° 24' N., long. 149° 37' W.: the Blossom’s barge, under the command of Mr. Thomas Elson, reached lat. 71° 23' 31"[errata 4] N., and penetrated to the eastward as far as 156° errata|21'|21' 30"}} W.; or about 120 miles beyond Icy Cape. This boat was despatched by Commander Beechey, to co-operate with the Lion and Reliance, on the 18th of August – the very day that they began to retrace their way towards the mouth of the Mackenzie, which they reached on the 30th of the same month, just at the commencement of a violent N.W. gale, attended by thunder, lightning, and torrents of rain. On the 21st of Sept., they arrived in safety at Great Bear Lake, after travelling a distance of 2048 statute miles, of which 610, including 374 of sea coast, were through parts not previously discovered.
In the mean time, Dr. Richardson and the assistant-surveyor had most fully accomplished the object of their voyage to the eastward, and travelled 1980 miles, of which 37 were by a portion of the Mackenzie never before visited by Europeans, 863 by sea, and 433 overland, from the mouth of the Copper-mine River to Great Bear Lake. “I may be allowed,” says Captain Franklin, “to bear my testimony to the union of caution, talent, and enterprise in the former, which enabled him to conduct with singular success, an arduous service of a kind so foreign from his profession and ordinary pursuits; and to the science and skill, combined with activity, of Mr. (now Lieutenant) Kendall, which must heighten the character he has already obtained for general ability and energy in his profession.”
The most northerly part of the American continent seen by this branch of the expedition, is situated in lat. 70° 30' N., long. 127° 35' W.
Captain Franklin remained on Great Bear Lake until Feb. 20th, 1827; when he set out on foot for Fort Chipewyan, accompanied by five men, in order to secure provisions for the remainder of the party, and to rejoin Dr. Richardson, who, being anxious to extend his geological researches as far as possible, had gone in a canoe to Great Slave Lake, immediately after his return from the sea. The other officers and men were directed to proceed to York Factory, as soon as the ice should break, and from thence, by the Hudson’s Bay ship, to England. On the 18th of June, Captain Franklin arrived, in a canoe, at Cumberland House, where he had the happiness of meeting the indefatigable Doctor, after a separation of nearly twelve months. From thence they proceeded, by way of Montreal, to New York; and there embarked, on the 1st September, for Liverpool; at which place we find them landing, from the packet-ship James Cropper, on the 26th of the same month. The rest of the expedition, with the exception of two men, one of whom had died from consumption, and another been accidentally drowned, arrived at Portsmouth, under the charge of Commander Back, exactly a fortnight afterwards.
We should here mention, that the reception Captain Franklin met with at New York, both in 1825 and 1827, was kind in the extreme. Their baggage and stores were passed through the custom-house without inspection; cards of admission to the public scientific institutions were promptly forwarded to them; and every other mark of attention was shewn by the different authorities, as well as by private individuals; indicating the lively interest which they took in his enterprise. During his last sojourn in that city, the Recorder and a deputation of the Corporation did him the honor of presenting him with a splendidly bound copy of “Colden’s Memoir on the New York Canals,” and the medal which had recently been struck to commemorate the completion of the Erie canal.
Soon after his return to England the Geographical Society of Paris voted him their gold medal, value 1200 francs, which is adjudged annually, and with the liberality worthy of an enlightened nation, to the individual, whether native or foreigner, who shall have made the most important acquisitions to geographical knowledge in the course of the year preceding: he was, at the same time, elected a corresponding member of that institution.
On the 29th April, 1829, Captain Franklin received the honor of knighthood. In July following, the honorary degree of D.C.L. was conferred upon him in a convocation at Oxford. And, on the 23rd Aug. 1830, he was appointed to the command of the Rainbow 28, fitting out at Portsmouth for the Mediterranean station.
Lady Franklin, to whom he was united on the 5th of Nov. 1828, is the second daughter of John Griffin, of Bedford Place, London, Esq.
- See Vol. I. pp. 365–371, and id. p. 498.
- See Vol. II. Part II. p. 969.
- The cariole is merely a covering of leather for the lower part of the body, affixed to the common sledge, and painted and ornamented according to the taste of the proprietor.
- See Suppl. Part IV. p. 353.
- See Post-Captains of 1823.
- Lat. 69° 34' N., long. 139° 5' W.
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