Royal Naval Biography/Parry, William Edward
Sir WILLIAM EDWARD PARRY, Knt.
[Post-Captain of 1821.]
Doctor of the Civil Law; Fellow of the Royal Society; Member of the London Astronomical Society; and Honorary Member of the Imperial Academy of Sciences at St. Petersburgh.
Fourth and youngest surviving son of the late Dr. Caleb Hillier Parry, an eminent physician of Bath, F.R.S., by Miss Rigby, of Norwich, sister to the late Dr. Rigby.
This officer was born at Bath, Dec. 19th, 1790; and received the rudiments of his education at the grammar-school of that city, under the superintendence of the Rev. Nathaniel Morgan, the preceptor of many other distinguished characters. In 1803, he was recommended to the patronage of Admiral the Hon. William Cornwallis, then commanding the Channel fleet, who received him on board his flag-ship, the Ville de Paris 110, and placed him under the tuition of her chaplain, the Rev. William Morgan. In a letter written by that veteran chief, bearing date Aug. 4th, 1804, there appear the following passages:
“In regard to any civility I may have shewn young Parry, I never knew any one so generally approved of. He will experience civility and kindness from all whilst he continues to conduct himself as he has done, which, I dare believe, will be as long as he lives. * * * * * * He is a fine steady lad. It is almost a pity he had not gone to sea sooner, for he will, I am sure, be fit for promotion before his time of servitude is out.”
On the 23rd May, 1806, Mr. Parry was removed from the Ville de Paris to the Tribune 36, Captain Thomas Baker, with whom he completed his time as midshipman, in the Vanguard 74, on the Baltic station, where he was more than once engaged in action with the formidable Danish gun-boats. His first commission bears date, Jan. 6th, 1810, at which period we find him appointed to the Alexandria frigate, then commanded by Captain John Quilliam, but subsequently by Captain Robert Cathcart, and employed in protecting the Spitsbergen whale fishery.
While serving under the latter officer, in 1811 and 1812, Lieutenant Parry devoted much of his time to astronomical observations, and made a survey of Balta Sound and the Voe, a harbour very little known, and the only one capable of receiving large vessels, in the north-eastern part of the Shetland islands. This chart was transmitted to the Lords of the Admiralty, who were pleased to signify that it was highly acceptable. Several others, of places on the coasts of Denmark and Sweden, had been formerly received from him at the Hydrographical Office.
In the course of 1812, Rear-Admiral Sir Francis Laforey, who had before endeavoured to assist Mr. Parry’s professional advancement, gave his friends the strongest assurances that he would promote him if they could procure his appointment to any ship on the Leeward Islands station, where he then held the chief command; but no opportunity occurred previous to that officer’s supercession.
In Jan. 1813, Lieutenant Parry was appointed to la Hogue 74, Captain the Hon. Thomas Bladen Capel, on the North American station, and ordered to proceed thither in the Sceptre 74, Captain Robert Honyman, then about to sail for Barbadoes and Halifax. On his arrival in Carlisle bay, he was received very kindly by Sir Francis Laforey, who expressed great regret that he had not joined him before, adding, “had you come here twelve months earlier, you would have been twelve months a commander.”
On the 8th April, 1814, Lieutenant Parry assisted at the destruction of three large American privateers, twenty-four merchant vessels, a great number of boats, and a large quantity of naval stores, at Pettipague Point, in the Connecticut river, by a detachment of seamen and marines under the direction of Captain Richard Coote. In the course of the same year, he furnished many of the junior officers on the Halifax station with copies of his “Practical Rules for observing at night by the fixed stars,” which treatise was afterwards published, in order to “facilitate the acquisition of a species of knowledge so highly conducive to the welfare of the naval service.”
Lieutenant Parry subsequently exchanged into the Maidstone frigate. Captain William Skipsey. His next appointment was, we believe, in June 1816, to the Niger 38, Captain Samuel Jackson, C.B.
About this latter period. Dr. Parry, senior, had a sudden attack of palsy, the effects of which were so complete and universal, as to totally annihilate his faculties. On hearing of this severe affliction, the lieutenant obtained leave to return home, where he arrived in May 1817. On the 14th Jan. 1818, he was appointed to the command of the Alexander brig, hired for the purpose of accompanying Captain John Ross in an expedition to the Arctic regions. The history of that voyage is well known to the world, and we again forbear to enter into any needless details relating to it. It is sufficient to say, that neither the public nor the government were satisfied with its issue. The result of the discussions which followed was the equipment of a new expedition, to sail in the spring of 1819, under the sole direction of Lieutenant Parry, who was consulted in the choice both of his ships and officers.
The vessels selected and fitted out for the second attempt to discover a N.W. passage, were the Hecla bomb and Griper gun-brig, the latter commanded by Lieutenant Matthew Liddon, formerly of the Maidstone and la Hogue. The other officers and gentlemen attached to the expedition were, in the Hecla, Lieutenant Frederick William Beechey; Captain Edward Sabine, of the royal artillery, astronomer; Mr. John Edwards, surgeon; Mr. William H. Hooper, purser; Messrs. Joseph Nias, William Justin Dealy, Charles Palmer, James Clark Ross, and John Bushnan, midshipmen; Mr. Alexander Fisher, assistant-surgeon; and Mr. James Halse, commander’s-clerk. Griper, Lieutenant Henry Parkyns Hoppner; Messrs. Andrew Reid, Andrew Motz Skene, and William Nelson Griffiths, midshipmen; Mr. Charles James Beverley, assistant-surgeon; and Cyrus Wakeham, clerk. Two master-mariners, Messrs. John Allison and George Fife, of long experience in the Greenland whale fishery, were likewise taken into his Majesty’s service on this occasion.
In his official instructions from the Admiralty, Lieutenant Parry was ordered to make the best of his way to the entrance of Davis’s Strait; to advance, when the ice would permit, along the western shore to Baffin’s Bay; to enter Sir James Lancaster’s Sound, explore the bottom thereof, and, if possible, pass through it to Behring’s Strait. This was the most favorable supposition; other directions were given, in case the route here marked out should not be found practicable. If he succeeded in getting through Behring’s Strait, he was to proceed to Kamtschatka, and send, through the Russian governor, a duplicate of his journal to London. From thence he was to proceed either to the Sandwich Islands or to Canton, to refit the vessels and refresh their crews; and then to return home, by such route as he might deem most convenient. It was left to his own judgment, when on the spot, to decide upon the propriety of wintering in the Arctic regions; and minute directions were given as to the observations to be made with the various philosophical instruments on board. Though the finding a passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific was the main object of the expedition, yet the ascertaining many points of natural history, geography, &c. was consider d o most important one, never to be lost sight of. Whenever a landing was made on the northern coast of North America, a pole with a flag was to be erected, and a bottle buried cat the foot of it, containing an abstract of his proceedings and future intentions, for the information of Lieutenant John Franklin, who was sent, at the same time, on a land expedition, to explore that coast, from the mouth of the Copper Mine River to the eastward. The Hecla and her consort were prepared with great attention for the voyage, as well as with every thing for the scientific objects of the expedition, and the comfort of their crews. The total number of persons, on board both vessels, was 94, most of whom bad served under Captain Ross, in 1818; and every individual was ordered to receive double the ordinary pay of Her Majesty’s navy.
The expedition left Deptford in the beginning of May, 1819; rounded the northern point of the Orkneys, on the 20th of the same month; fell in with the first “stream” of ice, on the 18th of that ensuing; and crossed the Arctic circle, in long. 57° 27' W., at 4 p.m. on the 3d July, in the course of which day at least fifty ice-bergs were passed, many of them of large dimensions. “Towards midnight,” says Lieutenant Parry, “the wind having shifted to the S.W., another extensive chain appeared: as we approached them, the breeze died away, and the ships’ heads were kept to the northward, only by the steerage way given to them by a heavy southerly swell, which, dashing the loose ice with tremendous force against the bergs, sometimes raised a white spray over the latter to the height of more than 100 feet, and being accompanied with a loud noise, exactly resembling the roar of distant thunder, presented a scene at once sublime and terrific. We could find no bottom near these ice-bergs with 110 fathoms of line. At 4 a.m. on the 4th, we came to a quantity of loose ice, which lay straggling among the bergs; and as there was a light breeze from the southward, and I was anxious to avoid, if possible, the necessity of going to the eastward, I pushed the Hecla into the ice, in the hope of being able to make our way through it. We had scarcely done so, however, before it fell calm, when the ship became perfectly unmanageable, and was for some time at the mercy of the swell, which drifted us fast towards the bergs. All the boats were immediately sent a-head to tow; and the Griper’s signal was made not to enter the ice. After two hours’ hard pulling, we succeeded in getting the Hecla back again into clear water, and to a sufficient distance from the ice-bergs, which it is very dangerous to approach when there is a swell. At noon we were in lat. 66" 50' 47", long. 57° 7' 56", being near the middle of the narrowest part of Davis’s Strait, which is here not more than fifty leagues across." Of the situation of the Hecla and her consort, on this day, there is an awfully grand view (in the quarto edition of “Parry’s First Voyage”), from a sketch by Lieutenant Beechey. On the 28th July, they had passed every impediment which obstructed their passage into Lancaster’s Sound, reaching the entrance of it just one month earlier than the Alexander and her consort had done in the preceding year, although those vessels sailed above a fortnight sooner, with the same general object in view. The following extracts of Lieutenant Parry’s published narrative contain a summary of his subsequent proceedings and discoveries:
“We were now about to enter and to explore that great sound or inlet which has obtained a degree of celebrity beyond what it might otherwise have been considered to possess, from the very opposite opinions which have been held with regard to it. To us it was peculiarly interesting, as being the point to which our instructions more particularly directed our attention; and, I may add, what I believe we all felt, it was that point of the voyage which was to determine the success or failure of the expedition, according as one or other of the opposite opinions alluded to should be corroborated. It will readily be conceived, then, how great our anxiety was for a change of the westerly wind and swell, which, on the 1st August, set down Sir James Lancaster’s Sound, and prevented our making much progress. We experienced also another source of anxiety. The relative sailing qualities of the two ships were found to have altered so much, that we were obliged to keep the Hecla under easy sail the whole day, to allow the Griper to keep up with us, although the latter had hitherto kept way with her consort, when sailing by the wind. We stretched to the northward across the entrance of the sound, meeting occasionally with some loose and heavy ‘streams’ of ice, and were at noon in latitude, by observation, 73° 56' 18", and longitude, by the chronometers, 77° 40'. * * * * * *
“The weather being clear in the evening of the 2nd, we had the first distinct view of both sides of the sound, and the difference in the character of the two shores was very apparent, that on the south consisting of high and peaked mountains, completely snow-clad, except on the lower parts, while the northern coast has generally a smoother outline, and had, comparatively with the other, little snow upon it; the difference in this last respect appearing to depend principally on the difference In their absolute height. The sea was open before us, free from ice or land; and the Hecla pitched so much from the westerly swell in the course of the day, as to throw the water once or twice into the stern windows, a circumstance which, together with other appearances, we were willing to attribute to an open sea in the desired direction. More than forty black whales were teen during; the day.
“We made little progress on the 3rd; but being favored at length by the easterly breeze which was bringing up the Griper, a crowd of sail was set to carry us with all rapidity to the westward. It is more easy to imagine than to describe the almost breathless anxiety which was now visible in every countenance, while, as the wind increased to a fresh gale, we ran quickly up the Sound. The mast-heads were crowded by the officers and men during the whole afternoon; and an unconcerned observer, if any could have been unconcerned on such an occasion, would have been amused by the eagerness with which the various reports were received, all, however, hitherto favorable to our most sanguine hopes.
“Between 4 and 6 p.m., we passed several ripplings on the water, as if occasioned by a weather-tide, but no bottom could be found with the hand-leads. Being now abreast of Cape Castlereagh, more distant land was seen to open out to the westward of it, and between the cape and this land was perceived an inlet, to which I have given the name of the Navy Board’s Inlet. We saw points of land apparently all round this inlet, but being at a very great distance from it, we were unable to determine whether it was continuous or not. As our business lay to the westward, and not to the south, the whole of this extensive inlet was in a few hours lost in distance.
“In the mean time the land had opened out, on the opposite shore, to the northward and westward of Cape Warrender, consisting of high mountains; and, in some parts, of table-land. Several head-lands were were distinctly made out, of which the northernmost and most conspicuous was named after Captain Nicholas Lechmere Pateshall, R.N. The bay into which it extends, and which, at the distance we passed it, appeared to be broken or detached in many parts, was named Crokers-bay, in honor of the secretary of the admiralty; I have called this large opening a bay, though the quickness with which we sailed past it did not allow us to determine the absolute continuity of land round the bottom of it; it is, therefore, by no means improbable, that a passage may here be one day found from Sir James Lancaster’s Sound into the northern sea. The cape on the western side of Croker’s bay was named after Sir Everard Home.
“Our course was nearly due west, and the wind still continuing to freshen, took us in a few hours nearly out of sight of the Griper. The only ice we met with consisted of a few large bergs very much washed by the sea; and the weather being remarkably clear, so as to enable us to run with perfect safety, we were, by midnight, in a great measure relieved from our anxiety respecting the supposed continuity of land at the bottom of this magnificent inlet, having reached the longitude of 83° 12', where the two shores are still above thirteen leagues apart, without the slightest appearance of any land to the westward of us for four or five points of the compass. A great number of whales were seen in the course of this day’s run.”
August 4th. “At noon, being in lat. 74° 15' 53" N , long., by chronometers, 86° 30' 30", we were near two openings, of which the easternmost was named Burnet Inlet, and the other Stratton Inlet. The land between them had very much the appearance of an island. Sounded, and found no bottom with 170 fathoms of line; the water of a dirty light green colour. We soon after discovered a cape (Fellfoot), which appeared to form the termination of this coast; and as the haze which prevailed to the southward prevented our seeing any land in that quarter, and the sea was literally as free from ice as any part of the Atlantic, we began to flatter ourselves that we had fairly entered the Polar Sea, and some of the most sanguine among us had even calculated the bearing and distance of Icy Cape, as a matter of no very difficult or improbable accomplishment. This pleasing prospect was rendered the more flattering by the sea having, as we thought, regained the usual oceanic colour, and by a long swell which was rolling in from the southward and eastward. At 6 p.m., however, land was reported to be seen a-head. The vexation and anxiety produced on every countenance was but too visible, until, on a nearer approach, it was found to be only an island, of no very great extent, and that, on each side of it, the horizon still appeared clear for several points of the compass. More land was also discovered beyond Cape Fellfoot, immediately to the westward of which lies a deep and broad bay, which I named after my friend, Mr. Maxwell. At 8 p.m. we came to some ice of no great breadth or thickness, extending several miles in a direction nearly parallel to our course; and as we could see clear water over it to the southward, I was for some time in the hope, that it would prove a detached ‘stream,’ from which no obstruction to our progress westerly was to be apprehended. At twenty minutes past 10, however, we perceived that the ice, along which we had been sailing for the last two hours, was joined, at the distance of half a mile to the westward of us, to a compact and impenetrable body of ‘floes’ which lay across the whole breadth of the strait, formed by the island, and the western point of Maxwell Bay. We hauled our wind to the northward, just in time to avoid being embayed in the ice, on the outer edge of which a considerable surf, the effect of a late gale, was then rolling. A second island was discovered to the southward of the former, to both of which I gave the name of Prince Leopold’s Isles. Immediately to the eastward of them, there was a strong ‘water-sky,’ indicating a considerable extent of open sea; but an ‘ice-blink’ to the westward afforded little hope, for the present, of finding a passage in the desired direction.”
August 5th. “A steady breeze springing up from the W.N.W. in the afternoon, the ships stood to the northward, till we had distinctly made out that no passage to the westward could at present be found between the ice and the land. About this time we perceived that there was a large open space to the southward, where no land was visible; and for this opening, over which there was a water-sky, our course was now directed. It fell calm again, however, in a few hours, so that at noon, on the 6th, we were still abreast of Prince Leopold’s Isles, which were so surrounded by ice, that we could not approach them nearer than four or five miles.”
Aug. 6th. – “A breeze sprung up from the N.N.W. in the evening, and we stood to the southward. The land, which now became visible to the south-east, discovered to us that we were entering a large inlet, not less than ten leagues wide at its mouth, and in the centre of which no land could be distinguished. The western shore, which extended as far as we could see to the S.S.W., was so encumbered with ice, that there was no possibility of sailing near it. I, therefore, ran along the edge of the ice, between which and the eastern shore there was a broad and open channel, with the intention of seeking, in a lower latitude, a clearer passage to the westward than that which we had just been obliged to abandon, lying between Prince Leopold’s Isles and Maxwell’s Bay. The headland which forms the western point of the entrance into this inlet was honored by the name of Cape Clarence; and another, to the south-eastward of this, was named after Sir Robert Seppings.
“Since the time we first entered Sir James Lancaster’s Sound, the sluggishness of the compasses, as well as the amount of their irregularity, produced by the attraction of the ship’s iron, had been found very rapidly, though uniformly, to increase, as we proceeded to the westward ; so much, indeed, that, for the last two days, we had been under the necessity of giving up altogether the usual observations for determining the variation of the needle on board the ships. This irregularity became more and more obvious as we now advanced to the southward, which rendered it not improbable that we were making a very near approach to the magnetic pole. For the purposes of navigation, therefore, the compasses were from this time no longer consulted; and in a few days afterwards, the binnacles were removed, as useless lumber, from the deck to the carpenter’s store-room, where they remained during the rest of the season.”
Aug. 7th. – “Running close along the edge of the ice, which led us nearer and nearer to the eastern shore, so that, by midnight, the channel was narrowed to about five miles. The colour of the water had changed to a very light green at that distance from the shore, but we could find no bottom with 50 fathoms of line, and had 35 fathoms while rounding a point of ice at three miles’ distance from the beach. The weather was beautifully serene and clear, and the sun, for the second time to us this season, just dipped below the horizon, and then rc-appeared in a few minutes.
“A dark sky to the S.W. had given us hopes of finding a westerly passage to the south of the ice along which we were now sailing; more especially as the inlet began to widen considerably as we advanced in that direction: but at three a.m., on the 8th August, we perceived that the ice ran close in with a point of land bearing S.b.E. from us, and which appeared to form the southern extremity of the eastern shore. To this extreme point I gave the name of Cape Kater, in compliment to one of the Commissioners of the Board of Longitude, to whom science is greatly indebted for his improvements of the pendulum, and the mariner’s compass.
“With the increasing width of the inlet, we bad flattered ourselves with increasing hopes; but we soon experienced the mortification of disappointment. The prospect from the crow’s nest began to assume a very unpromising appearance, the whole of the western horizon, from north round to S.b.E., being completely covered with ice, consisting of heavy and extensive does, beyond which no indication of water was visible. The western coast of the inlet, however, trended much more to the westward than before, and no land was visible to the S.W., though the horizon was so clear in that quarter, that, if any had existed of moderate height, it might have been easily seen at this time, at the distance of 40 or 12 leagues. From these circumstances, the impression received at the time was, that the land, both on the eastern and western side of this inlet, would be one day found to consist of islands. As a fresh northerly breeze was drifting the ice rapidly towards Cape Kater, and there appeared to be no passage open between it and that point, I did not consider it prudent, tinder present circumstances, to run the ships down to the cape, or to attempt to force a passage through the ice, and therefore hauled to the wind, with the intention of examining a bay which was abreast of us, and to which I gave the name of Fitzgerald Bay.
“A boat from each ship was prepared to conduct this examination; but we found, on approaching the shore, that the bay was so filled with ice, as to render it impracticable to land. I therefore determined, as the season was fast advancing to a close, to lose no time in returning to the north-ward, in the hope of finding the channel between Prince Leopold’s Isles and Maxwell Bay more clear of ice than when we left it, in which case there could be little doubt of our effecting a passage to the westward. The distance which we sailed to the southward in this inlet was about 120 miles. Cape Kater being, by our observations, in lat. 71° 53' 30", long. 90° 03' 45". As we returned to the northward, we found that the ice had approached the eastern shore, leaving a much narrower channel than that by which we had entered; and in some places it stretched completely across to the land on this side, while the opposite coast was still as inaccessible as before.
“On the 10th, the weather was very thick, with snow; which was succeeded by fog and rain. The sun being obscured, we had no means of knowing the direction in which we were going, except that we knew the wind had been to the southward before the fog came on, and had found by experience that it always blew directly up or down the inlet, which enabled us to form a tolerably correct judgment of our course.”
Aug. 12th. – This being the anniversary of the birth-day of H.R.H. the Prince Regent, it naturally suggested to Captain Parry the propriety of honoring the large inlet, which he had been exploring, and in which he still was sailing, with the name of Prince Regent’s Inlet; and, speculating on its extent, he then thought it probable that a communication would one day be found between it and Hudson’s Bay, either through Sir Thomas Rowe’s Welcome, or perhaps through Repulse Bay, neither of which had yet been satisfactorily examined. He thus continues:
“The weather was beautifully calm and clear on the 13th, when, being near an opening in the eastern shore, I took the opportunity of examining it in a boat. It proved to be a bay, a mile wide at its entrance, and three miles deep in an E.b.S. direction, having a small but snug cove on the north side, formed by an island, between which and the main land is a bar of rocks, which completely shelters the cove from sea or drift ice. We found the water so deep, that in rowing close along the shore we could seldom get bottom with seven fathoms of line. The cliffs on the south side of this bay, to which I gave the name of Port Bowen, resemble, in many places, ruined towers and battlements; and fragments of the rocks were constantly falling from above. At the head of the bay is an extensive piece of low flat ground, intersected by numerous rivulets, which, uniting at a short distance from the beach, formed a deep and rapid stream, near the mouth of which we landed.” The latitude observed here was 73° 12' 11", and the longitude, by chronometers, 89° 02' 08".
“Soon after I returned on board, a light breeze from the southward enabled us to steer towards Prince Leopold’s Isles, which we found to be more encumbered with ice than before. Three or four miles to the northward of Port Bowen we discovered another opening, having every appearance of a harbour, with an island near the entrance; I named it after Captain Samuel Jackson, R.N.”
Aug. 17th. – “We had a fresh breeze from the S.S.W., with so thick a fog, that in spite of the most unremitting attention to the sails and the steerage, the ships were constantly receiving heavy shocks from the loose masses of ice with which the sea was covered, and which, in the present state of the weather, could not be distinguished at a sufficient distance to avoid them. On the weather clearing up in the afternoon, we saw, for the first time, a remarkable bluff headland, which forms the north-eastern point of the entrance into Prince Regent’s Inlet, and to which I gave the name of Cape York.
“On the 18th, there being still no prospect of getting a single mile to the westward, in the neighbourhood of Prince Leopold’s Isles, and a breeze having freshened up from the eastward in the afternoon, I determined to stand over once more towards the northern shore, in order to try what could there be done towards effecting our passage. At 9 p.m., after beating for several hours among ‘floes’ and ‘streams’ of ice, we got into clear water near that coast, where we found some swell from the eastward. There was just light enough at midnight to enable us to read and write in the cabin.
“The wind and sea increased on the 19th, with a heavy fall of snow, which, together with the uselessness of the compasses, and the narrow space in which we were working between the ice and the land, combined to make our situation for several hours a very unpleasant one. At 2 p.m., the weather being still so thick, that we could at times scarcely see the ship’s length a-head, we suddenly found ourselves close under the land, and had not much room to spare in wearing round. We stood off and on during the rest of the day, measuring our distance by Massey’s patent log, an invaluable machine on this and many other occasions; and in the course of the afternoon, found ourselves opposite to an inlet, which I named after my relation, Sir Benjamin Hobhouse. The snow was succeeded by rain at night; after which the wind fell, and the weather became clear, so that, on the morning of the 20th, we were enabled to bear up along shore to the westward. The points of ice led us occasionally within two miles of the land, which allowed us to look into several small bays or inlets, with which this coast appears indented, but which it would require more time than we could afford, thoroughly to survey or examine. Maxwell Bay is a very noble one, having several islands in it, and a number of openings on its northern shore. A remarkable headland, on the western side, I named after Sir William Herschel.
“On the 21st, we had nothing to impede our progress but the want of wind, the great opening, through which we had hitherto proceeded from Baffin’s Bay, being no.y so perfectly clear of ice, that it was impossible to believe it to be the same part of the sea, which, but a day or two before, had been completely covered with ‘floes’ to the utmost extent of our view. In the forenoon, being off a headland, which was named after Captain Thomas Hurd, hydrographer to the admiralty, we picked up a small piece of wood, which appeared to have been the end of a boat’s yard, and which caused sundry amusing speculations among our gentlemen, some of whom had just come to the very natural conclusion, that a ship had been here before us, and that, therefore, we were not entitled to the honor of the first discovery of that part of the sea on which we were now sailing; when a stop was suddenly put to this and other ingenious inductions, by the information of one of the seamen, that he had dropped it out of his boat a fortnight before. I could not get him to recollect exactly the day on which it had been so dropped, but what he stated was sufficient to convince me, that we were not at that time more than ten or twelve leagues from our present situation, perhaps not half so much; and that, therefore; here was no current setting constantly in any one direction. A bay to the northward and westward of Cape Hurd was called Rigby Bay.
“On the following day, we found ourselves abreast another, to which the name of Radstock Bay was given, by Lieutenant Liddon’s desire. It is formed by a point of land, on the eastern side, which I named Cape Eardley Wilmot; and on the western, by a bluff headland, which was called after Captain Tristram Robert Ricketts, R.N. As we advanced slowly to the westward, the land on which Cape Ricketts stands appeared to be nearly insular; and, immediately to the westward of it, we discovered a considerable opening, which we called Gascoyne’s Inlet. In the afternoon, the weather became very clear and fine, the wind light from the westward. As this latter circumstance rendered our progress very slow, the opportunity was taken to send boats on shore, for the purpose of making observations; and at the same time, a boat from each ship, under Lieutenants Beechey and Hoppner, was sent to examine a bay, at no great distance to the northward and westward of us. The first party landed at the foot of a bluff headland, which forms the eastern point of this bay, and which I named after my friend Mr. Richard Riley, of the Admiralty. They had scarcely landed ten minutes, when a fresh breeze sprung up from the eastward, and their signal of recall was immediately made. Lieutenant Beechey found that the land, which at this time formed the western extreme, and which lies on the side of the buy, opposite to Cape Riley, was insular; to which I, therefore^ gave the name of Beechey Island.
“As soon as the boats returned, all sail was made to the westward, where the prospect began to wear a more and more interesting appearance. We soon perceived, as we proceeded, that the land along which we were sailing, and which, with the exception of some small inlets, had appeared to be hitherto continuous from Baffin’s Bay, began now to trend much to the northward, beyond Beechey Island, leaving a large open space between that coast and the distant land to the westward, which now appeared like an island, of which the extremes to the north and south were distinctly visible. The latter was a remarkable headland, having at its extremity two small table hills, somewhat resembling boats turned bottom upwards, and was named Cape Hotham. At sunset, we had a clear and extensive view to the northward, between Cape Hotham and the eastern land. On the latter several headlands were discovered and named; between the northernmost of these, called Cape Bowden, and the island to the westward, there was a channel of more than eight leagues in width, in which neither land nor ice could be seen from the mast-head. To this noble channel I gave the name of Wellington. The arrival off it was an event for which we had long been looking with much anxiety and impatience; for, the continuity of land to the northward had always been a source of uneasiness to us, principally from the possibility that it might take a turn to the southward and unite with the coast of America. The appearance of this broad opening, free from ice, and of the land on each side of it, more especially that on the west, leaving scarcely a doubt on our minds of the latter being an island, relieved us from all anxiety on that score; and every one felt that we were now finally disentangled from the land which forms the western side of Baffin’s Bay; and that, in fact, we had actually entered the Polar Sea. Fully impressed with this idea, I ventured to distinguish the magnificent opening through which our passage had been effected from Baffin’s Bay to Wellington Channel, by the name of Barrow’s Strait, after my friend Mr. Barrow, secretary of the admiralty; both as a private testimony of my esteem for that gentleman, and as a public acknowledgment due to him for his zeal and exertions in the promotion of northern discovery. To the land on which Cape Hotham is situated, and which is the easternmost of the group of islands (as we found them to be by subsequent discovery) in the Polar Sea, I gave the name of Cornwallis Island; and an opening, seven miles to the northward of Cape Hotham, was called Barlow Inlet.
“A calm, which prevailed during the night, kept us nearly stationary off Beechey Island till three a.m. on the 23d, when a fresh breeze sprung up from the northward, and all sail was made for Cape Hotham, to the southward of which it was now my intention to seek a direct passage towards Behring’s Strait. Wellington Channel was as open and navigable to the utmost extent of our view as any part of the Atlantic; but as it lay at right angles to our course, and there was still an opening at least ten leagues wide to the southward of Cornwallis Island, I could fortunately have no hesitation in deciding which of the two it was our business to pursue. If, however, the sea to the westward, which was our direct course, had been obstructed by ice, and the wind had been favourable, such was the tempting appearance of Wellington Channel, that I should probably have been induced to run through it, as a degree more or less to the northward made little or no difference in the distance we had to run by Icy Cape. It is impossible to conceive any thing more animating than the quick and unobstructed run with which we were favoured, from Beechey Island across to Cape Hotham. Most men have, probably, at one time or other, experienced that elevation of spirits which is usually produced by rapid motion of any kind; and it will readily be conceived how much this feeling was heightened in us, in the few instances in which it occurred, by the slow and tedious manner in which the greater part of our navigation had been performed in these seas. Our disappointment may therefore be imagined, when, in the midst of these favourable appearances, and of the hope with which they had induced us to flatter ourselves, it was suddenly reported from the crow’s-nest, that a body of ice lay directly across the passage between Cornwallis Island and the land to the southward. As we approached this obstruction, which commenced about Cape Hotham, we found that there was, for the present, no opening in it through which a passage could be attempted. After lying-to for an hour, however, Lieutenant Beechey discovered from aloft, that one narrow neck appeared to consist of loose pieces detached from the main ‘floes’ which composed the barrier, and that, beyond this, there was a considerable extent of open water. The Hecla was immediately pushed into this part of the ice, and after a quarter of an hour’s ‘boring,’ during which the breeze had, as usual, nearly deserted us, succeeded in forcing her way through the neck. The Griper followed in the opening which the Hecla had made, and we continued our course to the westward, having once more a navigable sea before us. An opening was seen in the southern land, which I distinguished by the name of Cunningham Inlet. A bluff and remarkable cape, which forms the eastern point of it, obtained the name of Cape Gifford. To the eastward thereof, a thick haze covered the horizon, and it prevented us seeing more land in that direction; so that its continuity from hence to Cape Clarence still remained undetermined, while, to the westward, it seemed to be terminated rather abruptly by a headland, which I distinguished by the name of Cape Bunny.
“At noon, we had reached the longitude of 94° 43' 15", the latitude, by observation, being 74° 20' 52", when we found, that the land which then formed the western extreme on this side was a second island, which I named after Rear-Admiral Edward Griffith.
“At 2 p.m., having reached the longitude of 95° 07', we came to some heavy and extensive ‘floes,’ which obliged us to tack, there being no passage between them. We beat to the northward during the whole of the afternoon, with a fresh breeze, in the hope of finding a narrow channel under the lee of Griffith Island. In this expectation, however, we were disappointed, for at 8 p.m. we were near enough to perceive, not only that the ice was quite close to the shore, but that it appeared not to have been detached from it at all during this season. We therefore bore up, and ran again to the south- ward, where the sea by this time had become rather more clear along the lee margin of a large ‘field’ of ice, extending far to the westward. The ice in this neighbourhood was covered with innumerable hummocks, and the ‘floes’ were from seven to ten feet in thickness.
“It may here be remarked, as a fact not altogether unworthy of notice, that, from the time of our entering Sir James Lancaster’s Sound, till we l»ad passed the meridian of 92°, near which the northern shore of Barrow’s Strait ceases to be continuous, the wind had invariably blown in a direction nearly due east or due west, being that of the shores of the strait. “When, therefore, we experienced to-day, for the first time, a fresh breeze blowing steadily from the northward, or directly off the land, we were willing, though, perhaps, without much reason, to construe this circumstance into an additional indication of the shores near which we were now sailing being altogether composed of islands, down the channels between which the wind blew, and that no obstruction from continued land was any longer to be apprehended.
“After various unsuccessful attempts to get through the ice which now lay in our way, we were at length so fortunate as to accomplish this object by ‘boring’ through several heavy ‘streams’, which occasioned the ships to receive several severe shocks: and, at half an hour before midnight, we were enabled to pursue our course to the westward,” the messes of ice being so much separated as to allow the ships to sail among them.
August 2th. – “At 7 a.m., we saw land to the northward of us, at the distance of nine or ten miles, which subsequently proved to be an island, and was named after Viscount Lowther.” Some high and bold land to the southward, terminated to the eastward by a bluff headland, was named after Mr. Walker of the Hydrographical Office. “We here obtained soundings in 63 fathoms.
“It now became evident that all the land around us consisted of islands, and the comparative shoalness of the water made great caution necessary in proceeding, surrounded as we were by both land and ice in almost every direction.” Two of these islands were named after Sir Humphrey Davy and Earl Bathurst.
August 25th. – “It was encouraging to find, while advancing to the westward as fast as an unfavorable wind would permit, that, although the sea beyond us was for the most part covered with a compact body of ice, yet that a channel of sufficient breadth was still left open for us between it and the shore, under the lee of Bathurst Island. The westernmost land now in sight was a cape, which I named after Sir George Cockburn. The water became very light coloured, as we stood in towards this part of the coast, and we tacked in 26 fathoms, at six or seven miles’ distance from it.”
August 26th. – “While beating round Cape Cockburn, we observed that the land to the westward of it swept into a large bay which I named after Sir Graham Moore. The weather was at this time remarkably serene and clear. We saw a line of ice to the southward of us, lying in a direction nearly east and west, and some more land appeared to the westward; yet the space of open water was still broad, and the prospect from the masthead flattering. About 7 p.m., we were sufficiently near to the western land, to ascertain that it was part of another island, which I named after Sir Thomas Byam Martin; and by 8 o’clock we perceived that the body of ice to the southward, along which we had been sailing, took a turn to the north, and stretched quite in to the shore, near a low point, off which a great quantity of heavy ice was aground. At 10, finding that there was at present no passage to the westward, we hauled off to the S.E., in the hope of meeting with some opening in the ice to the southward, by which we might get round in the desired direction. We were encouraged in this hope by a dark ‘water-sky’, but after running along the ice till half-past eleven, without success we again bore up to return towards the island. As we approached the ____ point of it, to which I gave the name of Cape Gillman, we found the ice in the same position as before; and I therefore hauled to the north-east, with the intention of attempting a passage round the north side of the island. In standing towards Cape Gillman, our soundings gradually decreased from 80 to 23 fathoms, the latter depth occurring at the distance of two to four miles from the shore.”
August 28th. – “At 10 a.m., the wind being very light from the S.S.E., I despatched Captain Sabine and Mr. Ross, accompanied by Messrs. Edwards and Fisher, to the eastern point of the island, which we were about to round, in order to make the necessary observations, and to examine the natural productions of the shore. Our latitude at noon was 75° 3' 12", longitude 103° 44' 37", and the depth of water 40 fathoms. The gentlemen reported, on their return, that they had landed on a sandy beach, and found the island more productive, and altogether more interesting, than any other part of the shores of the polar regions which we had yet visited. The remains of Esquimaux habitations were found in four different places. The latitude of the place of observation was 75° 9' 23", and the longitude, by chronometers, 103° 44' 37". The dip of the magnetic needle was 88° 25' 58", and the variation was now found to have changed from 128° 58' W., in the longitude of 91° 48', where our last observations on shore had been made, to 165° 50' 9" E., at our present station; so that we had, in sailing over the space included between those two meridians, crossed immediately to the northward of the magnetic pole, and had undoubtedly passed over one of those spots upon the globe, where the needle would have been found to vary 180°, or in other words, where its north pole would have pointed due south.
“The wind now became very light from the eastward, and the weather was 80 foggy that nothing; could be done during the night but to stand off. and-on, by the soundings, between the ice and the land; as we had no other means of knowing the direction in which we were sailing, than by the decrease in the depth of water on one tack, and by making the ice on the other. The fog froze hard upon the rigging, which always makes the working of the ship a very laborious task, the size of the running ropes being sometimes thus increased to three times the proper diameter. About 4 a.m. on the 29th, the fog partially cleared away for a little while, when we observed that the ice was more open off Cape Gillman, than when we had before attempted to pass in that direction. At 5 o’clock, therefore, wc made sail for the point, with a light easterly breeze; but at 7, when we had proceeded only two or three miles, the fog came on again as thick as before: fortunately, however, we had been enabled to take notice of several pieces of ice, by steering for each of which in succession we came to the edge of a ‘floe,’ along which our course was to be pursued to the westward. As long as we had this guidance, wc advanced with great confidence; but as soon as we came to the end of the ‘floe,’ which then turned off to the southward, the circumstances under which we were sailing were, perhaps, such as have never occurred since the early days of navigation. To the northward was the land; the ice, as we supposed, to the southward; the compasses useless; and the sun completely obscured by a fog, so thick that the Griper could only now and then be seen at a cable’s length astern. We had, literally, no mode of regulating our course but by once more trusting to the steadiness of the wind; and it was not a little amusing, as well as novel, to see the quarter-master conning the ship by looking at the dog-vane.
“On the 31st, we occasionally caught a glimpse of the land through the heavy fog-banks, with which the horizon was covered, which was sufficient to give us an idea of the true direction in which we ought to steer. Soon after noon, we were once more enveloped in a fog, which, however, was not 80 thick as to prevent our having recourse to a new expedient for steering the ships. Before the fog re-commenced, and while we were sailing on the course which by the bearings of the land we knew to he the right one, the Griper was exactly astern of the Hecla, at the distance of about a quarter of a mile. The weather being fortunately not so thick as to prevent our still seeing her at that distance, the quarter-master was directed to stand aft, near the taffrail, and to keep her constantly astern of us, by which means we contrived to steer a tolerable straight course to the westward. The Griper, on the other hand, naturally kept the Hecla right a-head; and thus, however ridiculous it may appear, it is, nevertheless, true, that we steered one ship entirely by the other for a distance of ten miles out of sixteen and a half, which we sailed between one and eleven p.m.”
Sept. 1. – “At half-past 8 a.m., the fog having suddenly cleared up, we found ourselves within four or five miles of a low point of land which was named after Mr. Griffiths, and which, being at the distance of six or seven leagues from Byam Martin Island, we considered to he part of another of the same group. At one a.m. on the 2nd, a star was seen, being the first that had been visible to us for more than two months. As we were making no way to the westward, I directed two boats to he prepared by each ship, for the purpose of making observations on shore, as well as to endeavour to kill deer; and at one p.m. I left the Hecla, accompanied by a large party of officers and men. We landed on a very flat sandy beach, which did not allow the boats to come nearer than their own length. The latitude of the place of observation here, which was within 100 yards of the beach, was 74° 58’, the longitude, by chronometers, 107° 3’ 31", and the variation of the magnetic needle 151° 30' 3" easterly. We returned on board at half-past 8, and found that Lieutenant Beechey had, in the mean time, taken a number of useful soundings, and made other hydrographical remarks for carrying on the survey of the coast.”
On the 4th Sept., at 9-15 p.m. Lieutenant Parry had the satisfaction of crossing the meridian of 110° west from Greenwich, in the latitude of 74° 44' 20"; by which the expedition under his orders became entitled to the sum of Five Thousand Pounds, being the reward offered by Government, with the sanction of Parliament, to such of his Majesty’s subjects as might succeed in penetrating thus far to the westward within the Arctic Circle. The Western extreme of the land seen that day was named after Samuel Hearne, the well-known American traveller; and a bight of considerable extent, to the north-eastward of it, was afterwards called the Bay of the Hecla and Griper. The names of Ross and Palmer had been previously given to two points of land; those of Skene, Beverley, and Bridport, to three inlets; and that of Dealy to a low sandy island near the entrance of the latter opening.
“We continued our course toward Cape Hearne till midnight, when the weather being too dark to run any longer with safety, the ships were hove to. One black whale was seen in the course of this day’s navigation, off Bridport Inlet.
“At a quarter before 3 a.m., on the 5th, we tacked, and stood to the westward, with the hope of getting past Cape Hearne, the wind being moderate from the northward, and weather thick with snow; shortly after we shoaled the water quickly from 25 to 13, and then to 9 fathoms. Tacked in the latter depth, believing that we were approaching a shoal. We afterwards found, that we had at this time been actually within 300 or 400 yards of Cape Hearne, which is so surrounded by heavy ice at a sufficient distance from the shore, that it would perhaps be difficult to run a ship aground upon it. The error into which we were here led, as to our distance from the beach, arose from the extreme difficulty of distinguishing, even in broad day-light, between the ice and the land, when the latter is low and shelving, and completely covered with snow; by the uniform whiteness of which, they are so completely blended, as to deceive the best eye.
“Having stood again to the westward, to take a nearer view of the ice, we perceived that it lay quite close in with Cape Hearne, notwithstanding the northerly wind which, for the last 36 hours, had been blowing from the shore, and which had drifted the ice some distance to the southward, in every part of the coast along which wc had lately been sailing. This circumstance struck us very forcibly at the time, as an extraordinary one; and it was a general remark among us, that the ice must either be aground in shoal-water, or that it butted against something to the southward, which prevented its moving in that direction. Appearances being thus discouraging, nothing remained to be done but to stand off-and-on near the point, and carefully to watch for any opening that might occur.
“The wind increasing to a fresh gale from the northward in the afternoon, and the ice still continuing to oppose an impenetrable barrier to our further progress, I determined to beat up to the northern shore of the bay, and, if a tolerable roadsted could be found, to drop our anchors till some change should take place. This was accordingly done at 3 p.m., in seven fathoms’ water, the bottom being excellent holding ground, composed of mud and sand, from which the lead could with difficulty be extricated. When we veered to half a cable, we had ten fathoms’ water under the stern. I had great reason to be satisfied with our having anchored, as the wind shortly after blew a hard gale from the northward. The island, on which our boats now landed for the second time, and which is much the largest of the group we had lately discovered, I honored with the name of Melville Island, after the First Lord of the Admiralty.
“The Bay of the Hecla and Griper was the first spot where we had dropped anchor since leaving the coast of Norfolk; a circumstance rendered the more striking to us at the moment, as it appeared to mark, in a very decided manner, the completion of one stage of our voyage. The ensigns and pendants were hoisted as soon as we had anchored, and it created in us no ordinary feelings of pleasure to see the British flag waving, for the first time, in these regions, which had hitherto been considered beyond the limits of the habitable part of the world.”
On the following day, a small harbour was discovered, and named after Mr. Fife, the Greenland master of the Griper, At 6 p.m., the expedition succeeded in rounding Cape Hearne, at the distance of a mile and a quarter; and Lieutenant Parry was beginning once more to indulge in flattering hopes, when he perceived, from the crow’s nest, a compact body of ice, extending completely in to the shore near the western extreme, which was called Cape Providence, from the circumstance of Mr. Fife and two men, who had lost their way while on a shooting excursion, having returned on board in safety, after an absence of ninety-one hours. In less than two hours after their return, the wind increased to a hard gale, and the thermometer had fallen to 15°; “making altogether so inclement a night, that it would have been impossible for them, in their already debilitated state, to have survived.” One of these men, when asked what they had lived upon, dryly replied. “Lived upon – the Duke of Wellington never lived so well. We had grouse for breakfast, grouse for dinner, and grouse for supper, to be sure!” On the 14th Sept., at 3 a.m., the thermometer fell to 9°; “and from this time,” says Lieutenant Parry, “the commencement of winter may fairly be dated.” On the following day we were abreast of Cape Providence, and observed another headland, more high and bold in its appearance, which was called Cape Hay.
“We remarked now, for the first, time, that a strong current was setting to the westward, directly against a fresh gale from that quarter, and this observation we had frequent opportunities of repeating, immediately after the springing up of a breeze, in the Polar seas. But on the 20th, the advanced period of the season, the unpromising appearance of the ice to the westward, and the risk to the ships with which the navigation had been attended for some days past, naturally led me to the conclusion that, under these circumstances, the time had arrived, when it became absolutely necessary to look out for winter-quarters * * * *. The opinions of the officers entirely concurring with my own,’ as to the propriety of immediately resorting to this measure, I determined, whenever the sea and the weather would allow, to run back to the Bay of the Hecla and Griper, in which neighbourhood alone we had any reason to believe that a suitable harbour might be found.”
On the 22nd, at 8 p.m., the Hecla brought up a little to the eastward of her former anchorage; but the Griper, having dropped several miles astern in the course of the day, was obliged to be secured to the grounded ice off Cape Hearne, to prevent her being frozen up at a greater distance from the land. Next day Lieutenant Parry examined Fife’s harbour, and proceeded from thence to another, a short distance to the westward, which he selected for his winter-quarters, determining to cut a canal through the ice, in order to get the ships into a secure situation. By half-past 8 a.m. on the 24th, both of them were anchored in the proper position for commencing, this laborious task, the performance of which he thus describes.
“As soon as our people had breakfasted, I proceeded, with a small party of men, to sound, and to mark with boarding-pikes upon the ice, the most direct channel we could find to the anchorage; having Left directions for every other officer and man in both ships to be employed in cutting the canal. This operation was performed by first marking out two parallel lines, distant from each other a little more than the breadth of the larger ship. Along each of these lines a cut was then made with an ice-saw, and others again at right angles to them, at intervals of from 10 to 20 feet apart; thus dividing the ice into a number of rectangular pieces, which it was necessary to subdivide diagonally, in order to give room for their being floated out of the canal. To facilitate the latter part of the process, the seamen, who are always fond of doing things in their own way, took advantage of a fresh northerly breeze, by setting, some boats’ sails upon the pieces of ice, a contrivance which saved some time and labour. This part of the operation, however, was by far the most troublesome, principally on account of the quantity of young ice which formed in the canal, and especially about the entrance, where, before sun-set, it had become so thick that a passage could no longer be found for the detached pieces without considerable trouble in breaking it. At half-past 7 p.m. we weighed our anchors, and began to warp up the canal, but the northerly wind blew so fresh, and the people were so much fatigued, having been almost constantly at work for nineteen hours, that it was midnight before we reached the termination of our first day’s labour.
“All hands were again set to work on the morning of the 25th, when it was proposed to sink the pieces of ice, as they were cut, under the floe, instead of floating them out, the latter mode having now become impracticable on account of the lower part of the canal, through which the ships had passed, being hard frozen during the night. To effect this, it was necessary for a certain number of men to stand upon one end of the piece which it was intended to sink, while others, hauling at the same time upon ropes attached to the opposite end, dragged the block under that part of the floe on which they stood. The officers of both ships took the lead in this employ, several of them standing up to their knees in water frequently during the day, with the thermometer generally at 12°, and never higher than 16°. At six p.m., we began to move the ships. The Griper was made fast astern of the Hecla, and their crews being divided on each bank of the canal, with ropes from the Hecla’s gangways, soon drew them along to the end of our second day’s work.
Sunday the 26th. – “I should, on every account, have been glad to have made a day of rest to the officers and men; but the rapidity with which the ice increased in thickness, in proportion as the general temperature of the atmosphere diminished, would have rendered a day’s delay of serious importance. I ordered the work, therefore, to be continued at the usual time in the morning; and such was the spirited and cheerful manner in which my orders were complied with, as well as the skill which had now been acquired in the art of sawing and sinking the ice, that although the thermometer was at 6° in the morning, and rose no higher than 9° during the day, we had completed the canal at noon, having effected more in four hours than on either of the two preceding days. The whole length of this canal was 4082 yards, and the average thickness of the ice was seven inches.
“At half-past one, p.m., we began to track the ships along in the same manner as before, and at a quarter-past three we reached our winter-quarters, and hailed the event with three loud and hearty cheers from both ships’ companies. The ships were in five fathoms water, a cable’s length from the beach on the north-western side of the harbour, to which I gave the name of Winter Harbour; and I called the group of islands which we had discovered in the Polar Sea, New Georgia; but having afterwards recollected that this name is already occupied in another part of the world, I changed it to that of the North Georgian Islands, in honor of our gracious Sovereign.”
Among the many fortunate circumstances which had attended the Hecla and Griper during this first season of their navigation, there was none more striking than the opportune time at which they were securely placed in Winter Harbour; for on the very night of their arrival, the thermometer fell to -1°; and, on the following day, the sea was observed from the hills to be quite frozen over, as far as the eye could reach; nor was there any open water seen after this period until the early part of July, 1820.
“Having reached this station, where, in all probability, we were destined to remain for at least eight or nine months, during three of which we were not to see the face of the sun, my attention was immediately, and imperiously, called to various important duties; many of them of a singular nature, such as had for the first time devolved on any officer in H.M. navy, and might indeed be considered of rare occurrence in the whole history of navigation. The security of the ships, and the preservation of the various stores, were objects of immediate concern. A regular system to be adopted for the maintenance of good order and cleanliness, as most conducive to the health of the crews, during the long, dark, and dreary winter, equally demanded my attention. Not a moment was lost, therefore, in the commencement of our operations; the whole of the masts were dismantled except the lower ones, and the Hecla’s main-top-mast; the lower yards were lashed fore and aft amidships, to support the planks of the housing intended to be erected over the ships; and the whole of this was afterwards roofed over with a cloth” similar to that with which waggons are usually covered. The boats, spars, running-rigging, and sails, were removed on shore; and as soon as the ships were secured and housed over, my whole attention was directed to the health and comfort of the officers and men.
“Under circumstances of leisure and inactivity, such as we were now placed in, and with every prospect of its continuance for a very large portion of the year, I was desirous of finding some amusement for the men during this long and tedious interval. I proposed, therefore to the officers of both ships to get up a play occasionally on board the Hecla, as the readiest means of preserving among our crows that cheerfulness and good-humour which had hitherto subsisted. In this proposal I was readily seconded by them; and Lieutenant Beechey having been duly elected as stage-manager, our first performance was fixed for the 6th November, to the great delight of both ships’ companies. In these amusements I gladly undertook a part myself, considering that an example of cheerfulness, by giving a direct countenance to every thing that could contribute to it, was not the least essential part of my duty.
“In order still further to promote good humour among ourselves, as well as to furnish amusing occupation, during the hours of constant darkness, we set on foot a weekly newspaper, which was to be called the ‘North Georgia Gazette and Winter Chronicle,’ and of which Captain Sabine undertook to be the editor, under the promise that it was to be supported by original contributions from the officers of both ships; and though some objection may, perhaps, be raised against a paper of this kind being generally resorted to in ships of war, I was too well acquainted with the discretion, us well as the excellent dispositions of my officers, to apprehend any unpleasant consequences from a measure of this kind: instead of which I can safely say, that the weekly contributions had the happy effect of employing the leisure hours of those who furnished them, and of diverting the mind from the gloomy prospect which would sometimes obtrude itself on the stoutest heart.
“All the water which we made use of while within the polar circle was procured from snow, either naturally or artificially dissolved. Soon after the ships were laid up for the winter, it was necessary to have recourse entirely to the latter process, which added materially to the expenditure of fuel. The snow for this purpose was dug out of the drifts, which formed upon the ice round the ships, and dissolved in the coppers. We found it necessary always to strain the water thus procured, on account of the sand which the heavy snow-drifts brought from the island, after which it was quite pure and wholesome. * * * * * On the 16th Oct. the meridian altitude of the sun was observed by an artificial horizon, which I notice from the circumstance of its being the last time we had an opportunity of observing it for about four months. A thermometer placed in the sun at noon, on the 18th, rose only to -9°, the temperature in the shade being -16°.”
The ice, now twenty-three inches in thickness, had by this time become so firmly attached to the bends of the ships, that they were completely imbedded in it, and the operation of cutting round them occupied their crews almost the whole of two days. The attempt to keep it clear by continual daily sawing was obliged to be abandoned about the middle of November, as the men almost always got their feet wet, from which the most injurious effects upon their health were likely to result. By the l7th December, the water in the Hecla’s well became completely frozen, so that it was no longer possible to work the pumps had they been required. About the same time, a more serious inconvenience began to be experienced from the bursting of the lemon-juice bottles by frost, the whole contents being frequently frozen into a solid mass, except a small portion of highly concentrated acid in the centre, which, in most instances, was found to have leaked out, so that when the ice was thawed it was little better than water. This evil increased to a very alarming degree in the course of the winter. The vinegar also became frozen in the casks in the same manner, and lost a great deal of its acidity when thawed.
“This circumstance,” says Lieutenant Parry, “conferred an additional value on a few gallons of very highly-concentrated vinegar, which had been sent out on trial upon this and the preceding voyage, and which, when mixed with six or seven times its own quantity of water, was sufficiently acid for every purpose. This vinegar, when exposed to the temperature of 26° below zero, congealed only into a consistence like that of the thickest honey, but was never sufficiently hard to break any vessel which contained it.
“Dec. 22. – We had now reached the shortest day; and such was the occupation which we had hitherto contrived to find during the first half of our long and gloomy winter, that the quickness with which it had come upon us was a subject of general remark. So far, indeed, were we from wanting that occupation of which I had been apprehensive, especially among the men, that it accidentally came to my knowledge about this period that they complained of not having time to mend their clothes. This complaint I was as glad to hear, as desirous to rectify * * * *. It may not, perhaps, be considered wholly uninteresting, to know in what manner our time was thus so fully occupied throughout the long and severe winter, which it was our lot to experience, and particularly during a three months’ interval of nearly total darkness.
“The officers and quarter-masters were divided into four watches, which were regularly kept, as at sea, while the remainder of the ship’s company were allowed to enjoy their night’s rest undisturbed. The hands were turned up at a quarter-before six, and both decks were well rubbed with stones and warm sand before eight o’clock, at which time, both officers and men went to breakfast. Three quarters of an hour being allowed afterwards for the men to prepare themselves for muster, we beat to divisions punctually at a quarter-past nine, when every person in the ship attended on the quarter-deck, and a strict inspection of the men took place, as to their personal cleanliness, and the good condition, as well as sufficient warmth, of their clothing. The reports of the officers having been made to me, the people were then allowed to walk about, or, more usually to run round the upper-deck, while I went down to examine the state of that below, accompanied by Lieutenant Beechey and Mr. Edwards. The state of this deck may be said, indeed, to have constituted the chief source of our anxiety, and to have occupied by far the greatest share of our attention at this period. Whenever any dampness appeared, or, what more frequently happened, any accumulation of ice had taken place during the preceding night, the necessary means were immediately adopted for removing it: in the former case, usually by rubbing the wood with cloths, and then directing the warm air-pipe towards the place; and in the latter, by scraping off the ice, so as to prevent its wetting the deck by any accidental increase of temperature. In this respect the bed-places were particularly troublesome; the inner partition, or that next the ship’s side, being almost invariably covered with more or less dampness or ice, according to the temperature of the deck during the preceding night. This inconvenience might to a great degree have been avoided, by a sufficient quantity of fuel to keep up two good fires on the lower-deck, throughout the twenty-four hours; but our stock of coals would by no means permit this, bearing in mind the possibility of our spending a second winter within the arctic circle; and this comfort could only, therefore, be allowed on a few occasions, during the most severe part of the winter.
“In the course of my examination of the lower-deck, I had always an opportunity of seeing those few men who were on the sick list, and of receiving from Mr. Edwards a report of their respective cases, as also of consulting that gentleman as to the means of improving the warmth, ventilation, and general comfort of the inhabited parts of the ship. Having performed this duty, we returned to the upper deck, where I personally inspected the men; after which they were sent out to walk on shore, when the weather would permit, till noon, when they returned on board to their dinner. When the day was too inclement for them to take this exercise,, they were ordered to run round and round the deck, keeping step to the tune of an organ, or, not unfrequently, to a song of their own singing. Among the men were a few who did not at first quite like this systematic mode of taking exercise; but when they found that no plea, except that of illness, was admitted as an excuse, they not only willingly and cheerfully complied, but made it the occasion of much humour and frolic among themselves.
“The officers, who dined at two o’clock, were also in the habit of occupying one or two hours, in the middle of the day, in rambling on shore, even in our darkest period, except when a fresh wind and a heavy snow-drift confined them within the housing of the ships. It may well be imagined that, at this period, there was but little to be met with in our walks on shore, which could either amuse or interest us. The necessity of not exceeding the limited distance of one or two miles, lest a snow-drift, which often rises very suddenly, should prevent our return, added considerably to the dull and tedious monotony which, day after day, presented itself. To the southward was the sea, covered with one unbroken surface of ice, uniform in its dazzling whiteness, except that, in some parts, a few hummocks were seen thrown up somewhat above the general level. Nor did the land offer much greater variety, being entirely covered with snow, except here and there a brown patch of bare ground in some exposed situations, where the wind had not allowed the snow to remain. When viewed from the summit of the neighbouring hills, on one of those calm and clear days, which not unfrequently occurred during the winter, the scene was such as to induce contemplations which had, perhaps, more of melancholy than of any other feeling.
“Not an object was to be seen on which the eye could long rest with pleasure, unless when directed to the spot where the ships lay, and where our little colony was planted. The smoke which there issued from the several fires, affording a certain indication of the presence of man, gave a partial cheerfulness to this part of the prospect; and the sound of voices, which, during the cold weather, could be heard at a much greater distance than usual, served now and then to break the silence which reigned around us, a silence far different from that peaceable composure which characterizes the landscape of a cultivated country; it was the death-like stillness of the most dreary desolation, and the total absence of animated existence.
“In the afternoon, the men were usually occupied in drawing and knotting yarns, and in making points and gaskets; a never-failing resource, where mere occupation is required, and which it was necessary to perform entirely on the lower deck, the yarns becoming so hard and brittle, when exposed on deck to the temperature of the atmosphere, as to be too stiff for working, and very easily broken.
“At half-past 5 in the evening, the decks were cleared up; and at 6, we again beat to divisions, when the same examination of the men, and of their berths and bed-places, was made, as in the morning; the people then went to their supper, and the officers to tea. After this time, the men were permitted to amuse themselves as they pleased; and frames of various kinds, as well as dancing and singing occasionally, went on upon the lower deck till nine o’clock, when they went to bed, and their lights were extinguished. * * * *. It is scarcely necessary to add, that the evening occupations of the officers were of a more rational kind than those which engaged the attention of the men. Of these, reading and writing were the principal, to which were occasionally added a game of chess, or a tune on the flute or violin, till half-past ten, about which time we all retired to rest.
“Such were the employments which usually occupied us for six days in the week, with such exceptions only as circumstances at the time suggested. On Sundays, divine service was invariably performed, and a sermon read on board both ships; the prayer appointed to be daily used at sea being altered, so as to adapt it to the service in which we were engaged, the success which had hitherto attended our efforts, and the peculiar circumstances under which we were at present placed. The attention paid by the men to the observance of their religious duties, were such as to reflect upon them the highest credit, and tended, in no small degree, to the preservation of that regularity and good conduct, for which, with very few exceptions, they were invariably distinguished.
“Our theatrical entertainments took place regularly once a fortnight, and continued to prove a source of infinite amusement to the men. Our stock of plays was so scanty, consisting only of one or two volumes, which happened accidentally to be on board, that it was with difficulty we could find the means of varying the performances sufficiently; our authors, therefore, set to work, and produced as a Christmas piece, a musical entertainment, expressly adapted to the audience, and having such a reference to the service on which we were engaged, and the success we had so far experienced, as at once to afford a high degree of present recreation, and to stimulate, if possible, the sanguine hopes which were entertained by all, of the complete accomplishment of our enterprise.
“We were at one time apprehensive, that the severity of the weather would have prevented the continuance of this amusement; but the perseverance of the officers overcame every difficulty; and, perhaps for the first time since theatrical entertainments were invented, more than one or two plays were performed, on board the Hecla, with the thermometer below zero on the stage.
“The snow which falls during the severe winter of this climate is composed of spiculae so extremely minute, that it requires very little wind to raise and carry it along. To mark Christmas day in the best manner which circumstances would permit, divine service was performed; and I directed a small increase in the usual proportion of fresh meat, as well as an additional allowance of grog; a piece of English roast-beef, which formed part of the officers’ dinner, had been on board since the preceding May, and preserved without salt during that period, merely by the antiseptic properties of a cold atmosphere.”
On the 3rd of February, at 20 minutes before apparent noon, the sun was seen from the Hecla’s main-top, being the first time that this luminary had been visible since the 11th of November, a period of exactly twelve weeks. The time of its remaining actually beneath the horizon, independently of the effects of atmospherical refraction, was 96 days. In the course of the winter, there was often an appearance in the southern horizon very much resembling land at a distance. This appearance was unusually well defined, on the 3rd Feb., and seemed to terminate in a very abrupt and decided manner, on a S.b.E. bearing from the Hecla. On the 24th of that month. Captain Sabine’s observatory on shore was burnt down, but fortunately the clocks, transit, and other valuable instruments were saved, and nothing of any material consequence suffered injury. This house had been built of fir-plank, intended for the future construction of spare boats, and its sides being double, with moss placed between the inner and outer planks, a high temperature could be kept up in it without difficulty by a single stove. Speaking of its destruction, Lieutenant Parry says:–
“The appearance which our faces presented at the fire was a curious one, almost every nose and cheek having become quite white with frostbites in five minutes after being exposed to the weather; so that it was deemed necessary for the medical gentlemen, together with some others appointed to assist them, to go constantly round, while the men were working at the fire, and to rub with snow the parts affected, in order to restore animation. Notwithstanding this precaution, which, however, saved many frost-bites, we had an addition of no less than 16 men to the sick-lists of both ships in consequence of the accident. Among these there were four or five cases which kept the patients confined for several weeks; but John Smith, Captain Sabine’s servant, who, together with Serjeant Martin, of the artillery, happened to be in the house at the time the fire broke out, was unfortunate enough to suffer much more severely. In their anxiety to save the dipping-needle, which was standing close to the stove, and of which they knew the value, they immediately ran out with it; and Smith, not having time to put on his gloves, had his fingers in half an hour so benumbed, and the animation so completely suspended, that on his being taken on board by Mr. Edwards, and having his hands plunged into a basin of cold water, the surface of the water was immediately frozen by the intense cold thus suddenly communicated to it; and, notwithstanding the most humane and unremitting attention paid to them by the medical gentlemen, it was found necessary, some time after, to resort to the amputation of a part of four fingers on one hand, and three on the other.”
The 5th of March was the first day to which they could attach the idea of spring, and they now began to flatter themselves, that the season had taken that favorable change for which they had long been looking with extreme anxiety and impatience. This hope was much strengthened on the 7th, by the thawing of a small quantity of snow in a favorable situation upon the black paint work of the ship’s stern, which exactly faced the south, being the first time that such an event had occurred for more than five months. The thermometer had then got up to zero, which it had never before done since the 17th of December. On the 9th, however, the wind blew a hard gale from the N.W., raising a snow-drift which made the day almost as inclement as in the midst of winter; and, on the 14th, the thermometer had once more fallen as low as -28°. On the 23rd, the ice was still 6½ feet thick in the middle of Winter Harbour; and the snow on its surface eight inches deep. the length of the day had now so much increased, that at midnight on the 26th, “there was a very sensible twilight in the northern quarter of the heavens; and,” says Lieutenant Parry, “such was the rapidity with which this part of the season appeared to us to have come round, that we could with difficulty picture to ourselves the total darkness from which we had so lately emerged.
“Being extremely anxious to get rid, as early as possible, of the drying of our washed clothes upon the lower deck, I had to day a silk handkerchief washed, and hung up under the stern, in order to try the effect of the sun’s rays upon it. In four hours it became thoroughly dry, the thermometer in the shade being from -18° to -6° at the time. This was the first article that had been dried without artificial heat for six months, and it was yet another month before flannel could be dried in the open air. When this is considered, as well as that, during the same period, the airing of the bedding, the drying of the bed-places, and the ventilation of the inhabited parts of the ship, were wholly dependent on the same means, and this with a very limited supply of fuel, it may, perhaps, be conceived, in some degree, what unremitting attention was necessary to the preservation of health, under circumstances so unfavorable, and even prejudicial.”
The fine and temperate weather with which the month of April concluded, induced Captain Sabine to set the clocks going, in order to commence his observations for the pendulum, and he now took up his quarters in a new house for that purpose. On the 1st of May, however, it blew a strong gale from the northward, which made it impossible to keep up the desired temperature; and so heavy was the snowdrift, that in a few hours the observatory was nearly covered. The sun was seen at midnight, for the first time this season.
On the 6th, the thermometer rose no higher than +8½° during the day; but, as the wind was moderate, and it was high time to endeavour to get the ships once more fairly afloat. Lieutenant Parry gave orders to commence the operation of cutting the ice about them; and, as the expedition, at its departure from England, had been victualled for no more than two years, he considered it expedient, as a matter of precaution, to reduce the daily allowance of every species of provisions to two-thirds of the established proportion, and to renew a former “game-law,” by which it was enacted, that every animal killed by the various shooting parties should be considered as public property, and regularly issued, in lieu of other meat, without the slightest distinction between the messes of the officers and those of the ships’ companies. “On the 17th,” says he, “we completed the operation of cutting the ice round the Hecla, which was performed in the following manner:–
“The ice alongside was found to be six feet thick, being about eighteen inches less than the average thickness of it in the harbour, owing principally to our having continued to cut it round the ships for some time after the commencement of the winter season. We began by digging a large hole under the stern, in order to enter the saw, which occupied us nearly two days, only a small number of men being able to work at it. In the mean time, all the snow and rubbish was cleared away from the ship’s sides, leaving only the solid ice to work upon: and a trench, two feet wide, was cut the whole length of the starboard side, from the stem to the rudder, keeping within an inch or two of the bends, and taking care here and there to leave a dike, to prevent the water which might ooze into one part from filling up the others in which the men were working. In this manner was the trench cut with axes, to the depth of about four feet and a half, leaving only 18 inches for the saws to cut, except in those places where the dikes remained. The saw being then entered in the hole under the stern, and suspended by a triangle made of spars, was worked in the usual manner; one cut was made on the outer part of the trench, and a second within an inch or two of the bends, in order to avoid injuring the planks. A small portion of ice, broken off now and then by bars, handspikes, and ice-chisels, floated to the surface, and was hooked out by piece-meal. When the workmen had completed the trench, within 10 or 12 feet of the stern, the ship suddenly disengaged herself from the ice, to which she had before been firmly adhering on the larboard side, and rose in the water about ten inches abaft, and nearly eighteen inches forward, with a considerable surge. This circumstance, on consideration, it was not difficult to explain. In the course of the winter, the strong eddy winds about the ships had formed round then a drift of snow, 7 or 8 feet deep in some parts, and, perhaps, weighing 100 tons, by which the ice, and the ships with it, were carried down much below the natural level at which they would otherwise have floated. In the mean time the ships had become considerably lighter, from the expenditure of several months provisions; so that, on both these accounts, they had naturally a tendency to rise in the water as soon as they were set at liberty.”
During the re-equipment of the ships, Lieutenant Parry and Captain Sabine, accompanied by Messrs. Nias, Reid, and Fisher, Serjeant Martin, and five other men, travelled across Melville Island and discovered another to the north-eastward, which was named after Captain Sabine; they then proceeded in a westerly direction until they came to a spacious gulf, which was named after Lieutenant Liddon. The headlands terminating its north and south shores, received the names of Beechey and Hoppner. In the course of this tour, which occupied fifteen days, they met with the remains of six Esquimaux’ habitations. On the 14th of July, a boat passed, for the first time, between the Hecla and the shore; and on the following day, the same kind of communication was practicable between her and the Griper. In the night of the 31st, the whole body of ice in Winter Harbour was perceived to be moving slowly out to the south-eastward. On the following day, the ships were once more under sail; and on the morning of the 7th August, Lieutenant Beechey, from the top of a hill near Cape Hay, to which he had been sent for the purpose of ascertaining the state of the ice, discovered land at a considerable distance, its extremes bearing W.S.W. and S.S.W., and the loom of it extending as far round to the left as S.E. “This land, which extends beyond the 117th degree of west longitude, and is the most western yet discovered in the Polar Sea, to the northward of the American continent, was honored with the name of Banks’s Land, out of respect to the late venerable and worthy president of the Royal Society.”
On the 15th, after experiencing “a continued series of vexations, disappointments, and delays,” the ships were completely beset by heavy loose ice, and obliged to be secured within some large masses, lying aground near the beach of Melville Island, where they remained for several days, in a constant state of danger. They were then in lat. 74° 26' 25", and longitude, by chronometers, 113° 54' 43"; the westernmost point to which the navigation of the Polar Sea, to the northward of the American continent, has yet been Template:Erratum. The direct distance to Icy Cape was then between 800 and 900 miles, while that which the expedition had advanced towards it, since leaving Winter Harbour, fell short of 20 leagues.
On the 23d, there being no appearance whatever of clear water to the westward of their present station. Lieutenant Parry called for the opinions and advice of Lieutenants Liddon, Beechey, and Hoppner, Captain Sabine, and Messrs. Edwards and Hooper, being desirous of profiting by their united judgment and experience, previous to forming his ultimate decision as to the measures most proper to be pursued, for the advancement of the public service and the security of the ships and people committed to his charge. On receiving their answers, says he:
“It was gratifying to me to find that they unanimously agreed with me in opinion, that any further attempt to penetrate to the westward in our present parallel would be altogether fruitless, and attended with a considerable loss of time, which might be more usefully employed. They also agreed with me in thinking, that the plan I had proposed to adopt of running back along the edge of the ice to the eastward, in order to look out for an opening that might lead us towards the American continent, was, in every respect, the most advisable; and that, in the event of failing to find any such opening, after a reasonable time spent in search, it would be expedient to return to England rather than risk the passing another winter in these seas, without the prospect of attaining any adequate object, namely, that of being able to start from an advanced station at the commencement of the following season.”
On his return to Barrow’s Strait, Lieutenant Parry named several newly discovered islands and capes after Captains Baker and Capel, Major Rennell, Dr. Somerville, &c. &c.
“Having now traced the ice the whole way from the longitude of 114° to that of 90°, without discovering any opening to encourage a hope of penetrating it to the southward, I could not entertain the slightest doubt, that there no longer remained a possibility of effecting our object with the present resources of the expedition; and that it was, therefore, my duty to return to England with the account of our late proceedings, that no time might be lost in following up the success with which we had been favored, should H.M. government consider it expedient to do so. Having informed the officers and men of both ships of my intentions, I directed the full allowance of provisions to be, in future, issued, with such a proportion of fuel as might contribute to their comfort; a luxury which, on account of the necessity that existed for the strictest economy in this article, it must be confessed, we had not often enjoyed since we entered Sir James Lancaster’s Sound. We had been on two-thirds allowance of bread between ten and eleven months, and on the same reduced proportion of the other species of provisions, between three and four; but, although this quantity is scarcely enough for working men for any length of time, I believe the reduction of fuel was generally considered by far the greater privation of the two.”
Lieutenant Parry now ran along the south shore of Barrow’s Strait, at the distance of four or five leagues, and gave the name of Admiralty Inlet to an opening to the eastward of Cape York; naming a headland which forms one point of the entrance after the Right Honorable Charles Yorke, late first Lord of the Admiralty; and another, near it, after Lieutenant (now Sir John) Franklin. After quitting Sir James Lancaster’s Sound, he surveyed the western coast of Baffin’s Bay, till stopped by ice in the latitude of 68° 15' 20" and longitude 65° 48' 38". On the 3rd Sept. Lieutenant Parry passed some of the highest ice-bergs he had ever seen, one of them being not less than from 150 to 200 feet above the sea; and on the 6th, he was visited by several Esquimaux, from an inlet named the river Clyde; one of whom was prevailed on to sit pretty quiet while Lieutenant Beechey made a drawing of him. The whole party seemed much pleased, and expressed their delight by jumping, and by loud and repeated ejaculations. Lieutenant Parry and Captain Sabine landed upon an island, in order to observe the end of an eclipse of the sun, as well as to obtain the other usual observations, together with angles for the survey of that inlet.
“On the second of October, in scudding before the wind, under the main-top-sail, a heavy sea struck the Hecla on the larboard quarter, rendering it necessary to press her forward under more canvass, by which we lost sight of the Griper in the course of the morning. * * * * On the afternoon of the 16th, the sea being very high and irregular, and the ship pitching with considerable violence, the bowsprit was carried away close to the gammoning, and the fore-mast and main top-mast immediately followed it over the side. * * * * On the 29th, we made Buchaness; and next day, the wind having come to the southward, I landed at Peterhead, accompanied by Captain Sabine and Mr. Hooper, having directed Lieutenant Beechey to proceed with all possible despatch to Leith. Both ships came into the river Thames about the middle of November, and were paid off at Deptford, on the 21st of the following month.”
Lieutenant Parry was advanced to the rank of Commander, Nov. 4, 1820; the day after his arrival at the Admiralty. On the 19th December, the Bedfordean gold medal of the Bath and West of England Society for the encouragement of Agriculture, Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce, was unanimously voted to him, and it was afterwards resolved, that a subscription should be opened with the view of purchasing a piece of plate for “the Explorer of the Polar Sea.” On the 24th Mar. 1821, he was presented with the freedom of the city of Bath, in a box of oak, highly and appropriately ornamented. One-half of the parliamentary reward, for penetrating to the meridian of 110° west longitude within the arctic circle, was distributed in the following proportions:–
Captain Parry, 1,000l; Lieutenant Liddon, 500l.; Lieutenants Beechey and Hoppner, Captain Sabine, and Messrs. Allison and Fife, each 200l. The other moiety was divided among the remaining officers and men, in shares proportioned to their several ranks and ratings. We should here observe also that Messrs. Nias, Reid, Dealy, Palmer, and Skene, midshipmen, and the assistant surgeons of the Hecla and Griper, were promoted, on the paying off of those ships in Dec. 1820.
The discoveries made by the late expedition being such as to afford a strong presumption in favor of the existence of a N.W. passage from the Atlantic into the Pacific, the Lords of the Admiralty were pleased to honor Captain Parry with the command of another, to be equipped at Deptford, for the purpose of exploring Repulse Bay, and every bend or inlet to the north of Wager River. The ships employed on this occasion were the Fury bomb, for which he received his commission on the 30th Dec. 1820; and the Hecla, commanded by Captain George Francis Lyon, the friend and late companion of Ritchie, the celebrated African traveller. The other officers, &c. attached to the new expedition were, in the Fury, Lieutenants Nias and Reid; Mr. Allison, Greenland master; Mr. John Bushnan, assistant-surveyor, of whom a biographical notice is given in the Index to the Annual Obituary and Biography for 1825; Mr. George Fisher, astronomer and acting chaplain; Mr. Edwards, surgeon; Mr. Hooper, purser; Messrs. James Clark Ross, John Henderson, and Francis Rawdon Moira Crozier, midshipmen; Mr. James Skeoch, assistant-surgeon; and Mr. Halse, captain’s-clerk:– in the Hecla, Lieutenants Hoppner and Charles Palmer; Mr. Fife, Greenland master: Mr. Alexander Fisher, surgeon; Mr; John Jermain, purser; Messrs. Joseph Sherer, Charles Richards, William Nelson Griffiths, and Edward Bird, midshipmen; Mr. Allan M‘Laren, assistant-surgeon; and Mr. Mogg, captain’s-clerk. The total number of officers, seamen, and marines, on board both ships, was 121.
Captain Parry sailed from the Nore, accompanied by the Hecla, and a transport laden with provisions and stores, May 8th, 1821, about which period he thus expressed himself in writing to a friend:
“Every thing belonging to our equipment is as I could wish; I have not a thing left undone which has suggested itself as useful; and we go out under every circumstance, which, as far as we can see, is likely to tend With success. You will remember, however, that I am not over sanguine, and you will oblige me much in checking, by every opportunity in your power, the sanguine expectations, which are, I believe, too generally formed, of our complete success.”
Nothing of consequence happened during their passage across the Atlantic. On the 1st of July, the transport, having been cleared, was ordered to part company for England, while the Fury and Hecla stood towards the ice in Hudson’s Strait. On the 21st, having proceeded slowly to the westward, they had reached the latitude of 61° 50' 13", and longitude, by chronometers, 67° 7' 35", where they made fast to a large floe of ice, not having room to beat to windward, and were visited by a number of Esquimaux. On the 2nd of August, they came to a body of ice so closely “packed” that they could make no further progress, while the masses on the outer edge were moving so rapidly in various directions as to occasion them much trouble and many violent blows before they could get clear of those impediments. The latitude at noon was 64° 59' 24" and the longitude 79° 40'. After standing several miles to the northward, along the edge of the ice, without seeing an opening, it began to lead them so much to the eastward, that they deemed it expedient to tack and stand back to the W.S.W. to try what could be done by patience and perseverance in that quarter. On the 15th August, Captain Parry and Mr. Rosa landed at the northern extremity of Southampton Island, where they obtained good observations by the moon and stars. The latitude by two meridian altitudes was 65° 28' 13"; the longitude, by chronometers, 84° 40' 07"; and the variation of the magnetic needle 50° 18' 26" westerly. Next morning, they ascended a hill about 1000 feet high, and from thence discovered a magnificent bay, which was named after the Duke of York, in consequence of the ships having first entered it on the birth-day of His Royal Highness. The remainder of the season was spent in satisfactorily determining the non-existence of a passage to the westward, either through Repulse Bay or any of the openings to the eastward of that great inlet. On the 8th October, the formation of young ice upon the surface of the water began most decidedly to put a stop to the navigation of these seas, and warned the voyagers that the season of active operations was nearly at an end.
“In reviewing the events of this season,” says Captain Parry, “and considering what process we had made towards the attainment of our main object, it was impossible, however trifling that progress might appear upon the chart, not to experience considerable satisfaction. Small as our actual advance had been towards Behring’s Strait, the extent of coast newly discovered and minutely explored in pursuit of our object, in the course of the last eight weeks, amounted to more than 200 leagues, nearly half of which belonged to the continent of North America. This service, notwithstanding our constant exposure to the risks which intricate, shoal, and unknown channels, a sea loaded with ice, and a rapid tide, concurred in presenting, hadbeen effected without injury to the ships, or suffering to the officers and men; and we had now once more met with tolerable security for the season,” at a small island, to the eastward of the “Frozen Strait,” discovered, and so named, by Middleton, just 79 years before the Fury and Hecla passed through it almost without impediment. “Above all,” continues Captain Parry, “I derived the most sincere satisfaction from a conviction of having left no part of the coast from Repulse Bay eastward in a state of doubt as to its connexion with the continent.”
From this period until July 2, 1822, the ships were frozen up close to each other, and occupations and amusements, similar to those of the preceding voyage, were resorted to. Captain Lyon undertook to be the manager of the theatre, which was now laid out on a larger and more commodious scale than formerly, its decorations much improved, and, what was no less essential both to actors and audience, a more efficient plan adopted for warming it, by which they succeeded in keeping the temperature several degrees above zero on each night of performance throughout the winter.
To furnish rational and useful occupation to the men, on the other evenings, a school was also established, under the voluntary superintendence of Mr. Halse, for the instruction of such of the men as were willing to take advantage of this opportunity of learning to read and write, or of improving in those acquirements. While these internal arrangements were making, the interests of science were not neglected; the portable observatory was erected for the purpose of making magnetic observations; and a house was built for the reception of the instruments requisite in conducting the other observations and experiments. Every possible attention was paid to the dryness, warmth, and ventilation of the sick-bay, in which a fire was kept to preserve a constant equable temperature of about 60°; this and other arrangements rendered a little less comfortable than the ward of a regular hospital. Captain Lyon having expressed a wish that his officers and men, with himself, should attend divine service on board the Fury, during the continuance of the ships in winter-quarters, and some psalm tunes, purposely set upon an organ, being played at the proper intervals, their little church formed a pleasing and interesting scene to such as were disposed to be interested by scenes of this nature.
The first day of the year 1822 was a very severe one in the open air, the thermometer being down to – 22°, and the wind blowing strong from the N.W. On the 18th January, at a late hour in the evening, the stove-pipe of Captain Parry’s cabin caught fire, and gave cause for a momentary alarm; but buckets and water being at hand it was soon extinguished.
On the morning of the 1st February, a number of strange people were seen to the westward, coming towards the ships over the ice, and some appearance of huts on shore, at the distance of two miles, was also discovered in the same direction. These strangers were soon found to be Esquimaux, roaming along the shore in search of food, their great dependence for sustenance being upon the produce of the sea. As they never had seen Europeans before, their manners and customs were, of course, quite original, and they afforded our voyagers much amusement, in various ways, during the remainder of the winter. The first discovery made in the summer of 1822, is thus described by Captain Parry:
“On the 12th July, observing an opening in the land, like a river, I left the Fury in a boat to examine the soundings of the coast. On approaching the opening, we found so strong a current setting out of it, as to induce me to taste the water, which proved to be scarcely brackish; and a little closer in, perfectly fresh, though the depth was from 14 to 16 fathoms. As this stream was a sufficient security against any ice coming in, I determined to anchor the ships somewhere in its neighbourhood, and to examine the supposed river in the boats.
“On the 13th, accompanied by several of the officers, as well as by Captain Lyon, I again left the Fury, at 8-30 a.m. Immediately on opening the inlet we encountered a rapid current setting outwards, and after rowing a mile and a half to the N.W.b.W., the breadth of the stream varying from one-third of a mile to 400 or 500 yards, came to some shoal water extending quite across. Landing on the south shore, and hauling the boats up above high-water mark, we rambled up the bank of the stream, which is low next the water, but rises almost immediately to the height of about 200 feet. As we proceeded, we gradually heard the noise of a full of water; and being presently obliged to strike more inland, as the bank became more precipitous, soon obtained a fresh view of the stream running on a much higher level than before, and dashing with great impetuosity down two small cataracts. Just below this, however, where the river turns almost at a right angle, we perceived a much greater spray, as well as a louder sound; and having walked a short distance down the bank, suddenly came upon the principal fall, of whose magnificence I am at a loss to give any adequate description. At the head of the full, or where it commences its principal descent, the river is contracted to about 150 feet in breadth, the channel being hollowed out through a solid rock of gneiss. After falling about fifteen feet, at an angle of 30° with a vertical line, the width of the stream is narrowed to about forty yards, and then, as if mustering its whole force, previous to its final descent, it is precipitated in one vast continuous sheet of water almost perpendicular for ninety feet more. the dashing of the water from such a height produced the usual accompaniment of a cloud of spray, broad columns of which were constantly forced up, like the successive rushes of smoke from a vast furnace, and on this, near the top, a vivid iris or rainbow, was occasionally formed by the bright rays of an unclouded sun. ‘The roaring of the mountain cataract,’ which constitutes a principle feature of the sublime in scenery of this magnificent nature, was here almost deafening; and as we were able to approach the head of the fall even as close as a single yard, the very rock seemed to suffer a concussion under our feet. The basin that receives the water at the foot of the fall is nearly of a circular form, and about 400 yards in diameter, being rather wider than the river immediately below it. The fall is about three-quarters of a mile above our landing place, or two miles and a quarter from the entrance of the river.
“After remaining nearly an hour, fixed as it were to the spot by the novelty and magnificence of the scene before us, we continued our walk upwards along the bank; and after passing the two smaller cataracts, found the river again increased in width to above 200 yards, winding in the must romantic manner imaginable among the hills, and preserving a smooth and unruffled surface fur a distance of three or four miles that we traced it to the S.W. above the full. What added extremely to the beauty of this picturesque river, which Captain Lyon and myself named after our mutual friend, Mr. Barrow, of the Admiralty, was the richness of the vegetation on its banks, the enlivening brilliancy of a cloudless sky, and the animation given to the scene by several reindeer that were grazing beside the stream. * * * The eider ducks were here tolerably numerous, and we also met with some black-throated divers, golden plovers, and snow-buntings. * * * On our return down the river. Captain Lyon landed on the opposite side, for the purpose of making a drawing of the fall in the best point of view; and we then returned on board, after the most gratifying visit we had ever paid to the shore in these regions. The entrance of this river lies in lat. 67° 18' 05", and in long, by chronometers, 81° 26' 20".”
The remainder of this season was spent in examining the coasts and some small islands to the northward of Barrow ’s River. On the 13th September, having entered a strait leading to the westward, the ships were in lat. 69° 48' W, and longitude 83° 29' 27"; the variation of the magnetic needle was 89° 18' 19"; and the dip 88° 21' 21". “The view of the strait from this position,” says Captain Parry, “was calculated to impress us with the idea of its being a magnificent passage into the Polar Sea.” On the 15th, Lieutenant Reid returned on board, after an absence of six days, during which he travelled beyond the meridian of 80° W., and satisfactorily ascertained their immediate junction with one another. This opening was named the Strait of the Fury and Hecla; the land to the southward of it, Melville Peninsula; and that to the northward, Cockburn Island.
Appearances had now become so much against the ships making any further progress that season, as to render it a matter of very serious consideration whether they ought to risk being shut up, during the winter, in the strait, where, from whatever cause it might proceed, the last year’s ice was not yet wholly detached from the shores, and where a fresh formation had already commenced, which there was but too much reason to believe would prove a permanent one. Captain Parry, therefore, determined to return to a small island, called by the Esquimaux Igloolik, in lat. 69° 21', long. 81° 44', where they remained from the 24th Sept. 1822, until the 8th Aug. 1828. The daily visits of the natives, throughout the winter, afforded, both to officers and men, a fund of constant variety and never-falling amusement, which no resources of their own could possibly have furnished.
In April, 1823, a twelve months’ provisions and stores were removed from the Hecla to the Fury, and various necessary exchanges made in anchors, cables, and boats, it having been determined that the former ship should return to England as soon as the sea became navigable. Just before the disruption of the ice, however, some slight, but unequivocal, symptoms of scurvy were reported to have appeared among the Fury’s crew, and Captain Parry began to entertain doubts whether it would still be prudent to adopt the intended measure of remaining out in her as a single ship; whether, in short, under existing circumstances, the probable evil did not far outweigh the possible good. In order to assist his own judgment on this occasion upon one of the most material points, he directed the medical officers of the Fury to furnish him with their opinions “as to the probable effect that a third winter passed in these regions would produce on the health of the officers, seamen, and marines of that ship, taking into consideration every circumstance connected with their situation.” Mr. Edwards’s reply, with which in substance that of Mr. Skeoch coincided, is here given.
“During the last winter, and subsequently, the aspect of the crew of the Fury in general, together with the increased number and character of their complaints, strongly indicated that the peculiarity of the climate and service was slowly effecting a serious decay of their constitutional powers. The recent appearance also of several cases of incipient scurvy in the most favorable month of the year, and occurring after a more liberal and continued use of fresh animal food than we can calculate upon procuring hereafter, are confirmatory proofs of the progression of the evil.
“With a tolerable prospect of eventual success, other circumstances remaining unchanged, I should yet expect an increase of general debility, with a corresponding degree of sickness, though at the same time confident of our resources being equal to obviate serious consequences. But considering the matter in the other point of view, namely, as a single ship, it assumes a much more important shape. It is not necessary that I should dwell on the altered circumstances in which the crew would then be placed, as they are such as you must long ago have foreseen and weighed: I allude to the increase of labour and exposure resulting from the separation of the vessels; the privation of many salutary occupations, mental and corporeal, attending their union; and, I may add, at this late period of the season, the hopelessness of the success of the ensuing navigation being such as to excite feelings sufficiently lively to counteract those depressing causes. It is impossible, in fact, to reflect on the subject, and not to apprehend a less favorable result than might be expected under the preceding conditions.”
Captain Parry also requested the opinion of the commander of the Hecla, whether, under existing circumstances, he still considered it expedient to adopt the measure originally intended, with respect to the separation of the two ships, when Captain Lyon, for various reasons, advised that they should return to England together, as soon as such arrangements respecting the removal of stores and provisions, as the senior officer might judge proper to make, should be completed. In the meantime, the Fury stretched over from Igloolik to the northward, for the purpose of examining the state of the fixed ice at the eastern mouth of the strait communicating with the Polar sea, and found it firmly attached to both shores, while one vast expanse of level solid ice occupied the whole extent of sea visible to the westward, the eye wearying itself in vain to discover a single break upon its surface. Having finished this examination, which at once destroyed every hope of a passage through the strait. Captain Parry resolved to lose no time in removing from the Fury some of her now superfluous provisions and stores, which service was completed by the night of the 10th August.
On the 12th, the ships commenced their homeward voyage; but they did not finally escape from the ice until the 17th of the following month, after having been almost immoveably beset in it for twenty four days out of the last twenty-six, in the course of which time they had been taken over no leas than 140 leagues of ground, generally very close to the shore, and always unable to do any thing towards effecting their escape from danger. They anchored in Lerwick harbour, Shetland, on the 10th October; and were paid off at Deptford, Nov. 14th, 1823. In his introduction to the account of this voyage. Captain Parry says:–
“That our efforts have not hitherto been crowned with greater success, cannot fail to be a matter of extreme disappointment, as well as of sincere though unavailing regret; but I feel it a duty to stale, that had our progress been in any degree proportionate to the exertions of those under my command, there would ere this have been nothing left to regret, and but little to accomplish; and I am happy therefore, thus publicly to express the high sense I entertain of the laudable zeal and strenuous exertions uniformly displayed by Captain Lyon, the officers, seamen, and marines of both the ships engaged in this service. Of the exemplary conduct of the men it has been my good fortune to command on this occasion, I cannot indeed speak too highly: it has been a happiness to their officers, and a credit to themselves. I was highly gratified to observe the eager assiduity with which, during two successive winters of long and tedious confinement, they followed up the more sedentary occupations of learning to read and write, with which they were furnished; and it is, I confess, with no ordinary feelings of pleasure that I record the fact, that on the return of the expedition to England, there was not an individual belonging to it who could not read his bible.”
The officers of this expedition who were promoted by the Admiralty, either during their absence from England, or soon after their return to the river Thames, were Captains Parry and Lyon, Lieutenant Hoppner, and Messrs. Henderson, Sherer, Ross, Griffiths, Bushman, Skeoch, McLaren, and Halse.
Captain Parry’s post-commission bears date, Nov, 8, 1821. He was appointed acting hydrographer to the Admiralty, Dec. 1, 1823; presented with the freedom of the city of Winchester, on the 20th of the same month; and placed in the command of another expedition, for the purpose of again exploring the hyperborean regions, Jan. 17, 1824.
The same ships were employed on this occasion as on the last; but the Hecla was now commanded by Captain Parry, and the Fury by Captain Hoppner. Their officers, &c. were (Hecla) Lieutenants John Land Wynn, Joseph Sherer, and Henry Foster (b), the latter acting as surveyor; Dr. Samuel Niell, surgeon; Mr. W. H. Hooper, purser; Mr. William Rowland, assistant-surgeon; and Messrs. John Brunton, F.R.M. Crozier, Charles Richards, and Horatio Nelson Head, midshipmen: (Fury) Lieutenants Horatio Thomas Austin and James Clark Ross; Mr. Allan M‘Laren, surgeon; Mr. James Halse, purser; Mr, Thomas Bell, assistant-surgeon; and Messrs. Berkley Westropp, Charles Crump Waller, and Edward Bird, midshipmen.
The expedition left Deptford, May 8, 1824; touched at the Whale-fish Islands, on the Western coast of Greenland, June 26th; and entered the ice in Baffin’s bay, about the 17th July; but did not reach the entrance of Sir James Lancaster’s Sound until Sept. 10. Three days afterwards, being then within seven leagues of Cape York, Captain Parry had the mortification to perceive the sea a-head of the ships covered with young ice, the thermometer having, for two days past, ranged only from 18° to 20°. “On reaching it,” says he, “we had, as usual, recourse to ‘sallying’, breaking it with boats a-head, and various other expedients, all alike ineffectual without a fresh and free breeze furnishing a constant impetus; so that after seven or eight hours of unsuccessful labour in this way, we were obliged to remain as we were, fairly and immovably beset.
“It now appeared high time to determine as to the propriety of still continuing our efforts to push to the westward, or of returning to England, according to my instructions on that head, under particular circumstances. As the crossing of the ice in Baffin’s Bay had of itself unexpectedly occupied nearly the whole of one season, it could not of course, be considered that the attempt to penetrate to the westward, in the manner directed, had as yet been made, nor could it, indeed, be made during the present year. I could not, therefore, have a moment’s hesitation as to the propriety of pushing on as far as the present season would permit, and then giving a fair trial during the whole of the next summer to the route I was instructed to pursue.”
Contrary to his expectations, Captain Parry succeeded in reaching Port Bowen, where he remained from Sept. 28, 1824, until July 20, 1825. On leaving that place, he stood over to the western shore of Prince Regent’s Inlet, which it was his first wish to gain, on account of the evident advantage to be derived from coasting along the southern part thereof, as far as it might lead to the westward; which, from his former knowledge, he had reason to suppose it would do as far at least as the long, of 96°, in the parallel of about 72° 45'. In the night of July 30th, the ice pressed with very considerable violence on both ships, and at length forced the Fury on the ground; but towards high water she was hove off with very little strain. On the 1st August, the Hecla also struck, and remained immoveable for several hours. The disasters which subsequently befel the former ship, obliging the officers and crew finally to abandon her, will be noticed in our memoir of Captain Hoppner. The spot where she was left is in lat. 72° 42' 30", long. 91° 50' 05".
Captain Parry’s expectations of ultimately accomplishing the object of the expedition were now at an end, as the whole of the Fury’s stores were of necessity left behind; every spare corner that could be found in the Hecla being absolutely required for the accomodation of so many officers and men, whose cleanliness and health could only be maintained by keeping the decks as clear and well ventilated as their limited space would permit; with no more than twelve months’ provisions for both ships’ companies, extending their resources only to the autumn of the following year, it would, indeed, have been folly to hope for final success, considering the small progress he had already made, the uncertain nature of the navigation, and the advanced period of the season (August 30th). He was therefore reduced to the only remaining conclusion, that it was his duty, under all the circumstances of the case, to return to England, where he arrived about the middle of October.
Captain Parry’s appointment to superintend the Hydrographical Office was confirmed by the Admiralty, Nov. 22, 1825; and as a further mark of their lordships’ approbation of his late proceedings. Captain Hoppner, Lieutenant Wynn, and Messrs. Brunton, Westropp, Crozier, and Richards, were soon afterwards promoted. On the 22nd Dec. in the same year, the freedom of Lynn was voted to him by the corporation of that borough, “in testimony of their high sense of his meritorious and enterprising conduct.”
In April, 1826, Captain Parry proposed to the first Lord of the Admiralty, to attempt to reach the North Pole, from the northern shores of Spitzbergen, by travelling with sledge-boats over the ice, or through any spaces of open water that might occur. His proposal was soon after referred to the President and Council of the Royal Society, who strongly recommended its adoption; and an expedition being accordingly determined upon for this purpose, he was again appointed to the Hecla, Nov. 11, in the same year. The officers selected to accompany him in that ship, were. Lieutenants James Clark Ross, Henry Foster (b), and Francis Rawdon Moira Crozier; Mr. James Halse, purser; Messrs. R. H. Foott, mate; Mr. Edward Joseph Bird, and ____ Beverly, midshipmen; and Mr. Robert M‘Cormick, assistant-surgeon.
The reports of several of our navigators who had visited Spitzbergen, and were well qualified to judge of the nature of the polar ice, concur in representing it as by no means unfavorable for this project. From one of the Seven Islands, and almost on the very spot from which Captain Parry subsequently took his departure in the boats, Lutwidge, the associate of Phipps in the expedition towards the North Pole, in 1773, describes the ice to the north-eastward, to the distance of 10 or 12 leagues, to have the appearance of “one continued plain of smooth unbroken ice, bounded only by the horizon.” In Captain Phipps’s chart of that voyage, the ice to the northward of the Seven Islands is represented as “flat and unbroken”; and, in another situation, rather more to the westward, and about the same parallel, he describes the “main body of the ice to be lying in a line, nearly east and west, quite solid.”
The testimony of Mr. Scoresby, a close and intelligent observer of nature in these regions, is entirely to the same effect. “I once saw,” says he, “a field that was so free from either fissure or hummock, that I imagine, had it been free from snow, a coach might have been driven many leagues over it in a direct line, without obstruction or danger.” Indeed, in a paper upon the subject of the polar ice, presented by him to the Wernerian Society of Edinburgh, and published in the second volume of their memoirs, he enters at considerable length into the arguments in favour of the practicability of this enterprise; and in his “Account of the Arctic Regions,” subsequently published, he repeats his conviction to the same effect. To the respectable authorities already mentioned, we may likewise add the testimony of several experienced and intelligent whalers, whom Captain Parry consulted as to the nature of the ice, with reference to this project; and who, without exception, agreed in considering it as highly favorable for the purpose.
But the hopes Captain Parry had formed of being able to attain this object, and the plan he suggested for putting it into execution, were principally founded on a similar proposition formerly made by Captain (now Sir John) Franklin, who, judging of this enterprise by his own experience, as well as by that of his associates, Captain David Buchan and Lieutenant (now Captain) Beechey, though by no means thinking lightly of the labour and hazard attending it, had drawn up a plan for making the attempt, and himself volunteered to conduct it. This plan was given to Captain Parry by Mr. Barrow, of the Admiralty, soon after his return from the expedition of 1824-5; and following it up in the most essential particulars, two boats were constructed at Woolwich, under his superintendence, after an excellent model suggested by Mr. John Peake, Clerk of the Rope Yard, and nearly resembling what are called “troop-boats,” having great flatness of floor, with the extreme breadth carried well forward and aft, and possessing the utmost buoyancy, as well as capacity for stowage. Their length was 20 feet, and extreme breadth 7 feet. The timbers were made of tough ash and hickory, one inch by half an inch square, and a foot apart, with a “half-timber” of smaller size between each two. On the outside of the frame thus formed was laid a covering of Mackintosh’s water-proof canvas, the outer part being coated with tar. Over this was placed a plank of fir, only 3-16ths of an inch thick; then a sheet of stout felt; and over all, an oak plank, of the same thickness as the fir; the whole of these being firmly and closely secured to the timbers by iron screws applied from without. This method of planking the boats was proposed and executed by Mr. Oliver Lang, master shipwright of Woolwich dock-yard; and Captain Parry’s narrative will show how admirably the elasticity of this mode of construction was adapted to withstand the constant twisting and concussion to which the boats were subject. On each side of the keel, and projecting considerably below it, was attached a strong “runner” shod with smooth steel, in the manner of a sledge, upon which the boat entirely rested while on the ice; and to afford some additional chance of making progress on hard and level fields, two wheels, of five feet diameter, were applied to each boat, and a small one abaft, having a swivel for steering by, like that of a Bath chair. A “span” of hide-rope was attached to the fore part of the runners, and to this were affixed two strong ropes of horse-hair, for dragging the boat; each individual of the crew being furnished with a broad leathern shoulder-belt, which could readily be fastened to or detached from the drag-ropes. The interior arrangement consisted only of two thwarts; a locker at each end for the nautical and other instruments, and for the smaller stores; and a very slight frame-work along the sides for containing bags of biscuit and spare clothes. A bamboo mast 19 feet long, a tanned duck sail, answering also the purpose of an awning, a spreat, one boat-hook, fourteen paddles, and a steer-oar, completed each boat’s equipment.
The Hecla left Deptford, Mar. 25, 1827; sailed from the Little Nore on the 4th April; and arrived at Hammerfest, in Lapland, on the 19th of the same month. From thence Lieutenant Crozier was sent in one of her own boats, to Alten, a distance of about 60 English miles, for the purpose of procuring some tame rein-deer to draw the sledge-boats over the ice. During the absence of that officer, Captain Parry and Lieutenant Foster made a series of magnetic and other observations; the Hecla’s supply of water was completed; a small quantity of venison, an abundance of good fish, and some milk were obtained; and the people selected to travel over the ice to the northward were practised in walking in their snowshoes, which afforded them fine exercise and amusement.
On the 5th May, being then in lat. 73° 30', and long. 7° 28' E., Captain Parry met with the first straggling mass of ice, after which, in sailing about 110 miles in a N.N.W. direction, there was always a number of loose masses in sight; but it did not occur in continuous “streams”, till the morning of the 7th, in lat. 74° 56', a few miles to the eastward of the meridian of Greenwich. On the 9th, he wrote to the Secretary of the Admiralty, by a whale ship, acquainting him with the Hecla’s arrival in the latitude of 77° and by the following morning he had succeeded in pushing about 60 miles farther to the northward, though not without some heavy blows in “boring” through the ice. On the 14th, he arrived off Hakluyt’s Headland; and on the same day of the ensuing month he had reached the latitude of 81° 5' 32", in longitude, by chronometers, 10° 34’ 00" E. This was the most northern position the Hecla attained, and, in all probability the highest northern latitude ever reached by any ship, with the exception of one commanded by Mr. Scoresby, who states his having, in the year 1806, reached 81° 12' 42", by actual observation, and 81° 30', by dead reckoning.
The Hecla was now 25 miles to the northward of the station in which Phipps remarked, that “the ice appeared flat and unbroken,” as seen from a considerable height on shore; yet, all that Captain Parry could discover was quite of a contrary description. To the northward nothing could be seen but loose drift-ice; to the north-cast it was particularly open, and he had no doubt that the ship might have gone many miles further, in that direction, had it not been a much more important object to secure her in Home harbour previously to his departure with the sledge-boats. On the 20th June, she was anchored in Treurenburg Bay, hit. 79° 65' 20", long. 16° 48' 45" E.
From that place, so named by the Dutch, Captain Parry started on the 21st June, at 5 p.m., with the two sledge-boats, which he named the Enterprize and Endeavour, Mr. Beverly being attached to his own, and Lieutenant Ross, accompanied by Mr. Bird, in the other. Each had a crew of ten seamen and two marines. As it was necessary not to delay their return beyond the end of August, the time originally intended, they took with them only 71 days’ provisions; which, including the boats and every other article, made up a weight of 260 pounds per man; and as it appeared highly improbable, from what they had seen of the very rugged nature of the ice they should first have to encounter, that either the rein-deer, the snowshoes, or the wheels would prove of any service for some time to come, Captain Parry gave up the idea of taking them. Four excellent sledges, however, were constructed out of the snow-shoes, for dragging a part of the luggage over the ice; and these proved of invaluable service. The sledge-boats were accompanied by one of the Hecla’s cutters, under Lieutenant Crozier, as far as Walden Island, where they parted with him at 3 p.m. on the 23rd. Next day, at noon, they were first hauled upon the ice, a small floe-piece, in lat. 81° 12’ 51". Captain Parry’s plan of travelling afterwards is thus described by him:
“It was my intention to travel wholly at night, and to rest by day, there being, of course, constant day-light in these regions during the summer season. The advantages of this plan, which was occasionally deranged by circumstances, consisted first, in our avoiding the intense and oppressive glare from the snow during the time of the sun’s greatest altitude, so as to prevent, in some degree, the painful inflammation in the eyes, called ‘snow blindness,’ which is common in all snowy countries. We also thus enjoyed greater warmth during the hours of rest, and had a better chance of drying our clothes; besides which, no small advantage was derived from the snow being harder at night for travelling. The only disadvantage of this plan was, that the fogs were somewhat more, frequent and more thick by night than by day, though even in this respect there was less difference than might have been supposed, the temperature during the 24 hours undergoing but little variation. When we rose in the evening, we commenced our day by prayers, after which we took off our fur sleeping dresses, and put on those for travelling; the former being made of camblet, lined with racoon-skin, and the latter of strong blue box-doth. We made a point of always putting on the same stockings and boots for travelling in, whether they had dried during the day or not; and I believe it was only in five or six instances, at the most, that they were not either still wet or hard-frozen. This, indeed, was of no consequence, beyond the discomfort of first putting them on in this state, as they were sure to be thoroughly wet in a quarter of an hour after commencing our journey; while on the other hand, it was of vital importance to keep dry things for sleeping in. Being rigged for travelling, we breakfasted upon warm cocoa and biscuit, and after stowing the things in the boats and on the sledges, so as to secure them, as much as possible, from wet, we set off on our day’s journey, and usually travelled from 5 to 5½ hours, then stopped an hour to dine, and again travelled 4, 6, or even 6 hours, according to circumstances. After this we halted for the night, an we called it, though it was usually early in the morning, selecting the largest surface of ice we happened to be near, for hauling the boats on in order to avoid the danger of its breaking up by coming in contact with other masses, and also to prevent drift as much as possible. The boats were placed close alongside each other, with their sterns to the wind, the snow or wet cleared out of them, and the sails, supported by the masts and paddles, placed over them as awnings, an entrance being left at the bow. Every man then immediately put on dry stockings and fur boots, after which we set about the necessary repairs of boats, sledges, or clothes; and, after serving the provisions for the succeeding day, we went to supper. Most of the officers and men then smoked their pipes, which served to dry the boats and awnings very much, and usually raised the temperature of our lodgings 10° or 15°. This part of the 24 hours was often a time, and the only one, of real enjoyment to us; the men told their stories and ‘fought all their battles o’er again,’ and the labours of the day, unsuccessful as they too often proved, were forgotten. A regular watch was set during our resting time, to look out for bears, or for the ice breaking up around us, as well as to attend to the drying of the clothes, each man alternately taking this duty for one hour. We then concluded our day with prayers, and having put on our fur dresses, lay down to sleep with a degree of comfort, which perhaps few persons would imagine possible under such circumstances; our chief inconvenience being, that we were somewhat pinched for room, and therefore obliged to stow rather closer than was quite agreeable. The temperature, while we slept, was usually from 36° to 45°, according to the state of the external atmosphere; but on one or two occasions, in calm and warm weather, it rose as high as 60° to 66°, obliging us to throw off a part of our fur dress. After we had slept seven hours, the man appointed to boil the cocoa roused us, by the sound of a bugle, when we commenced our day in the manner above described. Our daily allowance of provisions for each person was – biscuit, ten ounces; pemmican (compressed meat), nine ounces; sweetened cocoa powder, one ounce; and rum, one gill; – tobacco, three ounces per week. Our fuel consisted entirely of spirits of wine, of which two pints formed our daily allowance; the cocoa was cooked in an iron boiler over a shallow iron lamp, with seven wicks; a simple apparatus, which answered our purpose extremely well. We usually found one pint of the spirits of wine sufficient for preparing our breakfast, that is, for heating 28 pints of water, though it always commenced from the temperature of 32°. If the weather was calm and fair, this quantity of fuel brought it to the boiling point in about an hour and a quarter; but more generally the wicks began to go out before it had reached 200°. This, however, made a very comfortable meal to persons situated as we were. Such, with very little variation, was our regular routine during the whole of this excursion. We set off on our first journey over the ice at 10 v. m. on the 24th of June. The bags of pemmican were placed upon the sledges, and the bread in the boats, with the intention of securing the latter from wet; but this plan we were very soon obliged to relinquish.
Captain Parry and his companions (with only one spare shirt between every two persons) now commenced upon very slow and laborious travelling, their way lying over nothing but small loose rugged masses of ice, separated by narrow pools of water, obliging them frequently to launch and haul up the boats, each of which operations required them to be unloaded, and occupied nearly a quarter of an hour. This, however, was nothing more than they had expected to encounter at the margin of the ice, and for some distance within it; and every individual exerted himself to the utmost, with the hope of the sooner reaching the main, or field-ice. Captain Parry mentions, as a remarkable fact, that they had already experienced, in the course of that season, more rain than during the whole of seven previous summers taken together, though passed in latitudes from 7° to 16° lower than this. In the night of June 27th, after wading for some time through fresh water, from two to five inches deep, they came to the first tolerably heavy ice they had yet seen, but all broken up into masses of small extent. On the 28th, the boats were, with extreme difficulty, hauled over a tier of very high hummocks, during the performance of which operation, Captain Parry’s coxswain sustained considerable injury. On the following day another man was much hurt by a loaded pledge running against him. On the 30th, the wind freshening up from the S.S.W. they found the ice gradually more and more open, and made by rowing, though in a very winding channel, five miles of northing. Captain Parry here says:
“Our latitude, observed at noon, July 1st, was 81° 30' 41". It was more than an hour before we could get away from the small piece of ice on which we slept, the masses beyond being so broken up, and so much in motion, that we could not at first venture to launch the boats. After crossing several pieces, we at length got into a good “lead” of water, four or five miles in length; two or three of which, as on the preceding day, occurred under the lee of a floe, being the second we had yet seen that deserved that name. We then passed over four or five small floes, and across the pools of water that lay betwixt them. The ice was now less broken up, and sometimes tolerably level; but from 6 to 18 inches of soft snow lay upon it in every part, obliging us to make at least two, and sometimes three journeys with our loads.
“As soon as we landed on a floe-piece. Lieutenant Ross and myself generally went on a-head, while the boats were unloading and hauling up, in order to select the easiest road for them. The sledges then followed in our track, Messrs. Beverly and Bird accompanying them; by which the snow was much trodden down and the road consequently improved. When we arrived at the other end of the floe, or came to any difficult place, we mounted one of the highest hummocks of ice near at hand (many of which were from l5 to 25 feet above the sea), in order to obtain a better view around us; and nothing could well exceed the dreariness which such a view presented. The eye wearied itself in vain to find an object but ice and sky to rest upon; and even the latter was often hidden from our view by the dense and dismal fogs which so generally prevailed. In some cases. Lieutenant Ross and myself took separate routes to try the ground, which kept us almost continually floundering among deep snow and water. The sledges having then been brought up, as far as we had explored, we all went back for the boats; each crew, when the road was tolerable, dragging their own, and the officers labouring equally hard with the men. It was thus we proceeded for nine miles out of every ten that we travelled over ice; for it was very rarely indeed that we met with a surface sufficiently level and hard to drag all our loads at one journey; and, in a great many instances, we had to traverse the same road five times over. We were sometimes five minutes together in moving a single empty boat, with all our united strength.”
“In performing our pioneering duty,” adds he, “we were frequently so beset in it, that sometimes, after trying in vain to extricate our legs, we were obliged to sit quietly down for a short time to rest ourselves, and then make another attempt. The men, in dragging the sledges, were often under the necessity of crawling upon all-fours to make any progress at all. Nor would any kind of snow-shoes have been of the least service, but rather an incumbrance to us, for the surface was so irregular, that they would have thrown us down at every other step.”
The farther Captain Parry proceeded, the more the ice was broken; indeed it was much more so on the 5th July, in lat. 81° 45' 15", than he had found it since entering the “pack.” The labour required to drag the boats over the hummocks, and from one mass to another, was so great, that the officers and men, after having recourse to a “bowline-haul,” for many minutes together, were often obliged to sit down, their breath being quite exhausted. On the 7th of that month, having first launched the boats into the water, over a high and rugged margin, and then hauled them across a number of irregular and ill-connected masses, sometimes making them serve as bridges, they were more than two hours in proceeding a distance of about 150 yards. Still their work went on cheerfully, their hope resting on at length meeting with something like continuous and level ice.
“On the 20th,” says Captain Parry, “we halted at 7 a.m., having, by our reckoning, accomplished six miles and a half in a N.N.W. direction, the distance traversed being ten miles and a half. It may, therefore, be imagined how great was our mortification in finding that our latitude, by observation at noon, was only 82° 36' 52", being less than five miles to the northward of our place at noon on the 17th, since which time we had certainly travelled twelve in that direction. * * * * * * On the 24th, Lieutenant Ross, in exerting himself to drag his boat along, received a severe squeeze between her gunwale and a hummock of ice, which gave Mr. Beverly reason to apprehend at first, from the numbness and sickness which ensued, that his spine might be affected; but happily no such bad consequences followed this accident.”
“As we travelled by far the greater part of our distance on the ice, and not unfrequently five times over, we may safely multiply the length of the road by two and a half; so that our whole distance on a very moderate calculation, amounted to 580 geographical, or 668 statute miles, being nearly sufficient to have reached the pole in a direct line. Up to this period we had been particularly fortunate in the preservation of our health; neither sickness nor casualties having occurred among us, with the exception of the accidents already mentioned, a few bowel complaints, which were soon removed by care, and some rather troublesome cases of chilblains, arising from our constant exposure to wet and cold. * :* :* :* Our ensigns and pendants were displayed during the day; and sincerely as we regretted not having been able to hoist the British flag in the highest latitude to which we had aspired, we shall, perhaps, be excused in having felt some little pride in being the bearers of it to a parallel considerably beyond that mentioned in any other well-authenticated record.”
On the 11th August, Captain Parry and his companions finally quitted the ice, after having taken up their abode upon it for 48 days. During their absence the Hecla had been forced on shore, by the breaking up of the ice at the head of Treurenburg bay, which came down upon her in one solid mass; but by the unwearied and zealous exertions of the officers and men, she was hove off without incurring the slightest damage, and placed in perfect security. Finding the ship thus liable to be disturbed by ice. Lieutenant Foster had prudently relinquished the idea of leaving her for any length of time, so as to make an extended survey of the eastern coast of Spitzbergen, confining himself to the neighbouring parts of Waygatz Strait (or the Strait of Van Hinlopen), which he examined as far to the southward as 79° 33'. The Hecla sailed from Treurenburg bay on the 28th August, made Shetland on the 17th September, arrived in the river Thames on the 6th October, and was paid off at Deptford, on the 1st of the following month. Lieutenants Ross and Foster, and Mr. Bird, were almost immediately afterwards promoted.
Captain Parry received the honor of knighthood, April 29, 1829; and, in a few days afterwards, he resigned the office of Hydrographer to the Admiralty, now most ably filled by Captain Francis Beaufort. The honorary degree of D.C.L, was conferred upon him in a convocation at Oxford, on the 1st July following; and in the course of the same month, he sailed for New South Wales, having accepted the appointment of Commissioner for the entire management of the Australian Agricultural Company’s affairs, with a salary, as has been stated, of 2000l. per annum.
This enterprising officer married, Oct. 23, 1826, Isabella Louisa, fourth daughter of Sir John Thomas Stanley, Bart. His sister is the wife of the Rev. T. Garnier, rector of Bishop’s Stoke, near Winchester.
- Dr. Parry died March 9th, 1822. Besides various papers in the Bath Agricultural Society’s collection, the memoirs of the Medical Society of London, and other miscellaneous works, he was the author of “An Inquiry into the Symptoms and Causes of the Syncope Anginosa, commonly called Angina Pectoris.” “Facts and Observations tending to shew the Practicability and Advantage of producing in the British Isles Clothing Wool equal to that of Spain, together with some Hints towards the Management of Fine-woolled Sheep.” “Observations on the Pulse.” “The Elements of Pathology.” And “A Treatise on Hydrophobia and Tetanus.” His eldest surviving son, Dr. Charles Henry Parry, M.D., F.R.S., D.C.L. and a Member of the Physical Society at Gottingen, has published “De Graecariem atque Rumanarum Religionum ad mores formandos vi et efficacia commentatio. In concert, civium acad. Georgiae Augustas, die IV. Jan. 1799. ab ord. Ampliss. Philosoph. loco secundo victrix pronunciata. Gotling. 4to. 1799.” “O. C. Reich on Fever and its treatment in general, translated into English,” 8vo. 1801. And “Cases of Tetanus and Rabies Contagiosa, or Cauiue Hydrophobia,” 8vo. 1814.
- See Commander Henry Pyme.
- A stream is a long and narrow collection of broken masses of ice.
- A “floe” is an extensive sheet of ice, the limits of which can be distinguished from a ship’s mast-head.
- A “blink” is a peculiar brightness in the atmosphere, often assuming an arch-like form, and generally perceptible over ice, or land covered with snow. The “blink” of land, as well as that over large quantities of ice, is usually of a yellowish cast. A “water-sky” is a dark appearance in the atmosphere, indicating clear water in that direction, and forming a striking contrast with the “blink” overland or ice.
- A small circular house like a cask, fixed at the mast-head, in which the look-out man sits, either to guide the ship through the ice, or to give notice of whales.
- His uncle-in-law.
- The operation of “boring” through loose ice consists in entering it under a press of sail, and forcing the ship through by separating the masses.
- When a sheet of ice is too extensive to be seen over from a ship’s mast-head, it is called a “field.”
- The length of Melville Island, in an E.N.E. and W.S.W. direction, is about 135 miles, and the breadth from 40 to 50 miles.
- By making holes in the ice and dropping the leads through.
- An apparatus was attached to the galley-range, for conveying, by means of pipes, two inches in diameter, a current of heated air between decks.
- A large quantity of the meats preserved by Messrs. Donkin and Co. without salt, as well as of their vegetable and concentrated soups, was embarked, and placed at the discretion of Captain Parry, who, by the substitution of them, in lieu of proportional quantities of salt beef, greatly improved the diet of the men.
- The operation of causing the ship to roll, by the men running in a body from side to side, so as to relieve her from the adhesion end friction of the young ice around her.
- A “lead” is a channel through the ice, and a ship is said to “take the right lead” when she follows a channel conducting her into a more navigable sea, and vice versa.
- A “pack” is a large body of ice, consisting of separate masses lying close together, and whose extent cannot be seen.
- Surgeon Beverly’s appointment to the Hecla on this occasion is not mentioned in Murray’s Quarterly Navy Lists, published by authority, which circumstance caused the omission of it at p. 364.