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This consisted of the “Isabella," of three hundred and eighty-five tons, under the command of Captain John Ross, and the “ Alexander," of two hundred and fifty-two tons, under Lieutenant W. E. Parry, officered and manned by a company numbering in all ninety-four persons. The ships sailed from the Thames on the 18th of April, 1818, and after an absence of seven months anchored there on the 14th of November. Ross was a skil. ful and cautious seaman, but he lacked the bold and adventurous spirit which experience had shown was necessary for success in Arctic navigation. This defect and a too close adherence to the letter of his instructions prevented his voyage from having much scientific or practical importance. He was assiduous in making the astronomical and other observations required of him, and he corrected some of the mistakes which had crept into the maps; but he added little to the knowledge of Arctic geography, and on some points he fell into serious errors.
These mistakes were not shared by all of his officers, and in the following year Lieutenant Parry, who had been next in command under Ross, was sent out with two vessels, the “Hecla,” of three hundred and seventy-five tons, and the “Griper," of one hundred and eighty tons. The whole number of persons in this expedition was precisely the same as was with Ross, and they were all experienced sailors, many of them having been with him on the late voyage. The two vessels sailed from the Thames on the rith of May, 1819, and arrived at the Orkneys, on their return, at the end of October, 1820, having been absent nearly a year and a half. Parry had been at sea ever since he was twelve years old, and thus brought to the service in which he was now employed a large and various experience, though he was still under thirty. From the first he exhibited great energy, excellent judgment, and a most watchful care over the health and wellbeing of his men. Directing his course up the western coast of Greenland, he passed through Sir James Lawrence Sound, and reached Melville Island early in September, 1819. Here, in a small opening to which he gave the name of Winter Harbor, he was forced to remain nearly eleven months. It was the farthest western point yet reached by any exploring expedition ; and their success thus far had entitled the officers and crew to a bounty of £5,000, authorized by an act of Parliament. The winter was long, dreary, and intensely cold ; but its wearisomeness was relieved by theatrical performances and by the publication of a weekly newspaper entitled The North Georgia Gasette, or Winter Chronicle, which was not without considerable merit, and, considering the circumstances under which it was composed, well deserved the honor of republication on the return of the ships to England. On becoming free of the ice, in August, 1820, Parry attempted to prosecute his voyage still farther to the west, but after painfully working his way a few miles he was compelled, by the lateness of the season and by the impenetrable masses of ice which surrounded his vessels, to relinquish his design. He then made sail for home, with his confidence in a northwest passage in no degree shaken by his failure to find it.
In the spring of the following year Parry sailed on a second voyage, in the “Fury," of three hundred and seventy-six tons, with a crew of fiftynine persons, and accompanied by his old ship, the “Hecla," under the command of Captain George F. Lyon, who had with him fifty-seven men. The ships and their equipments were, as nearly as possible, closely alike, so that in case of an accident to either vessel her wants could be supplied at once from her consort ; and this "equalization" proved in the end to be of so great advantage that Parry himself declared it to be an "absolute necessity” in the case of “ two ships that must necessarily be dependent solely on their own resources for a long and uncertain period of time.” 1 The ships sailed from the Thames on the 8th of May, 1821, and directed their course for Hudson's Strait and the upper part of Hudson's Bay, fol. lowing in the track of Middleton's discoveries near the middle of the last century. The season was unfavorable, and early in October Parry was obliged to secure his vessels in winter-quarters near the southeast angle of Melville Peninsula. In the mean time, however, he had verified many of the discoveries of Middleton, and had accurately delineated the coast for a distance of "more than two hundred leagues, nearly half of which belonged to the continent of North America."3 The weariness of this first winter was relieved in very much the same way as in the former voyage, and by expedients similar to those which he had then employed. Winter Island, where he was now imprisoned by the ice, was more than eight degrees farther south than Winter Harbor; but it was not until the beginning of July that he was able to leave it and begin to work his way northward. After several ineffectual attempts to pass through the opening between Melville Peninsula and Cockburn Island, since known as the Strait of Fury and Hecla, he was again obliged to secure his vessels in a winter station as early as the middle of October. Here, at the island of Igloolik, not far from the northeastern point of Melville Peninsula, he remained through another dreary winter until the early part of August, when, in consequence of the failing health of his crew,- which, in the opinion of the surgeon, rendered it imprudent to remain in the ice another winter, - he reluctantly gave up the farther prosecution of his voyage. As soon as the vessels were free from the ice they sailed for England, where they arrived about the middle of October. The two years had been fruitful in important discoveries ; and Parry returned more than ever convinced of the existence of a northwest passage, but with his belief in its practicability much shaken.
A few months after his return he sailed again in the “Hecla," on a third voyage, accompanied by the “Fury,” now under the command of Captain Henry P. Hoppner, who had been on both of the previous voyages. They left the Nore on the 19th of May, 1824, with instructions to effect a passage, if possible, through Barrow Strait and Prince Regent's Inlet into the 1 Journal of a Second Voyage, Introduction, 2 See ante, ch. i.
Journal of a Second Voyage, p. 118.
western seas. The season proved a very unfavorable one, and the progress of the ships was greatly impeded by the extent and thickness of the ice. At the end of September, Parry was obliged to seek winter-quarters at Port Bowen, on the eastern side of Prince Regent's Inlet. Here he remained until the 20th of July, 1825, when, the ships having been freed from the ice, he attempted to cross to the western side of the Inlet. For a short time he made satisfactory progress; but he soon encountered fresh obstructions, by which the “Fury” received severe and repeated injuries, and it became necessary to abandon her at the end of August, very near the place where she had been first beset. Her officers and men were then transferred to the “Hecla," and as soon as possible sail was made for England, where the ship arrived about the middle of October. The expedition was the least successful of the three undertaken by Parry; but it does not appear that its failure was due to any want of care and forethought on his part or on that of his companions. Nothing had been done to solve the long vexed problem, though considerable additions had been made to the knowledge of the limited field to which Parry's researches were confined.
Just a month after Parry sailed on his third voyage, his former companion, Captain Lyon, left England in the “Griper," with instructions to proceed through Hudson's Strait to Repulse Bay or Wager River, where he was to leave his vessel in a place of security for the winter. He was then to cross Melville Peninsula, and make a preliminary examination of the shore of the Polar Sea in that neighborhood, with a view to a more thorough exploration in the following spring. For the latter purpose, he was to go as rapidly as possible to Point Turnagain, which had already been reached by Captain, afterwards Sir John, Franklin, in an overland expedition from the west, and he was then to trace the coast far enough east to connect it with the previous explorations. The expedition was a signal failure. Owing to their proximity to the magnetic pole, the compasses ceased to be of practical use; the season was extremely unfavorable ; constant gales were encountered; and the “Griper” was so dull a sailor and was so deep in the water as often to be unmanageable. She sailed from the Thames on the 16th of June, and early in August arrived off Cape Chidley, where she took on board additional stores from a surveying vessel which had been ordered to accompany her to the edge of the ice, and which had towed her a large part of the distance thus far accomplished. Here the two vessels parted company. By the most persevering efforts Lyon succeeded in getting within about ninety miles of Repulse Bay before the ioth of September, when he lost all his anchors in a severe gale. He then determined to relinquish his undertaking, and as soon as was possible made sail for home; but it was not until the oth of November that the “Griper” was moored at Portsmouth. How far the failure of the enterprise was owing to a lack of good seamanship on the part of the commander it is not easy, perhaps, to determine ; but it is scarcely possible not to compare his failure with what was accomplished by the old navigators under disadvantages as great, at least, as those he had to encounter.
When the third expedition under Parry and the overland expedition under Franklin were planned, it was also determined to send another expedition, by way of Behring's Strait, to furnish such help as either of these officers might require in the event of a successful prosecution of the explorations assigned to him. For this purpose, Captain Frederick W. Beechey was placed in command of the ship “ Blossom,” mounting sixteen guns, and manned by a crew numbering in all one hundred persons. On the 19th of May, 1825, Beechey set sail from Spithead, and directing his course around Cape Horn and by way of Bounty Bay and the Sandwich Islands, he reached the entrance of Behring's Strait about the middle of July in the following year. From that point he explored the coast of North America in the “Blossom ” as far east as Cape Beaufort, and the exploration was continued by a boat party as far as Point Barrow, near the 16th degree of west longitude, and less than one hundred and fifty miles west from the farthest point reached by Franklin. Beechey remained within the strait until the middle of October, when he sailed for San Francisco. Thence he proceeded to China and the Loo Choo Islands, returning to Behring's Strait in the summer of 1827. He pushed forward, however, no farther than Kotzebue Sound, and early in September, satisfied that there was no probability of being able to communicate with either Parry or Franklin, he set sail on his return. He reached England early in the autumn of 1828, having been absent three years and a half, and sailed seventy-three thousand miles. Beechey's voyage added little to a knowledge of the northwest coast of America, which seems to have been to him an object of far less interest than the islands and shoals of the Pacific ; but the scientific value of the examination made of the cliffs of Escholtz Bay by some of his subordinate officers, and the interest attaching to the fossil remains obtained by them, cannot be overlooked in any account of the northwest voyages.
In 1827, after Parry's return from a voyage toward the North Pole, an account of which does not come within the plan of this chapter, Sir John
proposed to the British government an expedition to the northwest. But his proposal was not accepted, and he then applied to an old friend, Mr. Felix Booth, one of the sheriffs of London, who at first declined to engage in what he feared might be regarded as a mercantile speculation. Subsequently, however, his scruples were removed by the repeal of the act of Parliament offering a reward for the discovery of a northwest passage, and he then entered heartily into Ross's plans. From his own resources he furnished nearly the whole cost of the expedition, to an amount between seventeen thousand and eighteen thousand pounds sterling A small steamer of eighty-five tons, named the “Victory,” was purchased, repaired, and built up so as nearly to double her tonnage. The vessel was amply provided for her intended voyage ; her second officer, James C. Ross,
nephew of the commander, was a man of large scientific attainments, and her other officers and her crew were picked men ; but the results of her voyage were far less than might have been reasonably anticipated. Indeed, the most important fruit of the voyage was the discovery, by James C. Ross, of the true position of the north magnetic pole, which was found near the southwest angle of Boothia.
On the 23d of May, 1829, the “Victory” sailed from Woolwich, and after various embarrassments arising from the unsatisfactory working of the steam
engine, and from the mutiny of the crew of a store-ship which was to accompany the “Victory” during the first part of the voyage, Ross, about the middle of August, reached the beach where the “Fury” was abandoned four years before. A few weeks later, while attempting to pass down what is now known as the Gulf of Boothia, he was so beset with ice that he was obliged, before the end of September, to put the ship into winter-quarters in a harbor to which he gave the name of Felix Harbor. Here he remained until the early part of September, 1830, when he endeavored to get under way and proceed north again; but he only
succeeded in working through the SIR JOHN ROSS.*
ice about four miles, when he was obliged to secure his vessel in another harbor, named by him Sheriff's Harbor. In this new place of refuge he remained until near the end of August, 1831, when he managed to get a few miles farther north, but was soon forced to go into winter-quarters in a third harbor, which he named first Victory, and afterward Victoria Harbor. In the spring of 1832 he determined to abandon the ship and return by sledges and boats to Fury Beach, with the hope of getting into Baffin's Bay. On the 29th of May he left the ship, and after great difficulties succeeded in reaching the stores left on the beach by the “Fury.” He then tried to push forward for the completion of his design; but he found the ice so compact that he was obliged to return to Fury Beach. Here another dreary winter was passed in a house built of wood and canvas and covered with snow. On the 8th of July, 1833, Ross and his crew finally left Fury Beach, and after walking six days reached their boats which had remained in Batty Bay. By the middle of August they were enabled to embark, and on the 26th the boats were picked
* After B. R. Faulkner's likeness of Ross as engraved by R. Hart in his Narrative of a Second Vayage, App. (London, 1835).