During a visit to the Hecla, the fiddler having struck up a tune, these merry people danced with the seamen for an hour, and then returned in high glee to their huts. They were highly delighted with the tones of the organ, as with the songs of the seamen and music of every description. They were very ingenious in employing such materials as they had at their disposal. A sledge being required to carry a lad to some distance, one of them set to work, and in a short time cut out of ice a serviceable little sledge, hollowed like a bowl, and smoothly rounded at the bottom. The thong to which the dogs were secured was fixed to a groove cut round its upper edge. Among the women was one named Iliglink, the mother of a lad called Toolooak, who had frequently come on board. She was a superior person, of great natural talent. Her voice was soft; she had an excellent ear for music, and a great fondness for singing. It was somewhat difficult, indeed, when she once began, to stop her. She made beautiful models of canoes, sledges, and other articles; but she showed her superior intelligence by the readiness with which she communicated her knowledge of the geographical outline of the sea-coast of the country and of the islands. Several sheets of paper were placed before her, and she drew roughly, on a large scale, an outline of the land about Repulse Bay and Lyon Inlet, continuing it northerly to the present winter station of the ships. Sheet after sheet was tacked on until she had completely lost sight of Winter Island, at the other end of the table. She afterwards drew, on a smaller scale, with wonderful accuracy, a chart embracing a much wider extent of coast. With intense interest it was found that she drew the extreme northern boundary of America, or rather its north-east extremity, round which Captain Parry had received instructions to proceed, if possible.
The armourer's forge especially attracted her attention, and she expressed great astonishment at seeing two pieces of iron welded together. She was rather spoiled, however, by the attention paid her, and seemed to claim as a right her privilege of coming on board whenever she pleased.
Early in April some of the tribe deserted their habitations, proceeding to the westward in search of food, and at the end of May the whole party announced that they were about to migrate to the northward. On receiving what they considered the most valuable presents from the commander, the women broke into such immoderate fits of laughter as to be almost hysterical, finishing by bursting into tears.
The men were thankful, but less noisy in expressing their satisfaction. As these good-humoured and very cheerful people took their departure, they greeted the voyagers with three cheers, in true English style.
While preparations were being made for sailing three deaths occurred, two on board the Fury, and one seaman of the Hecla.
On the 2nd of July the ships moved out of their winter quarters, but they did not put to sea until the 8th. They were almost immediately exposed to most terrific danger, being driven along the ice at a furious rate, frequently almost nipped by it. At one time the Hecla's stern was lifted more than five feet out of the water, and her rudder unslung by a violent jerk. Had another floe backed the one which lifted her, the ship must inevitably have turned over or parted amidships. Providentially she righted, and drove several miles to the southward before her rudder could be again slung. The Fury was exposed to almost equal peril of destruction. By long and unremitting perseverance, and by taking advantage of every opening and breeze of wind, the ships moved to the northward as far as latitude 67 degrees 18 minutes, to the mouth of a fresh water river. The boats were lowered, and parties landed and proceeded up the banks of the river, where, at about two and a quarter miles from the entrance, they found a fine waterfall, the scenery being romantic and beautiful in the extreme. It was named Barrow, after the Secretary of the Admiralty. Its beauties were enhanced by the vegetation on its banks, the enlivening brilliancy of a cloudless sky, and the animation given to the scene by several reindeer, which were grazing beside the stream.
On the 14th of July the ships reached the island of Amitiske, which by Iliglink's chart appeared near the strait which they had reason to believe would conduct them to the polar sea. Here they saw an enormous herd of walruses, lying piled up over each other on the loose drift ice. A boat's crew from each ship was sent to attack them, but the animals— some with their cubs on their backs,—making a most determined resistance, kept their assailants at bay. One of them, rushing forward, tore the planks of a boat in several places, and very nearly sank her. Three only were killed.
Sailing on, a strait was seen stretching westward in long perspective; but the hopes of the explorers were soon disappointed, when the ice was discovered extending in one unbroken line across it, from shore to shore.
This passage was named Fury and Hecla Strait. Hoping ultimately, however, to force the ships through, Parry made an expedition along the surface of the strait, and from an elevation saw a wide passage opening out to the west, inducing him to believe that he saw before him the polar sea. Scarcely, however, had he returned when the ice began to break in rents and fissures, and, soon entirely disappearing, the vessels floated in open water. With a brisk breeze he stood on, but at the end of five days it was announced from the crow's nest that ice in a continuous field occupied the whole breadth of the channel. On examining it, however, it was found to be rotten, and the captain, therefore, determined to try and force the ships through it. With all canvas set, they had proceeded three or four hundred yards, when they stuck, and, in spite of all their efforts, were unable to make the slightest advance during the remainder of the season. With the greatest difficulty they were at length extricated, and proceeded to the neighbouring harbour of Igloolik, into which, by the usual operation of sawing, they made their way. Here they prepared to spend another winter. The two ships were at some distance from each other, though not sufficiently so to prevent constant intercourse. They were prevented, however, from continuing their theatrical entertainments, but schools were carried on as industriously as before. A wall of snow, twelve feet high, was built round the Fury, at a distance of twenty yards from her, forming a large square, like that of a farmyard, by which not only was the snow-drift kept out, but a good walk, sheltered from every wind, was afforded. Before long the Esquimaux appeared, among whom were several of their old friends; but Iliglink did not arrive, nor was any reason given for her not coming. The winter was less pleasantly spent than the former, while some slight cases of scurvy appeared, arising from the want of fresh anti-scorbutic plants. At length, when the month of August arrived, the ships were as securely confined in the ice as in the middle of winter, except that a pool of water, about twice their own length and diameter, had opened round them. There was a distance of four or five miles between the ships and the sea, yet notwithstanding, Captain Parry determined to commence the laborious task of sawing his way through it.
By the 6th of August, about four hundred yards of ice were sawn through, leaving a broad canal, eleven hundred yards in length. By this and the disruption of the floe on the 8th of August, the Fury floated once more in open water, and was followed on the 12th by the Hecla.
Captain Parry had come to the resolution of sending the Hecla home, and by taking such stores and provisions as could be spared from her on board the Fury, with her alone to brave a third winter in the polar regions; but on desiring the medical officers 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 ship's company, they expressed it very strongly to the effect that it would be dangerous in the extreme. Captain Lyon fully agreed with this, and the ships, therefore, stood out eastward. The current rapidly hurried them along to the southward, their drift being twenty-one miles in twenty-four hours, though closely beset, without a single pool of water in sight the whole time. As they approached a headland, they were whirled round it at the rate of two or three knots an hour, and on passing Barrow River were drifted nine or ten miles off land by the current setting out of it.
On the 17th of September, a strong westerly breeze clearing them from the ice, enabled them to shape their course for Trinity Islands in a perfectly open sea, from whence they ran down Hudson's Straits, without meeting with any obstruction. The favourable wind still continued, and on the 10th of October they anchored in Brassa Sound, off Lerwick, where they enjoyed their first sight of civilised man, after an absence of seven and twenty months.
They were received by the people of Lerwick in the warmest manner. The bells were set ringing, the town was illuminated, and people flocked in from all parts of the country, to express their joy at their unexpected return.
On the 18th Captain Parry arrived at the Admiralty, and the ships were paid off on the 16th of November.
The idea being entertained that the passage westward into the Pacific might be made through Prince Regent's Inlet, Captain Parry was appointed to the command of another expedition for the purpose of ascertaining if this could be done. The Hecla was re-commissioned, he taking command of her, while Commander Hoppner was appointed to the Fury, with Horatio Thomas Austin and James Clark Ross as his lieutenants. The Hecla carried sixty-two and the Fury sixty persons.
The ships sailed from the Nore on the 19th of May, 1824, accompanied by the William Harris transport. Captain Parry received his instructions to make the best of his way to Davis Straits, to cross over to Lancaster Sound, and, proceeding through Barrow Straits, endeavour to make through Prince Regent's Inlet a passage into the sea which bounds the American continent on its northern coast, and thence westward to the Pacific. At the Danish settlement of Lievely the ships received their stores from the William Harris, which returned home. On leaving the harbour, the Hecla struck on a sunken rock, but without receiving much damage. On the 17th of July the ice began to close round the ships, and from that time forward the crews were constantly employed in warping or sawing through the frozen mass. On several occasions the Hecla received awkward nips, and it was not until the 9th of September that they got into open water. On the 10th of September they entered Lancaster Sound, and found it free from ice; but on the 13th they had the mortification of perceiving the sea ahead covered with young ice, through which they made their way until they came to the entrance of Port Bowen, into which the ships were warped by the ist of October, and here took up their winter station. The usual preparations for passing that dreary season were made. Numerous whales were seen off the coast, which would have afforded a rich harvest to a whaler.
Parry's first care was to find occupation and diversion for the seamen. As many of their former amusements were worn threadbare, he proposed a masquerade, in which officers and men alike took part. Admirably dressed characters of various descriptions made their appearance, and were supported with a degree of spirit and humour which would not have discredited a more refined assembly. It does especial credit to the disposition and good sense of the men that, although the officers entered fully into the spirit of these amusements, which took place once a month alternately on board each ship, no instance occurred of anything that could interfere with the regular discipline, or at all weaken the respect of the men towards their officers. Mr Hooper, purser of the Hecla, superintended the school, aided by other officers. The progress of the men was surprisingly great. He also attended to the cultivation of that religious feeling which so essentially improves the character of seamen, by furnishing the highest motives for increased attention to their other duties. The officers also found full employment in the various observations to which their attention was directed. An expedition was also made to the eastward, under Commander Hoppner. On his return, two other parties, under the respective commands of Lieutenants Sherer and Ross, travelled, the former to the southward, and the latter to the northward, along the coast of Prince Regent's Inlet, for the purpose of surveying it accurately. The travelling along the shore was so good that they were enabled to extend their journeys far beyond the points intended. On returning, Lieutenant Ross brought the welcome intelligence that the sea was perfectly open at a distance of twenty-two miles northward of Port Bowen. On the 12th of July the ice began to break up, and by the 20th, owing to the sudden separation of the floe, the ships got free. They first crossed over to the western shore of Prince Regent's Inlet, then proceeded southward, close in with the land, having alternately open water and floating ice, to which they had occasionally to make fast. Before long, however, the ice was observed to be in rapid motion towards the shore. The Hecla was immediately beset, in spite of every exertion, and, after breaking two of the largest ice-anchors, in endeavouring to heave in to the shore, she was compelled to drift with the ice. Both ships were in extreme danger. The cliffs next the sea, four or five hundred feet in perpendicular height, were constantly breaking down, and the ships lay so close in shore as to be almost within range of some of these falling masses. The following day the Hecla managed to get to a greater distance; but the Fury remained where she was, and on the 31st a hard gale brought the ice closer and closer, until it pressed with very considerable violence on both ships, though mostly on the Fury, which lay in a very exposed position. Shortly afterwards the Fury was forced on the ground, where she lay, but was got off again at high water. A broad channel appearing and a fresh breeze springing up, an attempt was made to reach the water; but the ice came bodily in upon the ships, which were instantly beset in such a manner as to be literally helpless and unmanageable.
Thus they were carried southward, when the Hecla, driving close in shore, struck the ground several times, and remained immovable. The Fury was seen driving past, narrowly escaping being forced on board her. She was driven about three hundred yards, powerfully pressed by the ice, until she became so severely nipped and strained as to leak a good deal, when she was again forced ashore. Both ships, however, got off at high water, but on the 2nd of August the Fury was again driven on the beach, and the Hecla narrowly escaped. Captain Parry went on board the former vessel, and found four pumps going, and Commander Hoppner and his men almost exhausted with the incessant labours of the last eight and forty hours. They were now looking out for a spot where the Fury might be hove down, when again the ice drove down upon them. Once more freed, however, the ships proceeded to a place where there were three bergs, at which it was determined to heave down the Fury. The formation of a basin was at once commenced, and completed by the 16th of August, and on the 18th all the Fury's stores, provisions, and other articles, were landed, and she was hove down. Scarcely, however, had this been done when a gale of wind came on, which destroyed the bergs, and made it necessary to tow both the ships away from the land. The Fury was again reloaded, but on the 21st was once more driven on shore. It was now seen that any attempt to carry her to a place of safety, even should she be got off, would be hopeless and productive of extreme risk to the remaining ship, and that an absolute necessity existed for abandoning her. Her crew, with such stores as were required, were transferred to the Hecla, and every effort was made to carry the surviving ship into clear water.
Five and twenty days of the time when navigation was practicable had been lost. As soon, therefore, as the boats had been hoisted up and stowed, they sailed away to the north-eastward, with a light air off the land, in order to gain an offing before the ice should again set in shore. The Hecla was at length worked out of Prince Regent's Inlet, and arrived safely at Melville Harbour, where the necessary repairs were effected for enabling her to cross the Atlantic.
Weighing anchor on the 1st of September, the Hecla entered Barrow Strait, where the sea was found perfectly open, and she was thus enabled to bear away to the eastward. In crossing Lancaster Sound more than the usual quantity of icebergs were seen. For ten miles she had only to make one tack, when she reached the margin of the ice, and got on its eastern side into the open sea. On the 10th of October the Orkney Islands were sighted, and on the 12th Captain Parry landed at Peterhead.
This last voyage to discover the north-west passage, though less successful than the former ones, equally exhibited the courage, perseverance, and hardihood which had before distinguished the officers and crews employed; while we cannot help contrasting the admirable discipline maintained with the sad want of it displayed in so many of the voyages described in the preceding pages.
In 1827 Captain Parry commanded an expedition, which was fitted out in the hopes of reaching the north pole by way of Spitzbergen, when, accompanied by Captain Ross, he performed a long and hazardous journey over the ice; but, after travelling six hundred miles, it was found that they had only made good, owing to the drift of the ice, one hundred and seventy miles.
As a reward for his laborious services, he received the honour of knighthood, and Admiral Sir Edward Parry will ever be remembered as one of the bravest, most sagacious, and enterprising officers who have done honour to the British Navy.
The voyages of Sir John Franklin will now occupy us in succession to the heroic Parry.
CHAPTER TWENTY NINE.
SIR JOHN FRANKLIN'S EXPEDITIONS.
Birth and youthful career of Franklin—His service at sea—Appointed to survey the Coppermine River—His expedition—His second expedition to the Arctic regions—Made Governor of Tasmania—His return—The last Franklin expedition.
Sir John Franklin, whose Arctic expeditions and their consequences will form the subject of this chapter, was born at Spilsby, in Lincolnshire, on the 16th of April, 1786. He was the youngest son of most respectable parents and intended for the Church, but as he preferred the sea service, his father yielded, and got him appointed a middy at fourteen years of age. Young Franklin soon saw some service. He was present at Copenhagen in 1801, and was appointed to the Investigator, which, under his cousin Captain Flinders, explored the Australian coast. The Investigator went to grief, and when the crew were transferred to the Porpoise she was wrecked, the ship's company and officers living on a sandbank for fifty days. After being taken off, Franklin was carried to Canton, and when he eventually reached England he was appointed to the Bellerophon, and was present at the battle of Trafalgar, where he was signal midshipman, and behaved splendidly.
For several years he served in the Bedford, and was engaged and wounded at New Orleans. In 1818 he was put in command of the Trent to find an Arctic passage to India, and in this Captain Buchan, in the Dorothea, took command. But the latter vessel being damaged, the expedition returned to England, though Franklin wished to proceed alone.
After this, his reputation having been well established, not only as a thorough seaman but as a man of science, he was appointed to the expedition to cross the continent from Hudson's Bay to the Coppermine, and explore the coast eastward.
We will now, as briefly as possible, give the interesting narrative of Franklin's Arctic expeditions.
While Sir Edward Parry, whose expedition we have already detailed, was endeavouring to cross the Polar Sea westwards, Lieutenant John Franklin was commissioned by the Admiralty to ascertain the sources of the Coppermine River. At the same time Doctor Richardson and Messrs. Hood and Back were also nominated, with two English sailors, to accompany him. This small party embarked on board the Hudson Bay Company's vessel Prince of Wales on the 23rd of May, 1819, and after some perils they arrived off York Factory, on the Hudson Bay shore, in August of the same year.
On the 9th of September the party commenced their exploration, and reached Cumberland House on the 22nd of October. Franklin, notwithstanding the advanced period of the year, determined to push on, and after a delay he set out, accompanied only by Lieutenant Back, on the 18th of January, 1820. Doctor (afterwards Sir John) Richardson and Mr Hood were to bring up the baggage and more stores in the early spring. The enterprising pair then journeyed more than eight hundred miles in the terrible Arctic winter, and reached Fort Chepeywan on the 26th of March following.
Meanwhile Doctor Richardson and Mr Hood remained at Cumberland House engaged in congenial pursuits and studying the Cree Indians, with other natural history subjects. The notes they give concerning the manners and customs of the Indians are extremely interesting, but are by this time pretty well known. Their dexterity in hunting and hawking are particularly commended, and much useful information concerning the fauna of the district was collected by Doctor Richardson and his companion.
When spring began to appear Doctor Richardson and his friend, with the Indian hunters, set out to join Franklin, and the "misery"—there is no other name for it—which the party endured, not from cold but from the mosquitoes, must be read about in detail to be even partially appreciated. This is a fearful plague of the northern regions just as Nature is beginning to clothe herself anew in green, and the white mantle of winter has disappeared in those places where snow is not perpetual.
On the 18th of July, 1820, the whole party was assembled at Fort Chepeywan, and they set out together, so as to reach the mouth of the Coppermine in time to establish winter quarters for the next cold season. But tremendous difficulties beset them—lakes and rivers had to be crossed, portages had to be made, as rapids had to be avoided, and shallows had to be circumvented. Thus it was the middle of August again ere they reached a place whence further progress was impossible that season. The signs of approaching winter could not be disregarded: a house was constructed as a winter residence, and called "Fort Enterprise."
Their objective point was still many, many miles away, and those miles they could not traverse with their boats and stores. So, after a hurried peep at the head of the river, they made ready to winter, and with that view laid in a stock of provisions. This consisted chiefly of pemmican, which is frozen or dried reindeer-flesh kneaded with the fat into a kind of paste. Fish was added to this, but as people came along—natives and their families, who "made for" shelter as quickly as possible—the stock was not enough. Ammunition gave out, many necessary stores had not come up, and at length Mr—afterwards Admiral Sir George—Back determined to return, and bring up the required stores.
After a lapse of five months this intrepid young officer returned to Franklin. In the meantime he had travelled one thousand miles in snow-shoes, had no covering at night except a blanket and a deer-skin, the thermometer at 40 degrees to 50 degrees below zero, and on occasions he was for two or three days without food! This was indeed intrepidity, but he knew his friends were waiting for him, and that without some such self-sacrifice they could not have remained in their winter quarters, where, during Mr Back's absence, they suffered greatly from the climate.
The young voyager brought back with him two interpreters, whose names in English were "Stomach" and "Ear," but who were called Augustus and Junius, in preference to the British equivalents of their baptismal names. During the winter all played games and wrote out their journals—a favourite occupation with all travellers in their forced idleness. They subsisted on reindeer meat without vegetables, and drank tea or chocolate. The Indians were very kind and friendly all the time. Many instances are related of their good-nature and simplicity.
The 14th of June had come before the travellers considered the icy river navigable. Some difficulties occurred with the hunters as to the procuring of provisions by the way, but when all had been arranged comfortably, a start was made, and the rocky river attempted.
The party arrived at the Copper hills, where the ore was searched for, and then the expedition continued its course, though the Indians would not go on after a while for fear of meeting the Esquimaux; and even the Canadian hunters wanted to go back. The sea was reached on the 18th of July, and the party paddled their own canoes towards the east. For more than five hundred miles they coasted, until, instead of finding themselves in the Arctic Ocean, they were only in an immense bay. So they turned back and went up Hood's River, with the intention to go as far as possible by water, and then strike overland to Fort Enterprise again.
This was a hazardous attempt, but it was their only chance. They were soon stopped by a waterfall, and then the pilgrimage began. The large canoes were made into two smaller ones, for the crossing of rivers and lakes, and, with only provisions for two days, they started overland.
In three days they encountered quite a wintry climate, and from the 5th to 26th of September they had to march through snow and live on mosses, without any guide, or observation, to show the way, and many days they had no food at all. Frozen, and eventually almost in despair, the Canadians grew impatient. One canoe was disabled, the other lost, and, at length, when they all reached the Coppermine River, they had no means of crossing it.
In this emergency, Doctor Richardson volunteered to swim the hundred and thirty yards of icy water (38 degrees), and carry a line over. He made the attempt, and had almost succeeded when the cold overcame him, and he was dragged back nearly drowned. He was with much difficulty restored to animation. A kind of basket was then rigged up, and in it Saint Germain, an interpreter, paddled over, carrying the line. He managed to reach the opposite bank, and with no more than a wetting the rest all crossed in safety after him.
This was in the beginning of October, and winter was upon them. So Franklin sent on some of the men with Mr Back to find the Indians near Fort Enterprise, and the rest followed. But the lichens disagreed with two men, and though Doctor Richardson went back and endeavoured to cure them and bring them along, he was obliged to abandon them to die in their tracks. Things looked so serious that Richardson and Hood pluckily proposed to remain at the first convenient halting-place with the weaker brethren, and let Franklin push on to the fort, and send back help and food. This was agreed to. Franklin went on, but Hepburn, the English sailor, volunteered to remain with Richardson. This parting took place on the 7th of October, twenty-four miles from the fort. Of the eight men who left with Franklin, four were taken ill and returned to Doctor Richardson, but only one man, the Iroquois Michel, reached the tent in rear.
On the 11th Franklin, with four men, reached the fort, and found it completely empty and deserted—no food, no friends, nothing! After a while a note was found from Mr Back saying he had gone after the Indians, but he was unsuccessful in finding them. Others were sent afterwards, and so for eighteen days Franklin lived miserably on the skins, bones, and remains of the reindeer which had been eaten the previous winter!
On the 29th of October Richardson and Hepburn came in—walking skeletons. Where was poor Hood? Where were the others? A tragic tale had to be told by Doctor Richardson. Here is the account of what happened.
For two days the party left by Franklin had no food. Michel then brought a little game. Then another day and no food, and Mr Hood was very ill. Next day the Iroquois carried home some "wolf-meat," but Richardson believes it was a part of the body of one of the wanderers who had been killed by the Iroquois. This man now became very ill-natured and got worse and worse in his conduct, refusing to supply his companions with food or to share what he had procured. One day after being remonstrated with while Doctor Richardson and Hepburn were absent from the tent, this wretch shot Hood in the back, and Michel was so evidently the murderer that afterwards, in self-defence, Richardson shot him unexpectedly as he was coming to the fort. Hepburn had noticed certain acts which left no doubt of Michel's intention to murder his companions, and Richardson anticipated the murderer's aim.
After this Richardson, emaciated and half dead, with Hepburn a perfect skeleton, found Franklin as bad as themselves. Utterly unable to find any food they gnawed skins and bones. They were on the point of death when on the 7th of November assistance came. Three Indians sent by Back appeared with food. They afforded material assistance, and finally conducted the remainder of the party to the next fort. The survivors reached York Factory in July, 1822, having been absent from it just three years.
Many Arctic expeditions were sent out after this for the north-west exploration. Commander Lyon, in the Hecla, has been already mentioned. We shall hear of the Blossom in connection with Sir John Franklin. The Victory, under Captain John Ross and Lieutenant Ross, Captain Back in the Terror and in boats, the Hudson Bay Company's employes in 1836-39, and Doctor John Rae, 1846-47, all added their "notable voyages" to the record of Arctic expeditions, and were we to detail them there would be a sameness in the narratives, though the adventurous spirit breathed through them all. But later on we will mention Doctor Kane's expedition.
We will at present confine ourselves to Sir John Franklin's expeditions undertaken in 1825-27 and 1845-50, with the search made for him by various vessels.
Not contented with what had been done, and was being done, by Parry and others in the North, Franklin undertook to conduct a second expedition, which Captain Beachey was appointed to meet by going round Cape Horn, and through Behring's Strait to the eastward, so as to unite with Franklin, who hoped to come overland. Four expeditions, including these, were fitted out; but we have already seen what Parry did. Captain Lyon's attempt to survey the coast failed; so we will follow Franklin in his second venture.
The explorer was again accompanied by Doctor Richardson and Lieutenant Back; Mr Kendall and Mr Drummond also went as members of the "staff." Their object was to descend the Mackenzie River to the sea. There it was determined the party should divide, one portion going eastward, the other westward to Behring's Strait.
The whole expedition reached Fort Chepeywan once again in July, 1825, and pressed onto the Great Bear Lake; then, following the river which runs out of it to the Mackenzie River, they took up winter quarters; but, as there was still time to explore a little, Franklin descended the Mackenzie to the sea, and returned to the Fort (Franklin) before the severity of winter had overtaken him.
Winter passed over in the usual manner, and in June, 1826, it was judged that an advance might safely be made. On the 15th June all were ready. Two parties were formed. Franklin and Lieutenant Back, with fourteen men, were to go westward in the Reliance and Lion (boats); Doctor Richardson and Mr Kendall, with the Dolphin and Unicorn, were to proceed eastward. They all descended the Mackenzie together, and when they reached the mouth they separated as agreed on. Franklin's party proceeded westward, and met with some opposition from the Esquimaux, who tried to steal the stores and other things.
Eventually the explorers got free, and sailed on in continually thick, foggy weather. It was the middle of August before the boats reached the half-way point between the Mackenzie and the Cape. After a careful consideration of the circumstances, and being ignorant of the vicinity— comparatively speaking—of Captain Beachey in the Blossom, which had been directed to unite with him, Franklin made up his mind to return, as the winter was already beginning to manifest its approach.
Beachey was at that time actually expecting Captain Franklin. Only one hundred and forty-six miles intervened between them, and the brave explorer afterwards declared that had he known of the Blossom being so near he would have risked the meeting. But he had no reason to think that Beachey had got nearer than Kotzebue Sound, whereas a party from the Blossom had even ventured round Icy Cape in the search for Franklin.
The result was that Franklin returned, encountering severe weather, and on the 21st of September again gained the shelter of Fort Franklin. Beachey, meanwhile, waited in Kotzebue Sound as long as he dared, and then retreated to Petropavlovok. The extent of Franklin's survey had extended over three hundred and seventy-four miles of dreary coast without discovering a single harbour for vessels. He penetrated as far as latitude 70 degrees 24 minutes, and longitude 149 degrees 37 minutes West.
Doctor Richardson's party made some very valuable observations in his survey of five hundred miles—a much more pleasant journey than Franklin's. In the account of the expedition are many interesting details of Esquimaux life. Doctor Richardson and his companions reached winter quarters in safety on the Great Bear Lake. In 1827 Captain Beachey again made his way up to Kotzebue Sound, in the expectation of encountering Franklin, but, of course, did not meet him. These three parties traced the coast down to Return Reef westward, from the Mackenzie eastward to Cape Kensurstern, and circumnavigated the Great Bear Lake, this, "if continued eastward, would have solved the North-West Passage."
Before considering the several Arctic expeditions which made attempts to discover the desired North-West Passage, we will speak of Sir John Franklin's third and last expedition to the Icy Regions. In the year 1829, Captain Franklin had been created a Knight, and received the degree of D.C.L. at Oxford. In 1830 he commanded the Rainbow in the Mediterranean, which ship was known as "Franklin's Paradise," so well did he treat his crew. In the year 1836, he was appointed Governor of Van Dieman's Land (Tasmania), and in that colony he remained until 1843, where he was, and is still, gratefully remembered. He returned to England in consequence, it is said, of some misunderstanding with the Colonial Office, and in 1845 he claimed the command of the new expedition.
THE LAST VOYAGE OF FRANKLIN.
In 1844 public attention was again directed to the discovery of the North-West Passage. The expedition under Sir James Ross, in the Erebus and Terror, to the South Polar regions had reopened the Arctic question. The vessels had been proved sound; they were available for a new advance. Sir John Franklin had returned from Tasmania, and when the Admiralty had decided to send out an expedition, he laid claim to the post of commander of it.
It was not until May, 1845, that the Erebus and Terror, fitted with auxiliary screws, were ready to go. A store-vessel accompanied them as far as Disco, on the Greenland coast, and there the two ships entered Baffin's Bay. Along the coast and into the ice they go, meeting it as it is making its slow way to the south. At length the ships are completely surrounded, and anchored to the snowy floes which extend in all directions.
By the end of July they have managed to press on out of the track of all the whaling vessels, and make for Lancaster Sound, westward. The desolate coast of North Devon is skirted, and subsequently Beachey Island is reached. From hence they move northward again, and to Wellington Channel, only to be turned back again by the ice.
But the signs of coming winter made it absolutely necessary that some sheltered place should be found in which the long dreary months might be passed. Day after day the Erebus and Terror sought such a resting-place, and found none. Any advance was now out of the question; the "massing" ice prevented that, and threatened them daily. At length it was decided to run for shelter to Beachey Island, and in Erebus and Terror Bay the expedition was made as snug as possible for the winter. The daily record of the passed months tells us of a continual struggle with ice and snow; checks and renewed efforts; storm-tossed seas, and icebergs innumerable.
At Beachey Island the vessels remained after their exploration of nearly three hundred miles of new ground. Plans, no doubt, were made for the following year, while the cold death-like hand of winter came and grasped everything in its iron grip. The sun, of course, left the ships, and after climbing the hills to see the last of him, the crews went back in darkness to the vessels. How the crews amused themselves during the winter we can imagine, and we find plenty of testimony to the games, the acting, the reading, and study, in which time was passed. The great thing to be aimed at was occupation—action. Stagnation meant death.
Three men died during the winter, and when the sun reappeared, when the creeks in the ice warned the crews that the time of release was at hand, a good and anxious look-out was kept. At length the ice-floes moved away, and after a while the channel was cut out for the release of the Erebus and Terror. The open water was at length gained, the instructions were to go south-west from Cape Walker, and that was now the point aimed at. When the Cape had been gained, and quitted for Cape Herschel, the ships fell into the Melville Island ice-stream, and they struggled on till King William's Land was sighted. But unfortunately by that time another winter had began to reform the ice. So there was nothing to do but find winter quarters, which were finally established northward of Cape Felix, in anything but a happy place, for the ice there is described as of a most fearful nature, and of terrible pressure.
Here there was a fearful prospect—nothing but ice in mountains, and in masses which tossed the ships—slowly indeed—and threatened to "nip" them in halves. But notwithstanding all the hardships, the men bore up, and prepared for the overland journey to Cape Herschel—a hundred miles only!—as soon as the spring should open. As soon as possible, a pioneer party, under Lieutenant Gore and Mr Des Voeux, of the Erebus, started off to see the channel or path by which they might reach America. When they rapidly returned to tell their comrades the good news they had gathered, they found Sir John Franklin dead!
Shortly afterwards, in a deep crevasse in the ice, the body was laid while the burial service was read over it by Captain Fitzjames. Franklin, "like another Moses, fell when his work was accomplished—with the long object of his life in view."
The movement of such ice as was still around the vessels would not take place till very late. The ice will move, but winter may again shut the ships in before they have traversed one half of the ninety miles still remaining. Captains Fitzjames and Crozier consult accordingly.
The floe moves, and the imbedded ships go south with it, but there is no water. No sailing is possible. Drifting helpless with the ice, the Erebus and Terror are carried along, but unless open water be found, they will drift back again in the autumn, or at any rate remain imprisoned in it.
Autumn has arrived—the new ice is forming, the floe no longer moves at all. Thirty miles have been passed over by the floe; the explorers are so much nearer, but then the drift ceases. Sixty miles or less of ice intervene, and then the open sea will be reached. But the doom has gone forth. Winter closes again on the brave, the sick, and the suffering; cold, disease, and privation are fast decimating the available hands. The snow-cloud settles down upon the vessels, darkness shrouds them; and when the curtain again rises, and the sun shines out, we find twenty-one officers and men had been laid to their long, last rest in the Arctic solitudes. One hundred and four men still remain—hungry, frozen, patient, brave. Alas that all the bravery was no avail!
It is pitiful to dwell upon the remainder of the sad story of the expedition. We can picture the band now reduced to such extremity that they must all remain to die, or struggle on across the ice and snow to Cape Herschel. They must go. They pack the boats, and put them upon sleighs, and then wait for spring to set about their weary work.
April comes, and has nearly gone, when the command is given. The men look their last upon the Erebus and Terror, give them three cheers, and go away into the desolate waste—to die! Point Victory their object. They gained it, and then their helplessness came and stared them in the face. In a cairn on the point Fitzjames placed a brief record, and that is all. They have only food for a month more, and day by day the strong are growing weak and the weak are dying.
The increase in the number of the latter necessitated a division. The sick must remain till help comes, or go back to the ships. We can picture the fearful alternative. Many remained, and of that number two skeletons were afterwards found, and on board one of the ships the "bones of a large man with long teeth!" That is all!
The remainder pushed on to Cape Herschel, and left a record in a cairn. They were desperate and dying men, yet they endeavoured to reach the Great Fish River, but alas! alas! the skeleton found lying face downwards, left unburied as he fell, tells us as much of the fate of the whole party as if the record had been kept.
"The Polar clouds uplift One moment, and no more."
For a long time no one knew the fate of the Erebus and Terror, until Lady Franklin sent out McClintock in the Fox to lift the veil which hung over the last voyage of the intrepid John Franklin. But before giving the account of McClintock's successful search we will enumerate the various attempts made by Government to ascertain the fate of Franklin. Our summary must be a very brief one.
Three years after Franklin had set out considerable uneasiness was felt in Great Britain concerning him. In 1848 two ships, the Herald and the Plover, were sent out by the Admiralty to afford assistance, but Sir John Richardson and Doctor Rae had anticipated the Government vessels, and gone via New York to the Mackenzie, which he had already twice visited with Franklin. Captain Sir James Ross also was searching by the Lancaster Sound, and he experienced many hardships; but in 1850 his vessels (the Enterprise and Investigator, under Collinson and McClure) were sent, and later on an international squadron was dispatched to Lancaster Sound under Captains Austin and Penny, Sir John Ross in the Felix, and Mr Grinnell's two American ships under Lieutenant De Haven, as well as the Albert, sent out by Lady Franklin at her own cost, commanded by Commander Forsyth.
This mixture of royal and mercantile naval commands gave rise to some unfriendly feelings, but Captain Penny succeeded in finding many traces of Franklin's crews, and the tombs of those who had died in 1846. Many most useful surveys and some geographical discoveries were made, but beyond the traces found by Ommaney and Penny nothing of the fate of the Franklin expedition was discovered.
In 1852 Sir E. Belcher sailed on the same errand. Lady Franklin also dispatched the Isabel. Doctor Rae in 1854, however, discovered, through the information afforded by the Esquimaux, that some white men had been seen in King William's Land a few years previously, "dragging boats across the ice," and "looking thin." The Hudson's Bay Company then sent Mr Anderson, in accordance with a request of the English Government, to explore the district; and on Montreal Island he found the remains of a boat, and obtained from the Esquimaux many relics of Franklin's expedition, with articles which had belonged to the crews. This intelligence decided Lady Franklin to make another attempt to learn the actual fate of her brave husband.
Before Doctor Rae had returned with the intelligence he had gained concerning the Franklin Expedition, a very important Arctic Expedition had been undertaken by Doctor Elisha Kane. To this we must turn our attention in a new chapter, as he went out to the limits of the Arctic Zone in search of Sir J. Franklin, and accomplished a most adventurous journey.
DR KANE'S VOYAGE TO THE POLAR REGIONS.
American exploration—The "open Polar Sea"—Dr Kane's voyage in the Advance—Sledge-work—The Advance in winter quarters—Incidents of the winter—Abandonment of the ship—Terrible suffering—Drifting— Rescued.
The Americans had already sent out an expedition to search for Franklin, which was commanded by Lieutenant De Haven. These vessels were the Advance and Rescue, and the expedition, which we have referred to as the "Grinnell Expedition," was accompanied by Doctor E.K. Kane as "surgeon, naturalist, and historian." In the spring of 1853, when more search expeditions were being sent out, Mr Grinnell, Mr Peabody, and other gentlemen, dispatched Doctor Kane as leader of this important undertaking.
Doctor Kane had minutely studied the Arctic problem, and he entertained the idea that around the Pole is open water—a theory afterwards acted on by Doctor Hayes, and set forth in a pamphlet by Captain Bent, called "Gateways to the Pole," which sustains the belief that the Gulf Stream, by its warm water, keeps the northern channel free from ice, and by following the Gulf Stream the Pole may be reached.
But this is a digression. Doctor Kane had accepted the conduct of the expedition, and at once embarked upon it. He went upon the supposition of the "open Polar Sea," and sailed in the Advance from New York, on the 30th of May, 1853. He had determined to penetrate as far up "Smith's Strait" as possible, and by it enter the Polar Sea. His party consisted of eighteen officers and men, including Doctor Hayes.
At Saint John's, Newfoundland, they paused to embark some dogs for sleigh-hauling, and steered thence for Baffin's Bay. Early in July the ship entered Frikernaes, in Greenland, where the people received the crew gladly. On the 16th the promontory of Swartchuk was passed; and, later, icebergs were met with in considerable numbers, under one of which they were nearly swamped, the warning fragments only giving the ship time to cast off her icy moorings. Melville Bay was however navigated, and by the 3rd of August the North Water, through which Kane wished to reach Smith's Strait (or Sound), was opening to their view.
The "Red Snow," or Crimson Cliffs mentioned by Sir John Ross, were safely passed, and then doubling Alexander Cape, Smith's Sound was fairly entered. When Littlebow Island was at length reached, Doctor Kane determined to form a store depot there, and leave a boat, in view of future contingencies. Stones, and sand, and water were placed and poured upon the covered stores, blankets, etcetera. This cache was soon frozen solid, and thus preserved from the weather and the Polar bears. The boat was left near what proved to be an old Esquimaux camp.
When these far-seeing preparations had been made, Doctor Kane endeavoured to press on, but all attempts were defeated by the ice which pressed upon the vessel; so an advance along the coast was tried. A storm arose, and the bergs came dashing along before the wind. The brave Kane determined to utilise his threatening foes, and, making fast to one fine iceberg, the Advance was towed along, while the storm lasted, through the ice which the drifting berg cleared away merrily. Thus, after considerable peril from storm and ice, the vessel lay at rest in temporary shelter under another iceberg, which, fortunately, protected them from the hurricane.
They had come fully ten miles in the track of the convenient iceberg; and, when the storm abated—which it did on the 22nd—the crew took the Advance in tow, but made little progress along the ice-belt. Doctor Kane was too impatient to stay with the vessel, so, with a few followers, he hurried on in front to survey the coast in a boat, somewhat unpleasantly named the Forlorn Hope, which, however, they soon abandoned for a sleigh.
The journey in this conveyance was neither so easy nor so rapid as perhaps may be expected, but some progress was made, though eight miles a day does not come up to our European notions of sledge-travelling. Finding the ice more and more difficult the sleigh was in its turn quitted, and the party advanced on foot. In this manner, in not very cold weather, they proceeded rapidly. They passed Cape Thackeray, which they named, and reached Cape George Russell; whence they viewed the great Humboldt Glacier, Cape Jackson, and Cape Barrow, all illustrious titles in the archives of the world.
When Doctor Kane had made a search for a harbour, and found none so convenient as the place he had left the Advance, he made his way back again, satisfied that he had as good winter quarters as he could reasonably expect to find. But he, perhaps, overlooked the fact that had he discovered a convenient inlet in the ice fifty miles from the ship, how was the Advance to be brought into it over an ice-pack, where a boat or a sleigh could not travel? So, perhaps, all things considered, it was fortunate that he did not find a better shelter.
Doctor Kane and his men returned to the Advance, and had her warped in between two islands for the winter, which was then rapidly approaching. Soundings were taken in seven fathoms, and when all had been made snug, the vessel was secured, laid-up in harbour—a shelter which she was destined never to quit—at any rate, not as a "commissioned" ship.
Preparations were made for sleigh journeys. The dogs were trained, sleighs were constructed, while an observatory was also erected. Some of the party made excursions during the winter, and found their course barred by an immense glacier four hundred feet high. Varied means were resorted to to kill the usual monotony of the Arctic winter. A newspaper was started, "hare and hounds" was practised, and perhaps amateur plays were acted, beside the "Frozen Deep." They did get up a fancy ball, and enjoyed it very much.
A fire on board ship varied these more interesting proceedings. It occurred while an experiment was being made to kill rats with carbonic acid gas. The chief immediate effects were to nearly suffocate Doctor Kane and three others, a considerable fire, and some discomfort. Then some dogs went mad in consequence of the depression induced by darkness and the intense cold. The explorers encountered many dangers in their excursions, also in falling into crevasses, etcetera. Some dogs died owing to want of sunlight.
Never had any explorers wintered in such high latitudes before, excepting perhaps in Spitzbergen. We cannot picture to ourselves the intense Egyptian darkness which prevails in such places as Kane and his companions wintered. The thermometer was more than 100 degrees below freezing point. This was in February, 1854, and the "madness" of the dogs, though not harmful to their masters, was evidently attributable to the terrible cold, which affected the air passages, and to the continued absence of light.
At length Doctor Kane went with a selected party to meet the sun. He set off to find the light for which all were perishing. The sun was sighted, and the news was quickly followed by the orb, which revived the half-frozen crew and the remaining dogs, of which only six were alive, the rest had died mad—"mentally" afflicted—not with "hydrophobia," but with "brain" disease. As for the effect on the men, we may quote Doctor Kane, who says, "An Arctic night and an Arctic day age a man more harshly than a year anywhere else in all this weary world."
Doctor Kane had made preparations for his sledge expedition to the north, and a small party was sent ahead on the 19th of March to establish a depot of stores. But by the 31st of the month three men returned, swollen, haggard, and scarcely able to articulate. Four men had been left frozen in the ice in a tent, perfectly disabled. Even the direction in which they lay was uncertain, but Kane and nine men started to the rescue. They nearly relinquished the search in sheer despair until some footprints were discovered which gave them the clue. They reached the tent after a continued search of twenty-one hours.
After a brief rest—some sleeping in the small tent by turns, while the rest walked about outside to keep themselves from freezing—they set out on their homeward journey, but quickly became aware of their rapidly failing energies. They were still nine miles from home, and some men wanted to lie down and sleep, another was frozen stiff, and another lay down in the snow. A halt was necessary.
The tent was pitched: no fire could be lighted, as no one could hold the materials for striking the flame. The worst patients were put inside the tent, and then Kane and Godfrey pushed on to the camp for food. They could only keep themselves awake by incessant talking all the way, and Doctor Kane states they were neither of them entirely in their right senses during this trying walk. They remember a bear which tore a "jumper" that one of the men had thrown off on the previous day; however, the animal did not mind the explorers at all. But Bruin had upset the tent, and it was with much difficulty Kane and his companion raised it. They then went to sleep, and Kane's beard was frozen to the buffalo skin, so he had to be "cut out." By the time they had made preparations, the remainder of the party arrived, and they all made for the brig.
The remainder of the journey was scarcely accomplished with life. Many ate snow, and their mouths swelled fearfully. Nearly all were exhausted. At length they became delirious, and only reached the Advance by instinct, for they were all staggering along blindly when Peterson and Whipple met them with some restoratives. This expedition cost two men amputation, and two others died.
During the short summer some expeditions were organised, as the Advance remained immovable. Some discoveries were made, but the expeditions ended in disaster. The Humboldt Glacier and Tennyson Monument—the latter a column of ice, like an obelisk four hundred and eighty feet high, on a pedestal—were visited. But nothing resulted from the excursions but blindness, privation, and suffering. An attempt was made to communicate with Sir E. Belcher on Beachey Island, but it failed, and another winter in the ice had to be faced. Some men preferred to leave the ship, but they returned after a while.
The winter passed drearily, amid privations which brought the men almost down to the lowest pitch of despair but employment fortunately kept them from the last depth, and preparations for a spring excursion cheered them up. The Esquimaux were friendly, and a treaty was entered into with them, which proved useful.
At last summer appeared. The 17th of May was fixed for the start; the Advance was to be abandoned. The day was Sunday. Prayers were read, and then Doctor Kane addressed his men, hopefully pointing out their duty, and encouraging them to proceed, unselfishly helping the sick and behaving like men. The flags were then hoisted and struck; then the Advance was abandoned, and the retreat commenced to Littleton Island first, and thence to Danish Settlements.
It was Tuesday, the 19th of June, when the party took a last leave of the Esquimaux and put to sea; that first night a boat was swamped. The Eric went down in the ice; the Faith and Hope remained. On the 22nd, Northumberland Island was reached in a blinding snowstorm; but fresh provisions were fortunately procured.
They then succeeded, by dragging the boats over the ice, with occasional rowing, in crossing the Murchison Channel, and encamped for the night on the land ice-floe. Thus they proceeded, amid tremendous difficulties, on scanty food—bread-dust and a lump of tallow about the size of a walnut—and tea when they could procure water. At length they found the loads heavier, and came to the sad conclusion that their energies were giving way. Nothing in view, "we were sorely disheartened," says Doctor Kane.
No wonder! Utterly at the mercy of the ice, which at times broke up, and fell down, threatening to carry them to destruction with it, or bury them amid the hummocks. Hemmed in, and in imminent danger of death, they nevertheless clung to the ice until the rising tide should float them up and enable them to scale the icy cliffs into comparative shelter—"Weary Man's Rest."
There they remained till the snow had abated, and then they struggled on amid ice and "sludge" until checked by a glacier. They had doubled Cape Dudley Digges, and after a survey, decided to wait in the ice at "Providence Halt." After a week's rest they again continued their way, past the "Crimson Cliffs," and into more cheerful regions. They were, however, nearly starving, but managed to secure a seal, which saved them for the time; their feet were badly swollen, and they had no desire to sleep. They were now drifting in the open bay (in the Atlantic "ice-drift") in leaky boats, a position sufficiently perilous, even without the accompaniments of hunger and sleeplessness.
On the 1st of August, however, they had reached familiar waters. Two days later a cry was heard, ending in a "hullo." Men were coming, in a small boat. "It is the Upernavik oil-boat," said Petersen. He was right. From the men they learned the news of the Crimean War, and the discovery of the remains of Franklin's party a thousand miles south of the places they had explored.
Next day they gained Upernavik in safety, after eighty-four days' travelling; in the open air all the time. In Upernavik they remained until the 6th of September, and then embarked for the Shetland Isles. On the way they fell in with some American vessels which had been dispatched to search for them, and they were soon welcomed in New York.
From a scientific point of view Doctor Kane's expedition had most important results in the discovery of a large channel to the north-west, and in many other discoveries and surveys of the American and Greenland coasts.
CHAPTER THIRTY ONE.
THE "FOX" EXPEDITION.
Expeditions in search of Franklin—The Fox commissioned by Sir L. McClintock—The search by Hobson—Relics found—The fate of Sir John Franklin's expedition—The North-West Passage discovered.
While Doctor Kane was away in 1853 the North-West Passage had been demonstrated by Captains McClure and Collinson, who it may be remembered went on in 1850 in the Investigator and Resolute to carry out the "Behring Strait Expedition." In 1853 Lady Franklin sent out the Rattlesnake and Isabel to find McClure. Captain Inglefield also went out, as already stated, to aid Sir E. Belcher in Barrow Strait. It was on this voyage that Lieutenant Bellot was lost (August, 1853). Belcher found no traces of Franklin, but they found McClure and his ships' company, who had been in the ice for three years. They had gone in by Behring's Strait and returned by Baffin's Bay, which established the fact of the so long doubted passage parallel with the American coast between these pieces of water. In 1854 the ships Assistance, Resolute, Pioneer, Intrepid, and the Investigator were all abandoned. The crews were taken on board the Talbot, Phoenix, and North Star, and reached England in 1854 without having found any true trace of Franklin, though it had been ascertained that he wintered upon Beachey Island in 1845-6.
The crews of the Erebus and Terror were given up. War was threatening in Europe, and the relics of Franklin were obscured in the smoke of the Crimean battles. Nevertheless, the idea that Sir John Franklin and his devoted followers were in the Arctic regions, and still alive, was entertained by a good many people. The Admiralty declined to inquire farther, but Lady Franklin again found means to equip and dispatch a fourth expedition. In 1857 the preparations were made. Captain McClintock, who had commanded former expeditions, undertook the post of leader. The Fox was purchased, and on the 1st of July, 1857, the search again was entered upon.
After an interesting voyage, the Fox arrived off Upernavik, and procured some dogs for the sleighs. On the 6th of August letters were sent home, and the yacht bore away for Baffin's Bay. Ice in quantities was encountered; and the ship was then steered along the "pack," till on the 12th of August the Fox was moored to an iceberg. On the 16th, the floes began to move off; but the vessel was soon beset by the floes again after a short progress; and on the 7th of September the Fox was quite hemmed in, and had to remain where she then was until the 17th of April, 1858. Then ensued the terrible silence and darkness of the winter, and the monotonous, weary cycle of the days, while drifting helplessly in the ice.
On the 26th of February daylight superseded the candles, and in March the ice showed symptoms of breaking up. The disruption at length came. The Fox was in imminent danger from the closing up of the ice, and the force with which the floes come together cannot be estimated by any who have not witnessed the scene. The dogs were alarmed, and many were lost. The Fox drifted and sailed on, was again beset, and in danger. At length the ice broke up, the vessel was put under steam, and before the wind; she pushed her way out, and on the 28th of April the Fox dropped anchor in Holsteinberg harbour, in Greenland, where the crews met with a warm and cheerful reception.
After many struggles and escapes Cape York was reached on the 26th of June, and then many places were visited, but no traces nor information concerning the lost expedition could be obtained. So, in August, the Fox sought Beachey Island, and erected a tombstone over the remains of those who lay there, close to Bellot's monument. Many days were occupied in endeavouring to pass Bellot's Strait, but again and again were carried back by tides and ice-drift. Some land expeditions were made and surveys taken, but at the end of September the strait was quitted, and a refuge sought within Kennedy Harbour.
Hobson, who had been exploring, had a very narrow escape of being carried away on the floating ice; but he got back safely to the ship. After this the ship's company sat down in winter quarters until the 10th of February. Captain McClintock and Lieutenant Young then left the Fox on searching expeditions. McClintock came back on the 14th with intelligence concerning some white men who had been seen off the north-west coast of King William's Land. Young returned early in March, and was off again on the 18th to Fury Beach. Afterwards three search parties were formed. Lieutenants Hobson and Young and Captain McClintock all started. The last resigned to the first-named the most likely field of discovery in King William's Land. McClintock went towards the Fish River, and subsequently found the dead man we have already mentioned, lying face downwards in the snow, near Cape Herschel. He then came across a boat which Hobson had already found, and left in it a memorandum to the effect that he had discovered the records of the Erebus and Terror, and had returned to the Fox. Along the shore by Cape Victoria Hobson had searched and found the memorandum left in the cairn which told of the death of Franklin on the 11th of June, 1847, and that, after quitting the ships, the one hundred and six survivors, under Captain Crozier, would start for the Great Fish River. Many relics were found by Hobson, and near Cape Crozier he discovered a boat with two skeletons, with matches, spoons, and money, prayer-books, etcetera.
Further investigation proved that all had perished in the attempt to make the North-West Passage, an attempt which may be said to have succeeded, though the poor men themselves never lived to tell of their success. They came down Franklin Straits, and had found the Passage they sought. The searchers were satisfied, and the Fox returned home.
Captain McClintock had well accomplished his mission. He found that the lamented Franklin had reached within ninety miles of success, for just that distance intervened between him and the place reached by Messrs. Simpson and Deane in 1838-9. Franklin's men died "in accomplishing their last great earthly task, and but for the energy and devotion of the wife of their great leader, it would in all probability never have been known that they were indeed the first Discoverers of the North-West Passage."
CHAPTER THIRTY TWO.
THE GERMAN AND AUSTRIAN EXPEDITIONS TO THE ARCTIC REGIONS.
The Germania and Hansa—They part company—The fate of the Hansa and her crew—The Germania expedition and its return—Voyage of Payer and Weyprecht in 1871—Austro-Hungary expedition—The Tegethoff— Discovery of Franz-Joseph Land—Sledge work—Incidents—The return—The Tegethoff abandoned—Home again.
The Germania and Hansa constituted the second German expedition to Arctic regions. The first had been undertaken in 1868 under Koldeway and Petermann, but when the Germania returned another expedition on a larger scale—the Hansa under Koldeway, and the sister vessel under Hegemann—proceeded with all the necessary equipment from Bremen on the 15th of June, 1869, and on the 5th of July crossed the Arctic circle, where similar ceremonies to those practised when the "line" is crossed, were performed. Jan Meyer's Land was passed, and on the 10th of July the Hansa and Germania parted company in the fog, and met again no more. An error in signalling occasioned the separation.
The Hansa continued along shore and got in amid the ice. The winter set in, and the crew managed to exist as men usually do under such circumstances. They built a hut and killed bears, living with no very great discomfort till the middle of October, when the ice pressed on the ship and stove it in. The water gained when the ice retreated; the Hansa was doomed to destruction, and she sank, on the 21st, in latitude 70 degrees 52 minutes North 21 degrees West near the Liverpool coast amid the floating ice.
The crew escaped to the ice. They had already, Crusoe fashion, saved all they could from the ship. The field of ice in which they had encamped drifted away to the south. The floe was examined. It was about seven miles in circumference, about two miles in diameter, and about forty-five feet thick, five feet being above water. Christmas came, still they drifted. By the new year the ice gave symptoms of breaking up, the wind blew, and the danger was imminent. Though the floe had been considerable no mishap occurred to them. The boats were fortunately in good condition, but day after day the ice kept threatening, until at last the floe became so small that living on it any longer was out of the question. February, March, and April had passed thus, and on the 6th of May the latitude of Bergen had been reached. The ice raft was soon abandoned, the boats launched, but the ice again stopped them. On the 6th of June, after various adventures, the voyage was resumed, and the boats' heads put for Freiderichsthal on the south-west coast of Greenland, near Cape Farewell, which was gained in June, 1870. Schleswig was reached in safety in September via Copenhagen, where they were landed by the Constance.
The Germania meantime had continued her voyage, and endeavoured, though without success, to reach the east coast of Greenland. She wintered in Sabine Bay. The ordinary incidents of the winter occurred, and we need not mention the health-drinking and Christmas festivities in the Arctic Regions. The explorers quite disagreed with Kane's "open sea" theory after making some sledge expeditions to verify the suggestion. Ice was everywhere, as far as the eyes could see. Many surveys were undertaken, and much useful scientific information was obtained, but no new discoveries of any importance were made by either the Hansa or the more fortunate Germania.
The homeward voyage passed without incidents, and the surviving ship returned to Bremen on the 11th of September, when the stupendous results of their countrymen's arms in France were revealed to them in all their meaning.
Several expeditions other than the above were dispatched in 1869, but they did little. In 1870 there was no great voyage accomplished, but in 1871 the Arctic Regions were again looked at as the Ultima Thule of voyagers, and in June of that year Lieutenants Payer and Weyprecht sailed away to Novaya Zemlya, where they found an open sea with little ice. In October they returned to Tromsoe, after sighting the island they sought.
The North-East passage now became the idea. That it could be accomplished via Siberia, Lieutenant Payer believed, and the Austro-Hungarian Arctic expedition was soon an accomplished fact. Doctor Petermann said the work accomplished by the little expedition were very valuable, and it was decided to supplement it. The steamship Tegethoff was fitted out: the equipment was most complete, many well-known Arctic voyagers lending their assistance. Captain Carlsen was pilot, Captain Weyprecht commanded, and Lieutenant Payer was the land explorer.
The Tegethoff left Bremen on the 13th of June, 1872, and came in sight of Novaya Zemlya on the 29th of July. In August the Jabjorn yacht joined company; but little in the way of exploration was undertaken until August, when the yacht, with Count Wilczek, left the Tegethoff to her own devices. The gallant vessel pushed on, and was beset by the ice very soon on the north coast of Novaya Zemlya, where in many and great dangers the winter passed. On the 29th of October the sun disappeared for 109 days! The winter over, the months of May, June, and July were spent in trying to saw the Tegethoff out of the ice; but all the efforts made were futile. The north wind in July sent the ice southward, but in a month the return drift set in with southerly winds, and no hope of the breaking up of the ice was entertained. In August, 1873, the crew sighted land; it was approached, and named after Count Wilczek, the originator of the expedition.
The gloom of Arctic night prevented any more exploration. The vessel continued to drift northward, and at length the floe was driven on an island, where it remained with the vessel, three miles from the shore. The second winter now began. In January the cold was very severe: the oil froze, the lamps went out, and the brandy even was congealed into a solid mass. Bears paid the voyagers frequent visits, and many were shot; but all males, no female bears appeared.
In March, Lieutenant Payer and his party went on a sledge-journey in a north-west direction to Hall Island. The whole region seemed "devoid of life"—ice and great glaciers everywhere. The cold was intense. This party returned, and another journey was undertaken to the north with the sleighs, equipped as directed by Sir L. McClintock. This expedition resulted in the discovery of Franz-Joseph Land, as it was named after the Emperor. It is like Eastern Greenland—a "land of desolation," with high mountains and vast glaciers, of a greenish-blue colour. The vegetation is extremely poor, and the country is uninhabited.
Further on they reached another territory, which they named Crown Prince Rudolf Land, the habitation of millions of sea-birds, and thousands of bears, seals, and foxes. A great glacier was crossed, but as it was quitted an immense fissure engulfed the sleigh with the stores, while the others only narrowly escaped by cutting the traces. Lieutenant Payer hurried back for assistance, and at length dogs, men, and sleigh were pulled up, safe and nearly sound. Rounding Auk Cape, the explorers reached open water by the shore.
Pressing on to latitude 81 degrees 57 minutes north, the party reached their farthest point. From an elevated position the explorer made his observations, which led him to the conclusion that there is no open polar sea, yet that the ocean is not always covered with ice. There is a medium which a favourable year would improve, and render navigation, near the shore, possible. Having deposited a record of the visit, the party returned over the hundred and sixty miles they had come.
One more little journey was made, and then the thoughts of the officers and men turned to home. On the 20th of May the ship's colours were nailed to the mast, and the retreat was commenced. Provisions were packed in boats, the boats placed on sleighs, but little progress was made at first as all hands were required for each sleigh in turn. Two months were occupied in making a distance of eight miles—and a third winter in the ice seemed probable.
At last, in July, they made a mile a day. In August they reached the edge of the pack, when the sleighs were abandoned, and the dogs killed, as no room could be spared. The boats then crossed open water to Novaya Zemlya, and at the end of three months from leaving the ship sighted a Russian vessel. The Nickolai brought them to Vardoe in Norway, where the voyagers landed in September, 1874.
The success of the expedition was unquestionable, for land was discovered two hundred miles north of Nova Zemlya. The success of the sleighing is due to Sir L. McClintock's advice.
[The Tegethoff we see drifted north—other vessels we have read of drifted south. Does not that indicate a simultaneous movement of ice around the Pole on both sides? The American side going south as the ice-floe on the Asiatic side ascends—as glaciers in Switzerland which are connected, advance and recede in turn. This idea would go to prove that no open sea exists there; the ice covers the whole of the Polar Ocean, and moves north and south correspondingly. This is, however, only speculation, but as the Tegethoff is said to have been drifted by the wind, which must have been southerly, and therefore northerly on the other side, the fact will not militate against the idea above suggested.]
The Austro-Hungarian Expedition did not succeed in discovering the North-East Passage. We will now turn to the great Nordenskiold, who did succeed.
CHAPTER THIRTY THREE.
THE VOYAGES OF ERIK NORDENSKIOLD—1870-1878.
Expeditions to the North—To Spitzbergen and the Yenissei—The Discovery of the North-East Passage.
Nils Adolf Erik Nordenskiold was born at Helsingfors, Finland, in November, 1832. His father was a distinguished naturalist; Erik often accompanied him in his expeditions, and thus early acquired a taste for natural history and research. He entered the University at Helsingfors in 1849. The stern rule of Russia subsequently compelled young Nordenskiold to go to Sweden. The governor of Finland, fancying he detected treason in some after-supper speech, Nordenskiold was obliged to depart; but this was the turning point in his career.
The illustrious Mosander received the student cordially. Nordensk'iold studied hard, and in 1858 made his first acquaintance with Arctic seas in Torrell's Spitzbergen expedition. In 1861 he again accompanied Torrell to Spitzbergen. In July, 1863, he married. In 1864 he commanded an expedition fitted out by the Academy of Stockholm, and in 1868, aided by Government and Mr Oscar Dickson, he reached the highest latitude ever attained in the eastern hemisphere. From this expedition he brought home a rich collection of curiosities. Again, in 1870, Mr Dickson paid the expenses of a voyage to Greenland.
In 1872, Nordenskiold (whose name, we may mention, is pronounced Nordensholt) undertook another Polar expedition with two vessels, the Polhern and the Gladen. A quantity of reindeer-moss was provided and stowed in a third ship, the Onkel Adam. Nordenskiold was accompanied by Lieutenant L. Palander, with Doctor Envall, E. Parent, an Italian officer, and Messrs. Wijkander and Kjellman as scientists. On the 4th of July the Polhern and Gladen sailed; from Gothenburg, and when the former reached Tromsoe, the Austrian Polar vessel Amiral Tegethoff was about to sail.
On the 25th of July, South Cape, the southern extremity of Spitzbergen, was sighted, and the vessels proceeded along the coast northward between Prince Charles Foreland and the mainland till Fair Haven was reached. Here they were obliged to remain because of the ice, and in August the Onkel Adam arrived with the reindeer and other necessary assistance, and with stores. The attempt to reach the Seven Islands north of Spitzbergen was now abandoned for that season, but some progress to the north was effected, and Mussel Bay, to the north-north-east of Spitzbergen, was selected as winter quarters.
Scarcely had the necessary preparations been made when a sudden and extremely violent storm arose; by this the unexpected advent of the ice was announced. The cold hand was quickly laid upon the waters, and the winter campaign had to be faced. But we may imagine the surprise of the explorers when, as they were settling down in winter quarters, six strangers approached, who informed Nordenskiold that their six ships had been unexpectedly frozen in, and there were fifty-eight men in danger of ultimate starvation!
This was most unpleasant news, for the expedition had only sufficient for its own requirements, and such an addition to the party was a very serious drawback. Still help was absolutely necessary, and a note was sent to the captains of the imprisoned ships, that the explorers would do all in their power.
But a sad blow awaited them. In another severe storm all the reindeer got away; and, of course, a valuable supply of fresh meat, besides transport, was cut off at one fell stroke. Only one of the reins was recaptured, and he was wounded. Fortunately some large wild reindeer were shot, and they made a welcome addition to the larder. At the end of October winter began to set in severely, and the reindeer-moss was utilised by the imprisoned people as food. The winter-time was passed as well as possible, and interesting observations were taken. Scurvy and pleurisy, however, attacked the men; and though Christmas and New Year were celebrated, and 1873 was saluted by a display of fireworks, the precarious condition of the crews was by no means ameliorated.
However, lamp-light was dispensed with on the 6th of February, and on the 13th of March the sun was seen again. In January the cold had been "inconsiderable," and the bay had been cleared of ice, but on the 20th of February the cold was very great. April was occupied in preparations for Nordenski'old's expedition across North-East Land, and on the 24th of April he and Palander started with three sleighs. After some delay, in consequence of accident, Palander returned, and Nordenskiold proceeded to Shoal Point, the north-west extremity of North-East Land, where Palander again joined him on the 5th of May (1873).
The sledge party started on the 6th. It consisted of Nordenskiold, Palander, and nine men, who intended to proceed to the Seven Islands which will be found on the map north of Spitzbergen. Each man in turn was cook for the party; he had to rise early and get breakfast ready. The march was then proceeded with, resting occasionally at certain intervals during the ten hours allotted to the daily journey. Sailing over the ice and snow on the sledges, good progress was made, and on the 12th Costien's Island was reached.
Early on the 16th, Parry Island was gained, and a small depot was made there. Some of the men then were sent back. The leaders of the party here made a survey from an elevated standpoint, and this view showed them that there was no possibility of going north of the Seven Islands, as the ice was in such an uneven condition. The journey in the anticipated direction was therefore abandoned as hopeless.
But Nordenskiold would not return by the same way he had come. He determined to go back by way of North-East Land, a course which occupied the party forty days, but they gained considerable information, and the scientific results, as well as the difficulties, were greater than had been expected. The expedition returned safely to Mussel Bay on the 29th of June. The members who had been left behind had passed a most uncomfortable time. The cold was great, provisions scarce. Scurvy set in, which, added to home-sickness and anxiety on account of the absent ones, made matters worse. Food became scarcer, but providentially Mr Leigh Smith, in the Diana, arrived, and he satisfied the immediate requirements of the unfortunate Swedes. The historian of the expedition warmly acknowledges the assistance so opportunely rendered.
Spring was at hand. Palander came in, and then Nordenskiold. All anxiety was then over. The same day, the 29th of June, the vessels passed through the channel which had been cut in the ice, and then they anchored in open water. No time was lost. The Onkel Adam sailed homeward almost immediately: the Gladen followed. The Polhern, however, remained in the icy latitudes for some time longer dredging. On the 6th of August, after with difficulty escaping the ice, Nordenskiold arrived at Tromsoe, and on the 29th at Gothenberg, where the expedition dispersed.
In 1875 and 1876 the professor made two voyages to the Yenissei River and up it. By this course he opened up Siberia to trade, and received the thanks of the Russian Government for inaugurating a sea route to Siberia. But these voyages, in a sense tentative, were completely eclipsed by the expedition undertaken in the Vega, in which Nordenskiold accomplished the long-desired North-East Passage from the North Atlantic to the North Pacific Ocean eastwards. The ease with which he had accomplished the two voyages already mentioned (to the Yenissei River) urged him to proceed with the expedition which he had been studying for years, the discovery of the North-East Passage.
Sebastian Cabot was the first adventurer in the work destined to be accomplished by the Swedish explorer. More than three hundred years ago Cabot equipped three ships for the "Merchant Adventurers," and put them under the command of Sir H. Willoughby and Chancelor in 1553. This ended in disaster. In 1580 the "Muscovy Company," as the "Adventurers" called themselves, sent out Arthur Pitt, who could not open the "pack" ice. Barentz, who tried three times, in 1593, 1595, and 1596, was closed up in the ice of Novaya Zemlya, and perished. Henry Hudson tried in 1607-8. The Danes made the attempt in 1653. Captain J. Wood also sailed to the unhospitable shores of Novaya Zemlya, and so terrified people by his descriptions that they gave up the attempt in despair.
Thus the North-East Passage became a dreaded and a sealed course to the mariners of all nations. It was deemed impossible to break through the icy barrier; and the Russians made the attempt only to prove the assertion by failure. But when Nordensk'iold had reached the Kara Sea, and the Yenissei River, he began to think he could also solve the long-tried problem of the North-East Passage eastwards to the Pacific.
Assisted by his liberal friend, Mr Oscar Dickson, and supported by King Oscar the Second of Sweden, and M. Sibiriakoff, a Siberian landholder, Nordenskiold purchased the steam-whaler Vega—a name now celebrated throughout the civilised world. She was equipped and manned under Government auspices, and provisioned for two years. She sailed from Gothenburg on the 21st of July, accompanied by the steamer Lena, commanded by Johannesen from Tromsoe. There were also supply vessels in company, but our narrative (which is compiled from "Nordenskiold's Voyages," and other sources) will deal with the Vega, and incidentally with the Lena, till she parted company at the mouth of the river whose name she bears. In the expedition were included many scientific gentlemen, and the crews were composed of picked men.
The vessels rounded the North Cape, and on the 29th of July sighted Novaya Zemlya. Then they passed the Yergar Strait and entered the Kara Sea, the immense gulf lying between Novaya Zemlya and the north point of the Asiatic continent, Cape Chalyaskin. On the 31st of July the little fleet was united at Chabarook (Charbarova). The vessels which had accompanied the Lena and Vega went up the Yenissei River with cargoes, and returned safely to Norway. The Vega and Lena proceeded, and after some delays the North-East Cape (Cape Chalyaskin) was reached for the first time. Flags were hoisted and salutes fired to emphasise the fact, and they were acknowledged by an immense bear that came out upon the ice to welcome the ships. Hence fogs and occasional ice-floes hindered the navigation. Many very interesting scientific searches were made, and after the 23rd of August the sea was smooth and free from ice up to the delta of the Lena River. Here the vessels parted company on the 27th-28th of August, the Lena to go up the river, while the Vega proceeded alone to the Siberian Islands.