I was in hopes we should make some progress, for a large channel of clear water was left open in-shore; a breeze blew off the land, and the temperature of the atmosphere had again risen considerably. We had not sailed five miles, however, when a westerly wind took us aback, and a most dangerous swell set directly upon the shore, obliging me immediately to stand off the land; and the Fury being still to the eastward of the point, I ran round it in order to rejoin her before sunset.
After midnight on the 27th the wind began to moderate, and, by degrees, also drew more to the southward than before. At daylight, therefore, we found ourselves seven or eight miles from the land; but no ice was in sight, except the "sludge," of honey-like consistence, with which almost the whole sea was covered. A strong blink, extending along the eastern horizon, pointed out the position of the main body of ice, which was farther distant from the eastern shore of the inlet than I ever saw it. Being assisted by a fine working breeze, which, at the same time, prevented the formation of any more ice to obstruct us, we made considerable progress along the land, and at noon were nearly abreast of Jackson Inlet, which we now saw to be considerably larger than our distant view of it on the former voyage had led us to suppose. A few more tacks brought us to the entrance of Port Bowen, which, for two or three days past, I had determined to make our wintering-place, if, as there was but little reason to expect, we should be so fortunate as to push the ships thus far. Beating up, therefore, to Port Bowen, we found it filled with "old" and "hummocky" ice, attached to the shores on both sides, as low down as about three-quarters of a mile below Stony Island. Here we made fast in sixty-two fathoms water, running our hawsers far in upon the ice, in case of its breaking off at the margin.
Winter Arrangements.—Improvements in Warming and Ventilating the Ships.—Masquerades adopted as an Amusement to the Men.—Establishment of Schools.—Astronomical Observations.—Meteorological Phenomena.
Oct.—Our present winter arrangements so closely resembled, in general, those before adopted, that a fresh description of them would prove little more than a repetition of that already contained in the narratives of our former voyages.
To those who read, as well as to those who describe, the account of a winter passed in these regions can no longer be expected to afford the interest of novelty it once possessed; more especially in a station already delineated with tolerable geographical precision on our maps, and thus, as it were, brought near to our firesides at home. Independently, indeed, of this circumstance, it is hard to conceive any one thing more like another than two winters passed in the higher latitudes of the Polar Regions, except when variety happens to be afforded by intercourse with some other branch of "the whole family of man." Winter after winter, nature here assumes an aspect so much alike, that cursory observation can scarcely detect a single feature of variety. The winter of more temperate climates, and even in some of no slight severity, is occasionally diversified by a thaw, which at once gives variety and comparative cheerfulness to the prospect. But here, when once the earth is covered, all is dreary, monotonous whiteness; not merely for days or weeks, but for more than half a year together. Whichever way the eye is turned, it meets a picture calculated to impress upon the mind an idea of inanimate stillness, of that motionless torpor with which our feelings have nothing congenial; of anything, in short, but life. In the very silence there is a deadness with which a human spectator appears out of keeping. The presence of man seems an intrusion on the dreary solitude of this wintry desert, which even its native animals have for a while forsaken.
I am persuaded, therefore, that I shall be excused in sparing the dulness of another winter's diary, and confining myself exclusively to those facts which appear to possess any scientific interest, to the few incidents which did diversify our confinement, and to such remarks as may contribute to the health and comfort of any future sojourners in these dreary regions.
It may well be supposed that, in this climate, the principal desideratum which art is called upon to furnish for the promotion of health, is warmth, as well in the external air as in the inhabited apartments. Exposure to a cold atmosphere, when the body is well clothed, produces no bad effect whatever beyond a frostbitten cheek, nose, or finger. As for any injury to healthy lungs from the breathing of cold air, or from sudden changes from this into a warm atmosphere, or vice versa, it may with much confidence be asserted that, with due attention to external clothing, there is nothing in this respect to be apprehended. This inference, at least, would appear legitimate, from the fact that our crews, consisting of one hundred and twenty persons, have for four winters been constantly undergoing, for months together, a change of from eighty to a hundred degrees of temperature, in the space of time required for opening two doors (perhaps less than half a minute), without incurring any pulmonary complaints at all.
In speaking of the external clothing sufficient for health in this climate, it must be confessed that, in severe exposure, quite a load of woollen clothes, even of the best quality, is insufficient to retain a comfortable degree of warmth; a strong breeze carrying it off so rapidly, that the sensation is that of the cold piercing through the body. A jacket made very long, like those called by seamen "pea-jackets," and lined with fur throughout, would be more effectual than twice the weight of woollen clothes, and is, indeed, almost weather-proof. For the prevention of lumbago, to which our seamen are especially liable, from their well-known habit of leaving their loins imperfectly clothed, every man should be strictly obliged to wear, under his outer clothes, a canvass belt a foot broad, lined with flannel, and having straps to go over the shoulder.
It is certain, however, that no precautions in clothing are sufficient to maintain health during a Polar winter, without a due degree of warmth in the apartments we inhabit. Most persons are apt to associate with the idea of warmth, something like the comfort derived from a good fire on a winter's evening at home; but in these regions the case is inconceivably different: here it is not simple comfort, but health, and, therefore, ultimately life, that depends upon it. The want of a constant supply of warmth is here immediately followed by a condensation of all the moisture, whether from the breath, victuals, or other sources, into abundant drops of water, very rapidly forming on all the coldest parts of the deck. A still lower temperature modifies, and perhaps improves, the annoyance by converting it into ice, which again an occasional increase of warmth dissolves into water. Nor is this the amount of the evil, though it is the only visible part of it; for not only is a moist atmosphere thus incessantly kept up, but it is rendered stagnant also by the want of that ventilation which warmth alone can furnish. With an apartment in this state, the men's clothes and bedding are continually in a moist and unwholesome condition, generating a deleterious air, which there is no circulation to carry off; and, whenever these circumstances combine for any length of time together, so surely may the scurvy, to say nothing of other diseases, be confidently expected to exhibit itself.
Every attention was, as usual, paid to the occupation and diversion of the men's minds, as well as to the regularity of their bodily exercise. Our former amusements being almost worn threadbare, it required some ingenuity to devise any plan that should possess the charm of novelty to recommend it. This purpose was completely answered by a proposal of Captain Hoppner, to attempt a masquerade, in which officers and men should alike take a part, but which, without imposing any restraint whatever, would leave every one to his own choice whether to join in this diversion or not. It is impossible that any idea could have proved more happy, or more exactly suited to our situation. Admirably dressed characters of various descriptions readily took their parts, and many of these were supported with a degree of spirit and genuine humour which would not have disgraced a more refined assembly; while the latter might not have disdained, and would not have been disgraced by, copying the good order, decorum, and inoffensive cheerfulness which our humble masquerade presented. It does especial credit to the dispositions and good sense of our men, that, though all the officers entered fully into the spirit of these amusements, which took place once a month, no instance occurred of anything that could interfere with the regular discipline, or at all weaken the respect of the men towards their superiors. Ours were masquerades without licentiousness; carnivals without excess.
But an occupation not less assiduously pursued, and of infinitely more eventual benefit, was furnished by the re-establishment of our schools, under the voluntary superintendence of my friend Mr. Hooper in the Hecla, and of Mr. Mogg in the Fury. By the judicious zeal of Mr. Hooper, the Hecla's school was made subservient, not merely to the improvement of the men in reading and writing (in which, however, their progress was surprisingly great), but also to the cultivation of that religious feeling which so essentially improves the character of a seaman, by furnishing the highest motives for increased attention to every other duty. Nor was the benefit confined to the eighteen or twenty individuals whose want of scholarship brought them to the school-table, but extended itself to the rest of the ship's company, making the whole lower-deck such a scene of quiet rational occupation as I never before saw on board a ship. And I do not speak lightly when I express my thorough persuasion, that to the moral effects thus produced upon the minds of the men, were owing, in a very high degree, the constant yet sober cheerfulness, the uninterrupted good order, and even, in some measure, the extraordinary state of health which prevailed among us during this winter.
The extreme facility with which sounds are heard at a considerable distance in severely cold weather, has often been a subject of remark; but a circumstance occurred at Port Bowen which deserves to be noticed, as affording a sort of measure of this facility, or, at least, conveying to others some definite idea of the fact. Lieutenant Foster having occasion to send a man from the observatory to the opposite shore of the harbour, a measured distance of 6696 feet, or about one statute mile and two tenths, in order to fix a meridian mark, had placed a second person half way between, to repeat his directions; but he found, on trial, that this precaution was unnecessary, as he could, without difficulty, keep up a conversation with the man at the distant station. The thermometer was at this time-18 deg., the barometer 30.14 inches, and the weather nearly calm, and quite clear and serene.
About one o'clock on the morning of the 23d February, the Aurora appeared over the hills in a south direction, presenting a brilliant mass of light. The rolling motion of the light laterally was very striking, as well as the increase of its intensity thus occasioned. The light occupied horizontally about a point of the compass, and extended in height scarcely a degree above the land, which seemed, however, to conceal from us a part of the phenomenon. It was always evident enough that the most attenuated light of the Aurora sensibly dimmed the stars, like a thin veil drawn over them. We frequently listened for any sound proceeding from this phenomenon, but never heard any. Our variation needles, which were extremely light, suspended in the most delicate manner, and, from the weak directive energy, susceptible of being acted upon by a very slight disturbing force, were never, in a single instance, sensibly affected by the Aurora, which could scarcely fail to have been observed at some time or other, had any such disturbance taken place, the needles being visited every hour for several months, and oftener when anything occurred to make it desirable.
The meteors called falling stars were much more frequent during this winter than we ever before saw them, and particularly during the month of December.
Re-equipment of the Ships.—Several Journeys undertaken.—Open Water in the Offing.—Commence sawing a Canal to liberate the Ships.—Disruption of the Ice.—Departure from Port Bowen.
The height of the land about Port Bowen deprived us longer than usual of the sun's presence above our horizon. Some of our gentlemen, indeed, who ascended a high hill for the purpose, caught a glimpse of him on the 2d of February; on the 15th it became visible at the observatory, but at the ships not till the 22d, after an absence of one hundred and twenty-one days. It is very long after the sun's reappearance in these regions, however, that the effect of his rays, as to warmth, becomes perceptible; week passes after week, with scarcely any rise in the thermometer except for an hour or two during the day; and it is at this period more than any other, perhaps, that the lengthened duration of a Polar winter's cold is most wearisome, and creates the most impatience. Towards the third week in March, thin flakes of snow lying upon black painted wood or metal, and exposed to the sun's direct rays in a sheltered situation, readily melted. In the second week of April any very light covering of sand or ashes upon the snow close to the ships might be observed to make its way downward into holes; but a coat of sand laid upon the unsheltered ice, to the distance of about two thirds of a mile, for dissolving a canal to hasten our liberation, produced no such sensible effect till the beginning of May. Even then the dissolution was very trifling till about the first week in June, when pools of water began to make their appearance, and not long after this a small boat would have floated down it. On shore the effect is, in general, still more tardy, though some deception is there occasioned by the dissolution of the snow next the ground, while its upper surface is to all appearance undergoing little or no change. Thus a greater alteration is sometimes produced in the aspect of the land by a single warm day in an advanced part of the season, than in many weeks preceding, in consequence of the last crust of snow being dissolved, leaving the ground at length entirely bare. We could now perceive the snow beginning to leave the stones from day to day, as early as the last week in April. Towards the end of May a great deal of snow was dissolved daily; but, owing to the porous nature of the ground, which absorbed it as fast as it was formed, it was not easy to procure water for drinking on shore, even as late as the 10th of June. In the ravines, however, it could be heard trickling under stones before that time; and about the 18th, many considerable streams were formed, and constantly running both night and day. After this the thawing proceeded at an inconceivably rapid rate, the whole surface of the floes being covered with large pools of water rapidly increasing in size and depth.
The animals seen at Port Bowen may now be briefly noticed. The principal of these seen during the winter were bears, of which we killed twelve from October to June, being more than during all the other voyages taken together; and several others were seen. One of these animals was near proving fatal to a seaman of the Fury, who, having straggled from his companions, when at the top of a high hill saw a large bear coming towards him. Being unarmed, he prudently made off, taking off his boots to enable him to run the faster, but not so prudently precipitated himself over an almost perpendicular cliff, down which he was said to have rolled or fallen several hundred feet; here he was met by some of the people in so lacerated a condition as to be in a very dangerous state for some time after.
A she-bear, killed in the open water on our first arrival at Port Bowen, afforded a striking instance of maternal affection in her anxiety to save her two cubs. She might herself easily have escaped the boat, but would not forsake her young, which she was actually "towing" off, by allowing them to rest on her back, when the boat came near them. A second similar instance occurred in the spring, when two cubs having got down into a large crack in the ice, their mother placed herself before them, so as to secure them from the attacks of our people, which she might easily have avoided herself.
One or two foxes (Canis Lagopus) were killed, and four caught in traps during the winter, weighing from four pounds and three quarters to three pounds and three quarters. The colour of one of these animals, which lived for some time on board the Fury, and became tolerably tame, was nearly pure white till the month of May, when he shed his winter coat, and became of a dirty chocolate colour, with two or three light brown spots. Only three hares (Lepus Variabilis) were killed from October to June, weighing from six to eight pounds and three quarters. Their fur was extremely thick, soft, and of the most beautiful whiteness imaginable. We saw no deer near Port Bowen at any season, neither were we visited by their enemies the wolves. A single ermine and a few mice (Mus Hudsonius) complete, I believe, our scanty list of quadrupeds at this desolate and unproductive place.
Towards the end of June, the dovekies (Colymbus Grylle) were extremely numerous in the cracks of the ice at the entrance of Port Bowen; and as these were the only fresh supply of any consequence that we were able to procure at this unproductive place, we were glad to permit the men to go out occasionally with guns, after the ships were ready for sea, to obtain for their messes this wholesome change of diet; while such excursions also contributed essentially to their general health and cheerfulness. Many hundreds of these birds were thus obtained in the course of a few days. On the evening of the 6th of July, however, I was greatly shocked at being informed by Captain Hoppner that John Cotterell, a seaman of the Fury, had been found drowned in one of the cracks of the ice by two other men belonging to the same party, who had been with him but a few minutes before. We could never ascertain precisely in what manner this accident happened, but it was supposed that he must have overreached himself in stooping for a bird that he had killed. His remains were committed to the earth on Sunday the 10th, with every solemnity which the occasion demanded, and our situation would allow; and a tomb of stones, with a suitable inscription, was afterward erected over the grave.
In order to obtain oil for another winter's consumption, before the ships could be released from the ice, and our travelling parties having seen a number of black whales in the open water to the northward, two boats from each ship were, with considerable labour, transported four miles along shore in that direction, to be in readiness for killing a whale and boiling the oil on the beach, whenever the open water should approach sufficiently near. Notwithstanding these preparations, however, it was vexatious to find that on the 9th of July the water was still three miles distant from the boats, and at least seven from Port Bowen. On the 12th, the ice in our neighbourhood began to detach itself, and the boats, under the command of Lieutenants Sherer and Ross, being launched on the following day, succeeded almost immediately in killing a small whale of "five feet bone," exactly answering our purpose. Almost at the same time, and, as it turned out, very opportunely, the ice at the mouth of our harbour detached itself at an old crack, and drifted off, leaving only about one mile and a quarter between us and the sea. Half of this distance being occupied by the gravelled canal, which was dissolved quite through the ice in many parts, and had become very thin in all, every officer and man in both ships were set to work without delay to commence a fresh canal from the open water to communicate with the other. This work proved heavier than we expected, the ice being generally from five to eight feet, and in many places from ten to eleven in thickness. It was continued, however, with the greatest cheerfulness and alacrity from seven in the morning till seven in the evening daily, the dinner being prepared on the ice, and eaten under the lee of a studding sail erected as a tent.
On the afternoon of the 19th, a very welcome stop was put to our operations by the separation of the floe entirely across the harbour, and about one third from the ships to where we were at work. All hands being instantly recalled by signal, were, on their return, set to work to get the ships into the gravelled canal, and to saw away what still remained in it to prevent our warping to sea. This work, with only half an hour's intermission for the men's supper, was continued till half past six the following morning, when we succeeded in getting clear. The weather being calm, two hours were occupied in towing the ships to sea, and thus the officers and men were employed at a very laborious work for twenty-six hours, during which time there were, on one occasion, fifteen of them overboard at once; and, indeed, several individuals met with the same accident three times. It was impossible, however, to regret the necessity of these comparatively trifling exertions, especially as it was now evident that to saw our way out without any canal would have required at least a fortnight of heavy and fatiguing labour.
Sail over towards the Western Coast of Prince Regent's Inlet.—Stopped by the Ice.—Reach the Shore about Cape Seppings.—Favourable Progress along the Land.—Fresh and repeated Obstructions from Ice.—Both Ships driven on Shore.—Fury seriously damaged.—Unsuccessful Search for a Harbour for heaving her down to repair.
July 20.—On standing out to sea, we sailed, with a light southerly wind, towards the western shore of Prince Regent's Inlet, which it was my first wish to gain, on account of the evident advantage to be derived from coasting the southern part of that portion of land called in the chart "North Somerset," as far as it might lead to the westward; which, from our former knowledge, we had reason to suppose it would do as far at least as the longitude of 95 deg., in the parallel of about 72-3/4 deg. After sailing about eight miles, we were stopped by a body of close ice lying between us and a space of open water beyond. We were shortly after enveloped in one of the thick fogs which had, for several weeks past, been observed almost daily hanging over some part of the sea in the offing, though we had scarcely experienced any in Port Bowen until the water became open at the mouth of the harbour.
On the clearing up of the fog on the 21st, we could perceive no opening of the ice leading towards the western land, nor any appearance of the smallest channel to the southward along the eastern shore. I was determined, therefore, to try at once a little farther to the northward, the present state of the ice appearing completely to accord with that observed in 1819, its breadth increasing as we advanced from Prince Leopold's Islands to the southward.
Light winds detained us very much, but, being at length favoured by a breeze, we carried all sail to the northwest, the ice very gradually leading us towards the Leopold Isles. Having arrived off the northernmost on the morning of the 22nd, it was vexatious, however curious, to observe the exact coincidence of the present position of the ice with that which it occupied a little later in the year 1819. The whole body of it seemed to cling to the western shore, as if held there by some strong attraction, forbidding, for the present, any access to it. After running all night, with light and variable winds, through loose and scattered ice, we suddenly found ourselves, on the clearing up of a thick fog through which we had been sailing on the morning of the 24th, within one third of a mile of Cape Seppings, the land just appearing above the fog in time to save us from danger, the soundings being thirty-eight fathoms, on a rocky bottom. The Fury being apprized by guns of our situation, both ships were hauled off the land, and the fog soon after dispersing, we had the satisfaction to perceive that the late gale had blown the ice off the land, leaving us a fine navigable channel from one to two miles wide, as far as we could see from the masthead along the shore. We were able to avail ourselves of this but slowly, however, in consequence of a light southerly breeze still blowing against us.
The land here, when closely viewed, assumes a very striking, and magnificent character; the strata of limestone, which are numerous and quite horizontally disposed, being much more regular than on the eastern shore of Prince Regent's Inlet, and retaining nearly their whole perpendicular height of six or seven hundred feet close to the sea. I may here remark, that the whole of Barrow's Strait, as far as we could see to the N.N.E. of the islands, was entirely free from ice; and, from whatever circumstance it may proceed, I do not think that this part of the Polar Sea is at any season very much encumbered with it.
It was the general feeling at this period among us, that the voyage had but now commenced. The labours of a bad summer, and the tedium of a long winter, were forgotten in a moment when we found ourselves upon ground not hitherto explored, and with every apparent prospect before us of making as rapid a progress as the nature of this navigation will permit, towards the final accomplishment of our object.
A breeze enabling us again to make some progress, and an open channel still favouring us, of nearly the same breadth as before, we passed, during the night of the 25th, a second bay, about the same size as the other, and also appearing open to the sea; it lies in latitude (by account from the preceding and following noon) 73 deg. 19' 30", and its width is one mile and a half. We now perceived that the ice closed completely in with the land a short distance beyond us; and, having made all the way we could, were obliged to stand off and on during the day in a channel not three quarters of a mile wide.
A light southerly breeze on the morning of the 28th gradually cleared the shore, and a fresh wind from the N.W. then immediately succeeded. We instantly took advantage of this circumstance, and, casting off at six A.M., ran eight or nine miles without obstruction, when we were stopped by the ice, which, in a closely packed and impenetrable body, stretched close into the shore as far as the eye could reach from the crow's nest. Being anxious to gain every foot of distance that we could, and perceiving some grounded ice which appeared favourable for making fast to, just at a point where the clear water terminated, the ships were run to the utmost extent of it, and a boat prepared from each to examine the water at the intended anchoring place. Just as I was about to leave the Hecla for that purpose, the ice was observed, to be in rapid motion towards the shore. The Fury was immediately hauled in by some grounded masses, and placed to the best advantage; but the Hecla, being more advanced, was immediately beset in spite of every exertion, and, after breaking two of the largest ice-anchors in endeavouring to heave in to the shore, was obliged to drift with the ice, several masses of which had fortunately interposed themselves between us and the land. The ice slackening around us a little in the evening, we were enabled, with considerable labour, to get to some grounded masses, where we lay much exposed, as the Fury also did. In this situation, our latitude being 72 deg. 51' 51", we saw a comparatively low point of land three or four leagues to the southward, which proved to be near that which terminated our view of this coast in 1819.
The ice opening for a mile and a half alongshore on the 30th, we shifted the Hecla's berth about that distance to the southward, chiefly to be enabled to see more distinctly round a point which before obstructed our view, though our situation as regarded the security of the ship was much altered for the worse. In the afternoon it blew a hard gale, with constant rain, from the northward, the clouds indicating an easterly wind in other parts. This wind, which was always the troublesome one to us, soon brought the ice closer and closer, till it pressed with very considerable violence on both ships, though the most upon the Fury, which lay in a very exposed situation. Early on the morning of the 31st, as soon as a communication could be effected, Captain Hoppner sent to inform me that the Fury had been forced on the ground, where she still lay; but that she would probably be hove off without much difficulty at high water, provided the external ice did not prevent it. A large party of hands from the Hecla being sent round to the Fury towards high water, she came off the ground with very little strain, so that, upon the whole, considering the situation in which the ships were lying, we thought ourselves fortunate in having incurred no very serious injury. A shift of wind to the southward in the afternoon at length began gradually to slacken it, but it was not till six A.M. on the 1st of August that there appeared a prospect of making any progress. The signal to that effect was immediately made; but, while the sails were setting, the ice, which had at first been three quarters of a mile distant from us, was observed to be closing the shore The ships were cast with all expedition, in hopes of gaining the broader channel before the ice had time to shut us up. So rapid, however, was the latter in this its sudden movement, that we had but just got the ships' heads the right way when the ice came boldly in upon us, being doubtless set in motion by a very sudden freshening of the wind almost to a gale in the course of a few minutes. The ships were now almost instantly beset, and in such a manner as to be literally helpless and unmanageable.
The sails were, however, kept set; and, as the body of ice was setting to the southward withal, we went with it some little distance in that direction. The Hecla, after thus driving, and now and then forcing her way through the ice, in all about three quarters of a mile, quite close to the shore, at length struck the ground forcibly several times in the space of a hundred yards, and being then brought up by it, remained immoveable, the depth of water under her keel abaft being sixteen feet, or about a foot less than she drew. The Fury, continuing to drive, was now irresistibly carried past us, and we escaped, only by a few feet, the damage invariably occasioned by ships coming in contact under such circumstances. She had, however, scarcely passed us a hundred yards, when it was evident, by the ice pressing her in, as well as along the shore, that she must soon be stopped like the Hecla; and having gone about two hundred yards farther, she was observed to receive a severe pressure from a large floe-piece forcing her directly against a grounded mass of ice upon the beach. After setting to the southward for an hour or two longer, the ice became stationary, no open water being anywhere visible from the masthead, and the pressure on the ships remaining undiminished during the day. Just as I had ascertained the utter impossibility of moving the Hecla a single foot, and that she must lie aground fore and aft as soon as the tide fell, I received a note from Captain Hoppner, informing me that the Fury had been so severely "nipped" and strained as to leak a good deal, apparently about four inches an hour; that she was still heavily pressed both upon the ground and against the large mass of ice within her; that the rudder was at present very awkwardly situated; and that one boat had been much damaged. However, about high water, the ice very opportunely slacking, the Hecla was hove off with great ease, and warped to a floe in the offing, to which we made fast at midnight. The Fury was not long after us in coming off the ground, when I was in hopes of finding that any twist or strain by which her leaks might have been occasioned, would, in some measure, close when she was relieved from pressure and once more fairly afloat. My disappointment and mortification, therefore, may in some measure be imagined, at being informed by telegraph, about two A.M. on the 2d, that the water was gaining on two pumps, and that a part of the doubling had floated up. Presently after, perceiving from the masthead something like a small harbour nearly abreast of us, every effort was made to get once more towards the shore. In this the ice happily favoured us; and, after making sail, and one or two tacks, we got in with the land, when I left the ship in a boat to sound the place and search for shelter. The whole shore was more or less lined with grounded masses of ice; but, after examining the soundings within more than twenty of them, in the space of about a mile, I could only find two that would allow the ships to float at low water, and that by some care in placing and keeping them there. Having fixed a flag on each berg, the usual signal for the ships taking their stations, I rowed on board the Fury, and found four pumps constantly going to keep the ship free, and Captain Hoppner, his officers and men, almost exhausted with the incessant labour of the last eight-and-forty hours. The instant the ships were made fast, Captain Hoppner and myself set out in a boat to survey the shore still farther south, there being a narrow lane of water about a mile in that direction; for it had now become too evident that the Fury could proceed no farther without repairs, and that the nature of those repairs would in all probability involve the disagreeable, I may say the ruinous, necessity of heaving the ship down. After rowing about three quarters of a mile, we considered ourselves fortunate in arriving at a bolder part of the beach, where three grounded masses of ice, having from three to four fathoms water at low tide within them, were so disposed as to afford, with the assistance of art, something like shelter. Returning to the ships, we were setting the sails in order to run to the appointed place, when the ice closed in and prevented our moving, and in a short time there was once more no open water to be seen. We were therefore under the necessity of remaining in our present berths, where the smallest external pressure must inevitably force us ashore, neither ship having more than two feet of water to spare. One watch of the Hecla's crew were sent round to assist at the Fury's pumps, which required one third of her ship's company to be constantly employed at them.
The more leisure we obtained to consider the state of the Fury, the more apparent became the absolute, however unfortunate, necessity of heaving her down. Four pumps were required to be at work without intermission to keep her free, and this in perfectly smooth water, showing that she was, in fact, so materially injured as to be very far from seaworthy. One third of her working men were constantly employed, as before remarked, in this laborious operation, and some of their hands had become so sore from the constant friction of the ropes, that they could hardly handle them any longer without the use of mittens, assisted by the unlaying of the ropes to make them soft. As, therefore, not a moment could be lost, we took advantage of a small lane of water, deep enough for boats, which kept open within the grounded masses along the shore, to convey to the Hecla some of the Fury's dry provisions, and to land a quantity of heavy iron work, and other stores not perishable; for the moment this measure was determined on, I was anxious, almost at any risk, to commence the lightening of the ship as far as our present insecurity and our distance from the shore would permit.
At two A.M. on the 5th, the ice began to slacken near the ships, and, as soon as a boat could be rowed alongshore to the southward, I set out, accompanied by a second from the Fury, for the purpose of examining the state of our intended harbour since the recent pressure, and to endeavour to prepare for the reception of the ships by clearing out the loose ice. The Fury was detained some time by a quantity of loose ice, which had wedged itself in in such a manner as to leave her no room to move outward; but she arrived about seven o'clock, when both ships were made fast in the best berths we could find, but they were excluded from their intended place by the quantity of ice which had fixed itself there. Within twenty minutes after our arrival, the whole body of ice again came in, entirely closing up the shore, so that our moving proved most opportune.
Formation of a Basin for heaving the Fury down.—Landing of the Fury's Stores, and other Preparations.—The Ships secured within the Basin.—Impediments from the Pressure of the Ice.—Fury hove down.—Securities of the Basin destroyed by a Gale of Wind.—Preparations to tow the Fury out.—Hecla Re-equipped, and obliged to put to Sea.—Fury again driven on Shore.—Rejoin the Fury; and find it necessary finally to abandon her.
As there was now no longer room for floating the ice out of the proposed basin, all hands were immediately employed in preparing the intended securities against the incursions of the ice. These consisted of anchors carried to the beach, having bower-cables attached to them, passing quite round the grounded masses, and thus enclosing a small space of just sufficient size to admit both ships. The cables we proposed floating by means of the two hand-masts and some empty casks lashed to them as buoys, with the intention of thus making them receive the pressure of the ice a foot or two below the surface of the water. By uncommon exertions on the part of the officers and men, this laborious work was completed before night as far as was practicable until the loose ice should set out; and all the tents were set up on the beach for the reception of the Fury's stores.
The ice remaining quite close on the 6th, every individual in both ships, with the exception of those at the pumps, was employed in landing provisions from the Fury, together with the spars, boats, and everything from off her upper deck. On the following day, the ice remaining as before, the work was continued without intermission, and a great quantity of things landed. The armorer was also set to work on the beach in forging bolts for the martingales of the outriggers. In short, every living creature among us was somehow or other employed, not even excepting our dogs, which were set to drag up the stores on the beach; so that our little dock-yard soon exhibited the most animated scene imaginable. The Fury was thus so much lightened in the course of the day, that two pumps were now nearly sufficient to keep her free, and this number continued requisite until she was hove down.
At night, just as the people were going to rest, the ice began to move to the southward, and soon after came in towards the shore, pressing the Fury over on her side to so alarming a degree, as to warn us that it would not be safe to lighten her much more in her present insecure situation. One of our bergs also shifted its position by this pressure, so as to weaken our confidence in the pier-heads of our intended basin; and a long "tongue" of one of them forcing itself under the Hecla's forefoot, while the drifting ice was also pressing her forcibly from astern, she once more sewed three or four feet forward at low water, and continued to do so, notwithstanding repeated endeavours to haul her off, for four successive tides, the ice remaining so close and so much doubled under the ship, as to render it impossible to move her a single inch. Notwithstanding the state of the ice, however, we did not remain idle on the 8th, all hands being employed in unrigging the Fury, and landing all her spars, sails, booms, boats, and other top weight.
The ice still continuing very close on the 9th, all hands were employed in attempting, by saws and axes, to clear the Hecla, which still grounded on the tongue of ice every tide. After four hours' labour, they succeeded in making four or five feet of room astern, when the ship suddenly slid down off the tongue with considerable force, and became once more afloat. As it very opportunely happened, the external ice slackened to the distance of about a hundred yards outside of us on the morning of the 10th, enabling us, by a most tedious and laborious operation, to clear the ice out of our basin piece by piece. Our next business was to tighten the cables sufficiently by means of purchases, and to finish the floating of them in the manner and for the purpose before described. After this had been completed, the ships had only a few feet in length, and nothing in breadth to spare, but we had now great hopes of going on with our work with increased confidence and security. The Fury, which was placed inside, had something less than eighteen feet at low water; the Hecla lay in four fathoms, the bottom being strewed with large and small fragments of limestone.
While thus employed in securing the ships, the smoothness of the water enabled us to see, in some degree, the nature of the Fury's damage; and it may be conceived how much pain it occasioned us plainly to discover that both the sternpost and forefoot were broken and turned up on one side with the pressure. We also could perceive, as far as we were able to see along the main keel, that it was much torn, and we had therefore much reason to conclude that the damage would altogether prove very serious. We also discovered that several feet of the Hecla's false keel were torn away abreast of the forechains, in consequence of her grounding forward so frequently.
Being favoured with fine weather, we continued our work very quickly, so that on the 12th every cask was landed, and also the powder; and the spare sails and clothing put on board the Hecla. The coals and preserved meats were the principal things now remaining on board the Fury, and these we continued landing by every method we could devise as the most expeditious.
Early on the morning of the 14th, the ice slackening a little in our neighbourhood, we took advantage of it, though the people were much fagged, to tighten the cables, which had stretched and yielded considerably by the late pressure. It was well that we did so; for in the course of this day we were several times interrupted in our work by the ice coming with a tremendous strain on the north cables, the wind blowing strong from the N.N.W., and the whole "pack" outside of us setting rapidly to the southward. Indeed, notwithstanding the recent tightening and readjustment of the cables, the bight was pressed in so much as to force the Fury against the berg astern of her twice in the course of the day.
From this trial of the efficacy of our means of security, it was plain that the Fury could not possibly be hove down under circumstances of such frequent and imminent risk: I therefore directed a fourth anchor, with two additional cables, to be carried out, with the hope of breaking some of the force of the ice by its offering a more oblique resistance than the other, and thus, by degrees, turning the direction of the pressure from the ships. We had scarcely completed this new defence, when the largest floe we had seen since leaving Port Bowen came sweeping along the shore, having a motion to the southward of not less than a mile and a half an hour; and a projecting point of it, just grazing our outer berg, threatened to overturn it, and would certainly have dislodged it from its situation but for the cable recently attached to it.
The Fury being completely cleared at an early hour on the 16th, we were all busily employed in "winding" the ship, and in preparing the outriggers, shores, purchases, and additional rigging. Though we purposely selected the time of high water for turning the ship round, we had scarcely a foot of space to spare for doing it; and indeed, as it was, her forefoot touched the ground, and loosened the broken part of the wood so much as to enable us to pull it up with ropes, when we found the fragments to consist of the whole of the "gripe" and most of the "cutwater." In the evening we received the Fury's crew on board the Hecla, every arrangement and regulation having been previously made for their personal comfort, and for the preservation of cleanliness, ventilation, and dry warmth throughout the ship. The officers of the Fury, by their own choice, pitched a tent on shore for messing and sleeping in, as our accommodation for two sets of officers was necessarily confined. Every preparation being made, at three A.M. on the 18th we began to heave her down on the larboard side; but when the purchases were nearly ablock, we found that the strops under the Hecla's bottom, as well as some of the Fury's shore-fasts, had stretched or yielded so much that they could not bring the keel out of water within three or four feet. We immediately eased her up again, and readjusted everything as requisite, hauling her farther in-shore than before by keeping a considerable heel upon her, so as to make less depth of water necessary; and we were then in the act of once more heaving her down, when a snowstorm came on and blew with such violence off the land as to raise a considerable sea. The ships had now so much motion as to strain the gear very much, and even to make the lower masts of the Fury bend in spite of the shores; we were, therefore, most unwillingly compelled to desist until the sea should go down, keeping everything ready to recommence the instant we could possibly do so with safety. The officers and men were now literally so harassed and fatigued as to be scarcely capable of farther exertion without some rest; and on this and one or two other occasions, I noticed more than a single instance of stupor, amounting to a certain degree of failure in intellect, rendering the individual so affected quite unable at first to comprehend the meaning of an order, though still as willing as ever to obey it. It was therefore, perhaps, a fortunate necessity that produced the intermission of labour which the strength of every individual seemed to require.
The gale rather increasing than otherwise during the whole day and night of the 18th, had, on the following morning, when the wind and sea still continued unabated, so destroyed the bergs on which our sole dependance was placed, that they no longer remained aground at low water; the cables had again become slack about them, and the basin we had taken so much pains in forming had now lost all its defences, at least during a portion of every tide. After a night of most anxious consideration and consultation with Captain Hoppner, who was now my messmate in the Hecla, it appeared but too plain that, should the ice again come in, neither ship could any longer be secured from driving on shore. It was therefore determined instantly to prepare the Hecla for sea, making her thoroughly effective in every respect; so that we might at least push her out into comparative safety among the ice when it closed again, taking every person on board her, securing the Fury in the best manner we could, and returning to her the instant we were able to do so, to endeavour to get her out, and to carry her to some place of security for heaving down. If, after the Hecla was ready, time should still be allowed us, it was proposed immediately to put into the Fury all that was requisite, or, at least, as much as she could safely carry, and, towing her out into the ice, to try the effect of "foddering" the leaks by sails under those parts of her keel which we knew to be damaged, until some more effectual means could be resorted to.
Having communicated to the assembled officers and ships' companies my views and intentions, we commenced our work; and such was the hearty good-will and indefatigable energy with which it was carried on, that by midnight the whole was accomplished.
On the 20th, therefore, the reloading of the Fury commenced with recruited strength and spirits, such articles being in the first place selected for putting on board as were essentially requisite for her reequipment; for it was my full determination, could we succeed in completing this, not to wait even for rigging a topmast, or getting a lower yard up, in the event of the ice coming in, but to tow her out among the ice, and there put everything sufficiently to rights for carrying her to some place of security. A few hands were also spared, consisting chiefly of two or three convalescents, and some of the officers, to thrum a sail for putting under the Fury's keel; for we were very anxious to relieve the men at the pumps, which constantly required the labour of eight to twelve hands to keep her free. By a long and hard day's labour, the people not going to rest till two o'clock on the morning of the 21st, we got about fifty tons' weight of coals and provisions on board the Fury, which, in case of necessity, we considered sufficient to give her stability. Having hauled the ships out a little from the shore, and prepared the Hecla for casting by a spring at a moment's notice, all the people except those at the pumps were sent to rest, which, however, they had not enjoyed for two hours, when, at four A.M. on the 21st, another heavy mass coming violently in contact with the bergs and cables, threatened to sweep away every remaining security. More hawsers were run out, however, and enabled us still to hold on; and, after six hours of disturbed rest, all hands were again set to work to get the Fury's anchors, cables, rudder, and spars on board, these being absolutely necessary for her equipment, should we be able to get her out. At two P.M. the crews were called on board to dinner, which they had not finished when several not very large masses of ice drove along the shore near us at a quick rate, and two or three successively coming in violent contact either with the Hecla or the bergs to which she was attached, convinced me that very little additional pressure would tear everything away, and drive both ships on shore. I saw that the moment had arrived when the Hecla could no longer be kept in her present situation with the smallest chance of safety, and therefore immediately got under sail, despatching Captain Hoppner with every individual, except a few for working the ship, to continue getting the things on board the Fury, while the Hecla stood off and on. Captain Hoppner had scarcely been an hour on board the Fury, and was busily engaged in getting the anchors and cables on board, when we observed some large pieces of not very heavy ice closing in with the land near her; and at twenty minutes past four P.M., being an hour and five minutes after the Hecla had cast off, I was informed by signal that the Fury was on shore. As the navigating of the Hecla, with only ten men on board, required constant attention and care, I could not at this time, with propriety, leave the ship to go on board the Fury. I therefore directed Captain Hoppner by telegraph, "if he thought nothing could be done at present, to return on board with all hands until the wind changed;" for this alone, as far as I could see the state of the Fury, seemed to offer the smallest chance of clearing the shore, so as to enable us to proceed with our work, or to attempt hauling the ship off the ground. About seven P.M. Captain Hoppner returned to the Hecla, accompanied by all hands, except an officer with a party at the pumps, reporting to me, that the Fury had been forced aground by the ice pressing on the masses lying near her, and bringing home, if not breaking, the seaward anchor, so that the ship was soon found to have sewed from two to three feet fore and aft.
Finding, soon after Captain Hoppner's return, that the current swept the Hecla a long way to the southward while hoisting up the boats, and that more ice was drifting in towards the shore, I was under the painful necessity of recalling the party at the pumps, rather than incur the risk, now an inevitable one, of parting company with them altogether. Accordingly, Mr. Bird, with the last of the people, came on board at eight o'clock in the evening, having left eighteen inches water in the well, and four pumps being requisite to keep her free. In three hours after Mr. Bird's return, more than half a mile of closely packed ice intervened between the Fury and the open water in which we were beating, and before the morning this barrier had increased to four or five miles in breadth.
We carried a press of canvass all night, with a fresh breeze from the north, to enable us to keep abreast of the Fury, which, on account of the strong southerly current, we could only do by beating at some distance from the land. The breadth of the ice in-shore continued increasing during the day, but we could see no end to the water in which we were beating, either to the southward or eastward. It fell quite calm in the evening, when the breadth of the ice in-shore had increased to six or seven miles. We did not, during the day, perceive any current setting to the southward, but in the course of the night we were drifted four or five leagues to the southwestward.
A southerly breeze enabling us to regain our northing, we ran along the margin of the ice, but were led so much to the eastward by it, that we could approach the ship no nearer than before during the whole day. She appeared to us at this distance to have a much greater heel than when the people left her, which made us still more anxious to get near her. The latitude at noon was 72 deg. 34' 57", making our distance from the Fury twelve miles, which, by the morning of the 25th, had increased to at least five leagues, the ice continuing to "pack" between us and the shore. The wind, however, now gradually drew round to the westward, giving us hopes of a change, and we continued to ply about the margin of the ice, in constant readiness for taking advantage of any opening that might occur. It favoured us so much by streaming off in the course of the day, that by seven P.M. we had nearly reached a channel of clear water, which kept open for seven or eight miles from the land. Being impatient to obtain a sight of the Fury, and the wind becoming light, Captain Hoppner and myself left the Hecla in two boats, and reached the ship at half past nine, or about three quarters of an hour before high water, being the most favourable time of tide for arriving to examine her condition.
We found her heeling so much outward, that her main channels were within a foot of the water; and the large floe-piece, which was still alongside of her, seemed alone to support her below water, and to prevent her falling over still more considerably. The ship had been forced much farther up the beach than before, and she had now in her bilge above nine feet of water, which reached higher than the lower-deck beams. The first hour's inspection of the Fury's condition too plainly assured me that, exposed as she was, and forcibly pressed up upon an open and stony beach, her holds full of water, and the damage of her hull to all appearance and in all probability more considerable than before, without any adequate means of hauling her off to seaward, or securing her from the farther incursions of the ice, every endeavour of ours to get her off, or if got off, to float her to any known place of safety, would be at once utterly hopeless in itself, and productive of extreme risk to our remaining ship.
Mr. Pulfer, the carpenter of the Fury, considered that it would occupy five days to clear the ship of water; that if she were got off, all the pumps would not be sufficient to keep her free, in consequence of the additional damage she seemed to have sustained; and that, if even hove down, twenty days' work, with the means we possessed, would be required for making her sea-worthy. Captain Hoppner and the other officers were therefore of opinion, that an absolute necessity existed for abandoning the Fury. My own opinion being thus confirmed as to the utter hopelessness of saving her, and feeling more strongly than ever the responsibility which attached to me of preserving the Hecla unhurt, it was with extreme pain and regret that I made the signal for the Fury's officers and men to be sent for their clothes, most of which, had been put on shore with the stores.
The whole of the Fury's stores were of necessity left either on board her or on shore, every spare corner that we could find in the Hecla being now absolutely required for the accommodation of our double complement of officers and men, whose cleanliness and health could only be maintained by keeping the decks as clear and well ventilated as our limited space would permit. The spot where the Fury was left is in latitude 72 deg. 42' 30"; the longitude by chronometers is 91 deg. 50' 05"; the dip of the magnetic needle 88 deg. 19' 22"; and the variation 129 deg. 25' westerly.
When the accident first happened to the Fury, I confidently expected to be able to repair her damages in good time to take advantage of a large remaining part of the navigable season in the prosecution of the voyage; and while the clearing of the ship was going on with so much alacrity, and the repairs seemed to be within the reach of our means and resources, I still flattered myself with the same hope. Those expectations were now at an end. With a twelvemonth's provisions for both ship's companies, extending our resources only to the autumn of the following year, it would have been folly to hope for final success, considering the small progress we had already made, the uncertain nature of this navigation, and the advanced period of the present season. I was therefore reduced to the only remaining conclusion, that it was my duty, under all the circumstances of the case, to return to England in compliance with the plain tenour of my instructions. As soon as the boats were hoisted up, therefore, and the anchor stowed, the ship's head was put to the northeastward, with a light air off the land, in order to gain an offing before the ice should again set in-shore.
Some Remarks upon the Loss of the Fury—And on the Natural History, &c., of the Coast of North Somerset.—Arrive at Neill's Harbour.—Death of John Page.—Leave Neill's Harbour.—Recross the Ice in Baffin's Bay.—Heavy Gales.—Temperature of the Sea.—Arrival in England.
The accident which had now befallen the Fury, and which, when its fatal result was finally ascertained, at once put an end to every prospect of success in the main object of this voyage, is not an event which will excite surprise in the minds of those who are either personally acquainted with the true nature of this precarious navigation, or have had patience to follow me through the tedious and monotonous detail of our operations during seven successive summers. To any persons thus qualified to judge, it will be plain that an occurrence of this nature was at all times rather to be expected than otherwise, and that the only real cause for wonder has been our long exemption from such a catastrophe.
The summer of 1825 was, beyond all doubt, the warmest and most favourable we had experienced since that of 1818. Not more than two or three days occurred, during the months of July and August, in which that heavy fall of snow took place which so commonly converts the aspect of nature in these regions, in a single hour, from the cheerfulness of summer into the dreariness of winter. Indeed, we experienced very little either of snow, rain, or fog: vegetation, wherever the soil allowed any to spring up, was extremely luxuriant and forward; a great deal of the old snow, which had laid on the ground during the last season, was rapidly dissolving even early in August; and every appearance of nature exhibited a striking contrast with the last summer, while it seemed evidently to furnish an extraordinary compensation for its rigour and inclemency.
We have scarcely ever visited a coast on which so little of animal life occurs. For days together, only one or two seals, a single seahorse, and now and then a flock of ducks, were seen. I have already mentioned, however, as an exception to this scarcity of animals, the numberless kittiwakes which were flying about the remarkable spout of water; and we were one day visited, at the place where the Fury was left, by hundreds of white whales, sporting about in the shoal water close to the beach. No black whales were ever seen on this coast. Two reindeer were observed by the gentlemen who extended their walks inland; but this was the only summer in which we did not procure a single pound of venison. Indeed, the whole of our supplies obtained in this way during the voyage, including fish, flesh, and fowl, did not exceed twenty pounds per man.
The weather continuing nearly calm during the 26th, and the ice keeping at the distance of several miles from the land, gave us an opportunity of clearing decks, and stowing the things belonging to the Fury's crew more comfortably for their accommodation and convenience. I now felt more sensibly than ever the necessity I have elsewhere pointed out, of both ships employed on this kind of service being of the same size, equipped in the same manner, and alike efficient in every respect. The way in which we had been able to apply every article for assisting to heave the Fury down, without the smallest doubt or selection as to size or strength, proved an excellent practical example of the value of being thus able, at a moment's warning, to double the means and resources of either ship in case of necessity. In fact, by this arrangement, nothing but a harbour to secure the ships was wanted to complete the whole operation in as effectual a manner as in a dockyard; for not a shore, or outrigger, or any other precaution was omitted, that is usually attended to on such occasions, and all as good and effective as could anywhere have been desired. The advantages were now scarcely conspicuous in the accommodation of the officers and men, who in a short time became little less comfortable than in their own ship; whereas, in a smaller vessel, comfort, to say nothing of health, would have been quite out of the question.
A breeze from the northward freshening up strong on the 27th, we stretched over to the eastern shore of Prince Regent's Inlet, and this with scarcely any obstruction from ice. We could, indeed, scarcely believe this the same sea which, but a few weeks before, had been loaded with one impenetrable body of closely-packed ice from shore to shore, and as far as the eye could discern to the southward. Having a great deal of heavy work to do in the restowage of the holds, which could not well be accomplished at sea, and also a quantity of water to fill for our increased complement, I determined to take advantage of our fetching the entrance of Neill's Harbour to put in here, in order to prepare the ship completely for crossing the Atlantic. I was desirous also of ascertaining the depth of water in this place, which was wanting to complete Lieutenant Sherer's survey of it. Finding the harbour an extremely convenient one for our purpose, we worked the ship in, and at four P.M. anchored in thirteen fathoms, but afterward shifted out to eighteen, on a bottom of soft mud. Almost at the moment of our dropping the anchor, John Page, seaman of the Fury, departed this life: he had for several months been affected with a scrofulous disorder, and had been gradually sinking for some time.
The funeral of the deceased being performed, we immediately commenced landing the casks and filling water; but, notwithstanding the large streams which, a short time before, had been running into the harbour, we could hardly obtain enough for our purpose by sinking a cask with holes in it. This work, together with the entire restowage of all the holds, occupied the whole of the 29th and 30th, during which time Lieutenant Sherer was employed in completing the survey of the harbour, more especially the soundings, which the presence of the ice had before prevented. These arrangements had just been completed, when the northeasterly wind died away, and was succeeded, on the morning of the 31st, by a light air from the northwest. As soon as we had sent to ascertain that the sea was clear of ice on the outside, and that the breeze which blew in the harbour was the true one, we weighed and stood out, and before noon had cleared the shoals at the entrance.
Finding the wind at northwest in Prince Regent's Inlet, we were barely able to lie along the eastern coast. As the breeze freshened in the course of the day, a great deal of loose ice, in extensive streams and patches, came drifting down from the Leopold Islands, occasioning us some trouble in picking our way to the northward. By carrying a press of sail, however, we were enabled, towards night, to get into clearer water, and by four A.M. on the 1st of September, having beat to windward of a compact body of ice which had fixed itself on the lee shore about Cape York, we soon came into a perfectly open sea in Barrow's Strait, and were enabled to bear away to the eastward. We now considered ourselves fortunate in having got out of harbour when we did, as the ice would probably have filled up every inlet on that shore in a few hours after we left it.
Being again favoured with a fair wind, we now stretched to the eastward, still in an open sea; and our curiosity was particularly excited to see the present situation of the ice in the middle of Baffin's Bay, and to compare it with that in 1824. This comparison we were enabled to make the more fairly, because the season at which we might expect to come to it coincided, within three or four days, with that in which we left it the preceding year. The temperature of the sea-water now increased to 38 deg. soon after leaving the Sound, where it had generally been from 33 deg. to 35 deg., whereas at the same season last year it rose no higher than 32 deg. anywhere in the neighbourhood, and remained even so high as that only for a very short time. This circumstance seemed to indicate the total absence of ice from those parts of the sea which had last autumn been wholly covered by it. Accordingly, on the 5th, being thirty miles beyond the spot in which we had before contended with numerous difficulties from ice, not a piece was to be seen, except one or two solitary bergs; and it was not till the following day, in latitude 72 deg. 45', and longitude 64 deg. 44', or about one hundred and twenty-seven miles to the eastward of where we made our escape on the 9th of September, 1824, that we fell in with a body of ice so loose and open as scarcely to oblige us to alter our course for it. At three P.M. on the 7th, being in latitude 72 deg. 30', and longitude 60 deg. 05', and having, in the course of eighty miles that we had run through it, only made a single tack, we came to the margin of the ice, and got into an open sea on its eastern side. In the whole course of this distance, the ice was so much spread that it would not, if at all closely "packed," have occupied one third of the same space. There were at this time thirty-nine bergs in sight, and some of them certainly not less than two hundred feet in height.
On the 8th, being in latitude 71 deg. 55', longitude 60 deg. 30', and close to the margin of the ice, we fell in with the Alfred, Ellison, and Elizabeth, whalers, of Hull, all running to the northward, even at this season, to look for whales.
As the whaling-ships were not homeward bound, having as yet had indifferent success in the fishery, I did not consider it necessary to send despatches by them. After an hour's communication with them, and obtaining such information of a public nature as could not fail to be highly interesting to us, we made sail to the southward; while we observed them lying to for some time after, probably to consult respecting the unwelcome information with which we had furnished them as to the whales, not one of which, by some extraordinary chance, we had seen since leaving Neill's Harbour. As this circumstance was entirely new to us, it seems not unlikely that the whales are already beginning to shift their ground, in consequence of the increased attacks which have been made upon them of late years in that neighbourhood.
On the 10th we had an easterly wind, which, gradually freshening to a gale, drew up the Strait from the southward, and blew strong for twentyfour hours from that quarter. The wind moderated on the 11th, but on the following day another gale came on, which for nine or ten hours blew in most tremendous gusts from the same quarter, and raised a heavy sea. We happily came near no ice during the night, or it would scarcely have been possible to keep the ship clear of it. It abated after daylight on the 13th, but continued to blow an ordinary gale for twelve hours longer.
On the 17th, at noon, we had passed to the southward of the Arctic Circle, and from this latitude to that of about 58 deg., we had favourable winds and weather; but we remarked on this, as on several other occasions during this season, that a northerly breeze, contrary to ordinary observation, brought more moisture with it than any other. In the course of this run, we also observed more driftwood than we had ever done before, which I thought might possibly be owing to the very great prevalence of easterly winds this season driving it farther from the coast of Greenland than usual.
On, the morning of the 24th, notwithstanding the continuance of a favourable breeze, we met, in the latitude of 58-1/2 deg., so heavy a swell from the northeastward as to make the ship labour violently for four-and-twenty hours. On the morning of the 25th we had again an easterly wind, which in a few hours reduced us to the close-reefed topsails and reefed courses. At eight P.M. it freshened to a gale, which brought us under the main-topsail and storm-staysails, and at seven the following morning it increased to a gale of such violence from N.E.b.N. as does not very often occur at sea in these latitudes. The gusts were at times so tremendous as to set the sea quite in a foam, and threatened to tear the sails out of the bolt-ropes. The wind gradually drew to the westward, with dry weather, after the gale began to abate, and at six A.M. we were enabled to bear up and run to the eastward with a strong gale at N.W.
The indications of the barometer previous to and during this gale deserve to be noticed, because it is only about Cape Farewell that, in coming from the northward down Davis's Strait, this instrument begins to speak a language which has ever been intelligible to us as a weather glass. On the 24th, notwithstanding the change of wind from north to east, the mercury rose from 29.51 on that morning, to 29.72 at three A.M. the following day, but fell to 26.39 by nine P.M. with the strong but not violent breeze then blowing. After this it continued to descend very gradually, and had reached 28.84, which was its minimum, at three P.M. on the 26th, after which it continued to blow tremendously hard for eleven or twelve hours, the mercury uniformly, though slowly, ascending to 28.95 during that interval, and afterward to 29.73 as the weather became moderate and fine in the course of the taeaehree following days.
After this gale the atmosphere seemed to be quite cleared, and we enjoyed a week of such remarkably fine weather as seldom occurs at this season of the year. We had then a succession of strong southerly winds, but we were enabled to continue our progress to the eastward, so as to make Mould Head, towards the northwest end of the Orkney Islands, at daylight on the 10th of October.
After rounding the north end of the Orkneys on the 10th of October, we were, on the 12th, met by a strong southerly wind when off Peterhead. I therefore immediately landed (for the second time) at that place, and, setting off without delay for London, arrived at the Admiralty on the 16th.
The Hecla arrived at Sheerness on the 20th of October, where she was detained for a few days for the purpose of Captain Hoppner, his officers, and ship's company being put upon their trial (according to the customary and indispensable rule in such cases) for the loss of the Fury—when, it is scarcely necessary to add, they received an honourable acquittal. The Hecla then proceeded to Woolwich, and was paid off on the 21st of November.
MELVILLE PENINSULA AND THE ADJOINING ISLANDS: MORE PARTICULARLY OF WINTER ISLAND AND IGLOOLIK.
ACCOUNT OF THE ESQUIMAUX.
The number of individuals composing the tribe of Esquimaux assembled at Winter Island and Igloolik was two hundred and nineteen, of whom sixty-nine were men, seventy-seven women, and seventy-three children. Two or three of the men, from their appearance and infirmities, as well as from the age of their children, must have been near seventy; the rest were from twenty to about fifty. The majority of the women were comparatively young, or from twenty to five-and-thirty, and three or four only seemed to have reached sixty. Of the children, about one third were under four years old, and the rest from that age upward to sixteen or seventeen. Out of one hundred and fifty-five individuals who passed the winter at Igloolik, we knew of eighteen deaths and of only nine births.
The stature of these people is much below that of Europeans in general. One man, who was unusually tall, measured five feet ten inches, and the shortest was only four feet eleven inches and a half. Of twenty individuals of each sex measured at Igloolik, the range was:
Men.—From 5 ft. 10 in. to 4 ft. 11 in. The average height, 5 ft. 5-1/3 in. Women.—From 5 ft. 3-1/2 in. to 4 ft. 8-3/4 in. The average height, 5 ft. 0-1/2 in.
The women, however, generally appear shorter than they really are, both from the unwieldy nature of their clothes, and from a habit, which they early acquire, of stooping considerably forward in order to balance the weight of the child they carry in their hood.
In their figure they are rather well formed than otherwise. Their knees are indeed rather large in proportion, but their legs are straight, and the hands and feet, in both sexes, remarkably small. The younger individuals were all plump, but none of them corpulent; the women inclined the most to this last extreme, and their flesh was, even in the youngest individuals, quite loose and without firmness.
Their faces are generally round and full, eyes small and black, nose also small and sunk far in between the cheek bones, but not much flattened. It is remarkable, that one man T=e-~a, his brother, his wife, and two daughters, had good Roman noses, and one of the latter was an extremely pretty young woman. Their teeth are short, thick, and close, generally regular, and in the young persons almost always white. The elderly women were still well furnished in this way, though their teeth were usually a good deal worn down, probably by the habit of chewing the sealskins for making boots.
In the young of both sexes the complexion is clear and transparent, and the skin smooth. The colour of the latter, when divested of oil and dirt, is scarcely a shade darker than that of a deep brunette, so that the blood is plainly perceptible when it mounts into the cheeks. In the old folks, whose faces were much wrinkled, the skin appears of a much more dingy hue, the dirt being less easily, and, therefore, less frequently dislodged from them.
By whatever peculiarities, however, they may in general be distinguished, they are by no means an ill-looking people; and there were among them three or four grown-up persons of each sex, who, when divested of their skin-dresses, their tattooing, and, above all, of their dirt, might have been considered pleasing-looking, if not handsome, people in any town in Europe. This remark applies more generally to the children also; several of whom had complexions nearly as fair as that of Europeans, and whose little bright black eyes gave a fine expression to their countenances.
The hair, both of males and females, is black, glossy, and straight. The men usually wear it rather long, and allow it to hang about their heads in a loose and slovenly manner. The women pride themselves extremely on the length and thickness of their hair; and it was not without reluctance on their part, and the same on that of their husbands, that they were induced to dispose of any of it. Some of the women's hair was tolerably fine, but would not, in this respect, bear a comparison with, that of an Englishwoman. In both sexes it is full of vermin, which they are in the constant habit of picking out and eating; a man and his wife will sit for an hour together performing for each other that friendly office. The women have a comb, which, however, seems more intended for ornament than use, as we seldom or never observed them comb their hair. When a woman's husband is ill, she wears her hair loose, and cuts it off as a sign of mourning if he dies; a custom agreeing with that of the Greenlanders. The men wear the hair on the upper lip and chin from an inch to an inch and a half in length, and some were distinguished by a little tuft between the chin and lower lip.
In winter every individual, when in the open air, wears two jackets, of which the outer one (C=app~e t=egg~a) has the hair outside, and the inner one (At-t=e=ega) next the body. Immediately on entering the hut the men take off their outer jacket, beat the snow from it, and lay it by. The upper garment of the females, besides being cut according to a regular and uniform pattern, and sewed with exceeding neatness, which is the case with all the dresses of these people, has also the flaps ornamented in a very becoming manner by a neat border of deerskin, so arranged as to display alternate breadths of white and dark fur. This is, moreover, usually beautified by a handsome fringe, consisting of innumerable long narrow threads of leather hanging down from it. This ornament is not uncommon also in the outer jackets of the men. When seal-hunting, they fasten up the tails of their jackets with a button behind.
Their breeches, of which in winter they also wear two pairs, and similarly disposed as to the fur, reach below the knee, and fasten with a string drawn tight round the waist. Though these have little or no waistband, and do not come very high, the depth of the jackets, which considerably overlap them, serves very effectually to complete the covering of the body.
Their legs and feet are so well clothed, that no degree of cold can well affect them. When a man goes on a sealing excursion, he first puts on a pair of deerskin boots (All~ekt=eeg~a) with the hair inside, and reaching to the knee, where they tie. Over these come a pair of shoes of the same material; next a pair of dressed sealskin boots, perfectly water-tight; and over all a corresponding pair of shoes, tying round the instep. These last are made just like the moccasin of a North American Indian, being neatly crimped at the toes, and having several serpentine pieces of hide sewn across the sole to prevent wearing. The water-tight boots and shoes are made of the skin of the small seal (neitiek), except the soles, which consist of the skin of the large seal (oguk~e); this last is also used for their fishing-lines. When the men are not prepared to encounter wet, they wear an outer boot of deerskin, with the hair outside.
The inner boot of the women, unlike that of the men, is loose round the leg, coming as high as the knee-joint behind, and in front carried up, by a long pointed flap, nearly to the waist, and there fastened to the breeches. The upper boot, with the hair as usual outside, corresponds with the other in shape, except that it is much more full, especially on the outer side, where it bulges out so preposterously as to give the women the most awkward, bow-legged appearance imaginable. This superfluity of boot has probably originated in the custom, still common among the native women of Labrador, of carrying their children in them. We were told that these women sometimes put their children there to sleep; but the custom must be rare among them, as we never saw it practised. These boots, however, form their principal pockets, and pretty capacious ones they are. Here, also, as in jackets, considerable taste is displayed in the selection of different parts of the deerskin, alternate strips of dark and white being placed up and down the sides and front by way of ornament. The women also wear a moccasin (Itteeg~eg~a) over all in the winter time.
To judge by the eagerness with which the women received our beads, especially small white ones, as well as any other article of that kind, we might suppose them very fond of personal ornament. Yet of all that they obtained from us in this way at Winter Island, scarcely anything ever made its appearance again during our stay there, except a ring or two on the finger, and some bracelets of beads round the wrist; the latter of these was probably considered as a charm of some kind or other. We found among them, at the time of our first intercourse, a number of black and white beads, disposed alternately on a string of sinew, and worn in this manner. They would also sometimes hang a small bunch of these, or a button or two, in front of their jackets and hair; and many of them, in the course of the second winter, covered the whole front of their jackets with the beads they received from us.
Among their personal ornaments must be reckoned that mode of marking the body called tattooing, which, of the customs not essential to the comfort or happiness of mankind, is perhaps the most extensively practised throughout the world. Among these people it seems to be an ornament of indispensable importance to the women, not one of them being without it. The operation is performed about the age of ten, or sometimes earlier, and has nothing to do with marriage, except that, being considered in the light of a personal charm, it may serve to recommend them as wives. The parts of the body thus marked are their faces, arms, hands, thighs, and in some few women the breasts, but never the feet, as in Greenland. The operation, which, by way of curiosity, most of our gentlemen had practised on their arms, is very expeditiously managed by passing a needle and thread, the latter covered with lampblack and oil, under the epidermis, according to a pattern previously marked out upon the skin. Several stitches being thus taken at once, the thumb is pressed upon the part while the thread is drawn through, by which means the colouring matter is retained, and a permanent dye of a blue tinge imparted to the skin. A woman expert at this business will perform it very quickly and with great regularity, but seldom without drawing blood in many places, and occasioning some inflammation. Where so large a portion of the surface of the body is to be covered, it must become a painful as well as tedious process, especially as, for want of needles, they often use a strip of whalebone as a substitute. For those parts where a needle cannot conveniently be passed under the skin, they use the method by puncture, which is common in other countries, and by which our seamen frequently mark their hands and arms. Several of the men were marked on the back part of their hands; and with them we understood it to be considered as a souvenir of some distant deceased person who had performed it.
In their winter habitations, I have before mentioned that the only materials employed are snow and ice; the latter being made use of for the windows alone. The work is commenced by cutting from a drift of hard and compact snow a number of oblong slabs, six or seven inches thick and about two feet in length, and laying them edgeways on a level spot, also covered with snow, in a circular form, and of a diameter from eight to fifteen feet, proportioned to the number of occupants the hut is to contain. Upon this as a foundation is laid a second tier of the same kind, but with the pieces inclining a little inward, and made to fit closely to the lower slabs and to each other by running a knife adroitly along the under part and sides. The top of this tier is now prepared for the reception of a third, by squaring it off smoothly with a knife, all which is dexterously performed by one man standing within the circle and receiving the blocks of snow from those employed in cutting them without. When the wall has attained a height of four or five feet, it leans so much inward as to appear as if about to tumble every moment; but the workmen still fearlessly lay their blocks of snow upon it, until it is too high any longer to furnish the materials to the builder in this manner. Of this he gives notice by cutting a hole close to the ground in that part where the door is intended to be, which is near the south side, and through this the snow is now passed. Thus they continue till they have brought the sides nearly to meet in a perfect and well-constructed dome, sometimes nine or ten feet high in the centre; and this they take considerable care in finishing, by fitting the last block or keystone very nicely in the centre, dropping it into its place from the outside, though it is still done by the man within. The people outside are in the mean time occupied in throwing up snow with the p~oo=all~er=ay or snow shovel, and in stuffing in little wedges of snow where holes have been accidentally left.
The builder next proceeds to let himself out by enlarging the proposed doorway into the form of a Gothic arch, three feet high and two feet and a half wide at the bottom, communicating with which they construct two passages, each from ten to twelve feet long and from four to five feet in height, the lowest being that next the hut. The roofs of these passages are sometimes arched, but more generally made flat by slabs laid on horizontally. In first digging the snow for building the hut, they take it principally from the part where the passages are to be made, which purposely brings the floor of the latter considerably lower than that of the hut, but in no part do they dig till the bare ground appears.
The work just described completes the walls of a hut, if a single apartment only be required; but if, on account of relationship, or from any other cause, several families are to reside under one roof, the passages are made common to all, and the first apartment (in that case made smaller) forms a kind of antechamber, from which you go through an arched doorway five feet high into the inhabited apartments. When there are three of these, which is generally the case, the whole building, with its adjacent passages, forms a tolerably regular cross.
For the admission of light into the huts, a round hole is cut on one side of the roof of each apartment, and a circular plate of ice, three or four inches thick and two feet in diameter, let into it. The light is soft and pleasant, like that transmitted through ground glass, and it is quite sufficient for every purpose. When, after some time, these edifices become surrounded by drift, it is only by the windows, as I have before remarked, that they could be recognised as human habitations. It may, perhaps, then be imagined how singular is their external appearance at night, when they discover themselves only by a circular disk of light transmitted through the windows from the lamps within.
The next thing to be done is to raise a bank of snow, two and a half feet high, all round the interior of each apartment, except on the side next the door. This bank, which is neatly squared off, forms their beds and fireplace, the former occupying the sides, and the latter the end opposite the door. The passage left open up to the fireplace is between three and four feet wide. The beds are arranged by first covering the snow with a quantity of small stones, over which are laid their paddles, tentpoles, and some blades of whalebone: above these they place a number of little pieces of network, made of thin slips of whalebone, and lastly a quantity of twigs of birch and of the andromeda tetragona. Their deerskins, which are very numerous, can now be spread without risk of their touching the snow; and such a bed is capable of affording not merely comfort, but luxurious repose, in spite of the rigour of the climate. The skins thus used as blankets are made of a large size and bordered, like some of the jackets, with a fringe of long, narrow slips of leather, in which state a blanket is called k=eipik.
The fire belonging to each family consists of a single lamp, or shallow vessel of lapis ollaris, its form being the lesser segment of a circle. The wick, composed of dry moss rubbed between the hands till it is quite inflammable, is disposed along the edge of the lamp on the straight side, and a greater or smaller quantity lighted, according to the heat required or the fuel that can be afforded. When the whole length of this, which is sometimes above eighteen inches, is kindled, it affords a most brilliant and beautiful light, without any perceptible smoke or any offensive smell. The lamp is made to supply itself with oil, by suspending a long, thin slice of whale, seal, or seahorse blubber near the flame, the warmth of which causes the oil to drip into the vessel until the whole is extracted. Immediately over the lamp is fixed a rude and rickety framework of wood, from which their pots are suspended, and serving also to sustain a large hoop of bone, having a net stretched tight within it. This contrivance, called Inn~et~at, is intended for the reception of any wet things, and is usually loaded with boots, shoes, and mittens.
The fireplace just described as situated at the upper end of the apartment, has always two lamps facing different ways, one for each family occupying the corresponding bedplace. There is frequently, also, a smaller and less-pretending establishment on the same model—lamp, pot, net, and all—in one of the corners next the door; for one apartment sometimes contains three families, which are always closely related; and no married woman, or even a widow without children, is without her separate fireplace.