The Journey to the Polar Sea
by John Franklin
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Everyman, I will go with thee, and be thy guide, In thy most need to go by thy side.

(This is Number 447 of Everyman's Library)


JOHN FRANKLIN, born in 1786. Many naval experiences, including Trafalgar, before heading an expedition across northern Canada in 1819. Elected F.R.S. and knighted after a second expedition. Lieutenant-Governor of Van Diemen's Land, 1836 to 1843. Last expedition, 1845, was lost, and Franklin died in 1847 near the Arctic. Subsequent investigations have established him as the discoverer of the North-West Passage.





In days of hurried action I have been astonished at the depth of interest which a re-perusal of this wonderful old narrative has held for me. Wonderful it is in its simplicity and its revelation of the simplicity of character and faith of the man who wrote it. It is old only by comparison—scarcely ninety years have elapsed since the adventures it described were enacted—yet such a period has never held a fuller measure of change or more speedily passed current events into the limbo of the past.

Nothing could more vividly impress this change than the narrative itself. We are told that Mr. Beck missed his ship at Yarmouth but succeeded in rejoining her at Stromness, having travelled "nine successive days almost without rest." What a vision of post-chaises, sweating horses and heavy roads is suggested! And if the contrast with present-day conditions in our own Islands is great, how much greater is it in that vast Dominion through which Franklin directed his pioneer footsteps. As he followed the lonely trails to Fort Cumberland, or sailed along the solitary shores of Lake Winnipeg, how little could he guess that in less than a century a hundred thousand inhabitants would dwell by the shore of the great lake, or that its primeval regions would one day provide largely the bread of his countrymen.

There civilisation has followed fast indeed, and ever it presses forward on the tracks of the pioneer. But even today if we follow Franklin we must come again to the wild—to the great Barren Lands and to the ice-bound limit of a Continent—regions where for ninety years season has succeeded season without change—where few have passed since his day and Nature alone holds sway. For those who would know what IS as well as for those who would know what HAS BEEN, this narrative still holds its original interest; all must appreciate that it records the work of a great traveller and a gallant man whose fame deserves to live.




F.W. Beechey: Voyage of Discovery toward the North Pole in H.M. Ships Dorothea and Trent (with summary of earlier attempts to reach the Pacific by the North) 1818.

Narrative of a Journey to the Shores of the Polar Sea, in the Years 1819 to 1822, by John Franklin, 1823, 1824.

Narrative of a Second Expedition to the Shores of the Polar Sea in the Years 1825 to 1827, by John Franklin, 1828.


Report of the Committee appointed by the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty to inquire into and report on the Recent Arctic Expeditions in search of Sir John Franklin, 1851.

Papers relative to the Recent Arctic Expeditions in search of Sir John Franklin and the Crews of H.M.S. Erebus and Terror, 1854.

Further Papers relative to the Search, 1855.

R. King, The Franklin Expedition from First to Last, 1855.

R. Huish, Recent Expeditions to the Polar Regions, including all the Voyages in search of Sir J. Franklin, 1855.

E.K. Kane, Arctic Explorations, the Second Grinnell Expedition in search of Sir John Franklin, 1856.

MacClintock, The Voyage of the Fox in the Arctic Seas. A narrative of the discovery of the fate of Sir John Franklin, 1859, 1861, 1869, 1908.

Sir J. Leslie, Discovery and Adventure in the Polar Seas, with a Narrative of the Recent Expeditions in search of Sir John Franklin, 1860.

J.A. Browne, The North-West Passage, and the Fate of Sir John Franklin, 1860.

Sir Allen M. Young, The Search for Sir John Franklin, etc., 1875.

Schwatka's Search, Sledging in the Arctic in search of Franklin Records, 1881.

The Search for Franklin.

American Expedition under Lieutenant Schwatka, 1878 to 1880, 1882.

J.H. Skewes, The True Secret of the Discovery of the Fate of Sir John Franklin, 1889.


S. Osborn, Career, Last Voyage and Fate of Sir John Franklin (Once a Week, 1859) 1860.

A Brave Man and his Belongings, by a Niece of the first Mrs. Franklin, 1874.

A.H. Beesley, Sir John Franklin; the Narrative of his Life (The New Plutarch) 1881.

A.H. Markham (The World's Great Explorers) 1891.

G.B. Smith, Sir John Franklin and the Romance of the North-West Passage, 1895.

H.D. Traill, 1896.

H. Harbour, Arctic Explorers, 1904.

E.C. Buley, Into the Polar Seas; The Story of Sir J. Franklin, etc., 1909.





Departure from England. Transactions at Stromness. Enter Davis Straits. Perilous situation on the shore of Resolution Island. Land on the coast of Labrador. Esquimaux of Savage Islands. York Factory. Preparations for the Journey into the Interior.


Passage up Hayes, Steel and Hill Rivers. Cross Swampy Lake. Jack River. Knee Lake and Magnetic Islet. Trout River. Holy Lake. Weepinapannis River. Windy Lake. White Fall Lake and River. Echemamis and Sea Rivers. Play Green Lakes. Lake Winnipeg. River Saskatchewan. Cross, Cedar and Pine Island Lakes. Cumberland House.


Dr. Richardson's residence at Cumberland House. His account of the Cree Indians.


Leave Cumberland House. Mode of Travelling in Winter. Arrival at Carlton House. Stone Indians. Visit to a Buffalo Pound. Goitres. Departure from Carlton House. Isle a la Crosse. Arrival at Fort Chipewyan.


Transactions at Fort Chipewyan. Arrival of Dr. Richardson and Mr. Hood. Preparations for our Journey to the Northward.


Mr. Hood's Journey to the Basquiau Hill. Sojourns with an Indian Party. His Journey to Chipewyan.


Departure from Chipewyan. Difficulties of the various Navigations of the Rivers and Lakes, and of the Portages. Slave Lake and Fort Providence. Scarcity of Provisions, and Discontent of the Canadian Voyagers. Difficulties with regard to the Indian Guides. Refusal to proceed. Visit of Observation to the upper part of Copper-Mine River. Return to the winter quarters of Fort Enterprise.


Transactions at Fort Enterprise. Mr. Back's Narrative of his Journey to Chipewyan, and Return.


Continuation of Proceedings at Fort Enterprise. Some Account of the Copper Indians. Preparations for the Journey to the Northward.


Departure from Fort Enterprise. Navigation of the Copper-Mine River. Visit to the Copper Mountain. Interview with the Esquimaux. Departure of the Indian Hunters. Arrangements made with them for our Return.


Navigation of the Polar Sea, in two Canoes, as far as Cape Turnagain, to the Eastward, a distance exceeding Five Hundred and Fifty Miles. Observations on the probability of a North-West Passage.


Journey across the barren grounds. Difficulty and delay in crossing Copper-Mine River. Melancholy and Fatal Results thereof. Extreme Misery of the whole Party. Murder of Mr. Hood. Death of several of the Canadians. Desolate State of Fort Enterprise. Distress suffered at that Place. Dr. Richardson's Narrative. Mr. Back's Narrative. Conclusion.



His Majesty's Government having determined upon sending an Expedition from the Shores of Hudson's Bay by land to explore the Northern Coast of America from the Mouth of the Copper-Mine River to the eastward, I had the honour to be appointed to this service by Earl Bathurst, on the recommendation of the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty; who at the same time nominated Doctor John Richardson, a Surgeon in the Royal Navy, Mr. George Back, and Mr. Robert Hood, two Admiralty Midshipmen, to be joined with me in the enterprise. My instructions in substance informed me that the main object of the Expedition was that of determining the latitudes and longitudes of the Northern Coast of North America, and the trending of that Coast from the Mouth of the Copper-Mine River to the eastern extremity of that Continent; that it was left for me to determine according to circumstances whether it might be most advisable to proceed at once directly to the northward till I arrived at the sea-coast, and thence westerly towards the Copper-Mine River; or advance in the first instance by the usual route to the mouth of the Copper-Mine River, and from thence easterly till I should arrive at the eastern extremity of that Continent; that in the adoption of either of these plans I was to be guided by the advice and information which I should receive from the wintering servants of the Hudson's Bay Company, who would be instructed by their employers to cooperate cordially in the prosecution of the objects of the Expedition, and who would provide me with the necessary escort of Indians to act as guides, interpreters, game-killers, etc.; and also with such articles of clothing, ammunition, snowshoes, presents, etc., as should be deemed expedient for me to take. That as another principal object of the Expedition was to amend the very defective geography of the northern part of North America I was to be very careful to ascertain correctly the latitude and longitude of every remarkable spot upon our route, and of all the bays, harbours, rivers, headlands, etc., that might occur along the Northern Shore of North America. That in proceeding along the coast I should erect conspicuous marks at places where ships might enter, or to which a boat could be sent; and to deposit information as to the nature of the coast for the use of Lieutenant Parry. That in the journal of our route I should register the temperature of the air at least three times in every twenty-four hours; together with the state of the wind and weather and any other meteorological phenomena. That I should not neglect any opportunity of observing and noting down the dip and variation of the magnetic needle, and the intensity of the magnetic force; and should take particular notice whether any, and what kind or degree of, influence the Aurora Borealis might appear to exert on the magnetic needle; and to notice whether that phenomenon were attended with any noise; and to make any other observations that might be likely to tend to the further development of its cause and the laws by which it is governed.

Mr. Back and Mr. Hood were to assist me in all the observations above-mentioned, and to make drawings of the land, of the natives, and of the various objects of Natural History; and particularly of such as Dr. Richardson who, to his professional duties was to add that of naturalist, might consider to be most curious and interesting.

I was instructed, on my arrival at or near the Mouth of the Copper-Mine River, to make every inquiry as to the situation of the spot whence native copper had been brought down by the Indians to the Hudson's Bay establishment, and to visit and explore the place in question; in order that Dr. Richardson might be enabled to make such observations as might be useful in a commercial point of view, or interesting to the science of mineralogy.

From Joseph Berens, Esquire, the Governor of the Hudson's Bay Company, and the gentlemen of the Committee I received all kinds of assistance and information, communicated in the most friendly manner previous to my leaving England; and I had the gratification of perusing the orders to their agents and servants in North America, containing the fullest directions to promote by every means the progress of the Expedition. I most cheerfully avail myself of this opportunity of expressing my gratitude to these gentlemen for their personal kindness to myself and the other officers, as well as for the benefits rendered by them to the Expedition; and the same sentiment is due towards the Gentlemen of the North-West Company, both in England and America, more particularly to Simon McGillivray, Esquire, of London, from whom I received much useful information and cordial letters of recommendation to the partners and agents of that Company resident on our line of route.

A short time before I left London I had the pleasure and advantage of an interview with the late Sir Alexander Mackenzie who was one of the two persons who had visited the coast we were to explore. He afforded me, in the most open and kind manner, much valuable information and advice.

The provisions, instruments, and other articles, of which I had furnished a list by direction of the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, were embarked on board the Hudson's Bay Company's ship Prince of Wales, appointed by the Committee to convey the Expedition to York Factory, their principal establishment in Hudson's Bay.

It will be seen in the course of the Narrative how much reason I had to be satisfied with, and how great my obligations are to, all the gentlemen who were associated with me in the Expedition, whose kindness, good conduct, and cordial cooperation have made an impression which can never be effaced from my mind. The unfortunate death of Mr. Hood is the only drawback which I feel from the otherwise unalloyed pleasure of reflecting on that cordial unanimity which at all times prevailed among us in the days of sunshine, and in those of sickness and sorrow.

To Dr. Richardson in particular the exclusive merit is due of whatever collections and observations have been made in the department of Natural History; and I am indebted to him in no small degree for his friendly advice and assistance in the preparation of the present narrative.

The charts and drawings were made by Lieutenant Back and the late Lieutenant Hood. Both these gentlemen cheerfully and ably assisted me in making the observations and in the daily conduct of the Expedition. The observations made by Mr. Hood on the various phenomena presented by the Aurora Borealis* will it is presumed present to the reader some new facts connected with this meteor. Mr. Back was mostly prevented from turning his attention to objects of science by the many severe duties which were required of him and which obliged him to travel almost constantly every winter that we passed in America; to his personal exertions, indeed, our final safety is mainly to be attributed. And here I must be permitted to pay the tribute due to the fidelity, exertion and uniform good conduct in the most trying situations of John Hepburn, an English seaman and our only attendant, to whom in the latter part of our journey we owe, under Divine Providence, the preservation of the lives of some of the party.

(*Footnote. Given in the Appendix to the Quarto Edition.)

I ought perhaps to crave the reader's indulgence towards the defective style of this work, which I trust will not be refused when it is considered that mine has been a life of constant employment in my profession from a very early age. I have been prompted to venture upon the task solely by an imperious sense of duty when called upon to undertake it.

In the ensuing Narrative the notices of the moral condition of the Indians as influenced by the conduct of the traders towards them refer entirely to the state in which it existed during our progress through the country; but lest I should have been mistaken respecting the views of the Hudson's Bay Company on these points I gladly embrace the opportunity which a Second Edition affords me of stating that the junction of the two Companies has enabled the Directors to put in practice the improvements which I have reason to believe they had long contemplated. They have provided for religious instruction by the appointment of two Clergymen of the established church under whose direction schoolmasters and mistresses are to be placed at such stations as afford the means of support for the establishment of schools. The offspring of the voyagers and labourers are to be educated chiefly at the expense of the Company; and such of the Indian children as their parents may wish to send to these schools are to be instructed, clothed, and maintained at the expense of the Church Missionary Society which has already allotted a considerable sum for these purposes and has also sent out teachers who are to act under the superintendence of the Reverend Mr. West, the principal chaplain of the Company.

We had the pleasure of meeting this gentleman at York Factory, and witnessed with peculiar delight that great benefit which already marked his zealous and judicious conduct. Many of the traders and of the servants of the Company had been induced to marry the women with whom they had cohabited; a material step towards the improvement of the females in that country.

Mr. West, under the sanction of the Directors, has also promoted a subscription for the distribution of the Bible in every part of the country where the Company's Fur Trade has extended, and which has met with very general support from the resident chief factors, traders, and clerks. The Directors of the Company are continuing to reduce the distribution of spirits gradually among the Indians, as well as towards their own servants, with a view to the entire disuse of them as soon as this most desirable object can be accomplished. They have likewise issued orders for the cultivation of the ground at each of the posts, by which means the residents will be far less exposed to famine whenever, through the scarcity of animals, the sickness of the Indians, or any other cause, their supply of meat may fail.

It is to be hoped that intentions, so dear to every humane and pious mind, will, through the blessing of God, meet with the utmost success.






May, 1819.

On Sunday the 23rd of May the whole of our party embarked at Gravesend on board the ship Prince of Wales, belonging to the Hudson's Bay Company, just as she was in the act of getting under weigh with her consorts the Eddystone and Wear. The wind being unfavourable on the ebb tide being finished, the vessels were again anchored; but they weighed in the night and beat down as far as the Warp, where they were detained two days by a strong easterly wind.

Having learned from some of the passengers, who were the trading Officers of the Company, that the arrival of the ships at either of the establishments in Hudson's Bay gives full occupation to all the boatmen in their service, who are required to convey the necessary stores to the different posts in the interior; that it was very probable a sufficient number of men might not be procured from this indispensable duty; and, considering that any delay at York Factory would materially retard our future operations, I wrote to the Under Secretary of State requesting his permission to provide a few well-qualified steersmen and bowmen at Stromness to assist our proceedings in the former part of our journey into the interior.

May 30.

The easterly wind, which had retarded the ship's progress so much that we had only reached Hollesley Bay after a week's beating about, changed to West-South-West soon after that anchorage had been gained. The vessels instantly weighed and, by carrying all sail, arrived in Yarmouth Roads at seven P.M.; the pilots were landed and our course was continued through the anchorage. At midnight the wind became light and variable and gradually drew round to the North-West and, as the sky indicated unsettled weather and the wind blew from an unfavourable quarter for ships upon that coast, the commander bore up again for Yarmouth and anchored at eight A.M.

This return afforded us at least the opportunity of comparing the longitude of Yarmouth church, as shown by our chronometers, with its position as laid down by the Ordnance Trigonometrical Survey; and it was satisfactory to find, from the small difference in their results, that the chronometers had not experienced any alteration in their rates in consequence of their being changed from a horizontal position in a room to that of being carried in the pocket.

An untoward circumstance while at this anchorage cast a damp on our party at this early period of the voyage. Emboldened by the decided appearance of the North-West sky, several of our officers and passengers ventured on shore for a few hours; but we had not been long in the town before the wind changed suddenly to South-East, which caused instant motion in the large fleet collected at this anchorage. The commander of our ship intimated his intention of proceeding to sea by firing guns; and the passengers hastened to embark. Mr. Back however had unfortunately gone upon some business to a house two or three miles distant from Yarmouth along the line of the coast; from whence he expected to be able to observe the first symptoms of moving which the vessels might make. By some accident however he did not make his appearance before the captain was obliged to make sail that he might get the ships through the intricate passage of the Cockle Gat before it was dark. Fortunately, through the kindness of Lieutenant Hewit of the Protector, I was enabled to convey a note to our missing companion, desiring him to proceed immediately by the coach to the Pentland Firth, and from thence across the passage to Stromness, which appeared to be the only way of proceeding by which he could rejoin the party.


June 3.

The wind continuing favourable after leaving Yarmouth, about nine this morning we passed the rugged and bold projecting rock termed Johnny Groat's house and soon afterwards Duncansby Head, and then entered the Pentland Firth. A pilot came from the main shore of Scotland and steered the ship in safety between the different islands to the outer anchorage at Stromness, though the atmosphere was too dense for distinguishing any of the objects on the land. Almost immediately after the ship had anchored the wind changed to north-west, the rain ceased and a sight was then first obtained of the neighbouring islands and of the town of Stromness, the latter of which from this point of view and at this distance presented a pleasing appearance.

Mr. Geddes, the agent of the Hudson's Bay Company at this place, undertook to communicate my wish for volunteer boatmen to the different parishes by a notice on the church door, which he said was the surest and most direct channel for the conveyance of information to the lower classes in these islands as they invariably attend divine service there every Sunday. He informed me that the kind of men we were in want of would be difficult to procure on account of the very increased demand for boatmen for the herring fishery which had recently been established on the shores of these islands; that last year sixty boats and four hundred men only were employed in this service whereas now there were three hundred boats and twelve hundred men engaged; and that owing to this unexpected addition to the fishery he had been unable to provide the number of persons required for the service of the Hudson's Bay Company. This was unpleasant information as it increased the apprehension of our being detained at York Factory the whole winter if boatmen were not taken from hence. I could not therefore hesitate in requesting Mr. Geddes to engage eight or ten men well adapted for our service on such terms as he could procure them, though the Secretary of State's permission had not yet reached me.

Next to a supply of boatmen our attention was directed towards the procuring of a house conveniently situated for trying the instruments and examining the rates of the chronometers. Mr. Geddes kindly offered one of his which, though in an unfinished state, was readily accepted, being well situated for our purpose as it was placed on an eminence, had a southern aspect, and was at a sufficient distance from the town to secure us from frequent interruption. Another advantage was its proximity to the Manse, the residence of the Reverend Mr. Clouston, the worthy and highly respected minister of Stromness whose kind hospitality and the polite attention of his family the party experienced almost daily during their stay.

For three days the weather was unsettled and few observations could be made except for the dip of the needle which was ascertained to be 74 degrees 37 minutes 48 seconds, on which occasion a difference of eight degrees and a half was perceived between the observations when the face of the instrument was changed from the east to the west, the amount being the greatest when it was placed with the face to the west. But on the 8th a westerly wind caused a cloudless sky which enabled us to place the transit instrument in the meridian and to ascertain the variation of the compass to be 27 degrees 50 minutes west. The sky becoming cloudy in the afternoon prevented our obtaining the corresponding observations to those gained in the morning; and the next day an impervious fog obscured the sky until noon. On the evening of this day we had the gratification of welcoming our absent companion Mr. Back. His return to our society was hailed with sincere pleasure by everyone and removed a weight of anxiety from my mind. It appears that he had come down to the beach at Caistor just as the ships were passing by and had applied to some boatmen to convey him on board, which might have been soon accomplished but they, discovering the emergency of his case, demanded an exorbitant reward which he was not at the instant prepared to satisfy; and in consequence they positively refused to assist him. Though he had travelled nine successive days, almost without rest, he could not be prevailed upon to withdraw from the agreeable scene of a ballroom in which he joined us until a late hour.

On the 10th, the rain having ceased, the observations for ascertaining the dip of the needle were repeated; and the results compared with the former ones gave a mean of 74 degrees 33 minutes 20 seconds. Nearly the same differences were remarked in reversing the face of the instrument as before. An attempt was also made to ascertain the magnetic force but the wind blew too strong for procuring the observation to any degree of accuracy.

The fineness of the following day induced us to set up the different instruments for examination and to try how nearly the observations made by each of them would agree; but a squall passed over just before noon, accompanied by heavy rain, and the hoped-for favourable opportunity was entirely lost. In the intervals between the observations, and at every opportunity, my companions were occupied in those pursuits to which their attention had been more particularly directed in my instructions. Whilst Dr. Richardson was collecting and examining the various specimens of marine plants, of which these islands furnish an abundant and diversified supply, Mr. Back and Mr. Hood took views and sketches of the surrounding scenery which is extremely picturesque in many parts, and wants only the addition of trees to make it beautiful. The hills present the bold character of rugged sterility, whilst the valleys at this season are clothed with luxuriant verdure.

It was not till the 14th that, by appointment, the boatmen were to assemble at the house of Mr. Geddes to engage to accompany the Expedition. Several persons collected but, to my great mortification, I found they were all so strongly possessed with the fearful apprehension either that great danger would attend the service, or that we should carry them further than they would agree to go, that not a single man would engage with us; some of them however said they would consider the subject and give me an answer on the following day. This indecisive conduct was extremely annoying to me especially as the next evening was fixed for the departure of the ships.

At the appointed time on the following morning four men only presented themselves and these, after much hesitation, engaged to accompany the Expedition to Fort Chipewyan if they should be required so far. The bowmen and steersmen were to receive forty pounds wages annually and the middle men thirty-five pounds. They stipulated to be sent back to the Orkney Islands free of expense and to receive their pay until the time of their arrival. Only these few men could be procured although our requisition had been sent to almost every island, even as far as the northernmost point of Ronaldsha. I was much amused with the extreme caution these men used before they would sign the agreement; they minutely scanned all our intentions, weighed every circumstance, looked narrowly into the plan of our route, and still more circumspectly to the prospect of return. Such caution on the part of the northern mariners forms a singular contrast with the ready and thoughtless manner in which an English seaman enters upon any enterprise, however hazardous, without inquiring or desiring to know where he is going or what he is going about.

The brig Harmony, belonging to the Moravian Missionary Society and bound to their settlement at Nain on the coast of Labrador, was lying at anchor. With the view of collecting some Esquimaux words and sentences, or gaining any information respecting the manners and habits of that people, Doctor Richardson and myself paid her a visit. We found the passengers who were going out as Missionaries extremely disposed to communicate; but as they only spoke the German and Esquimaux languages, of which we were ignorant, our conversation was necessarily much confined; by the aid however of an Esquimaux and German Dictionary some few words were collected which we considered might be useful. There were on board a very interesting girl and a young man who were natives of Disco in old Greenland; both of them had fair complexions, rather handsome features, and a lively manner; the former was going to be married to a resident Missionary and the latter to officiate in that character. The commander of the vessel gave me a translation of the Gospel of St. John in the Esquimaux language printed by the Moravian Society in London.

June 16.

The wind being unfavourable for sailing I went on shore with Dr. Richardson and took several lunar observations at the place of our former residence. The result obtained was latitude 58 degrees 56 minutes 56 seconds North; longitude 3 degrees 17 minutes 55 seconds West; variation 27 degrees 50 minutes West; dip of the magnetic needle 74 degrees 33 minutes 20 seconds. In the afternoon the wind changed in a squall some points towards the north and the Prince of Wales made the preparatory signal for sea. At three P.M. the ships weighed, an hour too early for the tide; as soon as this served we entered into the passage between Hoy and Pomona, and had to beat through against a very heavy swell which the meeting of a weather tide and a strong breeze had occasioned.

Some dangerous rocks lie near the Pomona shore and on this side also the tide appeared to run with the greatest strength. On clearing the outward projecting points of Hoy and Pomona we entered at once into the Atlantic and commenced our voyage to Hudson's Bay, having the Eddystone, Wear and Harmony, Missionary brig, in company.

The comparisons of the chronometers this day indicated that Arnold's Numbers 2148 and 2147 had slightly changed their rates since they had been brought on board; fortunately the rate of the former seems to have increased nearly in the same ratio as the other has lost, and the mean longitude will not be materially affected.

Being now fairly launched into the Atlantic I issued a general memorandum for the guidance of the officers during the prosecution of the service on which we were engaged, and communicated to them the several points of information that were expected from us by my instructions. I also furnished them with copies of the signals which had been agreed upon between Lieutenant Parry and myself to be used in the event of our reaching the northern coast of America and falling in with each other.

At the end of the month of June our progress was found to have been extremely slow owing to a determined North-West wind and much sea. We had numerous birds hovering round the ship; principally fulmars (Procellaria glacialis) and shearwaters (Procellaria puffinus) and not unfrequently saw shoals of grampusses sporting about, which the Greenland seamen term finners from their large dorsal fin. Some porpoises occasionally appeared and whenever they did the crew were sanguine in their expectation of having a speedy change in the wind which had been so vexatiously contrary but they were disappointed in every instance.

Thursday, July 1.

The month of July set in more favourably; and aided by fresh breezes we advanced rapidly to the westward, attended daily by numerous fulmars and shearwaters. The Missionary brig had parted company on the 22nd of June. We passed directly over that part of the ocean where the Sunken Land of Buss is laid down in the old, and continued in the Admiralty charts. Mr. Bell, the commander of the Eddystone, informed me that the pilot who brought his ship down the Thames told him that he had gained soundings in twelve feet somewhere hereabout; and I am rather inclined to attribute the very unusual and cross sea we had in this neighbourhood to the existence of a bank than to the effect of a gale of wind which we had just before experienced; and I cannot but regret that the commander of the ship did not try for soundings at frequent intervals.


By the 25th July we had opened the entrance of Davis Straits and in the afternoon spoke the Andrew Marvell, bound to England with a cargo of fourteen fish. The master informed us that the ice had been heavier this season in Davis Straits than he had ever recollected, and that it lay particularly close to the westward, being connected with the shore to the northward of Resolution Island and extending from thence within a short distance of the Greenland coast; that whales had been abundant but the ice so extremely cross that few could be killed. His ship, as well as several others, had suffered material injury, and two vessels had been entirely crushed between vast masses of ice in latitude 74 degrees 40 minutes North, but the crews were saved. We inquired anxiously but in vain for intelligence respecting Lieutenant Parry and the ships under his command; but as he mentioned that the wind had been blowing strong from the northward for some time, which would probably have cleared Baffin's Bay of ice, we were disposed to hope favourably of his progress.

The clouds assumed so much the appearance of icebergs this evening as to deceive most of the passengers and crew; but their imaginations had been excited by the intelligence we had received from the Andrew Marvell that she had only parted from a cluster of them two days previous to our meeting.

On the 27th, being in latitude 57 degrees 44 minutes 21 seconds North, longitude 47 degrees 31 minutes 14 seconds West and the weather calm, we tried our soundings but did not reach the bottom. The register thermometer was attached to the line just above the lead, and is supposed to have descended six hundred and fifty fathoms. A well-corked bottle was also fastened to the line two hundred fathoms above the lead and went down four hundred and fifty fathoms. The change in temperature shown by the register thermometer during the descent was from 52 to 40.5 degrees; and it stood at the latter point when taken out of the tin case. The temperature of the water brought up in the bottle was 41 degrees, being half a degree higher at four hundred and fifty than at six hundred and fifty fathoms and four degrees colder than the water at the surface which was then at 45 degrees, whilst that of the air was 46 degrees. This experiment in showing the water to be colder at a great depth than at the surface, and in proportion to the increase of the descent, coincides with the observations of Captain Ross and Lieutenant Parry on their late voyage to these seas, but is contrary to the results obtained by Captain Buchan and myself on our recent voyage to the north between Spitzbergen and Greenland, in which sea we invariably found the water brought from any great depth to be warmer than that at the surface.

On the 28th we tacked to avoid an extensive stream of sailing ice. The temperature of the water fell to 39.5 degrees when we were near it, but was at 41 degrees when at the distance of half a mile. The thermometer in the air remained steadily at 40 degrees. Thus the proximity of this ice was not so decidedly indicated by the decrease of the temperature of either the air or water as I have before witnessed, which was probably owing to the recent arrival of the stream at this point and its passing at too quick a rate for the effectual diffusion of its chilling influence beyond a short distance. Still the decrease in both cases was sufficient to have given timely warning for a ship's performing any evolution that would have prevented the coming in contact with it had the thickness of the weather precluded a distant view of the danger.

The approach to ice would be more evidently pointed out in the Atlantic, or wherever the surface is not so continually chilled by the passing and the melting of ice as in this sea; and I should strongly recommend a strict hourly attention to the thermometrical state of the water at the surface in all parts where ships are exposed to the dangerous concussion of sailing icebergs, as a principal means of security.

The following day our ship came near another stream of ice and the approach to it was indicated by a decrease of the temperature of the water at the surface from 44 to 42 degrees. A small pine-tree was picked up much shattered by the ice. In the afternoon of the 30th a very dense fog came on; and about six P.M. when sailing before a fresh breeze we were suddenly involved in a heavy stream of ice. Considerable difficulty was experienced in steering through the narrow channels between the different masses in this foggy weather, and the ship received several severe blows.

The water, as usual in the centre of the stream, was quite smooth, but we heard the waves beating violently against the outer edge of the ice. There was some earthy matter on several of the pieces, and the whole body bore the appearance of recent separation from the land. In the space of two hours we again got into the open sea, but had left our two consorts far behind; they followed our track by the guns we discharged. The temperature of the surface water was 35 degrees when amongst the ice, 38 degrees when just clear of it, and 41.5 degrees at two miles distant.

On the 4th of August, when in latitude 59 degrees 58 minutes North, longitude 59 degrees 53 minutes West, we first fell in with large icebergs; and in the evening were encompassed by several of considerable magnitude, which obliged us to tack the ship in order to prevent our getting entangled amongst them. The estimated distance from the nearest part of the Labrador coast was then eighty-eight miles; here we tried for soundings without gaining the bottom. The ship passed through some strong ripplings, which evidently indicated a current, but its direction was not ascertained. We found however by the recent observations that the ship had been set daily to the southward since we had opened Davis Straits. The variation of the compass was observed to be 52 degrees 41 minutes West.

At nine P.M. brilliant coruscations of the Aurora Borealis appeared, of a pale ochre colour with a slight tinge of red, in an arched form, crossing the zenith from North-West to South-East, but afterwards they assumed various shapes and had a rapid motion.

On the 5th of August a party of the officers endeavoured to get on one of the larger icebergs, but ineffectually, owing to the steepness and smoothness of its sides and the swell produced by its undulating motion. This was one of the largest we saw, and Mr. Hood ascertained its height to be one hundred and forty-nine feet; but these masses of ice are frequently magnified to an immense size through the illusive medium of a hazy atmosphere, and on this account their dimensions have often been exaggerated by voyagers.


In the morning of the 7th the island of Resolution was indistinctly seen through the haze but was soon afterwards entirely hidden by a very dense fog. The favourable breeze subsided into a perfect calm and left the ship surrounded by loose ice. At this time the Eddystone was perceived to be driving with rapidity towards some of the larger masses; the stern-boats of this ship and of the Wear were despatched to assist in towing her clear of them. At ten a momentary clearness presented the land distinctly at the distance of two miles; the ship was quite unmanageable and under the sole governance of the currents which ran in strong eddies between the masses of ice. Our consorts were also seen, the Wear being within hail and the Eddystone at a short distance from us. Two attempts were ineffectually made to gain soundings, and the extreme density of the fog precluded us from any other means of ascertaining the direction in which we were driving until half-past twelve when we had the alarming view of a barren rugged shore within a few yards towering over the mastheads. Almost instantly afterwards the ship struck violently on a point of rocks projecting from the island; and the ship's side was brought so near to the shore that poles were prepared to push her off. This blow displaced the rudder and raised it several inches but it fortunately had been previously confined by tackles. A gentle swell freed the ship from this perilous situation but the current hurried us along in contact with the rocky shore and the prospect was most alarming. On the outward bow was perceived a rugged and precipitous cliff whose summit was hid in the fog, and the vessel's head was pointed towards the bottom of a small bay into which we were rapidly driving. There now seemed to be no probability of escaping shipwreck, being without wind and having the rudder in its present useless state; the only assistance was that of a boat employed in towing which had been placed in the water between the ship and the shore at the imminent risk of its being crushed. The ship again struck in passing over a ledge of rocks and happily the blow replaced the rudder, which enabled us to take advantage of a light breeze and to direct the ship's head without the projecting cliff. But the breeze was only momentary and the ship was a third time driven on shore on the rocky termination of the cliff. Here we remained stationery for some seconds and with little prospect of being removed from this perilous situation; but we were once more extricated by the swell from this ledge also and carried still farther along the shore. The coast became now more rugged and our view of it was terminated by another high projecting point on the starboard bow. Happily, before we had reached it, a light breeze enabled us to turn the ship's head to seaward and we had the gratification to find, when the sails were trimmed, that she drew off the shore. We had made but little progress however when she was violently forced by the current against a large iceberg lying aground.

Our prospect was now more alarming than at any preceding period; and it would be difficult for me to portray the anxiety and dismay depicted on the countenances of the female passengers and children who were rushing on deck in spite of the endeavours of the officers to keep them below, out of the danger which was apprehended if the masts should be carried away. After the first concussion the ship was driven along the steep and rugged side of this iceberg with such amazing rapidity that the destruction of the masts seemed inevitable, and everyone expected we should again be forced on the rocks in the most disabled state; but we providentially escaped this perilous result, which must have been decisive.

The dense fog now cleared away for a short time and we discovered the Eddystone close to some rocks, having three boats employed in towing; but the Wear was not visible.

Our ship received water very fast; the pumps were instantly manned and kept in continual use, and signals of distress were made to the Eddystone, whose commander promptly came on board and then ordered to our assistance his carpenter and all the men he could spare together with the carpenter and boat's crew of the Wear, who had gone on board the Eddystone in the morning and were prevented from returning to their own vessel by the fog. As the wind was increasing and the sky appeared very unsettled it was determined the Eddystone should take the ship in tow, that the undivided attention of the passengers and crew might be directed to pumping and clearing the holds to examine whether there was a possibility of stopping the leak. We soon had reason to suppose the principal injury had been received from a blow near the stern-post, and after cutting away part of the ceiling the carpenters endeavoured to stop the rushing in of the water by forcing oakum between the timbers; but this had not the desired effect and the leak, in spite of all our efforts at the pumps, increased so much that parties of the officers and passengers were stationed to bail out the water in buckets at different parts of the hold. A heavy gale came on, blowing from the land, as the night advanced; the sails were split, the ship was encompassed by heavy ice and, in forcing through a closely-connected stream, the tow-rope broke and obliged us to take a portion of the seamen from the pumps and appoint them to the management of the ship.

Fatigue indeed had caused us to relax in our exertions at the pumps during a part of the night of the 8th, and on the following morning upwards of five feet of water was found in the well. Renewed exertions were now put forth by every person, and before eight A.M. the water was so much reduced as to enable the carpenters to get at other defective places; but the remedies they could apply were insufficient to repress the water from rushing in, and our labours could but just keep the ship in the same state throughout the day until six P.M.; when the strength of everyone began to fail the expedient of thrusting in felt, as well as oakum, was resorted to, and a plank nailed over all. After this operation a perceptible diminution in the water was made and, being encouraged by the change, we put forth our utmost exertion in bailing and pumping; and before night to our infinite joy the leak was so overpowered that the pumps were only required to be used at intervals of ten minutes. A sail covered with every substance that could be carried into the leaks by the pressure of the water was drawn under the quarter of the ship and secured by ropes on each side.

As a matter of precaution in the event of having to abandon the ship, which was for some time doubtful, the elderly women and children were removed to the Eddystone when the wind was moderate this afternoon, but the young women remained to assist at the pumps, and their services were highly valuable, both for their personal labour and for the encouragement their example and perseverance gave to the men.

At daylight on the 9th every eye was anxiously cast around the horizon in search of the Wear but in vain; and the recollection of our own recent peril caused us to entertain considerable apprehensions for her safety. This anxiety quickened our efforts to exchange our shattered sails for new ones that the ship might be got as speedily as possible near to the land, which was but just in sight, and a careful search be made for her along the coast. We were rejoiced to find that our leak did not increase by carrying sail, and we ventured in the evening to remove the sail which had been placed under the part where the injury had been received as it greatly impeded our advance.

We passed many icebergs on the 10th and in the evening we tacked from a level field of ice which extended northward as far as the eye could reach. Our leak remained in the same state; the pumps discharged in three minutes the quantity of water which had been received in fifteen.


The ship could not be got near to the land before the afternoon of the 11th. At four P.M. we hove to, opposite to and about five miles distant from the spot on which we had first struck on Saturday. Every glass was directed along the shore (as they had been throughout the day) to discover any trace of our absent consort; but as none was seen our solicitude respecting her was much increased, and we feared the crew might be wrecked on this inhospitable shore. Guns were frequently fired to apprise any who might be near of our approach; but as no one appeared and no signal was returned and the loose ice was setting down towards the ship we bore up to proceed to the next appointed rendezvous. At eight P.M. we were abreast of the south-west end of the island called Cape Resolution, which is a low point but indicated at a distance by a lofty round-backed hill that rises above it. We entered Hudson's Straits soon afterwards.

The coast of Resolution Island should be approached with caution as the tides appear to be strong and uncertain in their course. Some dangerous rocks lie above and below the water's edge at the distance of five or six miles from East Bluff bearing South 32 degrees East.

August 12.

Having had a fresh gale through the night we reached Saddleback Island by noon—the place of rendezvous; and looked anxiously but in vain for the Wear. Several guns were fired, supposing she might be hid from our view by the land; but as she did not appear Captain Davidson, having remained two hours, deemed further delay inexpedient and bore up to keep the advantage of the fair wind. The outline of this island is rugged; the hummock on its northern extremity appeared to me to resemble a decayed martello tower more than a saddle.

Azimuths were obtained this evening that gave the variation 58 degrees 45 minutes West, which is greater than is laid down in the charts, or than the officers of Hudson's Bay ships have been accustomed to allow.


We arrived abreast of the Upper Savage Island early in the morning and, as the breeze was moderate, the ship was steered as near to the shore as the wind would permit to give the Esquimaux inhabitants an opportunity of coming off to barter, which they soon embraced.

Their shouts at a distance intimated their approach some time before we descried the canoes paddling towards us; the headmost of them reached us at eleven; these were quickly followed by others, and before noon about forty canoes, each holding one man, were assembled around the two ships. In the afternoon when we approached nearer to the shore five or six larger ones containing the women and children came up.

The Esquimaux immediately evinced their desire to barter and displayed no small cunning in making their bargains, taking care not to exhibit too many articles at first. Their principal commodities were oil, sea-horse teeth, whalebone, seal-skin dresses, caps and boots, deerskins and horns, and models of their canoes; and they received in exchange small saws, knives, nails, tin-kettles, and needles. It was pleasing to behold the exultation and to hear the shouts of the whole party when an acquisition was made by any one; and not a little ludicrous to behold the eagerness with which the fortunate person licked each article with his tongue on receiving it, as a finish to the bargain and an act of appropriation. They in no instance omitted this strange practice, however small the article; the needles even passed individually through the ceremony. The women brought imitations of men, women, animals, and birds, carved with labour and ingenuity out of sea-horse teeth. The dresses and the figures of the animals were not badly executed, but there was no attempt at the delineation of the countenances; and most of the figures were without eyes, ears and fingers, the execution of which would perhaps have required more delicate instruments than they possess. The men set most value on saws; kutteeswabak, the name by which they distinguish them, was a constant cry. Knives were held next in estimation. An old sword was bartered from the Eddystone and I shall long remember the universal burst of joy on the happy man's receiving it. It was delightful to witness the general interest excited by individual acquisitions. There was no desire shown by anyone to over-reach his neighbour, or to press towards any part of the ship where a bargain was making until the person in possession of the place had completed his exchange and removed; and if any article happened to be demanded from the outer canoes the men nearest assisted willingly in passing the thing across. Supposing the party to belong to one tribe the total number of the tribe must exceed two hundred persons, as there were probably one hundred and fifty around the ships, and few of these were elderly persons or male children.

Their faces were broad and flat, the eyes small. The men were in general stout. Some of the younger women and the children had rather pleasing countenances, but the difference between these and the more aged of that sex bore strong testimony to the effects which a few years produce in this ungenial climate. Most of the party had sore eyes, all of them appeared of a plethoric habit of body; several were observed bleeding at the nose during their stay near the ship. The men's dresses consisted of a jacket of seal-skin, the trousers of bear-skin, and several had caps of the white fox-skin. The female dresses were made of the same materials but differently shaped, having a hood in which the infants were carried. We thought their manner very lively and agreeable. They were fond of mimicking our speech and gestures; but nothing afforded them greater amusement than when we attempted to retaliate by pronouncing any of their words.

The canoes were of seal-skin and similar in every respect to those used by the Esquimaux in Greenland; they were generally new and very complete in their appointments. Those appropriated to the women are of ruder construction and only calculated for fine weather; they are however useful vessels, being capable of containing twenty persons with their luggage. An elderly man officiates as steersman and the women paddle, but they have also a mast which carries a sail made of dressed whale-gut.

When the women had disposed of all their articles of trade they resorted to entreaty; and the putting in practice many enticing gestures was managed with so much address as to procure them presents of a variety of beads, needles, and other articles in great demand among females.

It is probable these Esquimaux go from this shore to some part of Labrador to pass the winter, as parties of them have been frequently seen by the homeward-bound Hudson's Bay ships in the act of crossing the Strait.

They appear to speak the same language as the tribe of Esquimaux who reside near to the Moravian settlements in Labrador: for we perceived they used several of the words which had been given to us by the Missionaries at Stromness.

Towards evening the Captain, being desirous to get rid of his visitors, took an effectual method by tacking from the shore; our friends then departed apparently in high glee at the harvest they had reaped. They paddled away very swiftly and would doubtless soon reach the shore though it was distant ten or twelve miles.

Not having encountered any of the ice which usually arrests the progress of ships in their outward passage through the Straits, and being consequently deprived of the usual means of replenishing our stock of water which had become short, the Captain resolved on going to the coast of Labrador for a supply. Dr. Richardson and I gladly embraced this opportunity to land and examine this part of the coast. I was also desirous to observe the variation on shore as the azimuths which had been taken on board both ships since our entrance into the Straits had shown a greater amount than we had been led to expect; but unluckily the sun became obscured. The beach consisted of large rolled stones of gneiss and sienite, amongst which many pieces of ice had grounded, and it was with difficulty that we effected a landing in a small cove under a steep cliff. These stones were worn perfectly smooth; neither in the interstices nor at the bottom of the water, which was very clear, were there any vestiges of seaweed.

The cliff was from forty to fifty feet high and quite perpendicular, and had at its base a small slip of soil formed of the debris of a bed of clay-slate. From this narrow spot Dr. Richardson collected specimens of thirty different species of plants; and we were about to scramble up a shelving part of the rock and go into the interior when we perceived the signal of recall which the master had caused to be made in consequence of a sudden change in the appearance of the weather.

On the evening of the 19th we passed Digge's Islands, the termination of Hudson's Strait. Here the Eddystone parted company, being bound to Moose Factory at the bottom of the Bay. A strong north wind came on, which prevented our getting round the north end of Mansfield; and as it continued to blow with equal strength for the next five days we were most vexatiously detained in beating along the Labrador coast and near the dangerous chain of islands, the Sleepers, which are said to extend from the latitude of 60 degrees 10 minutes to 57 degrees 00 minutes North. The press of sail which of necessity we carried caused the leak to increase and the pumps were kept in constant use.

A favouring wind at length enabled us on the 25th to shape our course across Hudson's Bay. Nothing worthy of remark occurred during this passage except the rapid decrease in the variation of the magnetic needle. The few remarks respecting the appearance of the land which we were able to make in our quick passage through these Straits were transmitted to the Admiralty; but as they will not be interesting to the general reader, and may not be sufficiently accurate for the guidance of the Navigator, they are omitted in this narrative.


On the 28th we discovered the land to the southward of Cape Tatnam, which is so extremely low that the tops of the trees were first discerned; the soundings at the time were seventeen fathoms, which gradually decreased to five as the shore was approached. Cape Tatnam is not otherwise remarkable than as being the point from which the coast inclines rather more to the westward towards York Factory.

The opening of the morning of the 30th presented to our view the anchorage at York Flats, and the gratifying sight of a vessel at anchor, which we recognised after an anxious examination to be the Wear. A strong breeze blowing from the direction of the Flats caused the water to be more shallow than usual on the sandy bar which lies on the seaward side of the anchorage, and we could not get over it before two P.M. when the tide was nearly at its height.

Immediately after our arrival Mr. Williams, the Governor of the Hudson's Bay Company's posts, came on board accompanied by the Commander of the Wear. The pleasure we felt in welcoming the latter gentleman can easily be imagined when it is considered what reason we had to apprehend that he and his crew had been numbered with the dead. We learned that one of the larger masses of ice had providentially drifted between the vessel's side and the rocks just at the time he expected to strike, to which he secured it until a breeze sprang up and enabled him to pursue his voyage.


The Governor acquainted me that he had received information from the Committee of the Hudson's Bay Company of the equipment of the Expedition, and that the officers would come out in their first ship. In the evening Dr. Richardson, Mr. Hood, and I accompanied him to York Factory which we reached after dark; it is distant from the Flats seven miles. Early next morning the honour of a salute was conferred on the members of the Expedition.

Having communicated to the Governor the objects of the Expedition, and that I had been directed to consult with him and the senior servants of the Company as to the best mode of proceeding towards the execution of the service, I was gratified by his assurance that his instructions from the Committee directed that every possible assistance should be given to forward our progress, and that he should feel peculiar pleasure in performing this part of his duty. He introduced me at once to Messrs. Charles, Swaine, and Snodie, masters of districts who, from long residence in the country, were perfectly acquainted with the different modes of travelling, and the obstructions which might be anticipated. At the desire of these gentlemen I drew up a series of questions respecting the points on which we required information; to which two days afterwards they had the kindness to return very explicit and satisfactory answers; and on receiving them I requested the Governor to favour me with his sentiments on the same subject in writing, which he delivered to me on the following day.

Having learned that Messrs. Shaw, McTavish, and several other partners of the North-West Company were under detention at this place we took the earliest opportunity of visiting them; when, having presented the general circular and other introductory letters with which I had been furnished by their agent Mr. Simon McGillivray, we received from them the most friendly and full assurance of the cordial endeavours of the wintering partners of their company to promote the interests of the Expedition. The knowledge we had now gained of the state of the violent commercial opposition existing in the country rendered this assurance highly gratifying; and these gentlemen added to the obligation by freely communicating that information respecting the interior of the country which their intelligence and long residence so fully qualified them to give.

I deemed it expedient to issue a memorandum to the officers of the Expedition strictly prohibiting any interference whatever in the existing quarrels, or any that might arise, between the two Companies; and on presenting it to the principals of both the parties they expressed their satisfaction at the step I had taken.

The opinions of all the gentlemen were so decidedly in favour of the route by Cumberland House and through the chain of posts to the Great Slave Lake that I determined on pursuing it, and immediately communicated my intention to the Governor with a request that he would furnish me with the means of conveyance for the party as speedily as possible.

It was suggested in my instructions that we might probably procure a schooner at this place to proceed north as far as Wager Bay; but the vessel alluded to was lying at Moose Factory, completely out of repair; independently of which the route directly to the northward was rendered impracticable by the impossibility of procuring hunters and guides on the coast.

I found that, as the Esquimaux inhabitants had left Churchill a month previous to our arrival, no interpreter from that quarter could be procured before their return in the following spring. The Governor however undertook to forward to us, next season, the only one amongst them who understood English, if he could be induced to go.

The Governor selected one of the largest of the Company's boats for our use on the journey, and directed the carpenters to commence refitting it immediately; but he was only able to furnish us with a steersman; and we were obliged to make up the rest of the crew with the boatmen brought from Stromness and our two attendants.

York Factory, the principal depot of the Hudson's Bay Company, stands on the west bank of Hayes River, about five miles above its mouth, on the marshy peninsula which separates the Hayes and Nelson Rivers. The surrounding country is flat and swampy and covered with willows, poplars, larch, spruce, and birch-trees; but the requisition for fuel has expended all the wood in the vicinity of the fort and the residents have now to send for it to a considerable distance. The soil is alluvial clay and contains imbedded rolled stones. Though the bank of the river is elevated about twenty feet it is frequently overflown by the spring floods, and large portions are annually carried away by the disruption of the ice which, grounding in the stream, have formed several muddy islands. These interruptions, together with the various collection of stones that are hid at high-water, render the navigation of the river difficult; but vessels of two hundred tons burden may be brought through the proper channels as high as the Factory.

The principal buildings are placed in the form of a square having an octagonal court in the centre; they are two storeys in height and have flat roofs covered with lead. The officers dwell in one portion of this square, and in the other parts the articles of merchandise are kept: the workshops, storehouses for the furs, and the servants' houses are ranged on the outside of the square, and the whole is surrounded by a stockade twenty feet high. A platform is laid from the house to the pier on the bank for the convenience of transporting the stores and furs, which is the only promenade the residents have on this marshy spot during the summer season. The few Indians who now frequent this establishment belong to the Swampy Crees. There were several of them encamped on the outside of the stockade. Their tents were rudely constructed by tying twenty or thirty poles together at the top, and spreading them out at the base so as to form a cone; these were covered with dressed moose-skins. The fire is placed in the centre and a hole is left for the escape of the smoke. The inmates had a squalid look and were suffering under the combined afflictions of the whooping-cough and measles; but even these miseries did not keep them from an excessive indulgence in spirits, which they unhappily can procure from the traders with too much facility; and they nightly serenaded us with their monotonous drunken songs. Their sickness at this time was particularly felt by the traders, this being the season of the year when the exertion of every hunter is required to procure their winter's stock of geese, which resort in immense flocks to the extensive flats in this neighbourhood. These birds during the summer retire far to the north and breed in security; but when the approach of winter compels them to seek a more southern climate they generally alight on the marshes of this bay and fatten there for three weeks or a month before they take their final departure from the country. They also make a short halt at the same spots in their progress northwards in the spring. Their arrival is welcomed with joy, and the goose hunt is one of the most plentiful seasons of the year. The ducks frequent the swamps all the summer.

The weather was extremely unfavourable for celestial observations during our stay, and it was only by watching the momentary appearances of the sun that we were enabled to obtain fresh rates for the chronometers and allow for their errors from Greenwich time. The dip of the needle was observed to be 79 degrees 29 minutes 07 seconds, and the difference produced by reversing the face of the instrument was 11 degrees 3 minutes 40 seconds. A succession of fresh breezes prevented our ascertaining the intensity of the magnetic force. The position of York Factory by our observations is in latitude 57 degrees 00 minutes 03 seconds North, longitude 92 degrees 26 minutes West. The variation of the compass 6 degrees 00 minutes 21 seconds East.




September 1819.

On the 9th of September, our boat being completed, arrangements were made for our departure as soon as the tide should serve. But when the stores were brought down to the beach it was found that the boat would not contain them all. The whole therefore of the bacon and part of the flour, rice, tobacco, and ammunition were returned into the store. The bacon was too bulky an article to be forwarded under any circumstances; but the Governor undertook to forward the rest next season. In making the selection of articles to carry with us I was guided by the judgment of Governor Williams who assured me that tobacco, ammunition, and spirits could be procured in the interior, otherwise I should have been very unwilling to have left these essential articles behind. We embarked at noon and were honoured with a salute of eight guns and three cheers from the Governor and all the inmates of the fort who had assembled to witness our departure. We gratefully returned their cheers and then made sail, much delighted at having now commenced our voyage into the interior of America. The wind and tide failing us at the distance of six miles above the Factory, and the current being too rapid for using oars to advantage, the crew had to commence tracking, or dragging the boat by a line to which they were harnessed. This operation is extremely laborious in these rivers. Our men were obliged to walk along the steep declivity of a high bank, rendered at this season soft and slippery by frequent rains, and their progress was often further impeded by fallen trees which, having slipped from the verge of the thick wood above, hung on the face of the bank in a great variety of directions. Notwithstanding these obstacles we advanced at the rate of two miles an hour, one-half of the crew relieving the other at intervals of an hour and a half. The banks of the river and its islands, composed of alluvial soil, are well covered with pines, larches, poplars, and willows. The breadth of the stream some distance above the Factory is about half a mile, and its depth during this day's voyage varied from three to nine feet.

At sunset we landed and pitched the tent for the night, having made a progress of twelve miles. A large fire was quickly kindled, supper speedily prepared and as readily despatched, when we retired with our buffalo robes on and enjoyed a night of sound repose.

It may here be stated that the survey of the river was made by taking the bearings of every point with a pocket compass, estimating the distances, and making a connected eye-sketch of the whole. This part of the survey was allotted to Messrs. Back and Hood conjointly: Mr. Hood also protracted the route every evening on a ruled map, after the courses and distances had been corrected by observations for latitude and longitude taken by myself as often as the weather would allow. The extraordinary talent of this young officer in this line of service proved of the greatest advantage to the Expedition, and he continued to perform that duty until his lamented death with a degree of zeal and accuracy that characterised all his pursuits.

The next morning our camp was in motion at five A.M., and we soon afterwards embarked with the flattering accompaniment of a fair wind: it proved however too light to enable us to stem the stream, and we were obliged to resume the fatiguing operation of tracking; sometimes under cliffs so steep that the men could scarcely find a footing, and not unfrequently over spots rendered so miry by the small streams that trickled from above as to be almost impassable. In the course of the day we passed the scene of a very melancholy accident. Some years ago two families of Indians, induced by the flatness of a small beach which lay betwixt the cliff and the river, chose it as the site of their encampment. They retired quietly to rest, not aware that the precipice, detached from the bank and urged by an accumulation of water in the crevice behind, was tottering to its base. It fell during the night and the whole party was buried under its ruins.

The length of our voyage today was in a direct line sixteen miles and a quarter on a South-South-West course. We encamped soon after sunset and the tent was scarcely pitched when a heavy rain began, which continued all night.

Sixteen miles on the 11th and five on the following morning brought us to the commencement of Hayes River which is formed by the confluence of the Shamattawa and Steel Rivers. Our observations place this spot in latitude 56 degrees 22 minutes 32 seconds North, longitude 93 degrees 1 minute 37 seconds West. It is forty-eight miles and a half from York Factory including the windings of the river. Steel River, through which our course lay, is about three hundred yards wide at its mouth; its banks have more elevation than those of Hayes River, but they shelve more gradually down to the stream and afford a tolerably good towing path, which compensates in some degree for the rapids and frequent shoals that impede its navigation. We succeeded in getting about ten miles above the mouth of the river before the close of day compelled us to disembark.

We made an effort on the morning of the 13th to stem the current under sail but, as the course of the river was very serpentine, we found that greater progress could be made by tracking. Steel River presents much beautiful scenery; it winds through a narrow but well wooded valley which at every turn disclosed to us an agreeable variety of prospect, rendered more picturesque by the effect of the season on the foliage, now ready to drop from the trees. The light yellow of the fading poplars formed a fine contrast to the dark evergreen of the spruce, whilst the willows of an intermediate hue served to shade the two principal masses of colour into each other. The scene was occasionally enlivened by the bright purple tints of the dogwood, blended with the browner shades of the dwarf birch and frequently intermixed with the gay yellow flowers of the shrubby cinquefoil. With all these charms the scene appeared desolate from the want of human species. The stillness was so great that even the twittering of the whiskey-johneesh, or cinereous crow caused us to start. Our voyage today was sixteen miles on a South-West course.

September 14.

We had much rain during the night and also in the morning, which detained us in our encampment later than usual. We set out as soon as the weather cleared up and in a short time arrived at the head of Steel River where it is formed by the junction of Fox and Hill Rivers. These two rivers are nearly of equal width but the latter is the most rapid. Mr. McDonald, on his way to Red River in a small canoe manned by two Indians, overtook us at this place. It may be mentioned as a proof of the dexterity of the Indians and the skill with which they steal upon their game that they had on the preceding day, with no other arms than a hatchet, killed two deer, a hawk, a curlew, and a sturgeon. Three of the Company's boats joined us in the course of the morning and we pursued our course up Hill River in company. The water in this river was so low and the rapids so bad that we were obliged several times in the course of the day to jump into the water and assist in lifting the boat over the large stones which impeded the navigation. The length of our voyage today was only six miles and three-quarters.

The four boats commenced operations together at five o'clock the following morning but, our boat being overladen, we soon found that we were unable to keep pace with the others; and therefore proposed to the gentlemen in charge of the Company's boats that they should relieve us of part of our cargo. This they declined doing under the plea of not having received orders to that effect, notwithstanding that the circular with which I was furnished by Governor Williams strictly enjoined all the Company's servants to afford us every assistance. In consequence of this refusal we dropped behind, and our steersman, who was inexperienced, being thus deprived of the advantage of observing the route followed by the guide, who was in the foremost boat, frequently took a wrong channel. The tow-line broke twice and the boat was only prevented from going broadside down the stream and breaking to pieces against the stones by the officers and men leaping into the water and holding her head to the current until the line could be carried again to the shore. It is but justice to say that in these trying situations we received much assistance from Mr. Thomas Swaine who with great kindness waited for us with the boat under his charge at such places as he apprehended would be most difficult to pass. We encamped at sunset, completely jaded with toil. Our distance made good this day was twelve miles and a quarter.

The labours of the 16th commenced at half-past five, and for some time the difficulty of getting the boats over the rapids was equal to what we experienced the day before. Having passed a small brook however, termed Halfway Creek, the river became deeper and although rapid it was smooth enough to be named by our Orkney boatmen Stillwater. We were further relieved by the Company's clerks consenting to take a few boxes of our stores into their boats. Still we made only eleven miles in the course of the day.

The banks of Hill River are higher and have a more broken outline than those of Steel or Hayes Rivers. The cliffs of alluvial clay rose in some places to the height of eighty or ninety feet above the stream and were surmounted by hills about two hundred feet high, but the thickness of the wood prevented us from seeing far beyond the mere banks of the river.

September 17.

About half-past five in the morning we commenced tracking and soon came to a ridge of rock which extended across the stream. From this place the boat was dragged up several narrow rocky channels until we came to the Rock Portage where the stream, pent in by a range of small islands, forms several cascades. In ascending the river the boats with their cargoes are carried over one of the islands, but in the descent they are shot down the most shelving of the cascades. Having performed the operations of carrying, launching, and restowing the cargo we plied the oars for a short distance and landed at a depot called Rock House. Here we were informed that the rapids in the upper parts of Hill River were much worse and more numerous than those we had passed, particularly in the present season owing to the unusual lowness of the water. This intelligence was very mortifying, especially as the gentlemen in charge of the Company's boats declared that they were unable to carry any part of our stores beyond this place; and the traders, guides, and most experienced of the boatmen were of opinion that, unless our boat was still further lightened, the winter would put a stop to our progress before we could reach Cumberland House or any eligible post. Sixteen pieces we therefore necessarily left with Mr. Bunn, the gentleman in charge of the post, to be forwarded by the Athabasca canoes next season, this being their place of rendezvous.

After this we recommenced our voyage and, having pulled nearly a mile, arrived at Borrowick's Fall, where the boat was dragged up with a line after part of the cargo had been carried over a small portage. From this place to the Mud Portage, a distance of a mile and three-quarters, the boats were pushed on with poles against a very rapid stream. Here we encamped, having come seven miles during the day on a South-West course. We had several snow showers in the course of the day and the thermometer at bedtime stood at 30 degrees.

On the morning of the 18th the country was clothed in the livery of winter, a heavy fall of snow having taken place during the night. We embarked at the usual hour and in the course of the day crossed the Point of Rocks and Brassa Portages and dragged the boats through several minor rapids. In this tedious way we only made good about nine miles.

On Sunday the 19th we hauled the boats up several short rapids or, as the boatmen term them, expressively enough, spouts, and carried them over the Portages of Lower Burntwood and Morgan's Rocks, on the latter of which we encamped, having proceeded during the whole day only one mile and three-quarters.

The upper part of Hill River swells out considerably, and at Morgan's Rocks where it is three-quarters of a mile wide we were gratified with a more extensive prospect of the country than any we had enjoyed since leaving York Factory. The banks of the river here, consisting of low flat rocks with intermediate swamps, permitted us to obtain views of the interior, the surface of which is broken into a multitude of cone-shaped hills. The highest of these hills, which gives a name to the river, has an elevation not exceeding six hundred feet. From its summit thirty-six lakes are said to be visible. The beauty of the scenery, dressed in the tints of autumn, called forth our admiration and was the subject of Mr. Hood's accurate pencil. On the 20th we passed Upper Burntwood and Rocky Ledge Portages besides several strong spouts; and in the evening arrived at Smooth Rock Portage where we encamped, having come three miles and a half. It is not easy for any but an eye-witness to form an adequate idea of the exertions of the Orkney boatmen in the navigation of this river. The necessity they are under of frequently jumping into the water to lift the boats over the rocks compels them to remain the whole day in wet clothes at a season when the temperature is far below the freezing-point. The immense loads too which they carry over the portages is not more a matter of surprise than the alacrity with which they perform these laborious duties.


At six on the morning of the 21st we left our encampment and soon after arrived at the Mossy Portage where the cargoes were carried through a deep bog for a quarter of a mile. The river swells out above this portage to the breadth of several miles and as the islands are numerous there are a great variety of channels. Night overtook us before we arrived at the Second Portage, so named from its being the second in the passage down the river. Our whole distance this day was one mile and a quarter.

On the 22nd our route led us amongst many wooded islands which, lying in long vistas, produced scenes of much beauty. In the course of the day we crossed the Upper Portage, surmounted the Devil's Landing Place, and urged the boat with poles through Groundwater Creek. At the upper end of this creek, our bowman having given the boat too great a sheer to avoid a rock, it was caught on the broadside by the current and in defiance of our utmost exertions hurried down the rapid. Fortunately however it grounded against a rock high enough to prevent the current from oversetting it, and the crews of the other boats having come to our assistance we succeeded after several trials in throwing a rope to them with which they dragged our almost sinking vessel stern foremost up the stream and rescued us from our perilous situation. We encamped in the dusk of evening amidst a heavy thunderstorm, having advanced two miles and three-quarters.

About ten in the morning of the 23rd we arrived at the Dramstone which is hailed with pleasure by the boats' crews as marking the termination of the laborious ascent of Hill River. We complied with the custom from whence it derives its name and soon after landing upon Sail Island prepared breakfast. In the meantime our boatmen cut down and rigged a new mast, the old one having been thrown overboard at the mouth of Steel River, where it ceased to be useful. We left Sail Island with a fair wind and soon afterwards arrived at a depot situated on Swampy Lake where we received a supply of mouldy pemmican.* Mr. Calder and his attendant were the only tenants of this cheerless abode, and their only food was the wretched stuff with which they supplied us, the lake not yielding fish at this season.

(*Footnote. Buffalo meat, dried and pounded and mixed with melted fat.)


After a short delay at this post we sailed through the remainder of Swampy Lake and slept at the Lower Portage in Jack River; the distance sailed today being sixteen miles and a half.

Jack River is only eight miles long but, being full of bad rapids, it detained us considerably. At seven in the morning of the 24th we crossed the Long Portage where the woods, having caught fire in the summer, were still smoking. This is a common accident owing to the neglect of the Indians and voyagers in not putting out their fires, and in a dry season the woods may be seen blazing to the extent of many miles. We afterwards crossed the Second, or Swampy, Portage and in the evening encamped on the Upper Portage, where we were overtaken by an Indian bringing an answer from Governor Williams to a letter I had written to him on the 15th in which he renewed his injunctions to the gentlemen of the boats accompanying us to afford us every assistance in their power. The Aurora Borealis appeared this evening in form of a bright arch extending across the zenith in a North-West and South-East direction. The extent of our voyage today was two miles.


About noon on the 25th we entered Knee Lake which has a very irregular form and near its middle takes a sudden turn from whence it derives its names. It is thickly studded with islands and its shores are low and well wooded. The surrounding country as far as we could see is flat, being destitute even of the moderate elevations which occur near the upper part of Hill River. The weather was remarkably fine and the setting sun threw the richest tints over the scene that I remember ever to have witnessed.

About half a mile from the bend, or knee, of the lake there is a small rocky islet composed of magnetic iron ore which affects the magnetic needle at a considerable distance. Having received previous information respecting this circumstance we watched our compasses carefully and perceived that they were affected at the distance of three hundred yards both on the approach to and departure from the rock: on decreasing the distance they became gradually more and more unsteady and on landing they were rendered quite useless; and it was evident that the general magnetic influence was totally overpowered by the local attraction of the ore. When Kater's compass was held near to the ground on the North-West side of the island the needle dipped so much that the card could not be made to traverse by any adjustment of the hand; but on moving the same compass about thirty yards to the west part of the islet the needle became horizontal, traversed freely, and pointed to the magnetic north. The dipping needle, being landed on the South-West point of the islet, was adjusted as nearly as possible on the magnetic meridian by the sun's bearings, and found to vibrate freely when the face of the instrument was directed to the east or west. The mean dip it gave was 80 degrees 37 minutes 50 seconds. When the instrument was removed from the North-West to the South-East point about twenty yards distant and placed on the meridian the needle ceased to traverse but remained steady at an angle of 60 degrees. On changing the face of the instrument so as to give a South-East and North-West direction to the needle it hung vertically. The position of the slaty strata of the magnetic ore is also vertical. Their direction is extremely irregular, being much contorted.

Knee Lake towards its upper end becomes narrower and its rocky shores are broken into conical and rounded eminences, destitute of soil, and of course devoid of trees. We slept at the western extremity of the lake, having come during the day nineteen miles and a half on a South-West course.


We began the ascent of Trout River early in the morning of the 27th and in the course of the day passed three portages and several rapids. At the first of these portages the river falls between two rocks about sixteen feet and it is necessary to launch the boat over a precipitous rocky bank. This cascade is named the Trout Fall, and the beauty of the scenery afforded a subject for Mr. Hood's pencil. The rocks which form the bed of this river are slaty and present sharp fragments by which the feet of the boatmen are much lacerated. The Second Portage in particular obtains the expressive name of Knife Portage. The length of our voyage today was three miles.


On the 28th we passed through the remainder of Trout River; and at noon arrived at Oxford House on Holy Lake. This was formerly a post of some consequence to the Hudson's Bay Company but at present it exhibits unequivocal signs of decay. The Indians have of late years been gradually deserting the low or swampy country and ascending the Saskatchewan where animals are more abundant. A few Crees were at this time encamped in front of the fort. They were suffering under whooping-cough and measles and looked miserably dejected. We endeavoured in vain to prevail on one of them to accompany us for the purpose of killing ducks which were numerous but too shy for our sportsmen. We had the satisfaction however of exchanging the mouldy pemmican obtained at Swampy Lake for a better kind, and received moreover a small but very acceptable supply of fish. Holy Lake, viewed from an eminence behind Oxford House, exhibits a pleasing prospect; and its numerous islands, varying much in shape and elevation, contribute to break that uniformity of scenery which proves so palling to a traveller in this country. Trout of a great size, frequently exceeding forty pounds' weight, abound in this lake. We left Oxford House in the afternoon and encamped on an island about eight miles distant, having come during the day nine miles and a quarter.

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