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Title: Stray Leaves from an Arctic Journal; - or, Eighteen Months in the Polar Regions, in Search of Sir - John Franklin's Expedition, in the Years 1850-51
Author: Osborn, Sherard, 1822-1875
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Stray Leaves from an Arctic Journal; - or, Eighteen Months in the Polar Regions, in Search of Sir - John Franklin's Expedition, in the Years 1850-51" ***

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Transcriber's Note: In the line

    "We sailed by Fairl[=e]e, by Beach[=e]y, and Dung[)e]ness,"

[=e] represents the letter "e" with a macron above it and [)e]
represents an "e" with a breve above it.

The symbol "^" in y^e indicates that the "e" is printed as a





Eighteen Months in the Polar Regions,



IN THE YEARS 1850-51.




New York:




Accept, my dear Lady Franklin, these few pages, as the warm and honest
tribute of deserved admiration for yourself and estimable niece, Miss
Sophia Cracroft--admiration, which I delight in, in common with
thousands, that such as you are Englishwomen; and pride, that a
sailor's wife should so nobly have fulfilled her duty; for, if, on the
one hand, the name of Sir John Franklin, that chief "_sans peur et sans
reproche_," is dearly associated with our recollections of the honours
won in the ice-bound regions of the Pole, your names are not the less
so, with the noble efforts made to rescue, or solve the fate of our
missing countrymen.

That those sacrifices, those untiring exertions, that zeal which has
never wavered, that hope so steadfast, since it is that of an
Englishwoman for her husband, that patience under misconstruction, that
forgiveness for the sneer of jealousy, and that pity for the malicious,
which you have so pre-eminently displayed, may yet, by God's help, one
day reap its reward in the accomplishment of your wishes, is the
fervent prayer of



I fear with the many of my cloth, my crime in writing a book will be an
unpardonable one; the more so, that I cannot conscientiously declare,
that it has been at the urgent desire of my friends, &c., that I have
thus made my début.

My motive is twofold: to tell of the doings of a screw steam-vessel,
the first ever tried in the Polar regions, and by a light, readable
description of incidents in the late search for Sir John Franklin, to
interest the general reader and the community at large upon that
subject. Without fear, favour, or affection, I have told facts as they
have occurred; and I trust have, in doing so, injured no man. A journal
must necessarily be, for the most, a dry narration of facts; I have,
therefore, thrown in here and there general observations and remarks
founded upon such facts, rather than a dry repetition of them.

To the officers and men serving under my command, I can offer no higher
compliment than in having thus placed their severe and zealous labours
before the public; and no professional reader who reads these "Stray
Leaves," can fail, I am certain, to perceive how heavily must have
fallen the labours here recounted upon the men and officers of the
steam tenders, and how deep an obligation I their commander must be
under to them for their untiring exertions, by which this, the first
and severe trial of steam in the Arctic regions, was brought to a
successful issue.

The "Resolutes," no doubt, will object to the round terms in which I
have growled at the bluff-bowed vessel it was my fate and now my pride
to have towed so many miles in the Frozen Zone; but on second thoughts,
I doubt not they will acquit me, for they will remember the joke was
once on their side; and if I do not love their _ship_, at any rate I
liked _them_.

To Lieutenant W. May and Mr. M'Dougal, I am much indebted for their
faithful sketches. I fear my letter-press is unworthy of the

To those who may accuse me of egotism in confining my remarks so much
to the achievements of my own vessel, I have merely to say, that in
doing so, I was best able to be truthful; but that I am fully aware
that to the other screw steamer, the "Intrepid," and my gallant friend
and colleague, Commander J. B. Cator, there fell an equal amount of
labour; and that to all, ships as well as screws, there was an equal
proportion of hardship, danger, and privation. I should indeed be
forgetful as well as ungrateful, did I here fail to acknowledge the
more than kindness and assistance I have ever experienced from my
friend Mr. Barrow, a name past and present inseparably connected with
our Arctic discoveries; so likewise I have to offer my thanks,
heartfelt as they are sincere, to those who, like Admiral Sir Francis
Beaufort and Captain Hamilton of the Admiralty, bade me speed, when
sincerity and zeal was all I had to boast, and who dared to overlook
the crime of youth, and granted to "seven-and-twenty" the deference
which "five-and-fifty" alone can claim.

RICHMOND, _Feb. 15, 1852_.


The evils attendant on a hurried outfit and departure, as is the usual
man-of-war custom, were in no wise mitigated in the case of the Royal
Naval Expedition, fitted out at Woolwich, in 1850, to search for Sir
John Franklin's Squadron; and a general feeling of joy at our departure
prevailed amongst us, when, one fine morning, we broke ground from

The "Resolute" and "Assistance" had a couple of steamers to attend upon
them; whilst we, the "Pioneer" and "Intrepid," screwed and sailed, as
requisite to keep company. By dark of the 4th of May, 1850, we all
reached an anchorage near Yarmouth; and the first stage of our outward
journey was over.

No better proof of the good feeling which animated our crews can be
adduced than the unusual fact of not a man being missing amongst those
who had originally entered,--not a desertion had taken place,--not a
soul had attempted to quit the vessels, after six months' advance had
been paid.

Here and there amongst the seamen a half-sleepy indifference to their
work was observable. This I imputed to the reaction after highly
sentimental "farewells" in which, like other excesses, Jack delights;
the women having, as usual, done all they could, by crying alongside,
to make the men believe they were running greater risks than had ever
been before undergone by Arctic navigators.

The old seamen's ditty of--

    "We sailed by Fairl[=e]e, by Beach[=e]y, and Dung[)e]ness,
    Until the North Foreland light we did see"--

gives a very good idea of our progress from beacon to lighthouse, and
lighthouse to headland, until the lofty coast of Yorkshire sunk under
the lee; and by the 8th of May the squadron was making slow progress
across the mouth of the Firth of Forth. Hitherto, "all had been
pleasant as a marriage bell;" the weather had been fine; and we already
calculated our days of arrival at different points, as if the calm was
to last for ever. The Cheviot Hills glittered in the west; it was the
kind good-bye of our own dear England. Hundreds of white sails dotted a
summer sea: all was joyous and sparkling. Scotland greeted us with a
rough "nor'wester,"--and away we went. "Not all the king's horses"
could have kept the expedition together.

[Headnote: _DEPARTURE._]

The "Resolute" and "Assistance," hauled dead on a wind, under
close-reefed topsails, performed a stationary movement, called
"pile-driving" by sailors, which, as the pilot suggested, would, if the
breeze lasted, carry them to the coast of Holland. The two steam
vessels, under fore-and-aft canvas, drew away rapidly to windward and
ahead, and in spite of all we could do, a few hours of darkness
effectually succeeded in dispersing us. Accident again brought the
"Pioneer" in sight of the vessels for a few hours; but the "Intrepid"
found herself in Stromness Harbour, with a degree of celerity which
gave rise to a racing disposition on the part of my gallant colleague,
"Intrepid," _versus_ "Pioneer," which it took a great many days of
competition to decide.

They who want excitement had better go and beat a vessel up the
Pentland Firth, against both wind and tide. I tried it, but shall not
repeat the experiment; and, after a thorough good shaking in the North
Sea, was not sorry to find myself at anchor in Stromness.

The very proper and triste Sabbath of the North was followed by a busy
Monday. The arrival of so many gold cap-bands, and profusion of gilt
buttons, interfered, I fear materially, with the proper delivery of the
morning milk and butter by sundry maidens with golden locks; and the
purser's wholesale order for beef threatened to create a famine in the
Orkneys. The cheapness of whiskey appeared likely to be the cause of
our going to sea with a crew in a lamentable state of drunkenness, and
rather prejudiced me against Stromness; but if it had no other
redeeming quality, all its faults would be forgotten in the astounding
fact that _there_ may be found a landlady with moderate prices and
really fresh eggs.

As a description of this part of the world is no part of my task, I
will pass over our long and crooked walk about Stromness; and the
failure of the good folk there to induce us to trust ourselves on their
ponies for a ride to Kirkwall, naturally limited our knowledge of the

Above the town of Stromness rises a conical-shaped hill; it has, I
believe, been immortalized by Scott in his "Pirate:" it had yet deeper
interest for me, for I was told that up it had toiled dear friends now
missing with Franklin. I and a kind shipmate walked out one evening to
make our pilgrimage to a spot hallowed by the visit of the gallant and
true-hearted that had gone before us--and, as amid wind and drizzle we
scrambled up the hill, I pictured to myself how, five short years
before, those we were now in search of had done the same. Good and
gallant Gore! chivalrous Fitz-James! enterprising Fairholme!
lion-hearted Hodgson! dear De Vaux!--Oh! that ye knew help was nigh!

We surmounted the hill--the Atlantic was before us, fierce and
troubled; afar to seaward the breakers broke and lashed themselves
against the firm foundation of the old Head of Hay, which loomed
through mist and squall, whilst overhead the scream of sea-fowl, flying
for shelter, told that the west wind would hold wild revelry that

"H.M.S. North Star," carved on the turf, showed where some of her
people had chosen this spot for a record of their visit to Orkney; we
did likewise, in honour of our own bonnie craft; and then, strolling
homeward, discussed the probable chances of the existence of the said
"North Star;" the conclusion arrived at being that there was more cause
for anxiety on her account than for Franklin's Expedition, she having
gone out totally unprepared for wintering, and with strict injunctions
not to be detained: "l'homme propose, et Dieu dispose."

I could have hugged the snuffy old postmaster for a packet of letters
he gave me. I rushed on board to a cabin which proved, as the First
Lord had sagaciously remarked, into how small a space a Lieutenant
Commanding could be packed; and, in spite of an unpaid tailor's bill,
revelled in sweet and pleasant dreams.

[Headnote: _PLAN OF SEARCH._]

The "Intrepid" and "Pioneer" rejoined the ships at Long-Hope; and my
gallant comrade and I made a neck-and-neck race of it, showing that in
steaming, at any rate, there would be little to choose between us; and,
on May 15th, the Arctic squadron weighed, and, passing out of the
Pentland Firth, the "Dasher" and "Lightning" cheered us, took our
letters,--and the Searching Expedition was alone steering for
Greenland. Night threw her mantle around us; the lonely light of Cape
Wrath alone indicating where lay our homes. I like losing sight of Old
England by night. It is pleasant to go to rest with a sweet
recollection of some quiet scene you have just dwelt upon with delight,
the spirit yearning for the excitement and novelty ahead. You rise in
the morning, old Ocean is around you: there is, to the seamen, a
lullaby, say what they may, in his hoarse song; and they of the middle
watch tell how the friendly light of some distant cape glimmered and
danced in the east, until lost in some passing squall.

Now for the Northwest! we exclaimed,--its much talked of dangers,--its
chapter of horrors! As gallant Frobisher says, "it is _still_ the
only thing left undone, whereby a notable mind might be made famous and
remarkable." As it was in Frobisher's day, so it is now, unless
Franklin has accomplished it, and lies beset off Cape Jakan--and why
may it not be so?

Whilst the squadron progresses slowly towards Cape Farewell, the ships
under topsails, and the steamers under jury-masts and sails, we will
take a retrospective view of what is now--1850--going to be done for
the relief of Franklin.

Capt. Collinson, with two ships, has gone to Behring's Straits with the
"Plover" as a dépôt, in Kotzebue Sound, to fall back upon in case of
disaster. He steers direct for Melville Island, along the coast of
North America. Capt. Pullen, having successfully searched the coast
from Point Barrow to the Mackenzie River, is endeavouring now to push
from thence, in a northerly direction, for Bank's Land. Dr. Rae is to
do the same from the Coppermine River. Capt. Penny, a first-rate
whaling captain, with two fast brigs, is now ahead of us, hoping to
make an early passage across the middle ice of Baffin's Bay. He goes to
Jones's Sound and Wellington Channel, to reach the Parry Isles by a
northern route.

We go with two sailing ships and two steam vessels, so as to form
separate divisions of two vessels each, to examine Barrow's Straits
south-westerly to Cape Walker, westerly towards Melville Island, and
north-westerly up Wellington Channel. Thus no less than eight fine
ships flying the pendant, and two land parties are directed, by
different routes, on Melville Island. Besides these, an American
expedition, fitted out by that prince of merchants, Mr. Grinnell,
leaves shortly for the same destination; and in Lady Franklin's own
vessel, the "Prince Albert," as well as a craft under Sir John Ross, we
find two more assistants in the plan of search.

And yet, gentle reader, if you turn to the papers of the fall of 1849,
you will find some asserting that Sir John Franklin had perished in
Baffin's Bay, because Sir James Ross had found nothing of him in
Lancaster Sound! Happily the majority of Englishmen have, however,
decided otherwise; and behold, this noble equipment! this magnificent
outlay of men and material!

We will not dwell on the pleasures or annoyances of the cruise across
the Atlantic, beyond stating the fact that our bluff-bowed worse-halfs,
the sailing ships, nigh broke our hearts, as well as our hawsers, in
dragging their breakwater frames along in the calms; and that we of the
screws found our steam vessels all we could wish, somewhat o'er lively,
mayhap,--a frisky tendency to break every breakable article on board.
But there was a saucy swagger in them, as they bowled along the hollow
of a western sea, which showed they had good blood in them; and we soon
felt confident of disappointing those Polar seers, who had foretold
shipwreck and disaster as their fate.


The appearance of numerous sea-birds,--the Tern especially, which do
not fly far from land,--warned us, on Sunday 26th May, of our fast
approach to Greenland, and on the morrow we espied the picturesque
shores about Cape Farewell. Which of all the numerous headlands we saw
was the identical cape, I do not pretend to say; but we chose, as _our_
Cape Farewell, a remarkable-looking peak, with a mass of rock perched
like a pillar upon its crest. The temperature began to fall as we
advanced, and warmer coats quickly replaced our English clothing.

Distant as we were from Greenland, our view of its southern extremity
was fleeting, but sufficient to show that it fully realized in
appearance the most striking accumulation of ice and land that the mind
could picture,--a land of gaunt famine and misery; but which
nevertheless, for some good purpose, it had pleased Providence in a
measure to people.

Had we not had an urgent duty to perform, I should have regretted thus
hurrying past the land; for there is much to see there. True, Greenland
has no deep historical interest, but the North has always had its charm
for me. Scandinavia, and her deeds,--the skill and intrepidity of her
bold Vikings,--their colonies in Snæland, our Iceland,--their discovery
of Greenland,--and the legend of the pirate Biarni, who forestalled
even the great Columbus in his discovery,--were all associated with the
region through which we were now sailing.

Without compass, without chart, full three centuries before the Genoese
crossed the Atlantic, the Norsemen, in frail and open barks, braved the
dark and angry sea (which was so sorely tossing even our proud
vessels); and, unchecked by tempest, by ice, or hardship, penetrated
probably as far as we could in the present day. This, and much more,
throws a halo of ancient renown around this lonely land; moreover, I
had long loved Nature's handiworks, and here assuredly her wonders
reward the traveller. Here, methought me of the mighty glacier,
creeping on like Time, silently, yet ceaselessly; the deep and
picturesque fiord pent up between precipices, huge, bleak, and barren;
the iceberg! alone a miracle; then the great central desert of black
lava and glittering ice, gloomy and unknown but to the fleet rein-deer,
who seeks for shelter in a region at whose horrors the hardy natives
tremble; and last, but not least, the ruins of the Scandinavian
inhabitants, and the present fast disappearing race of "the Innuit," or
Esquimaux. Dullard must he be who sees not abundance here to interest

Flirting with the first ice we saw, it soon appeared that the training
of the uninitiated, like puppies, was to be a very formal and lengthy
piece of business. Thanks to an immense deal of water, and very little
ice, the steamers eventually towed the "Resolute" and the transport (a
lively specimen of the genus), into the Whale-Fish Islands,--a group of
rocky islets, some twenty miles distant from the excellent Danish
harbour of Godhaab on the Island of Disco.


We did as our forefathers in anchoring at the Whale-Fish Islands, but
would strongly recommend those who visit this neighborhood to go to
Godhaab rather. Its anchorage is good, communication with Europe a
certainty, and the hospitality of the Danish residents, few though they
be, cheering and pleasant to ship-sick wanderers.

Having thus expressed my total dissent from those who, with steam
vessels, go to Whale-Fish Isles, it will be but fair for me to stay,
that I arrived at this our first stage in the journey to the Nor'-West,
in far from good humour. We had been twenty-four days from Greenhithe
to Cape Farewell, and sixteen days from the latter point to our
anchorage; hurry being out of the question when a _thing_ like the
"Emma Eugenia" was pounding the water in a trial of speed with perfect
snuff-boxes, like the "Resolute" and "Assistance." Patience and a
four-day tow had at last finished the work: and to all our anxious
inquiries about the prospect of the season, as to where Penny was, and
whether any intelligence had reached the settlements? not an answer was
to be obtained from a besotted Danish carpenter, whose knowledge
appeared to be limited to a keen idea of changing, under a system he
called "Trock," sundries (with which the Danske Koeing had intrusted
him) into blubber and seal-oil.

After a day of coal-dust, I landed with some others to see what was to
be seen, and to load, as we were taught to believe, a boat with wild
fowl. The principal settlement having been pointed out, we landed on
the slope of one of the islands, on which a coarse rank vegetation
existed amongst the numerous relics of departed seals, sacrificed to
the appetites of the Esquimaux and the _trocking_ of the Governor, as
he was facetiously styled. The said individual soon appeared, and in
spite of copious libations of Her Britannic Majesty's "Pure Jamaica,"
of which he had partaken, was most polite and hospitable. From him I
discovered that he and a cooper were the only Danes residing here, and
they, together with a cross-breed who did the double duty of priest and
schoolmaster, constituted the officials of Cron-Prin's Islands. The
native population amounted perhaps to one hundred souls: and it was in
supplying their wants, and in affording a market for their superfluous
skins and blubber, that the Danes derived a profit, under a strict
system of monopoly; no foreigners being allowed to trade with the
Esquimaux, and they, on the other hand, having strict injunctions to
lodge every thing they do not require for private use, in the public
store. The quantity of seal-blubber in store, which was equal to as
much oil, amounted to nigh upon 100 tons; the number of seals annually
destroyed must be enormous: this says much for the industry of the

The Esquimaux appeared all comfortable and well to do, well clad,
cleanly, and fat. Most of them had moved for a while into their summer
lodges, which consist of little else than a seal-skin tent, clumsily
supported with sticks. They were more than sufficiently warm; and the
number of souls inhabiting one of these lodges appeared only to be
limited by the circle of friends and connections forming a family. The
winter abode--formed almost underground--appeared decidedly well
adapted to afford warmth, and some degree of pure ventilation, in so
severe a climate, where fuel can be spared only for culinary purposes;
and I was glad to see that, although necessity obliges the Esquimaux to
eat of the oil and flesh of the seal and naorwhal, yet, when they could
procure it, they seemed fully alive to the gastronomic pleasures of a
good wholesome meal of fish, birds' eggs, bread, sugar, tea, and

Their canoes are perfect models of beauty and lightness; in no part of
the world do we see them excelled in speed and portability--two very
important qualities in the craft of a savage; and in ornamental
workmanship, the skill of both men and women is tastefully displayed.

The clothing of the natives is vastly superior to any thing we could
produce, both in lightness of material, and wind and water-tight
qualities;--the material, seal and deer skin, and entrails,
manufactured by the women; their needles of Danish manufacture; their
thread, the delicate sinews of animals. We gladly purchased all we
could obtain of their clothing.

[Headnote: _THE ESQUIMAUX._]

Every one has heard of the horrors of an Esquimaux existence,--sucking
blubber instead of roast beef, train-oil their usual beverage, and a
seal their bonne-bouche; the long gloomy winter spent in pestiferous
hovels, lighted and warmed with whale-oil lamps; the narrow gallery for
an entrance, along which the occupant creeps for ingress and egress.
This and much more has been told us; yet, now that I have seen it
all,--the Esquimaux's home, the Esquimaux's mode of living, and the
Esquimaux himself,--I see nothing so horrible in one or the other.

The whaler, from bonnie Scotia, or busy Hull, fresh from the
recollection of his land and home, no doubt shudders at the comparative
misery and barbarity of these poor people; but those who have seen the
degraded Bushmen or Hottentots of South Africa, the miserable Patanies
of Malayia, the Fuegians or Australians of our southern hemisphere, and
remember the comparative blessings afforded by nature to those
melancholy specimens of the human family, will, I think, exclaim with
me, that the Esquimaux of Greenland are as superior to them in mental
capacity, manual dexterity, physical enterprise, and social virtues, as
the Englishman is to the Esquimaux.

The strongest--indeed, I am assured, the only--symptom of the advantage
of religious instruction perceptible in the Greenlander, over his North
American brethren, is in the respect they show for the marriage tie,
and strong affection for their children. The missionary, with this
race, appears to have few difficulties to contend with: naturally
gentle, and without any strong superstitious prejudices, they receive
without resistance the simple creed of Reformed religion, which he has
spread amongst them; and the poor Esquimaux child sends up its prayers
and thanksgiving, in the words taught us by our Saviour, as earnestly
and confidently as the educated offspring of Englishmen.

An old man, whom I pressed to accompany me as pilot to the Island of
Disco, declined, under the plea that his wife was very ill, and that
there was no one but himself to take care of the "piccaninny."
Interested from such proper feeling in the man, Dr. P---- and I entered
his winter abode, which he apologized for taking us to,--the illness of
his "cara sposa" having prevented him changing his residence for the
usual summer tent. Crawling on all fours through a narrow passage, on
either side of which a dog-kennel and a cook-house had been
constructed, we found ourselves in an apartment, the highest side of
which faced us, the roof gradually sloping down to the ground.


A B. Gallery.
B C. Section of house.
E.   Bed and seats.
H.   Cook-house and kennel.]

The above section will give some idea of the place. Along one side of
the abode a sort of bed-place extended for its whole length, forming
evidently the family couch; for on one end of it, with her head close
to a large seal-oil lamp, was the sick woman. She was at the usual
Esquimaux female's employment of feeding the flame with a little stick
from a supply of oil, which would not rise of its own accord up the
coarse and ill-constructed wick; over the flame was a compound, which
the sufferer told us was medicine for her complaint,--the rheumatism, a
very prevalent one amongst these people. Leaving the kind Doctor to do
the part of a good Samaritan, I amused myself with looking over the
strange home into which I had got. The man took much pride in showing
me his family,--consisting of a girl and three fine boys. His wife, he
assured me, was only twenty-eight years of age: she looked at least
six-and-thirty; and he likewise, though only thirty-four, had the
appearance of being at least ten years older. They had married when she
was twenty,--the usual age for marriage, as he told me. His daughter,
rather a pretty and slight-made girl, was very busy making shoes for
her brothers out of cured skin. I rewarded the youthful sempstress by
giving her one of a number of dolls kindly sent me for the purpose by
Mrs. W. of Woolwich; and could that kind friend have seen the joyful
countenance of the Esquimaux child, she would indeed have been richly
remunerated for her thoughtful little addition to my stock of presents.
To finish my Esquimaux tale, I was next day not a little surprised at
the father coming on board, and giving me a small pouch which his child
had sewn for me in return for my present. This proved at least that
Esquimaux children can appreciate kindness as well as others.

The Whale-Fish group consist of a congery of islets, of various shapes
and sizes, with deep water channels between; the whole of granitic
formation, with broad veins of quartz and masses of gneiss overlaying
in various directions. Those I visited exhibited proof of constant and,
I might say, rapid destruction from the action of water and frost. The
southern and south-west sides of the larger islands were of, may be,
300 or 400 feet elevation, with a gradual dip to the north-east, as if
their creation had been brought about by some submarine agency
upheaving the primary rock, with an irregular force from the

The tallest cliffs were rent from crown to base, and frost-cracks
intersected one another in such a perfect labyrinth, that the whole
mass appeared as if merely hanging together from its stupendous weight.
The narrow bays and bights with a southern aspect, where the concussion
of a heavy sea had had its effect, were strewn with the wreck of the
adjacent precipices, and progress for sportsmen along the shore, in
pursuit of wild fowl, was extremely difficult. On the northern sides,
these islands showed other features quite as peculiar to the glacial
region upon which we were wandering: there the low projecting ledges of
granite were polished by the constant attrition of oceanic ice and
icebergs, until walking over them became barely possible.

_June 18th, 1850._--I am much amused at the ease with which we
assimilate ourselves to new climates and new habits. Yesterday, my
friend Dr. P---- and I bathed within fifty yards of an iceberg, the
water only two degrees above freezing point; candour must acknowledge
that we did not stay long; and to-night, though no Highlander in love
of hardship, I found myself at midnight in the water groping for lost
gun-gear, an experiment which, having escaped from without rheumatism,
I promise not to repeat. One of my crew slept last night on deck with
his arm for a pillow, although the temperature was below freezing
point, and every one complains of heat and throws aside jacket and cap
when making the slightest exertion.

[Headnote: _AN ARCTIC NIGHT._]

Coal-dust every where and on every thing. Incessant work from 4, A.M.,
to 8 or 9 o'clock, P.M., one would have supposed, would have induced
rational beings to go quietly to bed when the day's work was over. It
was far otherwise.

The novelty of constant daylight, and the effect which it always has
upon the system, until accustomed to it, of depriving one of the
inclination to go to roost at regular hours, told upon us, and often
have I found myself returning from five hours' work, chasing, shooting,
and pulling a boat, just as the boatswain's mates were piping "stow
hammocks!" That I was not singular, a constant discharge of guns
throughout the night well proved, and unhappy nights must the ducks and
dovekies have spent during our stay.

Not to shoot became, in the Arctic squadron, tantamount to folly,
although the proceeds of great consumption of powder were but small;
nevertheless, stout men, who had not buttoned a gaiter since their
youth, were to be seen rivalling chamois-hunters in the activity with
which they stalked down the lady ducks on their nests. Apoplexy was
forgotten, the tender wife's last injunction on the subject of dry feet
pitched to the winds, and rash men of five-and-forty pulled and shot
little birds, in leaky punts, with all the energy of boys of fifteen.

Cold fingers, and a load of Flushing cloth on one's back, are vile
realities; otherwise I could have given fancy her swing, and spent many
an hour in the "blest ideal," at the beautiful and novel scene which
lay around me on a lovely morning at one o'clock. I had just crossed to
the north side of an island which faces Greenland, and passed a quiet
and secluded bay, at whose head the remains of a deserted ruin told of
the by-gone location of some Esquimaux fishermen, whose present home
was shown by here and there a grave carefully piled over with stones to
ward off dog and bear. All was silent, except the plaintive mew of the
Arctic sea-swallow as it wheeled over my head, or the gentle echo made
by mother ocean as she rippled under some projecting ledge of ice. The
snow, as it melted amongst the rocks behind, stole quietly on to the
sea through a mass of dark-coloured moss; whilst a scanty distribution
of pale or delicately-tinted flowers showed the humble flora of the
north. The sun, sweeping along the heavens opposite, at a very low
altitude, gilded as it rose the snowy crests of the mountains of Disco,
and served to show, more grim and picturesque, the naturally dark face
of the "Black Land of Lively." From thence round to the east, in the
far horizon, swept the shores of Greenland, its glaciers, peaks, and
headlands, all tortured by mirage into a thousand fantastic shapes, as
if Dame Nature had risen from her couch in frolicsome mood. Between
this scene and my feet, icebergs of every size and shape, rich with
fretting of silvery icicle, and showing the deepest azure tint or
richest emerald, strewed a mirror-like sea, glowing with the pale pink
of morning.

The awful silence was impressive: unwilling to break it I sat me down.

    "I felt her presence by its spell of might,
      Stoop o'er me from above--
    The calm majestic presence of the night,
      As of the one I love."

Suddenly a distant roar boomed along the water and echoed amongst the
rocks: again and again I heard it, when, to my astonishment, several
huge icebergs in the offing commenced to break up. A fearful plunge of
some large mass would clothe the spot in spray and foam; a dull
reverberating echo pealed on; and then, merely from the concussion of
the still air, piece after piece detached itself from icebergs far and
near, and the work of demolition was most rapid: truly did Baffin
boast, that he had laid open one of Nature's most wonderful
laboratories; and I thought with Longfellow, in his Hyperion,--

    "The vast cathedral of nature is full of holy scriptures and shapes
    of deep mysterious meaning: all is solitary and silent there. Into
    this vast cathedral comes the human soul seeking its Creator, and
    the universal silence is changed to sound, and the sound is
    harmonious and has a meaning, and is comprehended and felt."

[Headnote: _GODHAAB._]

After many difficulties, which called for some obstinacy on my part to
master, I was allowed to go to Disco, and Captain Ommaney, hearing of
my intention, kindly made up a party. Taking one of our boats, we
shipped an Esquimaux pilot, called "Frederick," and started on June
21st, at 2 o'clock in the morning. To all our inquiries about Disco,
Frederick had but one reply,--"by and by you see." He liked rum and
biscuit, and was only to be animated by the conversation turning upon
seals, or _poussies_, as the natives call them. Then indeed Frederick's
face was wreathed in smiles, or rather its oleaginous coat of dirt
cracked in divers directions, his tiny eyes twinkled, and he descanted,
in his broken jargon, upon the delight of _poussey_ with far more
unction than an alderman would upon turtle. After threading the islets
we struck to north-east by compass, from the northernmost rock of the
group, which our guide assured us would sink below the horizon the
moment of our arrival off Godhaab. He was perfectly right, for after
four hours' pulling and sailing we found ourselves under a small
look-out house, and the islets of our departure had dipped.

Entering a long and secure harbour, we reached a perfectly landlocked
basin: in it rode a couple of Danish brigs, just arrived from
Copenhagen, with stores for the settlement; and on the shores of this
basin, the Danish settlement of Godhaab was situated, a few stores, and
the residence of two or three officials,--gentlemen who superintended
the commercial monopoly to which I have before referred: a flag-staff
and some half-dozen guns formed the sum total.

Landing at a narrow wooden quay, close to which natives and sailors
were busy unladening boats, we found ourselves amongst a rambling
collection of wooden houses, built in Dano-Esquimaux style, with some
twenty native lodges intermixed. Very few persons were to be seen
moving about: we heard afterwards that the body of natives were
seal-catching to the northward. A troop of half-caste boys and girls
served, however, to represent the population, and in them the odd
mixture of the Mongolian with the Scandinavian race was advantageously

A Danish seaman conducted Captain O----, Dr. D----, and self, to the
residence of the chief official, and, at the early hour of six, we made
a formal visit.

His mansion was of wood, painted black, with a red border to the
windows and roof: no doubt, so decorated for a good purpose; but the
effect was more striking than pleasing. A low porch with double doors,
two sharp turns in a narrow dark passage,--to baffle draughts, no
doubt,--and we found ourselves in a comfortable room with Herr Agar
smoking a cigar, and gaily attired to receive us. The "Herr" spoke but
little English; we no Danish: however, the quiet and reserved manner of
the good northern did not conceal a certain kindness of which he soon
gave us hospitable proof; for, on acceding to his offer of a little
coffee, we were surprised to see a nice tidy lady--his wife, as he
informed us--spread a breakfast fit for a Viking, and then with gentle
grace she ably did the honours of her board. Hang me, when I looked at
the snow-white linen, the home-made cleanly cheer, the sweet wife all
kindness and anxiety, I half envied the worthy Dane the peace and
contentment of his secluded lot, and it needed not a glass of excellent
Copenhagen schiedam to throw a "couleur de rose" about this Ultima
Thule of dear woman's dominion.

[Headnote: _HERR AGAR._]

The morning pull had given a keenness to our appetites, and I have a
general recollection of rye bread, Danish cake, excellent Zetland
butter, Dutch cheese, luscious ham, boiled potatoes, and Greenland
trout fresh from the stream. Could sailors ask for or need more? I can
only say that we all felt that, if Herr Agar and Madame Agar (I hate
that horrid word Frau) would only borrow our last shilling, we were
ready to lend it.

A broken conversation ensued, a little English and much Danish, when
Dr. D---- fortunately produced Captain Washington's Esquimaux
vocabulary, and, aided by the little son of our host, we soon twisted
out all the news Herr Agar had to give.

Captain Penny had only stayed a short time. He arrived on May the 4th.
The prospect of an early season was most cheering, and then the worthy
Herr produced a piece of paper directed to myself by my gallant friend
Penny. He wrote in haste to say his squadron had arrived, all well,
after a splendid run from Aberdeen: he was again off, and sent kind
remembrances, dated May 4th.

This, at any rate, was joyful intelligence, and worth my journey to
Disco; my heart leaped with joy, and I thought, at any rate, if we were
late, he was full early.

After a long chat, we went for a stroll, in which a tree--yes! as I
live, a tree--was discovered. Be not envious, ye men of Orkney, it
stood full thirteen inches high, and was indigenous, being the dwarf
birch-tree, the monarch of an arctic forest! Stumbling upon the
churchyard I should have indulged my taste for old tombstones, had not
the musquitoes forbidden it; and, with a hurried glance at the names of
old hunters of fish and departed Danes and Dutchmen, I ran for the
beach, remarking that, whereas we in Europe evince respect for those
who have preceded us to that bourne--

    "Where life's long journey turns to sleep,
    Nor weary pilgrim wakes to weep--"

by placing stones around their last homes, in Greenland pieces of soft
and ugly wood are substituted, although nature has strewn on every side
masses of granite fit to form mausoleums for Pharaohs. Bad taste! I
exclaimed; but that's not confined to Disco.

Having promised to return to say good-bye, we kept our word most
willingly, and found "Herr Agar" had a circle of friends to meet us;
and my astonishment was great at the sight of _two more petticoats_.
One was the wife of a Moravian missionary, and the other the wife of a
gentleman at Jacob's Sound. They looked perfectly happy, and at least
appeared as well at home in the dreary region which had become their
adopted country, as we could expect, or their husbands desire.
Conversation soon flagged; the missionary gave it up in despair; the
"Herr" smoked in silence; and but for the ladies we should have been
soon dumb. Happily for me (for I wanted to purchase some seal-skins), a
captain of one of the brigs came in at the moment, and, understanding
both English and Danish, conversation became quite animated. Watching
my opportunity, I told him of my desire to purchase seal-skins for
trowsers for my men; he immediately informed Herr Agar, who gave him a
yah! and walked me off by the arm to his storerooms, followed by his
good lady; lifting a bundle of beautiful seal-skins, the Herr made me
an offer of them. I commenced fumbling for my purse, and at last
produced some gold, making signs that various officers intended to have
seal-skin trowsers. Nay! nay! exclaimed the good lady, thrusting back
my money, whilst the Herr began loading me with skins. Oh! the horror
of that moment: I felt as if I had been begging, and must have looked
very like it, for Mrs. Agar, with a look of sudden inspiration, as if
she perfectly understood me, ran off to her husband's wardrobe, and
produced a pair of trowsers, of perfect Dutch dimensions, and, with the
most innocent smile, made signs of how I should pull them on. I smiled,
for they would have made a suit of clothes for me.

[Headnote: _LEAVE DISCO._]

Seeing no way of getting out of the scrape my ignorance of Danish and
their generosity had led me into, I determined to take as little as
possible, and with a thousand thanks walked back to the drawing-room,
with Herr Agar's "whisperables" on one arm and a couple of seal-skins
on the other, my face burning, and my conscience smiting.

Time pressed, and we bid our kind friends good-bye. Herr Agar fired a
salute of three guns, which we returned with three cheers; and, after
taking a stirrup cup on board the "Peru," started for Whale-Fish
Islands, which we reached at eleven o'clock at night, much pleased with
our excursion.

Every one likes a souvenir of some pleasant by-gone scene or event:
these souvenirs are often odd ones. A messmate of mine used to tell of
Greece, her temples and ruins: "he had had many a pleasant snooze
amongst them!" Another dwelt on the scenes of Montezuma's sorrows, for
it was there he had partaken of most savoury wild fowl,--and yet
another hero knew but of Peru and Pizarro's triumphs, by the markets
producing very good prawns; whilst I must plead guilty to associating
Greenland and the deeds of Scandinavian heroes with Herr Agar's
seal-skin trowsers.

Amidst a last flourish of coals and dust, which left us filled to
repletion,--indeed we were just awash,--we were ordered to take the
ships in tow, and start. This being done, I came to a virtuous
resolution in my own mind, after what I was going through in dragging
my "fat friend," the "Resolute," about, to think twice ere I laughed at
those whom fate had shackled to a mountain of flesh. When I had time to
ask the day and date, it was Sunday, 28th June, 1850, and we had turned
our back on the last trace of civilized man. Vogue-la-galère.

The night was serenely calm. We skirted the Black Land of Lively,
making an average speed of three miles per hour, so that our fearful
load of coal--full three hundred tons--did not diminish the speed
nearly as much as I at first anticipated. Although I could not but feel
from our staggering motion and bad steerage that the poor "Pioneer" was
severely taxed in carrying her own dead weight of about five hundred
tons, and towing a clumsy craft, which fully equalled another seven
hundred tons, all this receiving vitality from two little engines of
thirty-horse power each.

Whilst a sudden and rattling breeze from the south caused us to make
sail and run merrily past the striking clifts of the Waigat and Jacob's
Sound, I will briefly refer to the character of the vessels composing
our squadron, their equipment, and general efficiency.

[Headnote: _THE SHIPS._]

The "Resolute" and "Assistance" were sailing ships rigged as barks;
their hulls strengthened according to the most orthodox arctic rules,
until, instead of presenting the appearances of a body intended for
progress through the water, they resembled nothing so much as very
ungainly snuff-boxes; and their bows formed a buttress which rather
pushed the water before it than passed through it. The remark made by
an old seaman who had grown gray amongst the ice was often recalled to
my mind, as with an aching heart for many a long mile I dragged the
clumsy "Resolute" about. "Lord, sir! you would think by the quantity of
wood they are putting into _them_ ships, that the dock-yard maties
believed they could stop the Almighty from moving the floes in Baffin's
Bay! Every pound of African oak they put into them the less likely they
are to rise to pressure; and you must in the ice either rise or sink.
If the floe cannot pass through the ship it will go over it."

Internally the fittings of the ships were most perfect: nothing had
been spared to render them the most comfortable vessels that ever went
out avowedly to winter in the Polar ice. Hot air was distributed by
means of an ingenious apparatus throughout lower deck and cabins.
Double bulkheads and doors prevented the ingress of unnecessary cold
air. A cooking battery, as the French say, promised abundance of room
for roasting, boiling, baking, and thawing snow to make water for daily
consumption. The mess places of the crew were neatly fitted in
man-of-war style; and the well-laden shelves of crockery and hardware
showed that Jack, as well as jolly marine, had spent a portion of his
money in securing his comfort in the long voyage before them. A long
tier of cabins on either side showed how large a proportion of officers
these vessels carried; but it was so far satisfactory, as it proved
that the division of labour, consequent upon numbers, would make arctic
labours comparatively light.

A large captain's cabin, with a gunroom capable of containing all the
officers when met together for their meals, completed the
accommodation. The crews consisted of sixty souls each, of which a
fourth were officers.

The vessels chosen to be the first to carry the novel agent, steam,
into hyperborean climes, were the "Pioneer" and "Intrepid," sister
vessels, belonging, originally, to the cattle conveyance company; they
were propelled by screws, and were of sixty-horse power each, about 150
feet long, of 400 tons burden, and rigged as three-masted schooners.
Over the whole of their original frames, tough planking called doubling
was placed, varying from three to six inches in thickness. The decks
were likewise doubled; and, as may be supposed, from such numerous
fastenings passing through the original timbers of a merchantman, every
timber was perforated with so many holes as to be weakened and rendered
useless; indeed, the vessels may have at last been considered as what
is termed "bread-and-butter built," the two layers of planking
constituting with the decks the actual strength of the vessels. At the
bow, the fine form had happily been retained, the timber strengthenings
being thrown into them at that point within, and not without; they
were, therefore, at the fore end somewhat like a strong wedge. Many an
oracle had shaken his head at this novelty; and when I talked of
cutting and breaking ice with an iron stem, the lip curled in derision
and pity, and I saw that they thought of me as Joe Stag, the Plymouth
boatman, did of the Brazilian frigate when she ran the breakwater down
in a fog,--"Happy beggar, he knows nothing, and he fears nothing."

[Headnote: _THE SCREWS._]

A few catastrophe-lovers in England having consigned Franklin to death
because he had steam-engines and screws, every precaution was taken to
secure the "Pioneer" and "Intrepid" in such a way that screw, rudder,
and sternpost might be torn off by the much-talked-of _bogie_!--the
ice,--and the vessels still be left fit to swim. In the internal
arrangements for meeting an arctic climate, we were on somewhat a
similar plan to the ships,--some difficulties being presented by the
large mass of cold iron machinery, which, of course, acted as a rapid
refrigerator. For the voyage out, the men were confined to a little
place in the bows of the vessel, and from thence to the cabins of the
officers, all was coal: a dead weight of 260 tons being originally
carried from England, which we increased to 300 tons at the Whale
Islands. This, at an average consumption of seven tons _per diem_,
would enable us _to tow the ships 3000 miles_, or, _steam alone, full
5000 miles_, carrying twelve or eighteen months' provision. The crew
consisted of thirty souls, all told, of which five were officers,--namely,
a lieutenant in command and a second master, as executive officers; an
assistant surgeon, who zealously undertook the superintendence of the
commissariat, both public and private, and two engineers, to look after
the steam department. These occupied the smallest conceivable space in
the after-end of the steamers; and, with separate cabins, had a common

Such were the arctic screws: it only remains for me to say, that they
were very handsome, smart-sailing vessels, and those embarked in them
partook of none of the anxieties and croakings, which declared
opponents and doubtful allies entertained as to their success in what
was styled a great experiment. They had but one wish ungratified, which
was, that they had been sent alone and fully provisioned, instead of
carrying an inadequate proportion of food, so that, in the event of
being separated from the ships by accident, they might have wintered
without suffering and hardship.

All the crews had been carefully chosen for health and efficiency; and
they, as well as the officers, were actuated by the loftiest feelings
of enterprise and humanity; and that feeling was fostered and
strengthened by the knowledge they had, of the high confidence placed
in the squadron by their country, speaking through the press. In fact,
we were called heroes long before we had earned our laurels. Lastly,
the Admiralty put into the hands of the officers the orders they had
given the leader of this noble squadron; and there was but one opinion
as to these orders, that more liberal, discretionary ones never were
penned!--and with such power to act as circumstances might render
necessary, we felt confident of deserving, if we could not demand,

_June 24th, Baffin's Bay._--The squadron was flying north, in an open
sea, over which bergs of every size and shape floated in wild
magnificence. The excitement, as we dashed through the storm, in
steering clear of them, was delightful from its novelty. Hard a
starboard! Steady! Port! Port! you may!--and we flew past some huge
mass, over which the green seas were fruitlessly trying to dash
themselves. Coleridge describes the scene around us too well for me to
degrade it with my prose. I will give his version:--

    "And now there came both mist and snow,
    And it grew wondrous cold,
    And ice, mast high, came floating by
    As green as emerald.
    Through the drifts, the snowy clifts
    Did send a dismal sheen;
    Nor shapes of men, or beasts we ken,
    The ice was all between.
    With sloping masts, and dipping prow,
    As who pursued with yell and blow,
    Still treads the shadow of his foe,
    And forward bends his head.
    The ship drove fast--loud roared the blast,
    And _northward_ aye we fled"--

Until we all suddenly hauled-in for the land of Greenland, in order to
visit the settlement of Uppernavik. Passing into a channel, some four
miles in width, we found ourselves running past the remarkable and
lofty cliffs of "Sanderson his Hope," a quaint name given to this point
by the "righte worthie Master Davis," in honour of his patron, a
merchant of Bristol. Well worthy was it of one whose liberality had
tended to increase our geographical knowledge; and the Hope's lofty
crest pierced through the clouds which drove athwart its breast, and
looked afar to see "whether the Lord of the Earth came not."

Under its lee, the water was a sheet of foam and spray, from the fierce
gusts which swept down ravine and over headland; and against the base
of the rocks, flights of wild fowl marked a spot famous amongst arctic
voyagers as abounding in fresh food,--a charming variety to salt horse
and Hambro' pork.

[Headnote: _UPPERNAVIK._]

On rounding an inner islet of the Women's Group, as it is called, a
straggling assemblage of Esquimaux huts, with a black and red
storehouse or two, as at Disco, denoted the northernmost of the present
Danish settlements, as well as the site of an ancient Scandinavian
port,--a fact assured by the recent discovery of a stone pillar on one
of the adjacent islands bearing the following inscription:--

    "Elling Sigvatson, Bjame Thordason, and Endride Oddson, erected
    these memorial stones and cleared this place on Saturday before
    Gagndag (25th April), in the year 1135."

Exactly four hundred and fifty-two years before the place was
rediscovered by our countryman, Davis.

The "Intrepid" having the honour of carrying-in the two post-captains,
we box-hauled about in the offing until she returned with the
disagreeable intelligence that all the English whalers were blocked up
by ice, some thirty miles to the northward. Capt. Penny had been unable
to advance, and the season was far from a promising one! Squaring our
yards, we again bore up for the northward. In a few hours, a strong
reflected light to the westward and northward showed we were fast
approaching the ice-fields or floes of Baffin's Bay. A whaler, cruising
about, shortly showed herself.

_June 26th, 1850._--My rough notes are as follows:--A.M. Standing in
for the land, northward of "Women's Isles," saw several whalers fast to
the ice, inshore. Observe one of them standing out. H.M.S. "Assistance"
is ordered to communicate. We haul to the wind. I visit the "Resolute."
Learn that we altered course last night because the floes were seen
extending across ahead. The whaler turns out to be the "Abram," Captain
Gravill. He reports:--"Fourteen whalers stopped by the ice; Captain
Penny, with his ships, after incurring great risk, and going through
much severe labour, was watching the floes with the hope of slipping
past them into the north water."

Mr. Gravill had lately ranged along the Pack edge as far south as
Disco, and found not a single opening except the bight, up which we had
been steering last night. He said, furthermore, "that there would be no
passage across the bay, this year, for the whalers, because the water
would not make sufficiently early to enable them to reach the
fishing-ground in Pond's Bay by the first week in August; after which
date, the whales travel southward towards Labrador." The report wound
up with the discouraging statement that the whale-men agreed that the
floes, this season, were unusually extensive, that the leads or cracks
of water were few, and icebergs more numerous than they had been for
some years.

It appears that a northerly gale has been blowing, with but slight
intermission, for the last month; and that, in consequence, there is a
large body of water to the north, the ice from which has been forced
into the throat of Davis' Straits. All we have to pray for is, a
continuation of the same breeze, for otherwise southerly winds will jam
the whole body of it up in Melville Bay, and make what is called a
"closed season."

[Headnote: _A CHECK._]

Mr. G---- (though not a friend of Penny's) told us that Penny was
working day and night to get ahead, and had already run no small risk,
and undergone extraordinary labour. Poor Penny! I felt that fate had
been against him! He deserved better than to be overtaken by us, after
the energy displayed in the equipment of his squadron.

In the first watch the brigs "Lady Franklin" and "Sophia" were seen by
us, fast between loose floe pieces, to seaward of which we continued to
flirt. The "Intrepid" and "Pioneer" were now to be seen slyly trying
their bows upon every bit of ice we could get near, without getting
into a scrape with the commodore; and, from the ease with which they
cut through the rotten stuff around our position, I already foresaw a
fresh era in arctic history, and that the fine bows would soon beat the
antediluvian "bluffs" out of the field.

_Thursday, 27th June, 1850_, found us still cruising about under
canvas; northward and westward a body of dirty ice, fast decaying under
a fierce sunlight, bergs in hundreds in every direction; and, dotted
along the Greenland shore, a number of whalers fast in what is called
"Land water," ready to take the first opening. The barometer falling,
we were ordered to make fast to icebergs, every one choosing his own.
This operation is a very useful one in arctic regions, and saves much
unnecessary wear and tear of men and vessel, when progress in the
required direction is no longer possible.

The bergs, from their enormous depth, are usually aground, except at
spring-tides, and the seaman thus succeeds in anchoring his vessel in
200 fm. water, without any other trouble than digging a hole in the
iceberg, placing an anchor in it called an ice-anchor, which one man
can lift, and, with a whale-line, his ship rides out under the lee of
this natural breakwater, in severe gales, and often escapes being beset
in a lee pack.


Fastening to a berg has its risks and dangers; sometimes the first
stroke of the man setting the ice-anchor, by its concussion causes the
iceberg to break up, and the people so employed run great risk of being
injured; at another time, vessels obliged to make fast under the steep
side of a berg, have had pieces detach themselves from overhead, and
injure materially the vessel and spars; and, again, the projecting
masses, called tongues (which form under water the base of the berg),
have been known to break off, and strike a vessel so severely as to
sink her: all these risks are duly detailed by every arctic navigator,
and the object always is, in fastening to an iceberg, to look for a
side which is low and sloping, without any tongues under water. To such
an one the Intrepid and Pioneer made fast, although the boat's crew
that first reached it, in making a hole, were wetted by a projecting
mass detaching itself with the first blow of the seaman's crowbar. A
gale sprang up almost immediately, and during the night the Assistance
blew adrift. Next day it abated, and the ice to the northward looked

In the evening one of Penny's vessels, the Sophia, joined us, and from
her commander we soon heard of their hopes and disappointment. Directly
after leaving Disco they fell in with the ice, and had fought their way
the whole distance to their present position. The season was not
promising, but forty-eight hours of a N.E. wind would do wonders, and I
cordially partook of his opinion, that "keeping the vessel's nose to
the crack" was the only way to get ahead in the arctic regions. The
crews of the brigs were in rattling health and spirits. Having
delivered him some letters and a number of parcels which, by great good
luck, had not been landed at Uppernavik, Capt. Stewart returned to his
chief, some eight miles northward of us, and we remained to watch

[Headnote: _TOWING THE SHIPS._]

_Saturday, June 29th, 1850._--

_Monday, July 1st, 1850._--At last the hoped-for signal, "take ships in
tow," was made; and, with a leaping heart, we entered the lead, having
the "Resolute" fast by the nose with a six-inch hawser. What looked
impassable at ten miles' distance was an open lead when close to.
Difficulties vanish when they are faced; and the very calm which
rendered the whalers unable to take advantage of a loose pack, was just
the thing for steamers. Away we went! past berg, past floe, winding in
and out quietly, yet steadily!--and the whalers were soon astern.
Penny, indefatigable, was seen struggling along the shore, with his
boats ahead, towing, and every stitch of sail set to catch the lightest
cat's paw: him too, however, we soon passed. The water ahead increased
as we advanced, and we found, as is well known to be the case, that the
pack-edge is always the tightest part of it.

Several whale-boats from the vessels astern were busy taking ducks'
eggs from the islands, which seem to abound along the coast. When
passing one of these islands that appeared remarkably steep, I was
disagreeably surprised to feel the "Pioneer" strike against a sunken
rock with some violence; she slipped off it, and then the "Resolute"
gave herself a blow, which seemed to make every thing quiver again.
Capt. Penny had a signal up warning us of the danger; but we were too
busy to see it until afterwards, and then the want of wind prevented
our ascertaining what was meant. After this accident we went very
cautiously until the evening hour, when, having neared Cape Shackleton,
and some thin ice showing itself, through which, at reduced speed, we
could not tow the broad-bowed "Resolute," she was cast off, and made
fast to some land ice, and I proceeded on alone in the "Pioneer" to see
what the prospect was further on.

Cutting through some rotten ice of about six inches in thickness, we
reached water beyond it, and saw a belt of water, of no great width,
extending along shore as far as the next headland, called Horse's-head.
Picking up a boat belonging to the "Chieftain" whaler, which had been
shooting and egging, I returned towards the "Resolute" with my
intelligence, giving Cape Shackleton a close shave to avoid the ice
which was setting against it from the westward, the whalemen whom I had
on board expressing no small astonishment and delight at the way in
which we screwed through the broken ice of nine-inch thickness. On
reaching the squadron, I found it made fast for the night, and parties
of officers preparing to start in different directions to shoot, and
see what was to be seen, for, of course, our night was as light as the
day of any other region.

To the "Chieftain's" doctor I, with others of the "Pioneer," consigned
what we flattered ourselves were our last letters, thinking that, now
the steamers had got ahead, it was not likely the whalers would again
be given an opportunity of communicating or overtaking us.

There is something in last letters painful and choking; and I remember
that I hardly knew which feeling most predominated in my
breast,--sorrow and regret for those friends I had left behind me, or
hope and joyful anticipation of meeting those before us in the "Erebus
and Terror."

[Headnote: _CAPE SHACKLETON._]

At any rate, I gave vent to them by climbing the rocky summit of Cape
Shackleton, and throwing off my jacket, let the cold breeze allay the
excitement of my mind.

Nothing strikes the traveller in the north more strongly than the
perceptible repose of Nature, although the sun is still illumining the
heavens, during those hours termed night. We, of course, who were
unaccustomed to the constant light, were restless and unable to sleep;
but the inhabitants of these regions, as well as the animals, retire to
rest with as much regularity as is done in more southern climes; and
the subdued tints of the heavens, as well as the heavy banking of
clouds in the neighbourhood of the sun, gives to the arctic summer
night a quietude as marked as it is pleasant. Across Baffin's Bay there
was ice! ice! ice! on every side, small faint streaks of water here and
there in the distance, with one cheering strip of it winding snake-like
along the coast as far as eye could reach. "To-morrow!" I exclaimed,
"we will be there." "Yes!" replied a friend, "but if the breeze
freshens, Penny will reach it to-night!" And there, sure enough, were
Penny's brigs sailing past our squadron, which showed no sign of
vitality beyond that of the officer of the watch visiting the
ice-anchors to see all was right. "That fellow, Penny, is no sluggard!"
we muttered, "and will yet give the screws a hard tussle to beat him."

A couple of hours rest, and having taken the ship in tow, we again
proceeded, and at about seven o'clock on the morning of the 2d of July
passed the "Sophia," and shortly afterwards, the "Lady Franklin." Alas!
poor Penny, he had a light contrary wind to work against.

I do not think my memory can recall in the course of my wanderings any
thing more novel or striking than the scenes through which we steamed
this forenoon. The land of Greenland, so bold, so steep, and in places
so grim, with the long fields of white glittering ice floating about on
the cold blue sea, and our little vessels (for we looked pigmies beside
the huge objects around us, whether cliff, berg, or glacier) stealing
on so silently and quickly; the leadsman's song or the flap of wild
fowl the only sounds to break the general stillness. One of the cliffs
we skirted along was actually teeming with birds called "loons:" they
might have been shot in tens of hundreds had we required them or time
not pressed: they are considered remarkably good eating, and about the
size and weight of an ordinary duck: to naturalists they are known by
the name of guillemot, and were christened "loons" by the early Dutch
navigators, in consequence of their stupidity. Numerous seals lay on
the ice in the offing, and their great size astonished us.

As we advanced, a peculiarly conical island, in a broad and
ice-encumbered bay, showed itself: it was "the Sugar-Loaf Island" of
the whalers; and told us that, on rounding the farther headland, we
should see the far-famed Devil's Thumb, the boundary of Melville Bay.

A block of ice brought us up after a tow of some twenty-five or thirty
miles, and, each vessel picking up a convenient iceberg, we made fast
to await an opening.

I landed to obtain a view from a small islet close to the "Pioneer,"
and was rewarded by observing that the Duck Islands, a group some
fifteen miles to seaward of us, had evidently a large space of open
water around them, and broad _lanes_ extended from these in divers
directions towards us, although, without retracing our steps, there was
at present no direct road for us into this water.

Captain Penny, however, being astern, had struck to seaward, and was
fast passing our position.

On the islands there were recent traces of both reindeer and bears; and
I amused myself picking some pretty arctic flowers, such as anemones,
poppies, and saxifrage, which grew in sheltered nooks amongst the

[Headnote: _A BEAR HUNT._]

Before leaving the vessel, a boat had been despatched to the headland
where so many "loons" had been seen, to shoot for the ship's company's
use: the other ships did likewise: they returned at about four o'clock
next morning, and I was annoyed at being informed, without any birds,
although all the powder and shot had been expended.

I sent for the captain of the forecastle, who had been away in charge
of the sportsmen, and, with astonishment, asked how he had contrived to
fire away one pound of powder and four of small shot, without bringing
home some loons? Hanging his head, and looking uncommonly bashful, he
answered, "If you please, sir, we fired it all into a bear!" "Into a
bear?" I exclaimed, "what! shoot a bear with No. 4 shot?" "Yes, sir,"
replied Abbot; "and if it hadn't have been for two or three who were
afeard of him, we would have brought him aboard, too." Sending my
bear-hunting friend about his business for neglecting my orders to
obtain fresh food for the crew, I afterward found out that on passing a
small island between the "Pioneer" and the Loon Head, as the cliff was
called, my boat's crew had observed a bear watching some seals, and it
was voted immediately, that to be the first to bring a bear home, would
immortalize the "Pioneer."

A determined onslaught was therefore made on Bruin: No. 4 shot being
poured into him most ruthlessly, he growled and snapped his teeth,
trotted round the island, and was still followed and fired at, until,
finding the fun all on one side, the brute plunged into the water, and
swam for some broken-up ice; my heroes followed, and, for lack of ball,
fired at him a waistcoat button and the blade of a knife, which, by
great ingenuity, they had contrived to cram down one of their muskets;
this very naturally, as they described it, "made the beast jump again!"
he reached the ice, however, bleeding all over, but not severely
injured; and whilst the bear was endeavouring to get on the floe, a
spirited contest ensued between him and Old Abbot, the latter trying to
become possessor of a skin, which the former gallantly defended.

Ammunition expended, and nothing but boat-hooks and stretchers left as
defensive weapons, there seemed some chance of the tables being
reversed, and the boat's crew very properly obliged the captain of the
forecastle to beat a retreat; the bear, equally well pleased to be rid
of such visitors, made off. "Old Abbot," as he was styled, always,
however, asserted, that if he had had his way, the bear would have been
brought on board the "Pioneer," and tamed to do a good deal of the
dragging work of the sledges; and whenever he heard, in the winter, any
of the young hands growling at the labour of sledging away snow or ice,
he created a roar of laughter, by muttering, "Ah! if you had taken my
advice, we'd have had that 'ere bear to do this work for us!"

_July 3d, 1850._--Penny, by taking another route, gave us the "go
by," and in the afternoon we started, taking an in-shore lane of water.
The wind, however, had freshened up from the westward, and as we
advanced, the ice was rapidly closing, the points of the floe-pieces
forming "bars," with holes of water between them. With the "Pioneer's"
sharp bow, we broke through the first of these barriers, and carried
the "Resolute" into "a hole of water," as it is called. The next bar
being broader, I attempted to force it by charging with the steamer,
and after breaking up a portion of it, backed astern to allow the
broken pieces to be removed; this being the first time this operation
was performed, and much having to be learnt upon the feasibility of the
different modes of applying steam-power against ice.

[Headnote: _ARCTIC SPORTING._]

We soon found ourselves surrounded with broken masses, which, owing to
the want of men to remove it away into the open water astern, rendered
advance or retreat, without injury to the propeller, almost impossible.
Here, the paucity of men on board the steam vessels was severely felt:
for until the "Resolute" was properly secured I could expect no
assistance from her; and the "Pioneer," therefore, had to do her best
with half the number of men, although she was fifty feet longer than
the ship. Unable to move, the closing floes fast beset the steamer, and
then the large parties of men that joined from the squadron to assist
were useless, beyond some practice, which all seemed willing to
undertake, in the use of ice-tools, consisting of chisels, poles with
iron points, claws, lines, &c.

In a short time, the prospect of liberating the "Pioneer" was seen to
be farcical, and all the officers and men from the "Resolute" returned
to their ship, although parties of novices would walk down constantly
to see the first vessel beset in the ice.

A few birds playing about induced myself and some others to go out
shooting, a foggy night promising to be favourable to our larders. The
ice, however, was full of holes, and very decayed; in addition to which
it was in rapid motion in many places, from the action of wind and
tide. The risk of such sporting was well evinced in my gallant friend
M----'s case. He was on one side of a lane of water, and I on the
other: a bird called a "Burgomaster" flew over his head to seaward, and
he started in the direction it had gone. I and another shouted to warn
him of the ice being in rapid motion and very thin; he halted for a
moment, and then ran on, leaping from piece to piece. The fog at this
moment lifted a little, and most providentially so, for suddenly I saw
M---- make a leap and disappear--the ice had given way!--he soon rose,
but without his gun, and I then saw him scramble upon a piece of ice,
and on watching it, observed with a shudder that both he and it were
drifting to the northward, and away from us. Leaving my remaining
companion to keep sight of M----, and thus to point out the way on my
return, I retraced my steps to the "Pioneer," and with a couple of men,
a long hand-line, and boarding-pikes, started off in the direction
M---- was in.

I could tell my route pretty well by my companion's voice, which in
rich Milesian was giving utterance to encouraging exclamations of the
most original nature--"Keep up your courage, my boy!--Why don't you
come back?--Faith, I suppose it's water that won't let you!--There will
be some one there directly!--Hoy! hoy! ahoy! don't be down-hearted
anyway!" I laughed as I ran. My party placed themselves about ten yards
apart, the last man carrying the line, ready to heave, in case of the
leader breaking through. So weak was the ice that we had to keep at a
sharp trot to prevent the weight of our own bodies resting long on any
one spot; and when we sighted our friend M---- on his little piece of
firm ice, the very natural exclamation of one of my men was, "I wonder
how he ever reached it, sir?" M---- assisted us to approach him by
pointing out his own route; and by extending our line, and holding on
to it, we at last got near enough to take him off the piece of detached
ice on which he had providentially scrambled. I never think of the
occurrence without a sickening sensation, mixed with a comic
recollection of K----'s ejaculations. Whilst walking back with my
half-frozen friend, the ice showed itself to be easing off rapidly with
the turn of tide. At 1 A.M. we were all free, and a lane of water
extending itself ahead.

[Headnote: _MELVILLE BAY._]

_July 4th._--At 1 P.M. we started again, towing the ships, the whaling
fleet from the southward under every stitch of canvas threatening to
reach the Duck Islands before ourselves, and Captain Penny's squadron
out of sight to the north-west. By dint of hard steaming we contrived
to reach the islands before the whalers, and at midnight got orders to
cast off and cruise about under sail, all the vessels rejoining us that
we had passed some days ago off the Women's Isles.

The much talked of, by whalemen, "Devil's Thumb," was now open; it
appears to be a huge mass of granite or basalt, which rears itself on a
cliff of some 600 or 800 feet elevation, and is known as the southern
boundary of Melville Bay, round whose dreary circuit, year after year,
the fishermen work their way to reach the large body of water about the
entrance of Lancaster Sound and Pond's Bay. Facing to the south-west,
from whence the worst gales of wind at this season of the year arise,
it is not to be wondered at that Melville Bay has been the grave of
many a goodly craft, and in one disastrous year the whaling fleet was
diminished by no less than twenty-eight sail (without the loss of life,
however), a blow from which it never has recovered. No good reason was
adduced for taking this route, beyond the argument, founded upon
experience, that the earliest passages were always to be made by
Melville Bay; this I perfectly understood, for early in the season,
when northerly winds do prevail, the coast of Melville Bay is a
weather-shore, and the ice, acted upon by wind and current, would
detach itself and form between the land-ice and the pack-ice a safe
high-road to the westward. It was far otherwise in 1850. The prospect
of an early passage, viz., from the first to the third week of June,
had long vanished. Southerly winds, after so long a prevalence of
northerly ones (vide Captain Gravill's information), were to be
expected. The whole weight of the Atlantic would be forced up Davis's
Straits, and Melville Bay become "a dead lee-shore." I should therefore
not have taken the ice, or attempted to work my way round Melville Bay,
and would instead have gone to the westward and struck off sooner or
later into the west water, in about the latitude of Uppernavik, 73° 30'

However, this is what amongst the experienced is styled theory; and as
any thing was better than standing still, I was heartily glad to see
the "Chieftain," a bonnie Scotch whaler, show us the road by entering a
lead of water, and away we all went, working to windward. The sailing
qualities of the naval Arctic ships threatened to be sadly eclipsed by
queer-looking craft, like the "Truelove" and others. But steam came to
the rescue, and after twelve hours' hard struggle we got the pendants
again ahead of our enterprising and energetic countrymen.

_Saturday, July 6th._--By 6 A.M. we were alongside of Penny's squadron,
which was placed at the head of the lane of water, up which we had also
advanced; and so keen was he not to lose the post of honour, that as we
closed, I smiled to see the Aberdonians move their vessels up into the
very "nip." In the course of the day the whalers again caught us up,
and a long line of masts and hulls dotted the floe-edge.

The ice was white and hard, affording good exercise for pedestrians,
and to novices, of whom there were many amongst us, the idea of walking
about on the frozen surface of the sea was not a little charming. In
all directions groups of three and four persons were seen trudging
about, and the constant puffs of smoke which rose in the clear
atmosphere, showed that shooting for the table was kept carefully in

[Headnote: _AN OLD WHALEMAN._]

A present of 170 duck-eggs from Captain Stewart of the "Joseph Green"
whaler, showed in what profusion these birds breed, and I was told by
Captain Penny that one of the islets passed by him on the 2d was
literally alive with ducks, and that several boat-loads of eggs might
have been taken off it,--interesting proofs of the extraordinary
abundance of animal life in these northern regions. Our Saturday
evening was passed listening to stirring tales of Melville Bay and the
whale fishery, and several prophecies as to the chances of a very bad
season, the number of icebergs and extent of the ice-fields, inducing
many to believe that more than usual risk would be run in the bay this
year. Sunday forenoon passed quietly and according to law, though a
falling barometer made us watch anxiously a heavy bank of black clouds
which rested in the southern heavens.

The dinner-bell however rang, and having a very intelligent gentleman
who commands a whaler as a guest, we were much interested in listening
to his description of the strange life led by men, like himself,
engaged in the adventurous pursuit of the whale; Mr. S. assured us that
he had not seen corn grow, or eaten fresh gooseberries for thirty
years! although he had been at home every winter. Though now advanced
in years, with a large family, one of whom was the commander of Her
Majesty's brig the "Sophia," then in company, still he spoke with
enthusiasm of the excitement and risks of his own profession; it had
its charms for the old sailor, whose skill and enterprise had been
excited for so many years in braving the dangers of ice-encumbered
seas, whether around Spitzbergen or in Baffin's Bay: he evidently felt
a pride and satisfaction in his past career, and it had still sweet
reminiscences for him. I felt a pride in seeing such a man a
brother-seaman,--one who loved the North because it had hardships--one
who delighted to battle with a noble foe. "We are the only people," he
said, "who follow the whale, and kill him in spite of the ice and
cold." There was the true sportsman in such feelings. He and the whale
were at war,--not even the ice could save his prey.

A report from deck, that the ice was coming in before a southerly gale,
finished our dinner very abruptly, and the alteration that had taken
place in a couple of hours was striking. A blue sky had changed to one
of a dusky colour,--a moaning gale sent before it a low brown vapour,
under which the ice gleamed fiercely,--the floes were rapidly pressing
together. Two whalers were already nipped severely, and their people
were getting the boats and clothing out ready for an accident.


[Headnote: _DOCKING IN THE ICE._]

"The sooner we are all in dock the better," said Captain S., as he
hurried away to get his own vessel into safety, and, almost as quickly
as I can tell it, a scene of exciting interest commenced--that of
cutting docks in the fixed ice, called land-floe, so as to avoid the
pressure which would occur at its edge by the body of ice to seaward
being forced against it by the fast rising gale. Smart things are done
in the Navy, but I do not think any thing could excel the alacrity with
which the floe was suddenly peopled by about 500 men, triangles rigged,
and the long saws (called ice-saws) used for cutting the ice, were
manned. A hundred songs from hoarse throats resounded through the gale;
the sharp chipping of the saws told that the work was flying; and the
loud laugh or broad witticisms of the crews mingled with the words of
command and encouragement to exertion given by the officers.

The pencil of a Wilkie could hardly convey the characteristics of such
a scene, and it is far beyond my humble pen to tell of the stirring
animation exhibited by some twenty ships' companies, who knew that on
their own exertions depended the safety of their vessels and the
success of their voyage. The ice was of an average thickness of three
feet, and to cut this saws of ten feet long were used, the length of
stroke being about as far as the men directing the saw could reach up
and down. A little powder was used to break up the pieces that were
cut, so as to get them easily out of the mouth of the dock, an
operation which the officers of our vessels performed whilst the men
cut away with the saws. In a very short time all the vessels were in
safety, the pressure of the pack expending itself on a chain of bergs
some ten miles north of our present position. The unequal contest
between floe and iceberg exhibited itself there in a fearful manner;
for the former pressing onward against the huge grounded masses was
torn into shreds, and thrown back piecemeal, layer on layer of many
feet in elevation, as if mere shreds of some flimsy material, instead
of solid, hard ice, every cubic yard of which weighed nearly a ton.

The smell of our numerous fires brought a bear in sight; Nimrods
without number issued out to slay him, the weapons being as varied as
the individuals were numerous. The chase would, however, have been a
fruitless one, had not the bear in his retreat fallen in with and
killed a seal; his voracity overcame his fears, and being driven into
the water, he was shot from the boat of one of the whalers which had
perseveringly followed him.

The brute was of no great size--not more than five feet in length. The
coat, instead of being white, was turned to a dingy yellow, much
resembling in colour decayed ice; a resemblance which enabled the
animal, no doubt, to approach the seals with greater facility.

By midnight all fears for the safety of the vessels had ceased; indeed,
as far as our searching ships had been concerned, there never had been
much cause for fear, the operation of docking having been carried out
by us more for the sake of practice than from necessity. We were
tightly beset until the following evening, when the ice as suddenly
moved off as it had come together; and then a scene of joyful
excitement took place, such as is only to be seen in the arctic
regions--every ship striving to be foremost in her escape from
imprisonment, and to lead ahead. Want of wind obliged the whalers and
Penny's brigs to be tracked along the floe-edge by the crews--a
laborious operation, which is done on our English canals by horses;
here, however, the powerful crews of fishermen, mustering from
thirty-five to fifty hands, fastened on by their track-belts to a
whale-line, and, with loud songs, made their vessels slip through the
water at an astonishing pace.

An odd proof of the unhandiness of such vessels as the "Resolute" and
"Assistance" was given to-day: the former endeavoured to tow herself
ahead by the aid of all her boats, a distance of about three or four
hundred yards, and was quite unable to do so, although the wind against
her hardly amounted to a cat's paw; the consequence was, that until the
steam vessels got hold, she was fast dropping astern of the whalers,
and, as was usually the case, every one's temper was going wrong. The
run was not a very long one, and in the heart of a fleet of icebergs we
again brought up: one whaler, "The Truelove," having turned back in
despair of a passage north-about to Pond's Bay.


From our position a good view of Melville Bay was to be had, and a more
melancholy one, eye never rested upon. Surrounded as we were with
bergs, we had to climb a neighbouring mass to obtain a clear horizon;
the prospect to seaward was not cheering; and from the Devil's Thumb
northward, one huge glacier spread itself. The first sensation we felt
was that of pity for the poor land--pressed down and smothered under so
deadly a weight: here and there, a strip of cliff protruded, black and
bare, from the edge of the _mer-de-glace_, whose surface, rough and
unpleasing, was of a sombre yellowish tint, with occasional masses of
basalt protruding through it, like the uplifted hands of drowning men:
it seemed Earth's prayer for light and life; but the ice, shroud-like,
enveloped it, and would not give up the dead.

_July 9th._--Every day taught us something: we had learned that the ice
went off as rapidly, if not more so, than it came in; and when an
opening occurred to-day, the "Pioneer," with the "Resolute" again in
tow, was ahead of the whalers, and close on Penny's heels.

The ice to-day lay much across, forming very tortuous channels; and the
performance of the screws, in twisting themselves and their tail-pieces
(the ships) round floe-pieces and bergs, was as interesting as it was
satisfactory. In some places we had to adopt a plan, styled by us
"making a cannon!" from its resemblance to the same feat in billiards.
This generally occurred at sharp and intricate turns, where the breadth
of water was considerably less than the length of the vessels; we then,
in order to get the vessel's stem in the proper direction, used to
steer her in such a way, that the bow on the opposite side to which we
wanted her to turn struck the ice with some force; the consequence was,
the steamer would turn short off, and save the risk of getting athwart
"the lead," and aid in checking the ship round at the same time.

Another novel application of steam took place to-day. We came to a bar
of ice, formed of loose floe-pieces of all sizes, but too small to
heave through by means of ice-anchors and lines; Penny stood close up
to it, but he could neither sail through it, nor warp; he had therefore
to make a long detour round its edge: _steam_ however was able to do
it; and with our knife-like bows, aided by the propeller, we soon
wedged a road through for ourselves and the "Resolute."

Detentions in the ice were amongst the most trying moments of our life
in the North; and from the composition of our squadron, namely, two
fast vessels, and two slow ones, the constant waiting for one another
put me much in mind of the old doggerel:--

    "The Earl of Chatham with sword drawn,
    Was waiting for Sir Richard Strachan;
    Sir Richard longing to be at 'em,
    Was waiting for the Earl of Chatham."

The risk of detention in such a region can be understood by all; but
few, perhaps, will appreciate the feeling of mingled passion and regret
with which the leading vessel in such a mission as we had in hand found
herself obliged to wait to close her consort, when all was water ahead,
and the chances of it remaining so were but slight. A few hours we all
knew had often made the difference of a passage across Melville Bay
without detention, or of a long, laborious voyage--here we were waiting
for our consorts.

On the 10th, a short tow; and in company with a portion of the whalers,
for several had retreated, we again had to dock, to escape nipping from
the ice, and on the morrow, a similar scene of hurry and excitement
took place when liberation came.


_Thursday, 11th._--Seven of the most enterprising whalers still hung on
our heels, and to-day found us all at a bar beyond which there was a
sea of water. Patience! was the "_mot d'ordre_;" and it vented itself
in a number of dinners and the winding-up of letters; for we all felt
that the hour of separation from the whalers would soon arrive. They
all were delighted with the performance of the steam vessels in the
ice, and quizzed our crews for sitting at their ease, whilst they had
to drag like horses. Captain Penny, likewise, candidly acknowledged
that he never thought they could have answered so well; and regretted
that he had not had a steam vessel. Our seamen fully appreciated the
good service the screws had done them: they had now been eleven days in
the ice, during every day of which period they had witnessed it working
effectually under every circumstance; they had seen the crews of the
whalers labouring at the track-line, at the oar, and in making and
shortening sail, both by day and by night; whilst our crews had nothing
to do beyond taking the ships in tow and casting them off again;
already I observed a really sincere anxiety upon all their parts for
the safety of the "screw." I heard from henceforth inquiries amongst
them, whenever a shock took place, "Whether _she_ was all right?" or
to my orders, a ready response--"All right, sir! she is all free of the

At night the bar opened, and giving the "Lady Franklin" a jerk into the
water beyond, the "Intrepid" and "Pioneer" rattled away with the ships
in tow, as hard as steam could take them. Oh, for one run of ninety
miles! There was open water ahead; but, alas! we could only get three
miles an hour out of our vessel--alone, we could have gone five; making
in a day's work the difference between seventy-two and one hundred and
twenty miles.

By two o'clock in the morning we had outrun both Penny and the whalers;
and, could we only have gone faster, assuredly the passage of Melville
Bay would have been that day effected. The land-floe was still fast,
reaching twenty-five or thirty miles off shore, and the pack had
drifted off some ten or fifteen miles; between the two we were steaming
at five o'clock in the morning of the 12th of July, and all was
promising--a headland called Cape Walker and Melville Monument opening
fast to view. The quarter-master grinned, as he made his report, that
he was sure we were in what was a fair lead into the North Water!

Hope is not prophecy! and so they will find who labour in the North;
for how changed was the prospect when I went on deck after a short
sleep--a south wind had sprung up. We were under sail. The pack was
coming in fast, and the signal "Prepare to take the ice," flying from
the Commodore's mast-head. We did take it, as the pack came against the
land-floe, with Cape Walker about abreast of us; and, in a few hours,
the "nip" took place. The "Intrepid" and "Pioneer" having gone into a
natural dock together, were secure enough until the projecting points
of the land-floe gave way, when the weight of the pressure came on the
vessels, and then we felt, for the first time, a Melville Bay squeeze.
The vessels, lifted by the floes, shot alternately ahead of one
another, and rode down the floe for some fifty yards, until firmly
imbedded in ice, which, in many layers, formed a perfect cradle under
their bottoms. We, of course, were passive spectators, beyond taking
the precaution to have a few men following the vessels over the ice
with two or three of the boats, in case of a fatal squeeze. The "Sweet
little Cherub" watched over the steamers, however, and, in a short
time, the pressure transferred itself elsewhere. Next day showed all of
Her Majesty's squadron beset in Melville Bay. The gale had abated, but
an immense body of ice had come in from the S.W. To the N.W. a dark
haze showed a water sky, but from it we must have been at least forty
miles. Between us and the shore, a land-floe, of some thirty miles in
width, followed the sinuosities of the coast-line. Bergs here and there
strewed its surface; but the major part of them formed what is called a
"reef," in the neighbourhood of Devil's Thumb, denoting either a bank
or shoal water in that direction.

[Headnote: _NARWHALES._]

A powerful sunlight obliged spectacles of every shade, size, and
description to be brought into use; and, as we walked about from ship
to ship, a great deal of joking and facetiousness arose out of the
droll appearance of some individuals,--utility, and not beauty, was,
however, generally voted the great essential in our bachelor community;
and good looks, by general consent, put away for a future day. Great
reflection, as well as refraction, existed for the time we remained
beset in this position; and the refraction on one occasion enabled us
to detect Captain Penny's brigs as well as the whalers, although they
must have been nearly thirty miles distant.

The ice slackening a little formed what are called "holes of water,"
and in these we soon observed a shoal of narwhales, or unicorn fish, to
be blowing and enjoying themselves. By extraordinary luck, one of the
officers of the "Intrepid," in firing at them, happened to hit one in a
vital part, and the brute was captured; his horn forming a handsome
trophy for the sportsman. The result of this was, that the unfortunate
narwhales got no peace; directly they showed themselves, a shower of
balls was poured into them.

This fish is found throughout the fishing-ground of Baffin's Bay, but
is not particularly sought for by our people. The Esquimaux kill it
with ease, and its flesh and skin are eaten as luxuries; the latter
especially, as an anti-scorbutic, even by the whalers, and some of our
crews partook of the extremely greasy-looking substance,--one man
vowing it was very like chestnuts! (?) I did not attempt to judge for
myself; but I have no doubt it would form good food to a really hungry
person. The narwhales vary in size, ranging sometimes, I am told, to
fourteen feet; the horns, of which I saw a great many at Whale-Fish
Isles, were from three feet to seven feet in length. The use of this
horn is a matter of controversy amongst the fishermen: it is almost too
blunt for offence, and its point, for about four inches, is always
found well polished, whilst the remainder of it is usually covered with
slime and greenish sea-weed. Some maintain that it roots up food from
the bottom of the sea with this horn; others, that it probes the clefts
and fissures of the floating ice with it, to drive out the small fish,
which are said to be its prey, and which instinctively take shelter
there from their pursuers. The body of the narwhale is covered with a
layer of blubber, of about two inches in thickness. This was removed,
and carefully boiled down to make oil; and the _krang_, or carcass, was
left as a decoy to molliemauks and ivory-gulls,--these latter birds
having for the first time been seen by me to-day. They are decidedly
the most graceful of sea-birds; and, from the exquisite purity of their
plumage when settled on a piece of ice or snow, it required a practised
eye to detect them. Not so the voracious and impertinent mollies--the
Procellaria of naturalists. Their very ugliness appeared to give them
security, and they are, in the North, what the vulture and carrion crow
are in more pleasant climes--Nature's scavengers.

The 14th and 15th of July found us still firmly beset, and sorely was
our patience taxed. In-shore of us, a firm unbroken sheet of ice
extended to the land, some fifteen miles distant. Across it, in various
directions, like hedge-rows in an English landscape, ran long lines of
piled-up hummocks, formed during the winter by some great pressure; and
on the surface, pools of water and sludge[1] broke the general monotony
of the aspect.

      [1] Is the term applied to half-thawed ice or snow.

[Headnote: _ANXIETY AND HOPE._]

The striking mass of rock, known as Melville's Monument, was clear of
snow, because it was too steep for ice to adhere; but every where else
huge domes of white showed where Greenland lay, except where Cape
Walker thrust its black cliff through the glacier to scowl upon us.

Tantalus never longed for water more than we did. Those who have been
so beset can alone tell of the watchfulness and headaching for water.
Now to the mast-head with straining eyes,--then arguing and inferring,
from the direction of wind and tide, that water must come. Others
strolling over to a hole, and with fragments of wood, or a measure,
endeavouring to detect that movement in the floes by which liberation
was to be brought about. Some sage in uniform, perhaps, tries to prove,
by the experience of former voyages, that the lucky day is passed or
close at hand; whilst wiser ones console themselves with exclaiming,
"That, at any rate, we are, as yet, before Sir James Ross's
expedition,--both in time and position."

The 16th of July showed more favourable symptoms, and Captain Penny was
seen working for a lane of water, a long way in-shore of us. In the
night, a general disruption of the fixed ice was taking place in the
most marvellous manner; and, by the next morning, there was nearly as
much water as there had before been ice. The two steamers, firmly
imbedded in a mass of ice, many miles in circumference, were drifting
rapidly to the southward, whilst the two ships, afloat in a large space
of water and fastened to the floe, awaited our liberation.

The prospect of a separation from the ships, when unavoidable, in no
wise depressed the spirits of my colleague of the "Intrepid," nor
myself. Like the man who lost a scolding wife, we felt if it must be
so, it was for the best, and we were resigned. But it was not to be;
the "Intrepid" with her screw, and the "Pioneer" with gunpowder, which,
for the first time, was now applied, shook the fragments apart in which
we were beset, and again we laid hold of our mentors. A thick fog
immediately enveloped us, and in it we got perfectly puzzled, took a
wrong lead, and, tumbling into a perfect _cul de sac_, made fast, to
await a break in the weather. The 18th of July, from the same cause, a
dense fog, was a lost day, and next day Penny again caught us up. He
reported the whalers to have given up all idea of a Northern fishery
this season. Alas! for the many friends who will be disappointed in not
receiving letters! and alas! for the desponding, who will croak and
sigh at the whalers failing to get across the bay, believing,
therefore, that _we_ shall fail likewise.

Penny had passed a long way inside of the spot the steamers had been
beset and nipped in; and he witnessed a sight which, although
constantly taking place, is seldom seen--the entire dissolution of an
enormous iceberg.


This iceberg had been observed by our squadron, and remarked for its
huge size and massiveness, giving good promise of resisting a century
of sun and thaw. All on board the "Lady Franklin" described as a most
wonderful spectacle this iceberg, without any warning, falling, as it
were, to pieces; the sea around it resembled a seething caldron, from
the violent plunging of the masses, as they broke and rebroke in a
thousand pieces! The floes, torn up for a distance of ten miles by the
violent action of the rollers, threatened, by the manner the ice was
agitated, to destroy any vessel that had been amongst it; and they
congratulated themselves, on being sufficiently removed from the scene
of danger, to see without incurring any immediate risk.

The fog again lifted for a short time. Penny went in my "crow's nest,"
as well as into the "Resolute's," and soon gave us the disagreeable
intelligence, that the land-floe had broken up, and we were in the
pack, instead of having, as we had fancied, "fast ice" to hold on by;
and, as he remarked, "We can do nothing but push for it;--it's all
broken ice, and push we must, in-shore, or else away we go with the
loose floes!"

With this feeling the six vessels started in the night, in an
indifferent and cross lead, we towing the "Resolute" and "Lady
Franklin,"--the "Intrepid," with "Assistance" and "Sophia," astern.
Breaking through two light barriers of ice, the prospect was improving;
and, as they said from the "crow's nest," that eight miles of water was
beyond a neck of ice ahead, I cast off the vessel in tow to charge the
ice; at first she did well, but the floe was nearly six feet thick,
hard and sound, and a pressure on it besides. The "Pioneer" was again
caught, and the squadron anchored to the floe to await an opening. A
few hours afterwards we were liberated, and, moving the vessel as far
astern as we could, the fact was duly reported to the senior officer;
but, as the road ahead was not open, no change of position could be
made. On the morning of the 20th we were again beset, and a south gale
threatened to increase the pressure; escape was, however, impossible,
and "Fear not, but trust in Providence" is a necessary motto for Arctic
seamen. My faith in this axiom was soon put to the proof. After a short
sleep I was called on deck, as the vessel was suffering from great
pressure. My own senses soon made it evident; every timber and plank
was cracking and groaning, the vessel was thrown considerably over on
her side, and lifted bodily, the bulkheads cracking, and treenails and
bolts breaking with small reports. On reaching the deck, I saw indeed
that the poor "Pioneer" was in sad peril; the deck was arching with the
pressure on her sides, the scupper-pieces were turning up out of the
mortices, and a quiver of agony wrung my craft's frame from stem to
taffrail, whilst the floe, as if impatient to overwhelm its victim, had
piled up as high as the bulwark in many places.

The men who, whaler-fashion, had, without orders I afterwards learnt,
brought their clothes on deck, ready to save their little property,
stood in knots, waiting for directions from the officers, who, with
anxious eye, watched the floe-edge as its ground passed the side, to
see whether the strain was easing; suddenly it did so, and we were
safe! But a deep dent in the "Pioneer's" side, extending for some forty
feet, and the fact, as we afterwards learnt, of twenty-one timbers
being broken upon one side, proved that her trial had been a severe

Again had the ice come in upon us from the S.W., and nothing but a
steady, watchful progress through the pack was left to our squadron, as
well as Penny's. But I shall not weary the reader with the dry detail
of our every-day labours,--their success or futility. Keenly and
anxiously did we take advantage of every move in the ice, between the
20th and 31st July, yet, not seven miles in the right direction was
made good; the first of August found us doubting, considerably, the
prospect of reaching Lancaster Sound by a northern passage; and Capt.
Penny decided, if the water approached him from the south, to strike to
the westward in a lower latitude.

[Headnote: _"PIONEER" NIPPED._]

The ships--generally the "Resolute"--kept the lead in our heaving and
warping operation through the pack; and, leaving a small portion of the
crews to keep the other vessels close up under her stern, the majority
of the officers and men laboured at the headmost ship, to move her
through the ice. Heaving ahead with stout hawsers, blasting with
gunpowder, cutting with ice-saws, and clipping with ice-chisels, was
perseveringly carried on; but the progress fell far short of the labour
expended, and the bluff bow slipped away from the nip instead of
wedging it open. Warping the "Resolute" through a barrier of ice by
lines out of her hawse-holes, put me in mind of trying to do the same
with a cask, by a line through the bung-hole: she slid and swerved
every way but the right one, ahead; I often saw her bring dead up, as
if a wall had stopped her. After a search, some one would exclaim,
"Here is the piece that jams her!" and a knock with a two-pound chisel
would bring up a piece of ice two or three inches thick! In short, all,
or nearly all, of us soon learnt to see, that the fine bow was the one
to get ahead in these regions; and the daily increasing advantage which
Penny had over us, was a proof which the most obstinate could not

I often thought how proud our countrymen would be of their seamen,
could they have looked on the scene of busy energy and activity
displayed in the solitude of Melville Bay:--the hearty song, the merry
laugh, and zealous labours of the crew; day after day the same
difficulties to contend with, yet day after day met with fresh
resolution and new resources; a wide horizon of ice, no sea in sight,
yet every foot gained to the northward was talked of with satisfaction
and delight; men and officers vieing with one another in laborious
duties, the latter especially, finding amongst a body of seamen,
actuated by such noble and enthusiastic feelings, no necessity to fear
an infringement of their dignity. The etiquette of the quarter-deck was
thrown on one side for the good of the common cause; and on every side,
whether at the capstan, at the track-line, hauling, heaving, or
cutting, the officer worked as hard as the seamen,--each was proud of
the other, and discipline suffered nought, indeed improved: for here
Jack had both precept and example.

If we had our labours, it is not to be wondered at that we had also our
leisure and amusements, usually at night,--a polar night robed in
light,--then, indeed, boys fresh from school never tossed care more to
the winds than did the majority of us. Games, which men in any other
class of society would vote childish, were entered into with a zest
which neither gray hairs nor stout bodies in any degree had damped.
Shouts of laughter! roars of "Not fair, not fair! run again!" "Well
done, well done!" from individuals leaping and clapping their hands
with excitement, arose from many a merry ring, in which "rounders,"
with a cruelly hard ball, was being played. In other directions the
fiddle and clarionet were hard at work, keeping pace with heels which
seemed likely never to cease dancing, evincing more activity than
grace. Here a sober few were heaving quoits, there a knot of Solomons
talked of the past, and argued as to the future, whilst in the distance
the sentimental ones strolled about, thinking no doubt of some one's
goodness and beauty, in honour of whom, like true knights, they had
come thus far to win bright honour from the "Giant of the North."

Sometimes a bear would come in sight, and then his risk of being shot
was not small, for twenty keen hands were out after the skin: it had
been promised as a _gage d'amour_ by one to his betrothed; to a sister
by another; a third intended to open the purse-strings of a
hard-hearted parent by such a proof of regard; and not a few were to go
to the First Lord with it, in exchange for a piece of parchment, if he
would not object to the arrangement.

[Headnote: _LIEUT. HALKETT'S BOAT._]

Every day our sportsmen brought home a fair proportion of loons and
little auks, the latter bird flying in immense flocks to all the
neighbouring pools of water, and to kill ten or twelve of them at a
shot when settled to feed, was not considered as derogatory to the
character of a Nimrod, where the question was a purely gastronomic one.
I found in my shooting excursions an India-rubber boat, constructed
upon a plan of my dear friend Peter Halkett, to be extremely
convenient; in it I floated down the cracks of water, landed on
floe-pieces, crossed them dragging my boat, and again launched into
water in search of my feathered friends. At the Whale-Fish Islands,
much to the delight of my Esquimaux friends, I had paddled about in the
inflated boat, and its portability seemed fully to be appreciated by
them, though they found fault with the want of speed, in which it fell
far short of their own fairy craft.

The separation of the squadron, occasioned by either mistake or
accident, detained us for a few days in the beginning of August, in
order that junction might again take place. Penny, by dint of hard
tracking and heaving, gained seven miles upon us. For several days a
schooner, a ketch, and a single-masted craft, had been seen far to the
southward; they were now rapidly closing, and we made them out to be
the "Felix," Sir J. Ross, with his boat towing astern, and the "Prince
Albert," belonging to Lady Franklin, in charge of Commander Forsyth.

_August 5th._--Plenty of water. The "Assistance" received orders to
proceed (when her consort the "Intrepid" joined her) to the north shore
of Lancaster Sound, examine it and Wellington Channel, and having
assured themselves that Franklin had not gone up by that route to the
N.W., to meet us between Cape Hotham and Cape Walker. I regretted that
the shore upon which the first traces would undoubtedly be found,
should have fallen to another's share: however, as there seemed a
prospect of separation, and by doing so, progress, I was too rejoiced
to give it a second thought; and that the "Assistance" would do her
work well, was apparent to all who witnessed the zeal and skill
displayed by her people in the most ordinary duty.

Taking in our ice-anchors, and getting hold of the "Resolute," I bid my
friends of the "Assistance" good-bye, thinking that advance was now
likely: this hope soon failed me, for again we made fast, and again we
all waited for one another.

Amongst many notes of the superiority of steam over manual labour in
the ice, I will extract two made to-day.

The "Assistance" was towed by the "Intrepid" in fifteen minutes, a
distance which it took the "Resolute," followed by the "Pioneer," from
10 A.M. to 3 P.M. to track and warp.

The "Intrepid" steamed to a berg in ten minutes, and got past it. The
rest of the squadron, by manual labour, succeeded in accomplishing the
same distance in three hours and a half, namely, from 7 P.M. to 10 30
P.M., by which time the ice had closed ahead, and we had to make fast.

_August 6th and 7th._--Very little progress: and a squadron of
blank faces showed that there were many taking a deep and anxious
interest in the state of affairs. The remark that Sir James Ross's
expedition was by this time, in 1848, in a better position than
ourselves, and only found time to secure winter quarters at Leopold
Island, was constantly heard: there was, in fact, but one hope
left,--we had steam, and there was yet thirty days of open navigation.

[Headnote: _CHARGING THE ICE._]

Friday the 9th of August at last arrived. Captain Penny's squadron was
gone out of sight in a lane of water towards Cape York. The schooner
and ketch were passing us: caution yielded to the grim necessity of a
push for our very honour's sake: the ship was dropped out of the nip,
the "Pioneer" again allowed to put her wedge-bow, aided by steam, to
the crack. In one hour we were past a barrier which had checked our
advance for three long weary days. All was joy and excitement: the
steamers themselves seemed to feel and know their work, and exceeded
even our sanguine expectations; and, to every one's delight, we were
this evening allowed to carry on a system of ice-breaking which will
doubtless, in future Arctic voyages, be carried out with great success.
For instance, a piece of a floe, two or three hundred yards broad, and
three feet thick, prevented our progress: the weakest and narrowest
part being ascertained, the ships were secured as close as possible
without obstructing the steam vessels, the major part of the crews
being despatched to the line where the cut was to be made, with tools
and gunpowder for blasting, and plenty of short hand-lines and claws.

The "Pioneer" and "Intrepid," then, in turn rushed at the floe,
breaking their way through it until the impetus gained in the open
water was lost by the resistance of the ice. The word "Stop her! Back
turn, easy!" was then given, and the screw went astern, carrying with
her tons of ice, by means of numerous lines which the blue-jackets, who
attended on the forecastle, and others on broken pieces of the floe,
held on by. As the one vessel went astern, the other flew ahead to her
work. The operation was, moreover, aided by the explosions of powder;
and altogether the scene was a highly interesting and instructive one:
it was a fresh laurel in the screw's wreath; and the gallant "Intrepid"
gave a _coup-de-grace_ to the mass, which sent it coach-wheeling
round, as it is termed; and the whole of the squadron taking the nip,
as Arctic ships should do, we were next morning in the true lead, and
our troubles in Melville Bay were at an end.

It was now the 10th of August. By heavens! I shall never forget the
light-heartedness of that day. Forty days had we been beset in the ice,
and one day of fair application of steam, powder, and men, and the
much-talked-of bay was mastered. There was, however, no time to be
lost. The air was calm, the water was smooth; the land-floe (for we had
again reached it) lay on the one hand--on the other the pack, from
whose grip we had just escaped, still threatened us. Penny had been out
of sight some time, and the "Felix" and "Prince Albert" were nearly ten
miles ahead!

Gentle Reader, I'll bore you no longer! We had calm water and
steam,--the ships in tow,--our progress rapid,--the "Albert" and
"Felix" were caught,--their news joyfully received,--and they taken in
tow likewise. The dates from England were a month later than our own:
all our friends were well,--all hopeful; and, putting those last dear
letters away, to be read and re-read during the coming winter, we
pushed on, and there was no time to be lost. Several nights before we
escaped from the pack the frost had been intense, and good sliding was
to be had on the pools formed by summer heat on the floes. The
bay-ice[2] was forming fast, and did not all melt during the day. The
birds had finished breeding; and, with the fresh millions that had been
added to their numbers, were feeding up preparatory to their departure
south. The sun was sweeping, _nightly_, nearer and nearer to the
northern horizon. Night once set in, we knew full well the winter would
come with giant strides. "Push on, good screw!" was on every one's lip;
and anxiety was seen on every brow, if by accident, or for any purpose,
the propeller ceased to move. "What's the matter? All right, I hope!"
Then a chuckle of satisfaction at being told that "nothing was amiss!"

      [2] First winter ice, or young ice, is called bay-ice, from an
      old Yorkshire word _bay_, to bend.--_Author._


Time did not allow us, or I verily believe we might have killed tons of
birds between Cape Walker and Cape York, principally little auks (_Alca
alle_);--they actually blackened the edge of the floe for miles. I had
seen, on the coast of Peru, near the great Guano mines, what I thought
was an inconceivable number of birds congregated together; but they
were as nothing compared with the myriads that we disturbed in our
passage, and their stupid tameness would have enabled us to kill as
many as we pleased.

On August 13th, Cape York being well in sight, Penny's brigs were again
in view; and whilst the "Intrepid" and "Assistance," with the "Prince
Albert," communicated with the natives of Cape York, the "Pioneer"
pushed on, and soon passed the brigs, who, although they knew full well
that the late arrivals from England had letters for them, were to be
seen pushing tooth and nail, to get to the westward.

Slow--as slow as possible--we steamed all day along the "Crimson Cliffs
of Beverley." The interview with the natives of Cape York, alas! was to
cost us much. My frame of mind at the time was far from heavenly; for
"Large Water" was ahead, our squadron many a long mile from its work;
and I was neither interested, at the time, in Arctic Highlanders or
"Crimson Snow!" In the evening the "Assistance" joined us; and I was
told that "important information had been gained." We were to turn
back; and the "Intrepid" went in chase of Penny, to get the aid of his
interpreter, Mr. Petersen.

I remember being awoke at six o'clock on the morning of the 14th of
August, and being told a hobgoblin story, which made me rub my eyes,
and doubt my own hearing. What I thought of it is neither here nor
there. Suffice it that Adam Beck--may he be branded for a
liar!--succeeded, this day, in misleading a large number of Her
Majesty's officers (as his attested document proves), and in detaining,
for two days, the squadrons in search of Franklin. No one with common
perception, who witnessed the interview on our deck between Mr.
Petersen, Adam Beck, and our new shipmate, the Esquimaux from Cape
York, could fail to perceive that Mr. P. and the Cape York native
understood one another much better than the latter could the vile Adam
Beck; and had I had any doubts upon the subject, they would have been
removed when I learnt that Petersen had seen and communicated with
these very natives before our squadron came up, and that no such bloody
tale had been told him; in fact, it was the pure coinage of Adam Beck's
brain, cunningly devised to keep, at any rate, his own ship on a coast
whither he could escape to the neighbourhood of his home in South

The fact of the "North Star" having wintered last year in Wolstenholme
Sound, or "Petowack," was elicited, and that the natives had been on
board of her. The "Assistance" and "Intrepid," therefore, remained to
visit that neighbourhood, whilst we proceeded to the south shore of
Lancaster Sound, touching, as had been pre-arranged, at Pond's Bay and
Cape Possession.

Steaming along the Crimson Cliffs for a second time, we left the "Lady
Franklin" and "Sophia," in a stark calm, to do their best. Fewer ships,
the faster progress; and heartily did all cheer when, at midnight, we
turned to the N.W., leaving the second division to do their work in
Wolstenholme Sound. So ended the memorable 14th of August: it will be,
doubtless, remembered by many with far from pleasant feelings; and some
who have been "gulled" in England may thank Mr. Petersen that a
carrier-pigeon freighted with a cock-and-bull story of blood, fire,
wreck, and murder, was not despatched on that memorable day.

[Headnote: _THE WEST WATER._]

The 15th we struck westward, that is, the "Pioneer," with "Resolute"
and "Prince Albert" in tow. After four hours of very intricate
navigation, called "reeving through the pack," we reached the West
Water,--a wide ocean of water without one piece of floe-ice, and very
few icebergs. The change was wonderful--incredible. Here was nothing
but water; and we were almost within sight, as we steered to the S.W.,
of the spot where, for forty-seven days, we had had nothing but ice!
ice! ice! Let us hurry on. The West Water (as usual with the water at
this season of the year) was covered with fog: in it we steered. The
"Resolute," as a capital joke, in return for the long weary miles we
had towed her, set, on one occasion, all studsails, and gave us a tow
for four hours. When off the mouth of Lancaster Sound, the "Prince
Albert" was cast off; and she departed to carry out, as I then thought,
a part of the grand scheme of land travelling next year, into which it
became almost daily apparent the search for Franklin would resolve
itself. Already had night commenced; next came winter.

Touching at Pond's Bay was made a longer proceeding than was ever
calculated upon, for a succession of thick fogs and strong gales
prevented the "Pioneer" running into the bay, or ascertaining whether
cairns or other marks had been erected on the coast.

The 21st of August came before we had a change of weather: happily it
then took place; and the "Pioneer" (having some days before left the
"Resolute," to cruise off Possession Bay) entered Pond's Bay, running
up the northern shore towards a place called Button Point.

The "West Land," as this side of Baffin's Bay is called, strikes all
seamen, after struggling through the icy region of Melville Bay, as
being verdant and comparatively genial. We all thought so, and feasted
our eyes on valleys, which, in our now humbled taste, were voted
beautiful,--at any rate there were signs and symptoms of verdure; and
as we steered close along the coast, green and russet colours were
detected and pointed out with delight. The bay was calm and glassy, and
the sun to the west, sweeping along a water horizon, showed pretty
plainly that Pond's Bay, like a good many more miscalled bays of this
region, was nothing more than the bell-shaped mouth to some long fiord
or strait.

One of my ice-quartermasters, a highly intelligent seaman, assured me
he had been in a whale-boat up this very inlet, until they conjectured
themselves to be fast approaching Admiralty Inlet; the country there
improved much in appearance, and in one place they found abundance of
natives, deer, and grass as high as his knees. I landed with a boat's
crew on Button Point. The natives had retired into the interior to kill
deer and salmon: this they are in the habit of doing every season when
the land ice breaks up. Numerous unroofed winter habitations and
carefully secured _cachés_ of seal-blubber proved that they had been
here in some numbers, and would return to winter after the ice had
again formed in the bay, and the seals began to appear, upon which the
existence of the Esquimaux depends.

On first landing we had been startled by observing numerous cairns,
standing generally in pairs: these we pulled down one after the other,
and examined without finding any thing in them; and it was only the
accidental discovery by one of the men of a seal-blubber _caché_,
which showed that the cairns were merely marks by which the Esquimaux,
on their return in the winter, could detect their stores.

[Headnote: _LANCASTER SOUND._]

The winter abode of these Esquimaux appeared to be sunk from three to
four feet below the level of the ground: a ring of stones, a few feet
high, were all the vestiges we saw. No doubt they completed the
habitation by building a house of snow of the usual dome shape over the
stones and sunken floor. Having no wood, whale-bones had been here
substituted for rafters, as is usual along the whole breadth of the
American coast-line from Behring's Straits; but many of the hovels had
no rafters. On the whole the impression was, that the natives here
lived in a state of much greater barbarity and discomfort than those we
had seen about the Danish settlements on the opposite shore.

A cairn was erected by us; a record and some letters deposited for the
natives to put on board whalers at a future season; and having placed a
number of presents for the poor creatures in the different huts, and on
the _cachés_, we hurried on board and made the best of our way to
Possession Bay, and rejoined the "Resolute," from whom we learnt that
the "North Star" had placed a record there, to say, that after having
failed to cross Baffin's Bay in 1849, she had done so in 1850, and had
gone up Lancaster Sound to seek the "Enterprise" and "Investigator,"
under Sir James Ross, they having, as we knew, meanwhile, gone home,
been paid off, recommissioned, and were now, please God, in the Arctic
Ocean, by way of Behring's Straits.

_August 22d, 1850._--The "Resolute" in company, and steering a course
up Lancaster Sound.

The great gateway, within whose portals we were now fast entering, has
much in it that is interesting in its associations to an English
seaman. Across its mouth, the bold navigator Baffin, 200 years before,
had steered, pronounced it a sound, and named it after the Duke of
Lancaster. About thirty-five years ago it was converted into a bay by
Sir John Ross; and within eighteen months afterwards, Parry, the prince
of Arctic navigators, sailed through this very bay, and discovered new
lands extending half of the distance towards Behring's Straits, or
about 600 miles. To complete the remaining 600 miles of unknown region,
Sir John Franklin and his 140 gallant followers had devoted
themselves,--with what resolution, with what devotion, is best told by
their long absence and our anxiety.

The high and towering ranges of the Byam Martin Mountains looked down
upon us from the southern sky, between fast-passing fog-banks and
fitful gusts of wind, which soon sobbed themselves into a calm, and
steam, as usual, became our friend: with it the "Pioneer," towing the
"Resolute" astern, steered for the north shore of Lancaster Sound; and
on August 25th we were off Croker Bay, a deep indentation between Cape
Warrender and Cape Home. The clouds hung too heavily about the land,
distant as we were, to see more than the bare outline, but its broken
configuration gave good hope of numerous harbours, fiords, and creeks.
From Cape Home, we entered on a new and peculiar region of limestone
formation, lofty and tabular, offering to the seaboard cliffs steep and
escarped as the imagination can picture to be possible. By the
beautiful sketches of Parry's officers, made on his first voyage, we
easily recognized the various headlands; the north shore being now
alone in view; and indeed, except the mountains in the interior, we saw
nothing more of the south shore of Lancaster Sound after leaving
Possession Bay.


Of Powell Inlet we saw an extensive glacier extending into the sound,
and a few loose 'berg pieces floating about. This glacier was regarded
with some interest; for, remarkably enough, it is the last one met with
in sailing westward to Melville Island.

The iceberg, as it is well known, is the creation of the glacier; and
where land of a nature to form the latter does not exist, the former is
not met with.

The region we had just left behind us is the true home of the iceberg
in the northern hemisphere. There, in Baffin's Bay, where the steep
cliffs of cold granitic formation frown over waters where the ordinary
"deep sea lead-line" fails to find bottom, the monarch of glacial
formations floats slowly from the ravine which has been its
birth-place, until fairly launched in the profound waters of the
Atlantic, and in the course of many years is carried to the warmer
regions of the south, to assist Nature in preserving her great laws of
equilibrium of temperature of the air and water.

At one period--and not a very distant one either--savans, and, amongst
others, the French philosopher St. Pierre, believed icebergs to be the
accumulated snow and ice of ages, which, forming at the poles, detached
themselves from the parent mass: this, as they then thought, had no
reference to the existence of land or water. Such an hypothesis for
some time gave rise to ingenious and startling theories as to the
effect which an incessant accumulation of ice would have on the globe
itself; and St. Pierre hinted at the possibility of the huge cupolas of
ice, which, as he believed, towered aloft in the cold heavens of the
poles, suddenly launching towards the equator, melting, and bringing
about a second deluge.

Had the immortal Cook been aware of the certainty of land being close
to him, when, in the Antarctic regions, he found himself amongst no
less than one hundred and eighty-six icebergs in December, 1773; he
who, from the deck of a collier, had risen to be the Columbus of
England, might have then plucked the laurel which Sir James Ross so
gallantly won in the discovery of the circumpolar continent of Queen
Victoria's Land.

On every side of the southern pole, on every meridian of the great
South Sea, the seaman meets icebergs. Not so in the north. In the 360
degrees of longitude, which intersects the parallel of 70 degrees north
(about which parallel the coasts of America, Europe, and Asia will be
found to lie), icebergs are only found over an extent of some 55
degrees of longitude, and this is immediately in and about Greenland
and Baffin's Bay. In fact, for 1375 miles of longitude we have
icebergs, and then for 7635 geographical miles none are met with. This
interesting fact is, in my opinion, most cheering, and points strongly
to the possibility that no extensive land exists about our northern
pole,--a supposition which is borne out by the fact, that the vast
ice-fields off Spitzbergen show no symptoms of ever having been in
contact with land or gravel. Of course, the more firmly we can bring
ourselves to believe in the existence of an ocean road leading to
Behring's Straits, the better heart we shall feel in searching the
various tortuous channels and different islands with which, doubtless,
Franklin's route has been beset. It was not, therefore, without deep
interest that I passed the boundary which Nature had set in the west to
the existence of icebergs, and endeavoured to form a correct idea of
the cause of such a phenomenon.


Whilst this digression upon icebergs has taken place, the kind reader
will suppose the calm to have ceased, and the "Resolute" and "Pioneer,"
under sail before a westerly wind, to be running from the table-land on
the north shore of Lancaster Sound, in a diagonal direction towards
Leopold Island. On the 26th of August, Cape York gleamed through an
angry sky, and as Regent's Inlet opened to the southward, there was
little doubt but we should soon be caught in an Arctic gale: we,
however, cared little, provided there was plenty of water ahead, though
of that there appeared strong reasons for entertaining doubts, as both
the temperature of the air and water was fast falling.

That night--for night was now of some two hours' duration--the wind
piped merrily, and we rolled most cruelly; the long and narrow
"Pioneer" threatening to pitch every spar over the side, and refusing
all the manoeuvring upon the part of her beshaken officers and men to
comfort and quiet her.

A poet, who had not been fourteen hours in the cold, and whose body was
not racked by constant gymnastic exertion to preserve his bones from
fracture, might have given a beautiful description of the lifting of a
fierce sky at about half-past one in the morning, and a disagreeable
glimpse through snow-storm and squall of a bold and precipitous coast
not many miles off, and ahead of us. I cannot undertake to do so, for I
remember feeling far from poetical, as, with a jerk and a roll, the
"Pioneer," under fore and aft canvas, came to the wind. Fast increasing
daylight showed us to have been thrown considerably to the northward;
and as we sailed to the south the ice showed itself in far from
pleasing proximity under the lee--_boiling_, for so the edge of a pack
appears to do in a gale of wind. It was a wild sight; but we felt that,
at any rate, it was optional with a screw steamer whether she ran into
the pack or kept the sea, for her clawing-to-windward power astonished
us who had fought in the teeth of hard gales elsewhere in flying
Symondite brigs. Not so, however, thought a tough old Hull quarter-master
whose weather-beaten face peered anxiously over the lee, and watched
the "Resolute" beating Cromer-a-lee, for I heard him growl out, "Wull,
if they are off a strait lee-pack edge, the sooner they make up their
minds to run into it the better!" "Why so, Hall?" I inquired. "Because,
sir," replied the old man, "that ship is going two feet to leeward for
one she is going ahead, and she would _never_ work off _nothing!_"

"Pleasant!" I mentally ejaculated; but, willing to hear more from my
dry old friend, who was quite a character in his way,--"Perhaps," I
said, "you have occasionally been caught in worse vessels off such a
pack as you describe, or a lee shore, and still not been lost?"

"Oh! Lord, sir! we have some rum craft in the whaling ships, but I
don't think any thing so sluggish as the Resolute.' Howsomdever, they
gets put to it now and then. Why, it was only last year, we were down
on the south-west fishing-ground: about the 10th of October, it came on
to blow, sir, from the southward, and sent in a sea upon us, which
nearly drowned us: we tried to keep an offing, but it was no use; we
couldn't show a rag; every thing was blown away, and it was perishing
cold; but our captain was a smart man, and he said,--'Well, boys, we
must run for Hangman's Cove,[3] altho' it's late in the day; if we
don't, I won't answer where we'll be in the morning."

      [3] Hangman's Cove, a small harbour on the west side of Davis's

"So up we put the helm, sir, to run for a place like a hole in a wall,
with nothing but a close-reefed topsail set, and the sky as thick as
pea-soup. It looked a bad job, I do assure you, sir. Just as it was
dark, we found ourselves right up against the cliffs, and we did not
know whether we were lost or saved until by good luck we shot into dead
smooth water in a little cove, and let go our anchor. Next day a calm
set in, and the young ice made round the ship: we couldn't cut it, and
we couldn't tow the vessel through it. We had not three months'
provisions, and we made certain sure of being starved to death; when
the wind came strong off the land, and, by working for our lives, we
escaped, and went home directly out of the country."

"A cheering tale, this, of the Hangman's Cove," I thought, as I turned
from my Job's comforter; and, satisfying myself that the pack precluded
all chance of reaching Leopold Island for the present, I retired to


Next day, the 27th of August, found us steering past Cape Hurd, off
which the pack lay at a distance of some ten miles, and, as we ran
westward, and the breadth of clear water gradually diminished, the wind
failed us; although, astern in Lancaster Sound, there was still a dark
and angry sky betokening a war of the elements, whereas where we were
off Radstock Bay--all was calm, cold, and arctic.

"Up steam, and take in tow!" was again the cry; and as the pack, acted
on by the tide, commenced to travel quickly in upon Cape Ricketts, we
slipped past it, and reached an elbow formed between that headland and
Beechey Island. The peculiar patch of broken table-land, called
Caswell's Tower, as well as the striking cliffs of slaty limestone
along whose base we were rapidly steaming, claimed much of our
attention; and we were pained to see, from the strong ice-blink to the
S.W., that a body of packed ice had been driven up the straits by the
late gales.

The sun was fast dipping behind North Devon, and a beautiful moon (the
first we had found any use for since passing Cape Farewell on the 28th
of May) was cheerfully accepted as a substitute, when the report of a
boat being seen from the mast-head startled us and excited general
anxiety. We were then off Gascoigne Inlet, the "Resolute" in tow. The
boat proved to be the "Sophia's," and in her Captain Stewart and Dr.
Sutherland; they went on board the "Resolute," and, shortly afterwards,
the interesting intelligence they then communicated was made known to

It was this,--the "Assistance" and "Intrepid," after they left us, had
visited Wolstenholme Sound, and discovered the winter quarters of
H.M.S. "North Star," but nothing to lead them to place any faith in
Adam Beck's tale: from thence they had examined the north shore of
Lancaster Sound as far as Cape Riley, without discovering any thing; on
landing there, however, numerous traces of English seamen having
visited the spot were discovered in sundry pieces of rag, rope, broken
bottles, and a long-handled instrument intended to rake up things from
the bottom of the sea; marks of a tent-place were likewise visible. A
cairn was next seen on Beechey Island; to this the "Intrepid"
proceeded, and, as rather an odd incident connected with her search of
this spot took place, I shall here mention it, although it was not
until afterwards that the circumstance came to my knowledge.


The steamer having approached close under the island, a boat-full of
officers and men proceeded on shore: on landing, some relics of
European visitors were found; and we can picture the anxiety with which
the steep was scaled and the cairn torn down, every stone turned over,
the ground underneath dug up a little, and yet, alas! no document or
record found. Meanwhile an Arctic adventure, natural, but novel to one
portion of the actors, was taking place. The boat had left the
"Intrepid" without arms of any description, and the people on the top
of the cliff saw, to their dismay, a large white bear advancing rapidly
in the direction of the boat, which, by the deliberate way the brute
stopped and raised his head as if in the act of smelling, appeared to
disturb his olfactory nerves. The two men left in charge of the boat
happily caught sight of Bruin before he caught hold of them, and
launching the boat they hurried off to the steamer, whilst the
observers left on the cliff were not sorry to see the bear chase the
boat a short way and then turn towards the packed ice in the offing.
This event, together with some risk of the ice separating the two
vessels, induced the party to return on board, where a general (though,
as was afterwards proved, erroneous) impression had been created on the
minds of the people belonging to the two ships, that what they had
found must be the traces of a retreating or shipwrecked party from the
"Erebus" and "Terror." A short distance within Cape Riley, another
tent-place was found; and then, after a look at the coast up as far as
Cape Innis, the two vessels proceeded across towards Cape Hotham, on
the opposite side of Wellington Channel, having in the first place
erected a cairn at the base of Cape Riley, and in it deposited a

Whilst the "Assistance" and "Intrepid" were so employed, the American
squadron, and that under Captain Penny, were fast approaching. The
Americans first communicated with Captain Ommanney's division, and
heard of the discovery of the first traces of Sir John Franklin. The
Americans then informed Penny, who was pushing for Wellington Channel;
and he, after some trouble, succeeded in catching the "Assistance,"
and, on going on board of her, learnt all they had to tell him, and saw
what traces they had discovered. Captain Penny then returned--as he
figuratively expressed it--"to take up the search from Cape Riley like
a blood-hound," and richly was he rewarded for doing so.

At Cape Spencer he discovered the ground-plan of a tent, the floor of
which was neatly and carefully paved with small smooth stones. Around
the tent a number of bird's bones, as well as remnants of
meat-canisters, led him to imagine that it had been inhabited for some
time as a shooting station and a look-out place, for which latter
purpose it was admirably chosen, commanding a good view of Barrow's
Strait and Wellington Channel; this opinion was confirmed by the
discovery of a piece of paper, on which was written, "to be
called,"--evidently the fragments of an officer's night orders.

Some sledge marks pointed northward from this neighbourhood; and, the
American squadron being unable to advance up the strait (in consequence
of the ice resting firmly against the land close to Cape Innis, and
across to Barlow Inlet on the opposite shore), Lieut. de Haven
despatched parties on foot to follow these sledge marks, whilst Penny's
squadron returned to re-examine Beechey Island. The American officers
found the sledge tracts very distinct for some miles, but before they
had got as far as Cape Bowden, the trail ceased, and one empty bottle
and a piece of newspaper were the last things found in that direction.

Not so Captain Penny's squadron:--making fast to the ice between
Beechey Island and Cape Spencer, in what is now called Union Bay, and
in which they found the "Felix" schooner to be likewise lying, parties
from the "Lady Franklin" and "Sophia" started towards Beechey Island.


A long point of land slopes gradually from the southern bluffs of this
now deeply interesting island, until it almost connects itself with the
land of North Devon, forming, on either side of it, two good and
commodious bays. On this slope, a multitude of preserved meat-tins were
strewed about, and near them, and on the ridge of the slope, a
carefully constructed cairn was discovered: it consisted of layers of
meat-tins filled with gravel, and placed to form a solid foundation.
Beyond this, and along the northern shore of Beechey Island, the
following traces were then quickly discovered:--the embankment of a
house with carpenter and armourer's working-places, washing-tubs,
coal-bags, pieces of old clothing, rope, and, lastly, the graves of
three of the crew of the "Erebus" and "Terror,"--placing it beyond all
doubt, that the missing ships had indeed been there, and bearing date
of the winter of 1845-46.

We, therefore, now had ascertained the first winter quarters of Sir
John Franklin! Here fell to the ground all the evil forebodings of
those who had, in England, consigned his expedition to the depths of
Baffin's Bay, on its outward voyage. Our first prayer had been granted
by a beneficent Providence; and we had now risen, from doubt and hope,
to a certain assurance of Franklin having reached thus far without
shipwreck or disaster.

Leaving us in high spirits at the receipt of such glorious
intelligence, Captain Stewart proceeded in his boat to search the
coast-line towards Gascoigne Inlet and Caswell's Tower. We continued to
steam on; off Cape Riley a boat was despatched to examine the record
left by the "Assistance;" and, from her, I heard that the "Prince
Albert," which had been ordered by Lady Franklin down Regent's Inlet to
Brentford Bay, had visited the said cairn, deposited a document to say
so, and was gone, I now felt certain, home.

As the "Pioneer" slowly steamed through the loose ice which lay off
Beechey Island, the cairn erected by Franklin's people on the height
above us was an object of deep interest and conversation; and, placed
so conspicuously as it was, it seemed to say to the beating heart,
"Follow them that erected me!"

On rounding the western point, three brigs and a schooner were seen to
be fast to the land ice in Union Bay; and, as we had been in the habit
of almost scraping the cliffs in Baffin's Bay, I, forgetting the
difference between the approach to a granite and a limestone cliff, and
desirous to avoid the stream of ice now pouring out of Wellington
Channel, went too close to the shore, and eventually ran aground; the
"Resolute" just saved herself by slipping the tow-rope, and letting go
an anchor. A rapidly-falling tide soon showed me that I must be patient
and wait until next day, and, as the "Resolute" was in the course of
the night worked into the bay, and secured, we "piped down" for awhile.

_Wednesday, 28th August._--I was awoke by a hearty shake, and Captain
Penny's warm "Good-morning;" he had come out to me towing the "Mary," a
launch belonging to Sir John Ross, in order that I might lighten the
"Pioneer," and offered me the "Sophia" brig, to receive a portion of my
stores, if I would only say it was necessary.

"A friend in need is a friend indeed," and such Captain Penny proved
himself; for my position was far from a pleasant one,--on a hard spit
of limestone, in which no anchor could find holding ground, and, at low
water, five feet less than the draught of the "Pioneer," exposed to all
the set of the ice of the Wellington Channel and Barrow's Strait, with
about another week of the "open season" left.


All arrangements having been made to try and float the steamer at high
water, I had time to ask Captain Penny his news; the best part of which
was, that as yet nothing had been found in our neighbourhood to lead to
the inference that any party in distress had retreated from the
"Erebus" and "Terror." He considered the harbour chosen by Franklin for
his winter quarters was an excellent one.

Captain Penny gave no very cheering account of the prospect of a much
farther advance for ourselves: Wellington Channel was blocked up with a
very heavy floe, and Barrow's Strait to the westward was choked with
packed ice; the "Assistance" and "Intrepid" were to be seen off Barlow
Inlet, but their position was far from a secure one; and, lastly, Penny
told me he intended, after the result of a fresh search for a record on
Beechey Island was known, to communicate with the "Assistance," in
order that Captain Ommanney might be fully informed of all that had
been discovered, and that we might learn whether any thing had been
found at Cape Hotham.

On the 29th of August, the "Pioneer," much to my joy, was again afloat,
and fast to the ice in company with the other vessels; and, although my
officers and crew were well fagged out with forty-eight hours' hard
labour, parties of them, myself amongst the number, were to be seen
trudging across the ice of Union Bay towards Franklin's winter

It needed not a dark wintry sky nor a gloomy day to throw a sombre
shade around my feelings as I landed on Beechey Island and looked down
upon the bay, on whose bosom once had ridden Her Majesty's ships
"Erebus" and "Terror;" there was a sickening anxiety of the heart as
one involuntarily clutched at every relic they of Franklin's squadron
had left behind, in the vain hope that some clue as to the route they
had taken hence might be found.

From the cairn to the long and curving beach, from the frozen surface
of the bay to the tops of the distant cliffs, the eye involuntarily but
keenly sought for something more than had yet been found.

But, no; as sharp eyes, as anxious hearts, had already been there, and
I was obliged to be content with the information, which my observation
proved to be true, that the search had been close and careful, but that
nothing was to be found in the shape of written record.

On the eastern slope of the ridge of Beechey Island, a remnant of a
garden (for remnant it now only was, having been dug up in the search)
told an interesting tale: its neatly-shaped oval outline, the border
carefully formed of moss, lichen, poppies, and anemones, transplanted
from some more genial part of this dreary region, contrived still to
show symptoms of vitality; but the seeds which doubtless they had sown
in the garden had decayed away. A few hundred yards lower down, a
mound, the foundation of a storehouse, was next to be seen; the
ground-plan was somewhat thus:--

[Illustration: North side, 61-1/2 feet long.

A B. B D.     } Exterior embankments, about four feet through at the
A C. E F.     } base and five feet high, in which posts had been sunk.

K L.          } An interior embankment of same description enclosing
              } a space, supposed store; had marks of posts in it
              } likewise.

C E. and F D. } The doorways.

H.            } Evidently a carpenter's workshop, from the shavings,

It consisted of an exterior and interior embankment, into which, from
the remnants left, we saw that oak and elm scantling had been struck as
props to the roofing; in one part of the enclosed space some coal-sacks
were found, and in another part numerous wood-shavings proved the
ship's artificers to have been working here. The generally received
opinion as to the object of this storehouse was, that Franklin had
constructed it to shelter a portion of his superabundant provisions and
stores, with which it was well known his decks were lumbered on leaving
Whale-Fish Islands.

Nearer to the beach, a heap of cinders and scraps of iron showed the
armourer's working-place; and along an old water-course, now chained up
by frost, several tubs, constructed of the ends of salt-meat casks,
left no doubt as to the washing-places of the men of Franklin's
squadron: happening to cross a level piece of ground, which as yet no
one had lighted upon, I was pleased to see a pair of Cashmere gloves
laid out to dry, with two small stones on the palms to prevent their
blowing away; they had been there since 1846. I took them up carefully,
as melancholy mementoes of my missing friends. In another spot a
flannel was discovered: and this, together with some things lying
about, would, in my ignorance of wintering in the Arctic Regions, have
led me to suppose that there was considerable haste displayed in the
departure of the "Erebus" and "Terror" from this spot, had not Captain
Austin assured me that there was nothing to ground such a belief upon;
and that, from experience, he could vouch for these being nothing more
than the ordinary traces of a winter station, and this opinion was
fully borne out by those officers who had in the previous year wintered
at Port Leopold, one of them asserting that people left winter quarters
too well pleased to escape to care much for a handful of shavings, an
old coal-bag, or a washing-tub. This I from experience now know to be

Looking at the spot on which Penny had discovered a boarding-pike, and
comparing it with a projecting point on the opposite side, where a
similar article had been found with a finger nailed on it as a
direction-post, I concluded that, in a line between these two
boarding-pikes, one or both of the ships had been at anchor, and this
conjecture was much borne out by the relative positions of the other
traces found; and besides this, a small cairn on the crest of Beechey
Island appears to have been intended as a meridian mark, and, if so,
Franklin's squadron undoubtedly lay where I would place it, far and
effectually removed from all risk of being swept out of the bay, which,
by the bye, from the fact of the enclosed area being many times broader
than the entrance of "Erebus and Terror Bay," was about as probable as
any stout gentleman being blown out of a house through the keyhole. In
the one case the stout individual would have to be cut up small, in the
other case the ice would have to be well broken up; and if so, it was
not likely Franklin would allow himself to be taken out of harbour,
_nolens volens_, whilst he had anchors to hook the ground with, and
ice-saws, with which his crews could have cut through _a mile of ice
three feet thick in twenty-four hours_.

[Headnote: _GRAVES OF SEAMEN._]

The graves next attracted our attention; they, like all that English
seamen construct, were scrupulously neat. Go where you will over the
globe's surface, afar in the East, or afar in the West, down amongst
the coral-girded isles of the South Sea, or here where the grim North
frowns on the sailor's grave, you will always find it alike; it is the
monument raised by rough hands, but affectionate hearts, over the last
home of their messmate; it breathes of the quiet church-yard in some of
England's many nooks, where each had formed his idea of what was due to
departed worth; and the ornaments that Nature decks herself with, even
in the desolation of the Frozen Zone, were carefully culled to mark the
dead seamen's home. The good taste of the officers had prevented the
general simplicity of an oaken head and foot-board to each of the three
graves being marred by any long and childish epitaphs, or the doggerel
of a lower-deck poet, and the three inscriptions were as follows:--

    "Sacred to the memory of J. Torrington, who departed this life,
    January 1st, 1846, on board of H.M.S. 'Terror,' aged 20 years."

    "Sacred to the memory of Wm. Braine, R.M., of H.M.S. 'Erebus;' died
    April 3d, 1846, aged 32 years.

    "'Choose ye this day whom ye will serve.'--Josh. xxiv. 15."

    "Sacred to the memory of J. Hartwell, A.B., of H.M.S. 'Erebus;'
    died January 4th, 1846, aged 25 years.

    "'Thus saith the Lord of Hosts, consider your ways.'--Haggai i. 7."

I thought I traced in the epitaphs over the graves of the men from the
"Erebus," the manly and Christian spirit of Franklin. In the true
spirit of chivalry, he, their captain and leader, led them amidst
dangers and unknown difficulties with iron will stamped upon his brow,
but the words of meekness, gentleness, and truth, were his device. We
have seen his career and we know his deeds!

    "Why should their praise in verse be sung?
    The name that dwells on every tongue
    No minstrel needs."

From the graves, a tedious ascent up the long northern slope of Beechey
Island carried us to the table-land, on whose southern verge, a cairn
of stones, to which I have before referred, was placed; it had been
several times pulled down by different searchers, and dug up
underneath, but carefully replaced. The position was an admirable one,
and appeared as if intentionally chosen to attract the attention of
vessels coming up Barrow's Strait: from it, on the day I was up, the
view was so extensive, that, did I not feel certain of being supported
by all those who have, like myself, witnessed the peculiar clearness,
combined with refraction, of the atmosphere in Polar climes, I should
bear in mind the French adage,--"La verité n'est pas toujours le
vraisemblable," and hold my peace.

To the west, the land of Cornwallis Island stretched up Wellington
Channel for many miles, and Cape Hotham locked with Griffith's Island.
In the south-west a dark mass of land showed Cape Walker, and from Cape
Bunny, the southern shore of Barrow's Strait spread itself until
terminated in the steep wall-like cliffs of Cape Clarence and Leopold

This latter spot, so interesting from having been the winter quarters
of the late relieving squadron under Sir James Ross, looked
ridiculously close,--to use a seaman's term, it appeared as if a
biscuit might have been tossed upon it; and the thought involuntarily
rose to one's mind,--Would to God that, in 1848, Sir James Ross had
known that within forty miles of him Franklin had wintered.

I have now nearly enumerated all the important points, to which, at all
hours of the day and night, parties from the eight vessels assembled in
Union Bay were constantly wending their way and returning; but around
the whole island there were abundant proofs of the missing expedition
having been no sluggards; for there was hardly a foot of the beach-line
which did not show signs of their having been there before us, either
in shooting excursions or other pursuits, and usually in the shape of a
preserved-meat tin, a piece of rope, or a strip of canvas or rag.

[Headnote: _BEECHEY ISLAND._]

On the eastern extreme of Beechey Island, and under a beetling cliff
which formed the entrance to the bay, a very neatly-paved piece of
ground denoted a tent-place; much pains had been bestowed upon it, and
a pigmy terrace had been formed around their abode, the margin of which
was decorated with moss and poppy plants: in an adjacent gully a
shooting-gallery had been established, as appeared by the stones placed
at proper distances, and a large tin marked "Soup and Bouilli," which,
perforated with balls, had served for a target. I carefully scanned the
flat slabs of slaty limestone, of which the over-hanging cliffs were
formed, in hopes of seeing some name, or date, scratched upon the
surface; some clue, mayhap, to the information we so dearly longed
for,--the route taken by Franklin on sailing hence, whether to Cape
Walker or up Wellington Channel. But, no; the silent cliff bore no
mark; by some fatality, the proverbial love for marking their names, or
telling their tales, on every object, which I have ever found in
seamen, was here an exception, and I turned to my vessel, after three
unprofitable walks on Beechey Island, with the sad conviction on my
mind, that, instead of being able to concentrate the wonderful
resources we had now at hand about Beechey Island in one line of
search, we should be obliged to take up the three routes which it was
probable Franklin might have taken in 1846; viz., S.W. by Cape Walker,
N.W. by Wellington Channel, or W. by Melville Island,--a division of
force tending to weaken the chance of reaching Franklin as quickly as
we could wish, unless circumstances were peculiarly favourable.

Vague reports of some of Captain Penny's people having seen
sledge-marks on the eastern shores of "Erebus and Terror Bay," induced
one of the officers of the "Pioneer" and myself to arrange with Captain
Penny to take a walk in that direction.

Landing on the north shore of Union Bay, at the base of the cliffs of
Cape Spencer, we were soon pointed out a deep sledge-mark, which had
cut through the edge of one of the ancient tide-marks, or terraces, and
pointed in a direct line from the cairn of meat-tins erected by
Franklin, on the northern spur of Beechey Island, to a valley which led
towards the bay between Capes Innis and Bowden. I conceived the trail
to be that of an outward-bound sledge, on account of its depth, which
denoted a heavily-ladened one.

Proceeding onward, our party were all much struck with the
extraordinary regularity of the terraces, which, with almost artificial
parallelism, swept round the base of the limestone cliffs and hills of
North Devon. That they were ancient tidal-marks, now raised to a
considerable elevation above the sea by the upheaval of the land, I was
the more inclined to believe, from the numerous fossil shells,
crustacea, and corallines which strewed the ground. The latter
witnesses to a once more genial condition of climate in these now
inclement regions, carried us back to the sun-blest climes, where the
blue Pacific lashes the coral-guarded isles of sweet Otaheite, and I
must plead guilty to a recreant sigh for past recollections and dear
friends, all summoned up by the contemplation of a fragment of

[Headnote: _SLEDGE TRAILS._]

The steep abutment of the cliffs on the north of "Erebus and Terror
Bay," obliged us to descend to the floe, along the surface of which we
rapidly progressed, passing the point on which the pike used by
Franklin's people as a direction-post had been found. At a point where
these said cliffs receded to the N.E., and towards the head of
Gascoigne Inlet, leaving a long strip of low land, which, connecting
itself with the bluffs of Cape Riley, forms the division between
Gascoigne Inlet and "Erebus and Terror Bay," a perfect congery of
sledge-marks showed the spot used for the landing-place, or rendezvous,
of Franklin's sledges.

Some of these sledge-marks swept towards Cape Riley, doubtless towards
the traces found by the "Assistance;" others, and those of
heavily-ladened sledges, ran northward, into a gorge through the hills,
whilst the remainder pointed towards Caswell's Tower, a remarkable mass
of limestone, which, isolated at the bottom of Radstock Bay, forms a
conspicuous object to a vessel approaching this neighbourhood from the
eastward or westward.

Deciding to follow the latter trail, we separated the party in such a
manner, that, if one lost the sledge-marks, others would pick them up.

Arriving at the margin of a lake, which was only one of a series, and
tasted decidedly brackish, though its connection with the sea was not
apparent, we found the site of a circular tent, unquestionably that of
a shooting-party from the "Erebus" or "Terror." The stones used for
keeping down the canvas lay around; three or four large ones, well
blackened by smoke, had been the fire-place; a porter-bottle or two,
several meat-tins, pieces of paper, birds' feathers, and scraps of the
fur of Arctic hares, were strewed about. Eagerly did we run from one
object to the other, in the hope of finding some stray note or record,
to say whether all had been well with them, and whither they had gone.
No, not a line was to be found. Disappointed, but not beaten, we turned
to follow up the trail.

The sledge-marks consisted of two parallel lines, about two feet apart,
and sometimes three or four inches deep into the gravel, or broken
limestone, of which the whole plain seemed to be formed. The difficulty
of dragging a sledge over such ground, and under such circumstances,
must have been great, and, between the choice of evils, the
sledge-parties appeared at last to have preferred taking to the slope
of the hills, as being easier travelling than the stony plain. A
fast-rising gale, immediately in our faces, with thick, driving snow
and drift, suddenly obscured the land about us, and rendered our
progress difficult and hazardous.

After edging to the northward for some time, as if to strike the head
of Gascoigne Inlet, the trail struck suddenly down upon the plain: we
did the same, and as suddenly lost our clue, though there was no doubt
on any of our minds, but that the sledge had gone towards Caswell's
Tower; for us to go there was, however, now impossible, having no
compass, and the snow-storm preventing us seeing more than a few
hundred yards ahead. We therefore turned back walking across the higher
grounds direct for the head of Union Bay, a route which gave us
considerable insight into the ravine-rent condition of this limestone
country, at much cost of bodily fatigue to ourselves. The glaciers in
the valleys, or ravines, hardly deserved the name, after the monsters
we had seen in Baffin's Bay, and, I should think, in extraordinary
seasons, they often melted away altogether, for, in spite of so severe
a one as the present year had been, there was but little ice remaining.

The gale raged fiercely as the day drew on, and, on getting sight of
Wellington Channel, the wild havoc amongst the ice made us talk
anxiously of that portion of our squadron which was now on the opposite
or lee side of the channel, as well as the American squadron that had
pushed up to the edge of the fixed ice beyond Point Innis.

Seven hours' hard walking left us pretty well done up by the time we
tumbled into our boat, and, thanks to the stalwart strokes of Captain
Stewart's oar, we soon reached the "Pioneer," and enjoyed our dinner
with more than the usually keen appetite of Arctic seamen.


Such were the traces found in and about Franklin's winter quarters: one
good result had arisen from, their discovery,--the safe passage of
Franklin across the dangers of Baffin's Bay was no longer a question;
this was a certainty, and it only remained for us to ascertain which
route he had taken, and then to follow him.

Wellington Channel engrossed much attention; the Americans, with true
go-ahead spirit, watched the ice in it most keenly. The gallant
commander of their expedition, De Haven, had already more than once
pushed his craft up an angle of water north of Point Innis; his second,
Mr. Griffin, in the "Rescue," was hard at work obtaining angles, by
which to ascertain the fact of Wellington Channel being a channel or a
fiord, a point as yet undecided, for there was a break in the land to
the N.W. which left the question still at issue.

Captain Penny, with his vessels, got under weigh one day, and ran over
towards the "Assistance," as far as the pack would allow him, and then
despatched an officer with a boat to communicate our intelligence as
well as his own; a sudden change of weather obliged Penny to return,
and the boat's crew of the "Lady Franklin," on their way back, under
Mr. John Stuart, underwent no small risk and labour. They left the
"Assistance" to walk to their boat, which had been hauled on the ice; a
thick fog came on; the direction was with difficulty maintained; no
less than eleven bears were seen prowling around the party; the boat
was found by mere accident, and, after fourteen hours' incessant
walking and pulling, Mr. Stuart succeeded in reaching the "Lady

Through him we learnt that Cape Hotham and the neighbourhood of Barlow
Inlet showed no sign of having been visited by Franklin, that the pack
was close home against the land, and that the "Assistance" and
"Intrepid" had been subject to some pressure, but were all safe and

Almost every hour during our detention in Union Bay, large flights of
wild fowl, principally geese and eider ducks, flew past us, as if they
had come down Wellington Channel, and were making away to the
southward; this certain indication of approaching winter was not to be
mistaken, and we anxiously counted the hours which kept flitting past,
whilst we were chained up in Union Bay.

South-easterly winds forced the pack tighter and tighter in Wellington
Channel, and once or twice it threatened to beset us even in Union Bay;
and on the 31st of August our position was still the same, the
Americans being a little in advance, off Point Innis.

From the 1st to the 4th of September, we lay wishing for an opening,
the Americans working gallantly along the edge of the fixed ice of
Wellington Channel, towards Barlow Inlet.

September the 5th brought the wished-for change. A lead of water.
Hurrah! up steam! take in tow! every one's spirits up to the
high-top-gallant of their joy; long streaks of water showing across
Wellington Channel, out of which broad floe-pieces were slowly sailing,
whilst a hard, cold appearance in the northern sky betokened a
northerly breeze.

[Headnote: _THE WHITE WHALE._]

With the "Resolute" fast astern, the "Pioneer" slipped round an
extensive field of ice; as it ran aground off Cape Spencer, shutting
off in our rear Captain Penny's brigs and the "Felix," another mass of
ice at the same time caught on Point Innis, and, unable to get past it,
we again made fast, sending a boat to watch the moment the ice should
float, and leave us a passage to the westward. Whilst thus secured, we
had abundant amusement and occupation in observing the movements of
shoals of white whales. They were what the fishermen on board called
"running" south, a term used to express the steady and rapid passage of
the fish from one feeding-ground to the other. From the mast-head, the
water about us appeared filled with them, whilst they constantly rose
and blew, and hurried on, like the birds we had lately seen, to better
regions in the south. That they had been north to breed was undoubted,
by the number of young "calves" in every shoal. The affection between
mother and young was very evident; for occasionally some stately white
whale would loiter on her course, as if to scrutinize the new and
strange objects now floating in these unploughed waters, whilst the
calf, all gambols, rubbed against the mother's side, or played about
her. The proverbial shyness of these fish was proved by our fishermen
and sportsmen to be an undoubted fact, for neither with harpoon nor
rifle-ball could they succeed in capturing any of them.

It was a subject of deep interest and wonder to see this migration of
animal life, and I determined, directly leisure would enable me, to
search the numerous books with which we were well stored, to endeavour
to satisfy my mind with some reasonable theory, founded upon the
movements of bird and fish, as to the existence of a Polar ocean or a
Polar continent.

A sudden turn of tide, which floated the ice that had for some hours
been aground on Point Innis and Cape Spencer, and carried it out of
Wellington Channel, which favourable tide I therefore conjectured to be
the flood, enabled the "Pioneer" and "Resolute" to start across
Wellington Channel, towards Barlow Inlet.

Northward of us, ran, almost in a straight line, east and west, the
southern edge of a body of ice, which we then imagined, in our
ignorance, to be _fixed_, extending northward,--aye, to the very pole;
for in the rumour of it being a mere fiord, or gulf, I had no belief,
nor any one else who crossed it in our ships. The day was beautifully
clear, and a cold, hard sky enabled us to see the land of North
Somerset most distinctly, though thirty to forty miles distant; and yet
nothing appeared resembling land in the northern part of Wellington
Channel. More than one of us regretted the prospect of this yet
unsearched route remaining so, and the racing mania for Melville Island
and Cape Walker bore for all of us this day its fruit--unavailing

A fresh and favourable gale from the northward raised our spirits and
hopes, late as it now was in the season, and already, with the
adventurous feelings of seamen, we began to calculate what distance
might yet be achieved, should the breeze but last for two or three
days. The space to be traversed, even to Behring's Straits, was a mere
nothing; and all our disappointments, all our foiled anticipations,
were forgotten, in the light-heartedness brought about by a day of open
water and a few hours of a fair wind. As we rattled along the lane of
blue water which wound gracefully ahead to the westward, the shores of
Cornwallis Island rapidly revealed themselves, and offered little that
was striking or picturesque. One uniform tint of russet-brown clothed
the land, as the sun at eight in the evening sunk behind the ice-bound
horizon of Wellington Channel.

Novel and striking as were the colours thrown athwart the cold, hard
sky by the setting orb, I thought with a sigh of those gay and
flickering shades which beautify the heavens in the tropics, when the
fierce sun sinks to his western rest. No gleams of purple and gold lit
up the hill-tops; no fiery streaks of sunlight streamed across the
water, or glittered on the wave. No! all was cold and silent as the
grave. In heaven alone there appeared sunshine and vitality:--it was
rightly so. Frost was fast claiming its dominion, for, with declining
sunlight, the space of water between the pack and the floe became a
sheet of young ice, about the one-eighth of an inch in thickness.


The "Assistance" and "Intrepid" were gone, it was very evident; but the
American squadron was observed in Barlow Inlet. As we approached them,
at two o'clock in the morning, they were to be seen firing muskets. We
therefore put our helms down, and performed, by the help of the screw,
figures of eight in the young ice, until a boat had communicated with
Commander De Haven, from whom we learned that one of his vessels was
aground in the inlet, and that it was no place for us to go into,
unless we wanted to remain there. The passage to the westward, round
Cape Hotham, was likewise blocked up, and no alternative remained but
to make fast to the floe to the north of us. This was done, and just in
time; for a smart breeze from the S.E. brought up a great deal of ice,
and progress in any direction was impossible.

I had now time to observe that the floe of Wellington Channel, instead
of consisting of a mass of ice (as was currently reported) about eight
feet in thickness, did not in average depth exceed that of the floes of
Melville Bay, although a great deal of old ice was mixed up with it, as
if a pack had been re-cemented by a winter's frost; in which case, of
course, there would be ice of various ages mixed up in the body; and
much of the ice was lying crosswise and edgeways, so that a person
desirous of looking at the Wellington Channel floe, as the accumulation
of many years of continued frost, might have some grounds upon which to
base his supposition. A year's observation, however, has shown me the
fallacy of supposing that in deep-water channels floes continue to
increase in thickness from year to year; and to that subject I will
return in a future chapter, when treating of Wellington Channel.

The closing chapter of accidents, by which the navigation of 1850 was
brought to a close by the squadrons in search of Sir John Franklin, is
soon told.

The "Resolute" and "Pioneer" remained, unable to move, in Wellington
Channel; a northerly gale came on, after a short breeze from the S.E.;
and imagine, kind reader, our dismay, in finding the vast expanse, over
which the eye had in vain strained to see its limit--imagine this field
suddenly breaking itself across in all directions, from some unseen
cause, farther than (as appeared to us) a northerly gale blowing over
its surface, and our poor barks, in its cruel embrace, sweeping out of
Wellington Channel, and then towards Leopold Island. At one time, the
probability of reaching the Atlantic, as Sir James Ross did, stared us
disagreeably in the face, and blank indeed did we all look at such a

A calm and frosty morning ushered in the 9th of September. The pack was
fast re-knitting itself, and we were drifting with it, one mile per
hour, to the S.E., when Penny's brigs, that had been seen the day
before crossing to the northward of us, were observed to be running
down along the western shore, with the American squadron ahead of them,
the latter having just escaped from an imprisonment in Barlow Inlet.
About the same time, a temporary opening of the pack enabled the
steam-power again to be brought to bear, and never was it more useful.
The pack was too small and broken for a vessel to warp or heave
through, there was no wind "to bore" through it, and the young ice in
some places, by pressure, was nigh upon six inches thick; towing with
boats was, therefore, out of the question.

The "Resolute" fast astern, with a long scope of hawser, the "Pioneer,"
like a prize-fighter, settled to her work, and went in and won. The
struggle was a hard one,--now through sludge and young ice, which
gradually checked her headway, impeded as she was with a huge vessel
astern--now in a strip of open water, mending her pace to rush at a bar
of broken-up pack, which surged and sailed away as her fine bow forced
through it--now cautiously approaching a nip between two heavy floe
pieces, which time and the screw wedged slowly apart--and then the
subdued cheer with which our crews witnessed all obstacles overcome,
and the Naval expedition again in open water, and close ahead of the
Government one under Penny, and Commander De Haven's gallant vessels,
who, under a press of canvas, were just hauling round Cape Hotham. A
light air and bay-ice gave us every advantage.


Next day, in succession, we all came up to the "Assistance" and
"Intrepid," fast at a floe edge, between Cape Bunny and Griffith's
Island. That this floe was not a fixed one we were assured, as the
"Intrepid" had been between it and Griffith's Island, nearly as far as
Somerville Island; but, unhappily, it barred our road as effectually as
if it were so. Penny, with his squadron, failed in passing southward
towards Cape Walker; and Lieutenant Cator, in the "Intrepid," was
equally unsuccessful.

I was much interested in the account of the gallant struggle of the
"Assistance" and "Intrepid" in rounding Cape Hotham. They fairly fought
their way against the ice, which at every east-going tide was sweeping
out of Barrow's Strait, and grinding along the shore. It is most
satisfactory to see that all risks may be run, and yet neither ships
nor crews be lost; and it is but fair to suppose, that, if our ships
incurred such dangers unscathed, the "sweet cherub" will not a jot the
less have watched over the "Erebus" and "Terror." Of course, the
"croakers" say, if the floe had pressed a _little_ more--if the ship
had risen a _little_ less--in fact, if Providence had been a _little_
less watchful--disasters must have overtaken our ships; but when I hear
these "dismal Jemmies" croak, it puts me much in mind of the
midshipman, who, describing to his grandmamma the attack on Jean
d'Acre, after recounting his prowess and narrow escapes, assured the
old lady that Tom Tough, the boatswain's mate, had asserted with an
oath, which put the fact beyond all doubt, that if one of those shot
from the enemy had struck him, he never would have lived to tell the

From my gallant comrade of the "Intrepid," we heard of the search that
had been made in Wolstenholme Sound, and along the north shore of
Lancaster Sound. In both places numerous traces of Esquimaux had been
seen, at Wolstenholme Sound especially. These were numerous and recent,
and the "Intrepid's" people were shocked, on entering the huts, to find
many dead bodies; the friends, evidently, of our Arctic Highlander,
Erasmus York, who, as I before said, had shipped as interpreter on
board the "Assistance." In Wolstenholme Sound, the cairns erected by
the "North Star" were discovered and visited, and, whilst speaking of
her, it will be as well for me to note, that Captain Penny, on his way
up Lancaster Sound, met the "North Star" off Admiralty Inlet, August
21st, gave Mr. Saunders his orders from England, and told him of the
number of ships sent out to resume the search for Franklin. Captain
Penny left Mr. Saunders under an impression that he was going to Disco,
to land his provisions.

There was one remarkable piece of information, which I noted at the
time, and much wondered at; it was derived from Captain Penny, and the
officers of the "Lady Franklin" and "Sophia." It appears they crossed
Wellington Channel, about ten miles higher up than we did; the ice
breaking away, it will be remembered, and drifting with the "Resolute"
and "Pioneer" to the south. From a headland about twelve miles north of
Barlow Inlet, Captain Penny observed with astonishment that there was
only about ten miles more of ice to the north of his vessels, and then,
to use his own words, "Water! water! large water! as far as I could
see! to the N.W." How this water came there? what was beyond it? were
questions which naturally arose; but it was not until the following
year that the mystery was explained, and we learned, what was only then
suspected, that we had overshot our mark.


_Sept. 11th, 1850._--The winter of the Arctic Regions came on us, in
its natural character of darkness, gale, cold, and snow. First, the
wind from the S.E., with a heavy sea, which sent us careering against
the floe-edge, and gave all hands a hard night's work to keep the
anchors in the firm floe, as the edge rapidly broke up, under the
combined effects of sea and shocks from our vessels; then, with a gust
or two, which threatened to blow the sticks out of our craft, the wind
chopped round to the N.W.; and a falling temperature, which Arctic
statistics told us would not, at this season, ever recover itself, said
plainly, that winter quarters alone remained for us.

Happily, the "Intrepid" had discovered a harbour between Cape Hotham
and Martyr, on the south side of Cornwallis Island. This place, and
Union Bay, in Beechey Island, offered two snug positions, from which
operations in the spring with travelling parties could be well and
effectually carried out. Action, action now alone remained for us; and
earnestly did we pray that our leader's judgment might now decide upon
such positions being taken up as would secure all directions--viz. to
the south-west,--north-west and, lastly, west being provided for.

_Sept. 13th._--Found the four vessels of our squadron, and one of
the American brigs,--the "Advance" under Lieutenant De Haven,--all safe
at the floe-edge. The floe had drifted during the gale considerably
towards the shores of North Somerset; and the wedge-shaped island,
called Cape Bunny, was distinctly visible: the other of the American
brigs had, in the height of the gale, blown adrift and disappeared in
the darkness and snow-drift. For her, as well as Her Majesty's brigs
under Captain Penny, much anxiety was entertained. The American leader
of the expedition, I heard, finding farther progress hopeless,
intended, in obedience to his orders, to return to New York. This he
was the more justified in doing, as no preparation or equipment for
travelling-parties had been made by them, and their fittings for
wintering in the Arctic Regions were, compared with ours, very
deficient. The gallant Yankees, however, could not return without
generously offering us provisions, fuel, and stores; and the officers,
with a chivalrous feeling worthy of themselves and the cause for which
they had come thus far, offered to remain out or exchange with any of
"ours" who wanted to return home. We had no space in stowage to profit
by the first offer, nor had enthusiasm yet become sufficiently damped
in us to desire to avail ourselves of the proffered exchange; both were
declined, and it was said that Lieutenant De Haven was told by our
leader, if he could land any thing for us in Radstock Bay as a dépôt,
he might render good service.

Letters were therefore hurriedly closed, letter-bags made up, and
pleasant thoughts of those at home served to cheer us, as, with the
temperature at about zero, and with a fresh breeze, we cast off
together, and worked to the northward, towards Griffith's Island.


Rubbing sides almost with the "Advance," who courteously awaited with
the "Pioneer" the heavy-heeled gambols of the "Resolute," day was
drawing on before the squadron reached Griffith's Island, from the lee
of which the missing American schooner was descried to be approaching.
Lieutenant De Haven now hoisted his colours for home, and backed his
topsail. We did the same; and after a considerable time he bore up with
his squadron for New York, doubtless supposing, from no letters being
sent, that we had none.

It was far otherwise; and throughout the winter many a growl took
place, as a huge pile of undespatched letters would pass before our
sight, and blessings of a doubtful nature were showered on our ill

To the ice, which extended unbroken from Griffith's Island to Cape
Martyr, we will leave the Naval expedition secured, whilst we briefly
recount the most striking points in connection with the American
expedition that had now left us on its voyage home.

In 1849, Mr. Henry Grinnell, a merchant of the United States, actuated
by the purest philanthropy that ever influenced the heart of man,
determined to devote a portion of his well-deserved wealth to the noble
purpose of relieving Sir John Franklin, who, it was much to be feared,
from the desponding tone of a portion of the English press on Sir James
Ross's failure, was likely to be left unsought for in 1850. He
therefore, at his sole expense, purchased two vessels, one of 140 tons,
the "Advance," the other 90 tons, the "Rescue," and, having
strengthened, provisioned, and equipped them, Mr. Grinnell then placed
them under the control of his Government, in order that they might be
commanded by naval officers and sail under naval discipline. The
American Congress passed the necessary acts, and Lieutenant E. De
Haven, who had seen service in the Antarctic seas, took command of the
"Advance," as the leader of the expedition, and another distinguished
officer, Mr. Griffin, hoisted his pendant in the "Rescue." On the 23d
May, 1850, the two vessels sailed from New York, touching at Disco,
where I am sorry to say they found my worthy friend "Herr Agar" to have
died shortly after my visit; they reached the pack of Melville Bay on
the 7th July, and, tightly beset until the 23d, they did not reach Cape
York until early in August.

The 7th August they reached Cape Dudley Digges! (at that time we were
still beset off Cape Walker in Melville Bay), thence they stood to the
south-west, until they reached the West Water.

On the 18th August, when we had a thick fog and almost a calm off
Possession Bay, the American squadron was in a severe gale in Lancaster
Sound; and on the 25th August, after visiting Leopold Island, the
gallant Americans reached Cape Riley close on the heels of the
"Assistance" and "Intrepid."

From that time we have shown that they lost no opportunity of pushing
ahead; and if progress depended alone upon skill and intrepidity, our
go-ahead friends would have given us a hard tussle for the laurels to
be won in the Arctic regions.

As a proof of the disinterestedness of their motives, men as well as
officers, I was charmed to hear that before sailing from America they
had signed a bond not to claim, under any circumstances, the £20,000
reward the British Government had offered for Franklin's rescue; we, I
am sorry to say, had acted differently. America had plucked a rose from
our brows; but in such generous enterprise, we for the most part felt
that no narrow-minded national prejudices could enter, and I gloried in
the thought that the men who had so nobly borne themselves, as well as
he, the princely merchant who had done his best to assist the widow and
orphan to recover those for whom they had so long hoped and wept, were
men who spoke our language, and came from one parent-stock--a race
whose home is on the great waters.

Looking at my rough notes for the following week, I am now puzzled to
know what we were hoping for; it must have been a second open season in
1850,--a sanguine disposition, no doubt brought about by a break in the
weather, not unlike the Indian summer described by American writers.


_September 14th._--I went in the "Pioneer," with some others, to see if
the floe had opened a road to the south of Griffith's Island; it had
not, nor did it appear likely to do so this season, though there was
water seen some fifteen miles or so to the westward.

One day the "Assistance" and "Intrepid" started for Assistance Harbour,
to winter there, but came back again, for winter had barred the route
to the eastward as well as westward. One day after this, or rather,
many days, we amused ourselves, with powder, blowing open a canal
astern of the "Resolute," which froze over as quickly as we did it. At
other times, some people would go on the top of the island, and see
oceans of water, where no ship could possibly get to it, and then
others would visit the same spot after a night or two of frost, and,
seeing ice where the others had seen water, asserted most confidently
that the first were exaggerators!

At any rate, September passed; winter and frost had undoubted dominion
over earth and sea; already the slopes of Griffith's Island, and the
land north of us, were covered with snow; the water in sight was like a
thread, and occasionally disappeared altogether. Fires all day, and
candles for long nights, were in general requisition. Some cross-fire
in the different messes was taking place as the individuals suffered
more or less from the cold. Plethoric ones, who became red-hot with a
run up the ladder, exclaimed against fires, and called zero charming
weather; the long and lethargic talked of cold draughts and Sir Hugh
Willoughby's fate; the testy and whimsical bemoaned the impure
ventilation. A fox or two was occasionally seen scenting around the
ships, and a fox-hunt enlivened the floe with men and officers, who
chased the unlucky brute as if they had all come to Griffith's Island
especially for fox-skins; and the last of the feathered tribe, in the
shape of a wounded "burgomaster," shivered, half frozen, as it came for
its daily food.

_October 2d, 1850._--Lieutenant M'Clintock had very properly urged
the necessity of sending travelling parties to forward dépôts of
provisions upon the intended routes of the different parties in 1851:
these were this morning despatched,--Lieutenant M'Clintock, with Dr.
Bradford, carrying out a dépôt towards Melville Island; Lieutenant
Aldrich taking one to Lowther Island, touching at Somerville Island on
the way.

Lieutenant Mecham was likewise sent to examine Cornwallis Island,
between Assistance Harbour and Cape Martyr, for traces of Franklin.

We, who were left behind, felt not a little anxious about these parties
whilst absent, for winter was coming on with giant strides; on the 4th,
frost-bites were constantly occurring, and the sun, pale and bleary,
afforded more light than warmth. Our preparations for winter were
hurried on as expeditiously as possible; and the housing, which, like a
tent, formed a complete covering to our upper decks, afforded great
comfort and shelter from the cold bleak wind without.


On the 5th, Lieutenant Aldrich returned from his journey; he had not
been able to go beyond Somerville Island--the sea between it and
Lowther Island being covered with _broken packed ice, half-frozen
sludge, and young ice_. On the 7th, Lieutenant Mecham arrived with
the intelligence that the "Lady Franklin" and "Sophia" were, with the
"Felix," safe in Assistance Harbour. Captain Penny, after his failure
in reaching Cape Walker, had a narrow escape of being beset on the
shores of North Somerset; but by carrying on through the pack, in the
gale of the 11th September, he had happily secured his ships in
excellent winter quarters.

Lieutenant Mecham had an adventure on his outward route, which had some
interesting features: as he was crossing the entrance of a bay, since
named Resolute Bay, he observed a bear amongst some hummocks, evidently
breaking the young ice by a sort of jumping motion; and he then saw
that he and his party had unconsciously left the old ice, and were
travelling over bay-ice, which was bending with the weight of the men
and sledge. Bruin's sagacity here served the seamen in good stead, and
the sledge was expeditiously taken to firmer ice, whilst Mr. M. went in
chase of the bear; having mortally wounded it, the brute rushed to
seaward, and the sportsman only desisted from the pursuit when he
observed the bear fall, and in doing so break through the ice, which
was too weak to sustain its weight.

Captain Penny, on the following day, sent over his dog-sledge to secure
the flesh for his dogs, by which time the unlucky bear was frozen to a
hard and solid mass.

_October 9th._--Lieutenant M'Clintock returned; he had placed his
dépôt forty miles in advance, towards Melville Island,--three days'
imprisonment by bad weather, in the tents, having foiled his hopes of
reaching Bedford Bay in Bathurst Island, where he originally intended
to have reached. This party had, likewise, met water to the westward,
and there was now but little doubt on our minds, that, had the large
field of ice which was blocking the way between Cape Bunny and
Griffith's Island broken up or drifted away, our squadron would have
reached, in all probability, as far as Parry did in '20; but now, the
utmost we could hope to attain in the following year was Melville
Island, which would be our _goal_, instead of our _starting_ point.

Autumn travelling differs, in some measure, from that of the spring. I
will, therefore, give the indulgent reader an account of a short
excursion I made for the purpose of connecting the search from where
Lieutenant Mecham left the coast, to the point at which Lieutenant
M'Clintock had again taken it up; in fact, a bay, facetiously
christened by the seamen (who had learned that newly-discovered places
were forbidden to be named), "Bay, Oh! no we never mention it!" and
"Cape No Name."

My kind friend, Mr. May of the "Resolute," volunteered to accompany me,
and on Thursday, the 10th of October, we started with our tent, a
runner-sledge, and five days' provisions. The four seamen and our two
selves tackled to the drag-ropes, and, with the temperature at 6° above
zero, soon walked ourselves into a state of warmth and comfort.


Three hours' sharp dragging brought us to Cape Martyr; ascending the
beach until we had reached a ledge of smooth ice which fringed the
coast within the broken line of the tide-marks, we turned to the
westward, and commenced searching the beach and neighbouring headlands.
I shall not easily efface from my memory the melancholy impression left
by this, my first walk on the desolate shores of Cornwallis Island.
Like other things, in time the mind became accustomed to it; and, by
comparison, one soon learned to see beauties even in the sterility of
the North.


[Illustration: Horizontal Section, 20 feet circumference.]

[Illustration: Vertical Section, 5 feet 6 inches high.]

Casting off from the sledge, I had taken a short stroll by myself along
one of the terraces which, with almost artificial regularity, swept
around the base of the higher ground behind, when, to my astonishment,
a mass of stone-work, and what at first looked exactly like a cairn,
came in view; it required no spur to make me hasten to it, and to
discover I was mistaken in supposing it to have been any thing
constructed so recently as Franklin's visit. The ruin proved to be a
conical-shaped building, the apex of which had fallen in. Its
circumference, at the base, was about twenty feet, and the height of
the remaining wall was five feet six inches. Those who had constructed
it appeared well acquainted with the strength of an arched roof to
withstand the pressure of the heavy falls of snow of these regions; and
much skill and nicety was displayed in the arrangement of the slabs of
slaty limestone, in order that the conical form of the building might
be preserved throughout.

We removed the stones that had fallen into the building, but found
nothing to repay our labour; indeed, from the quantity of moss adhering
to the walls, and filling up the interstices of the masses which formed
the edifice, I conjectured it was many years since it was constructed,
though it would be impossible to guess when it was last inhabited; for,
at Pond's Bay, I observed the remains of the native habitations to have
the appearance of extreme old age and long abandonment, although, from
the fresh seal-blubber _cachés_, there was not a doubt of the Esquimaux
having been there the previous winter.

A mile beyond this ruin we halted for the night. Four of us (for, in
Arctic travelling, officer and man are united by the common bond of
labour) erected the tent over a space which we had cleared of the
larger and rougher pieces of limestone, leaving what was called a soft
spot as our castle and bedroom. One man, who dubbed himself cook for
the day, with a mate, whose turn it would be to superintend the kitchen
on the morrow, proceeded to cook the dinner. The cooking apparatus was
a boat's stove, eighteen inches long, and nine inches broad, in which
lignum vitæ was used as fuel.

Water having first to be made from ice and snow, and then boiled in the
open air, the process was not an expeditious one, and I took my gun and
struck inland; whilst Mr. May, in an opposite direction, made for a
point of land to the westward.

[Headnote: _A WINTER'S EVENING._]

No pen can tell of the unredeemed loneliness of an October evening in
this part of the polar world: the monotonous, rounded outline of the
adjacent hills, as well as the flat, unmeaning valleys, were of one
uniform colour, either deadly white with snow or striped with brown
where too steep for the winter mantle as yet to find a holding ground.
You felt pity for the shivering blade of grass, which, at your feet,
was already drooping under the cold and icy hand that would press it
down to mother earth for nine long months. Talk of "antres vast and
deserts idle,"--talk of the sadness awakened in the wanderer's bosom by
the lone scenes, be it even by the cursed waters of Judea, or afflicted
lands of Assyria,--give me, I say, death in any one of them, with the
good sun and a bright heaven to whisper hope, rather than the solitary
horrors of such scenes as these. The very wind scorned courtesy to such
a repulsive landscape, and as the stones rattled down the slope of a
ravine before the blast, it only recalled dead men's bones, and motion
in a catacomb. A truce, however, to such thoughts--May's merry
recognition breaks the stillness of the frosty air. He has been to the
point, and finds it an island; he says--and I vow he means what he
says--that May Island is a beautiful spot! it has grass and moss upon
it, and traces of game: next year he intends to bag many a hare there.
Sanguine feelings are infectious; I forget my own impressions, adopt
his rosy ones, and we walk back to our tent, guided by the smoke,
plotting plans for shooting excursions in 1851!

"Pemmican is all ready, sir!" reports our Soyer. In troth, appetite
need wait on one, for the greasy compound would pall on moderate taste
or hunger. Tradition said that it was composed of the best rump-steaks
and suet, and cost 1s. 6d. per pound, but we generally voted it
composed of broken-down horses and Russian tallow. If not sweet in
savour, it was strong in nourishment, and after six table-spoonfuls,
the most ravenous feeder might have cried, hold! enough!

Frozen pork, which had been boiled on board the ship, was quite a
treat, and decidedly better than cold, thawed pork could have been;
this, with plenty of biscuit and a "jolly hot" basin of tea, and, as
one of the seamen observed, "an invitation to Windsor would have been
declined." The meal done, the tent was carefully swept out, the last
careful arrangement of the pebbles, termed "picking the feathers," was
made, and then a water-proof sheet spread, to prevent our warm bodies,
during the night, melting the frozen ground and wetting us through.
Then every man his blanket bag, a general popping thereinto of the legs
and body, in order that the operation of undressing might be decently
performed, the jacket and wet boots carefully arranged for a pillow;
the wolf-skin robes,--Oh, that the contractor may be haunted by the
aroma of the said robes for his life-time!--brought along both over and
under the party, who lie down alternately, head and feet in a row,
across the tent. Pipes are lighted, the evening's glass of grog served
out; and whilst the cook is washing up, and preparing his things ready
for the morning meal, as well as securing the food on the sledges from
foxes, or a hungry bear, many a tough yarn is told, or joke made, which
keep all hands laughing until the cook reports all right, comes in,
hooks up the door, tucks in the fur robe; and seven jolly mortals, with
a brown-holland tent over their heads, and a winter's gale without, try
to nestle their sides amongst the softest stones, and at last drop into
such a sleep as those only enjoy who drag a sledge all day, with the
temperature 30° below freezing point.


Friday morning, at seven o'clock, we rolled up our beds, or rather
sleeping-bags, stowed the sledge, drank boiling hot chocolate, and
gnawed cheerily at frozen pork and biscuit; the weather beautiful,
calm, and very cold, below zero, we started, skirting round the bay. By
noon a gale sprung up, sending a body of icy spiculæ against our faces,
causing both pain and annoyance. Two mock suns for the first time were
seen to-day. At noon we sat down under the lee of our sledge, and
partook of a mouthful of grog and biscuit, and again marched rapidly
towards "Cape No Name!" By the evening we had marched fourteen miles,
the entire circuit of the bay, without observing any trace of Franklin
having visited the neighbourhood; and as frost-bites began to attack
our faces, we erected our tent as expeditiously as possible, and in it
took shelter from the wind and cold. The pungent smoke of the lignum
vitæ kept us weeping, as long as the cooking went on; and between the
annoyance of it, the cold, and fatigue, we all dropped off to sleep,
indifferent to a falling temperature, prowling bears, or a violent
gale, which threatened to blow us from the beach on which we had
pitched our fluttering tent.

Next day, my work being done, we struck homeward for the squadron, and
reached it the same evening, the said 12th of October being the last
autumnal travelling of our squadron.

The following week the temperature rallied a little, and the weather
was generally finer; our preparations for wintering were nearly
completed, and the poor sickly sun barely for two hours a day rose
above the heights of Griffith's Island.

To our great joy, on the 17th of October, Captain Penny came over from
Assistance Harbour. He had happily decided on taking up the search of
Wellington Channel; and an understanding was come to, that his squadron
should carry out the travelling operations next spring on that route,
whilst our squadron accomplished the farthest possible distance towards
Melville Island, and from Cape Walker to the south-west.

Captain P. expressed it as his opinion that the Americans had not
escaped out of Barrow's Strait, in consequence of a sudden gale
springing up from the southward, shortly after they had passed his
winter quarters. This supposition we of course afterwards found to be
true, although at the time we all used to speak of the Americans as
being safe and snug in New York, instead of drifting about in the ice,
within a few miles of us, as was really the case.

With Penny's return to his vessels, may be said to have closed all the
Arctic operations of the year 1850. Our upper decks were now covered
in; stoves and warming apparatus set at work; boats secured on the ice;
all the lumber taken off the upper decks, to clear them for exercise in
bad weather; masts and yards made as snug as possible; rows of posts
placed to show the road in the darkness and snow-storms from ship to
ship; holes cut through the ice into the sea, to secure a ready supply
of water, in the event of fire; arrangements made to insure cleanliness
of ships and crews, and a winter routine entered upon, which those
curious in such matters may find fully detailed in Parry's "First
Voyage," or Ross's "Four Years in Boothia."

The building of snow-walls, posts, houses, &c., was at first a source
of amusement to the men, and gave them a great field in which to
exercise their skill and ingenuity. People at home would, I think, have
been delighted to see the pretty and tasteful things cut out of snow:
obelisks, sphinxes, vases, cannon, and, lastly, a stately Britannia,
looking to the westward, enlivened the floe, and gave voluntary
occupation to the crews of the vessels. These, however, only served for
a while; and as the arctic night of months closed in, every one's wits
were exerted to the utmost to invent occupation and entertainment for
our little community.

[Headnote: _AN ARCTIC PRAYER._]

On November the 8th, two officers ascended the heights of Griffith's
Island, and at noontide caught the last glimpse of the sun, as it
happened to be thrown up by refraction, though in reality it was
seventeen miles below our horizon. We were now fairly about to undergo
a dark, arctic winter, in 74-1/2 degrees of north latitude; and
light-hearted and confident as we felt in our resources of every
description, one could not, when looking around the dreary scene which
spread around us on every side, but feel how much our lives were in His
hands who tempers the wind to the shorn lamb; and wanting must he have
been in feeling who did not offer up a heartfelt prayer that returning
day and returning summer might find him able and fit to undergo the
hardship and fatigue of journeys on foot, to seek for his long-lost
fellow-seamen. On leaving England, amongst the many kind, thoughtful
presents, both public and private, none struck me as being more
appropriate than the following form of prayer:--


    "O Lord God, our Heavenly Father, who teachest man knowledge, and
    givest him skill and power to accomplish his designs, we desire
    continually to wait, and call, and depend upon Thee. Thy way is in
    the sea, and Thy paths in the great waters. Thou rulest and
    commandest all things. We therefore draw nigh unto Thee for help in
    the great work which we now have to do.

    "Leave us not, we beseech Thee, to our own counsel, nor to the
    imaginations of our own foolish and deceitful hearts: but lead us
    by the way wherein we should go, that discretion may preserve us,
    and understanding may keep us. Do Thou, O Lord, make our way
    prosperous, and give us Thy blessing and good success. Bring all
    needful things to our remembrance; and where we have not the
    presence of mind, nor the ability, to perform Thy will, magnify Thy
    power in our weakness. Let Thy good providence be our aid and
    protection, and Thy Holy Spirit our Guide and Comforter, that we
    may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body,
    and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul.
    Endue us with such strength and patience as may carry us through
    every toil and danger, whether by sea or land; and, if it be Thy
    good pleasure, vouchsafe to us a safe return to our families and

    "And, as Thy Holy Word teaches us to pray for others, as well as
    for ourselves, we most humbly beseech Thee, of Thy goodness, O
    Lord, to comfort and succour all those who are in trouble, sorrow,
    need, sickness, or any other adversity, especially such as may now
    be exposed to the dangers of the deep, or afflicted with cold and
    hunger. Bestow upon them Thy rich mercies, according to their
    several wants and necessities, and deliver them out of their
    distress. They are known to Thee by name, let them be known of Thee
    as the children of Thy grace and love. Bless us all with Thy
    favour, in which is life, and with all spiritual blessings in
    Christ Jesus; and grant us so to pass the waves of this troublesome
    world, that finally we may come unto Thy everlasting kingdom. Grant
    this, for Thy dear Son's sake, Jesus Christ our Lord. _Amen._"

While touching on a religious point connected with our expedition, I
must say, that as yet we have not in the Navy a single good set of
sermons adapted to interest and instruct the seamen. The commander, or
commanding officer, of a man-of-war usually reads, in the absence of
the chaplain, the Divine Service on Sundays. We, of course, did not
fail to do so; but I never saw an English sailor who would sit down and
listen attentively to the discussion of some knotty text, exhibiting
far more ingenuity on the part of some learned commentator, than
simplicity and clearness adapted to plain, uninformed minds: in a
future expedition, and, indeed, in the Navy generally, it is to be
hoped this deficiency will be remedied. Sermons in the pure and
Christianlike tone of Porteus's Lent Lectures, I would humbly recommend
as a guide for those who may be inclined to take the good work in hand.


A theatre, a casino, and a saloon, two Arctic newspapers, one of them
an illustrated one, evening-schools, and instructive lectures, gave no
one an excuse for being idle. The officers and men voluntarily imposed
on themselves various duties in connection with the different
departments; one was scene-painter, and under his talented pencil the
canvas glowed with pictures one almost grieved to see thus employed.
Decorators and statuaries produced effects which, with such limited
means, were really astounding; vocalists and musicians practised and
persevered until an instrumental band and glee-club were formed, to our
general delight; officers and men sung who never sang before, and
maybe, except under similar circumstances, will never sing again;
maskers had to construct their own masks, and sew their own dresses,
the signal flags serving in lieu of a supply from the milliner's; and,
with wonderful ingenuity, a fancy dress ball was got up, which, in
variety and tastefulness of costume, would have borne comparison with
any one in Europe.

Here, editors floundered through a leader, exhibiting French ingenuity,
in saying their say without bringing themselves within the grasp of the
censors; here, rough contributors, whose hands, more accustomed to the
tar-brush than the pen, turned flowing sentences by the aid of old
miscellanies and well-thumbed dictionaries. There, on wooden stools,
leaning over long tables, were a row of serious and anxious faces,
which put one in mind of the days of cane and birch,--an Arctic school.
Tough old marines curving "pot-hooks and hangers," as if their very
lives depended on their performances, with an occasional burst of
petulance, such as, "D---- the pen, it won't write! I beg pardon, sir;
this 'ere pen will splutter!" which set the scholars in a roar. Then
some big-whiskered top-man, with slate in hand, reciting his
multiplication-table, and grinning at approval; whilst a "scholar," as
the cleverest were termed, gave the instructor a hard task to preserve
his learned superiority.

In an adjoining place, an observer might notice a tier of attentive,
upturned faces, listening, like children to some nursery-tale. It was
the first lieutenant of the "Resolute," my much-loved, faithful friend;
he was telling them of the deeds of their forefathers in these regions.
Parry's glorious pages open by his side, he told those stern men with
tender hearts, of the sufferings, the enterprise, the courage, and the
reward of imperishable renown exhibited and won by others. The
glistening eye and compressed lip showed how the good seed had taken
root in the listeners around, and every evening saw that sailor
audience gather around him whom they knew to be the "gallant and true,"
to share in his feelings and borrow from his enthusiasm.

[Headnote: _WINTER SCENERY._]

For some time after the sun had ceased to visit our heavens, the
southern side of the horizon, for a few hours at noon, was strongly
illumined, the sky being shaded, from deep and rosy red through all the
most delicate tints of pink and blue, until, in the north, a cold
bluish-black scowled angrily over the pale mountains, who, in widowed
loneliness, had drawn their cowls of snow around, and, uncheered by the
roseate kiss of the bridegroom sun, seemed to mourn over the silence
and darkness at their feet. Such was a fine day in November, and
through the gray twilight the dark forms of our people, as they
traversed the floe, or scaled the cliffs of Griffith's Island, or,
maybe, occasionally hunted a bear, completed the scene.

Charmed as we were with the evanescent colouring of our sky on a fine
day, it was in loveliness far surpassed by the exceeding beauty of
Arctic moonlight. Daylight but served to show the bleakness of frozen
sea and land; but a full, silvery moon, wheeling around the zenith for
several days and nights, threw a poetry over every thing, which reached
and glowed in the heart, in spite of intense frost and biting breeze.
At such a time we were wont to pull on our warm jackets and seal-skin
caps, and, striding out upon the floe, enjoy to the utmost the
elasticity of health and spirits with which we were blest under so
bracing a climate. There, with one's friend, the mutual recognition of
Nature's beauties and congratulations, at being there to witness it,
richly rewarded us for our isolation from the world of our fellow-men;
and general enthusiasm had its full sway as, from the heights of
Griffith's Island, we looked down on our squadron, whose masts alone
pierced the broad white expanse over Barrow's Strait, and threw long
shadows across the floe. The noble mission for which they had been sent
into the north was ever present to us, and away instinctively flew our
thoughts to our gallant friends in the "Erebus" and "Terror:" thus
alternately elated and saddened, we enjoyed, with earnest feelings, the
wondrous scene around us.

Imagine yourself, dear reader, on the edge of a lofty table-land,
which, dipping suddenly at your feet, sloped again to the sea of ice,
at a distance of some 500 feet below; fancy a vast plain of ice and
snow, diversified by tiers of broken-up ice and snow-wreaths, which,
glistening on the one side, reflected back the moonlight with an
exceeding brilliancy, whilst the strong shadow on the farther side of
the masses threw them out in strong relief; four lone barks, atoms in
the extensive landscape,--the observers' home,--and beyond them, on the
horizon, sweeping in many a bay, valley, and headland, the coast of
Cornwallis Island, now bursting upon the eye in startling distinctness,
then receding into shadow and gloom, and then anon diversified with
flickering shades, like an autumnal landscape in our own dear land, as
the fleecy clouds sailed slowly across the moon,--she the while riding
through a heaven of deepest blue, richly illuminated by the
constellations of the northern hemisphere, wheeling around the Polar
Star like armies in review,--and say if the North has not its charms
for him who can appreciate such novel aspects of Nature.

If you still doubt it, let us descend the adjacent ravine, formed as if
some giant hand had rent the firm cliff from crown to basement; stand
we now at its upper entrance, where it slopes away to the table-land
behind,--didst ever see a sight more wildly beautiful? The grim and
frowning buttresses on either hand, too steep for even the snow-flake
to rest upon, whilst over its brow a pigmy glacier topples with
graceful curve, or droops in many an icy wreath and spray, threatening
us with destruction as we slide down the sharp declivity. Now, with
many a graceful curve, the gorge winds down to the frozen sea, a
glimpse of which forms the background to the lower entrance. Observe
how the snow, which, by wintry gales, has been swept into the ravine,
has hardened into masses, resembling naught so much as a fierce rapid
suddenly congealed; and then look overhead, to a deep blue sky,
spangled with a million spheres; if thou couldst have seen this, and
much more than pen or tongues can tell, and not admire it, then I say,

            "God help thee,
    Thou hast reason to be sad."


As late as the 18th of November, water, in a broad lane, was seen to
the S.E. from the extreme of Griffith's Island, showing the pack to be
in motion in Barrow's Strait, a belief we otherwise arrived at from the
frequent appearance of a water-sky in the same direction, especially
after spring-tides or strong N.W. gales. A few bears, perhaps eight in
all, visited our ships during the closing period of 1850, showing they
did not hibernate immediately the sun disappeared; indeed, so long as
there was water near us, they would find seal, their usual, perhaps
their only, food. And, apart from the appearance of water in our
immediate neighbourhood, we were convinced that Lancaster Sound was
still open, from the sudden rise of the temperature of the air,
whenever the wind drew to that quarter; and, what was more
extraordinary still, whenever the wind was from the northward, a black
vapour, a certain indication of water, was seen to be rolling past Cape
Hotham out of Wellington Channel: could that have been open so long
after the sea in our neighbourhood was closed?

However, to return to the bears. Whenever an unlucky brute was seen,
the severe competition as to who should possess his skin, entailed no
small risk of life upon the hunters as well as the proprietor of the
coveted prize; and crossing the line of fire was recklessly performed,
in a manner to have shocked an "Excellent" gunner or a Woolwich
artilleryman. Discretion was the better part of Ursine valour, and one
brute was alone bagged, although a good many were very much frightened;
the frequent chases, and constant failures, giving rise to much
quizzing on the part of the unsportsmanlike, and learned dissertations
by the Nimrods upon the rules to be observed in bear-shooting. As
instances of what risks the community ran, whilst the furor for skins
was at its height, I will merely say, that two unconscious mortals who
had got on a hummock to see around, were mistaken in the twilight for
bears, and stood fire from a rifle, which, happily for them, on this
occasion, missed its mark; and one day, a respectable individual,
trotting among the snow ridges, was horrified to see on a piece of
canvas, in large letters, "Beware of spring-guns!" Picture to oneself
the person's feelings. How was he to escape? The next tread of his
foot, and, maybe, off into his body might be discharged the murderous
barrel secreted for a bear. Fate decreed otherwise; the alarmed seaman
escaped; and the spring-gun was banished to some lonely ravine, from
which the proprietor daily anticipated a dead bear, and I, a dead
shipmate; some of whom, pining for forlorn damsels at home, were led to
sentimentalize in retired places.

My captain of the forecastle, whose sporting propensities I have
elsewhere noted, cured me of a momentary mania for trophies of the
chase, thus: a large bear and cub, after coming towards the "Pioneer,"
for some time halted, and were fired at by three officers with guns: of
the three barrels only one went off, wounding the cub, which, with its
mother, made for Griffith's Island. I chased, followed by some of the
men, the foremost of whom was my ancient mariner, who kept close to my
heels, urging me on by declaring we were fast catching the brutes. We
decidedly had done so. By the time I reached the island, and both bears
were within shot, climbing up, with cat-like agility, the steep face of
the cliffs, again and again I failed to get my gun off; and as the
she-bear looked at one time inclined to come down and see who the
bipeds were that had chased her, I looked round at my supporters, who
were vehemently exclaiming that "we should have her in a minute!" They
consisted of Old Abbot, armed with a snow-knife, and some men who ran,
because they saw others doing so. Now, a snow-knife consists of nothing
more than a piece of old iron beaten out on an anvil so as to cut snow,
having an edge, which, when I anxiously asked if it was sharp, I was
figuratively told, "The owner, John Abbot, could have ridden to the
devil upon it without injury to his person." Yet, with this, I verily
believe, the old seaman would have entered the list against the teeth
and talons of Mistress Bruin. I objected, however, and allowed her to
escape with becoming thankfulness.


Christmas-day was, of course, not forgotten, and our best, though
humble fare was displayed in each of the vessels. Hospitality and
good-fellowship, however, were not confined to this day alone; and had
not the bond of friendship, which knit the officers and men of the
squadron together, taught them the necessity of sharing the little they
had, the open-handed liberality of our hospitable leader would have
done so. At his table, petty differences, professional heart-burnings,
and quarter-deck etiquette, were forgotten and laid aside. A liberal
and pleasant host made merry guests; and amongst the many ways in which
we strove to beguile the winter of 1850-51, none have more agreeable
recollections than his dinner-parties.

It may not here be out of place to describe the ordinary clothing worn,
as yet, by officers and men: the temperature ranging often as low as
35° below zero, with strong gales:--

    _Clothing when indoors._

    1 Flannel shirt with sleeves.
    1 Cotton        ditto.
    1 Waistcoat with sleeves, lined with flannel.
    1 Drawers flannel.
    1 Pair trowsers, box-cloth, lined with flannel.
    1 Pair thick stockings.
    1 Do. thin ditto.
    1 Horse-hair sole.
    1 Pair carpet boots.

    _Additional for walking_.

    Box-cloth pea jacket.
    Welsh wig.
    Seal-skin cap.
    Beaver-skin mitts.
    Shawl or comfortable.
    Men with tender faces required a cloth face-cover in the wind.

_January, 1851._--That we were all paler, was perceptible to every one;
but only a few had lost flesh. A very little exercise was found to tire
one very soon, and appetites were generally on the decrease. For four
hours a-day, we all, men and officers, made a point of facing the
external air, let the temperature be what it would; and this rule was
carefully adhered to, until the return of the sun naturally induced us
to lengthen our excursions. Only on three occasions was the weather too
severe for communication between the vessels, and the first of these
occurred in the close of December and commencement of January. To show
one's face outboard, was then an impossibility; the gale swept before
it a body of snow higher than our trucks, and hid every thing a few
yards off from sight. The "Resolute," three hundred yards off, was
invisible; and the accumulation of snow upon our housing, threatened to
burst it in. The floe seemed to tremble as the gale shrieked over its
surface, and tore up the old snow-drifts and deposited them afresh. A
wilder scene man never saw: it was worthy of the Arctic regions, and a
fit requiem for the departing year.


After one of these gales, walking on the floe was a work of much
difficulty, in consequence of the irregular surface it presented to the
foot. The snow-ridges, called sastrugi by the Russians, run (where
unobstructed by obstacles which caused a counter-current) in parallel
lines, waving and winding together, and so close and hard on the edges,
that the foot, huge and clumsy as it was with warm clothing and thick
soles, slipped about most helplessly; and we, therefore, had to wait
until a change of wind had, by a cross drift, filled up the ridges thus
formed, before we took long walks; and on the road between the vessels
parties were usually employed mending the roads.

With one portion of the phenomena of the North Sea, we were
particularly disappointed--and this was the aurora. The colours, in all
cases, were vastly inferior to those seen by us in far southern
latitudes, a pale golden or straw colour being the prevailing hue; the
most striking part of it was its apparent proximity to the earth. Once
or twice the auroral coruscations accompanied a moon in its last
quarter, and generally previous to bad weather. On one occasion, in
Christmas-week, the light played about the edge of a low vapour which
hung at a very small altitude over us; it never, on this occasion, lit
up the whole under-surface of the said clouds, but formed a series of
concentric semicircles of light, with dark spaces between, which waved,
glistened, and vanished, like moonlight upon a heaving, but unbroken

At other times, a stream of the same coloured vapour would span the
heavens through the zenith, and from it would shoot sprays of pale
orange colour for many hours; and then the mysterious light would again
as suddenly vanish.

Clouds may have been said to have absented themselves from our sky for
at least two months of the winter; the heavens, the stars, and moon,
were often obscured, but it invariably appeared to be from snow-drift
rather than from a cloudy sky. Snow fell incessantly, even on the
clearest day, consisting of minute spiculæ, hardly perceptible to the
eye, but which accumulated rapidly, and soon covered any thing left in
the open air for a few minutes. With returning daylight, and the
promise of the sun, clouds again dotted the southern heavens, and
mottled with beautiful mackerel skies the dome above us.

The immense quantity of snow which in a gale is kept suspended in the
air by the action of the wind, and is termed drift, quite astounded us;
and on two occasions, with north-westerly gales, we had a good
opportunity of noting its accumulation. The "Pioneer" and "Intrepid"
laying across the wind, the counter-current caused a larger deposition
around us than elsewhere. On the first occasion, after the wind
subsided, we found a snow-wreath along the weather-side of the vessel
for a length of one hundred and eighty feet, about eleven feet deep in
the deepest part, and sloping gradually away for one hundred yards.
After weighing a cubic foot of the snow, I calculated that, at the
lowest computation, the mass thus deposited in twenty-four hours was
not less than four hundred tons in weight! How the floe bore the
pressure seemed unaccountable to me; but it did around the "Pioneer,"
although that near the "Intrepid" broke down, and the water flowed up
above the snow, forming it rapidly into ice.

Much later in the winter--indeed in the month of March--a succession of
furious gales quite smothered us; the drift piled up as high as the top
of the winter housing, which was fifteen feet above the deck, and then
blew over to leeward, filling up on that side likewise; whilst we,
unable to face the storm without, could only prevent the housing from
being broken in, by placing props of planks and spars to support the
superincumbent weight. We had actually to dig our way out of the
vessel; and I know not how we should have freed the poor smothered
craft, had not Nature assisted us, by the breaking down of the floe.
This at first threatened to injure and strain the "Pioneer," for,
firmly held as she was all round, the vessel was immersed some two feet
deeper than she ought to have been by the subsiding ice. We set to
work, however, to try and liberate her, when one night a series of loud
reports awakened me, and the quarter-master at the same time ran down
to say, in his quaint phraseology, that "she was a going off!" a fact
of which there was no doubt, as, with sudden surges, the "Pioneer"
overcame the hold the floe had taken of her poor sides, and after some
time she floated again at her true water-line; while the mountain of
snow around us had sunk to the level of the floe, and at first formed
enormously thick ice; but this in time, by the action of the
under-currents of warm water, reduced itself to the ordinary thickness
of the adjoining floe.


Before we enter upon the subject of returning spring, and the new
occupations and excitement which it called forth, let me try to convey
an idea of a day spent in total darkness, as far as the sun was

Fancy the lower deck and cabins of a ship, lighted entirely by candles
and oil lamps; every aperture by which external air could enter, unless
under control, carefully secured, and all doors doubled, to prevent
draughts. It is breakfast-time, and reeking hot cocoa from every
mess-table is sending up a dense vapour, which, in addition to the
breath of so many souls, fills the space between decks with mist and
fog. Should you go on deck (and remember you go from 50° above zero to
40° below it, in eight short steps), a column of smoke will be seen
rising through certain apertures called ventilators, whilst others are
supplying a current of pure air. Breakfast done,--and, from the jokes
and merriment, it has been a good one,--there is a general pulling on
of warm clothing, and the major part of the officers and men go on
deck. A few remain, to clean and clear up, arrange for the dinner, and
remove any damp or ice that may have formed in holes or corners during
the sleeping hours. This done, a muster of all hands, called
"divisions," took place. Officers inspected the men, and every part of
the ship, to see both were clean, and then they dispersed to their
several duties, which at this severe season were very light; indeed,
confined mainly to supply the cook with snow to melt for water, keeping
the fire-hole in the floe open, and sweeping the decks. Knots of two or
three would, if there was not a strong gale blowing, be seen taking
exercise at a distance from the vessels; and others, strolling under
the lee, discussed the past and prophesied as to the future. At noon,
soups, preserved meats, or salt horse, formed the seamen's dinner, with
the addition of preserved potatoes, a treat which the gallant fellows
duly appreciated. The officers dined somewhat later--2 P.M. A little
afternoon exercise was then taken, and the evening meal, of tea, next
partaken of. If it was school night, the voluntary pupils went to their
tasks, the masters to their posts; reading men producing their books,
writing men their desks, artists painted by candle-light, and cards,
chess, or draughts, combined with conversation, and an evening's glass
of grog, and a cigar or pipe, served to bring round bed-time again.

[Headnote: _MASK BALLS._]

Monotony was our enemy, and to kill time our endeavour: hardships there
was none: for all we underwent in winter quarters, in the shape of
cold, hunger, or danger, was voluntary. Monotony, as I again repeat,
was the only disagreeable part of our wintering at Griffith's Island.
Some men amongst us seemed in their temperament to be much better able
to endure this monotony than others: and others who had no source of
amusement--such as reading, writing, or drawing--were much to be
pitied. Nothing struck one more than the strong tendency to talk of
home, and England: it became quite a disease. We, for the most part,
spoke as if all the most affectionate husbands, dutiful sons, and
attached brothers, had found their way into the Arctic expeditions.
From these maudlins, to which the most strong-minded occasionally gave
way, we gladly sought refuge in amusements,--such as theatres and
balls. To give an idea of the zest with which all entered these
gayeties, I will recount a list of the characters assumed by the
officers, at the first fancy dress ball.

    Capt. Austin       _Old Chairs to mend._
          Ommanney     _Mayor of Griffith's Island._
    Lieut. Aldrich     _Fancy dress._
           Cator       _Old English Gentleman._
           M'Clintock  _Blue Demon._
           Osborn      _Black Domino._
           Brown       _Red Devil._
           Mecham      _Blue and White Domino._
    Dr. Donnet         _A Lady, then a Friar._
        Bradford       _A Capuchin._
        Ward           _A Beadle._
    Mr. King           _Jockey._
        Rearse         _Smuggler._
        May            _Roman Soldier._
        Hamilton       _A Spinster._
        Eds            _Spanish Dancing Girl._
        Markham        _As Allegory._
        Cheyne         _Miss Maria._
        M'Dougall      _Vivandiere._
        Lewis          _Farmer Wapstraw._
    Mr. Allard         _Mahomet Ali._
        Webb           _Bedouin Arab._
        Harwood        _Miss Tabitha Flick._
        Allen          _Greenwich Pensioner._
        Brooman        _Punch._
        Crabbe         _Sir Charles Grandison._
        Richards       _A Scot._

Whilst pirates, Turks, gipsies, and ghosts, without number, chequered
the ball-room.

These our amusements; but the main object of our coming to the North
was kept constantly in view, and nothing that labour or ingenuity could
devise towards the successful accomplishment of our mission was

Some turned their attention to obtaining information for the general
good, upon all that related to travelling in frozen regions; others
plodded through many a volume, for meteorological information upon
which to arrange a safe period of departure for the travellers in the
spring; others tried to found some reasonable theory as to the
geography of the unexplored regions around us; whilst a portion more
actively employed themselves in bringing into action divers practical
means of communicating with our missing country-men which had been
supplied to us in England.

Rockets, in the calm evenings of early winter, were fired with great
effect; in proof of which, signals were several times exchanged, both
in the autumn and spring, between Assistance Harbour and our squadron,
by the aid of these useful projectiles, although the distance was
twenty miles.

[Headnote: _ROCKETS.--BALLOONS._]

The balloons, however, as a more novel attempt for distant signalizing,
or, rather, intercommunication, were a subject of deep interest. The
plan was simple, and ingenious; the merit of the idea, as applicable to
the relief of Sir John Franklin, by communicating to him intelligence
of the position of the searching parties, being due to Mr. Shepperd,
C.E. It was as follows: a balloon of oiled silk, capable of raising
about a pound weight when inflated, was filled with hydrogen evolved
from a strong cask, fitted with a valve, in which, when required for
the purpose, a certain quantity of zinc filings and sulphuric acid had
been introduced. To the base of the balloon, when inflated, a piece of
slow match, five feet long, was attached, its lower end being lighted.
Along this match, at certain intervals, pieces of coloured paper and
silk were secured with thread, and on them the information as to our
position and intended lines of search were printed. The balloon, when
liberated, sailed rapidly along, rising withal, and, as the match
burnt, the papers were gradually detached, and, falling, spread
themselves on the snow, where their glaring colours would soon attract
notice, should they happily fall near the poor fellows in the "Erebus"
and "Terror."

Every care was taken to despatch these balloons with winds from the
southward and south-east, so that the papers might be distributed to
the north and north-west, and westward. Fire-balloons, of which there
were a few, were likewise despatched; but the impression in my own mind
is, that the majority of the balloons despatched by us, after rising to
some height, were carried by counter-currents--always the most
prevalent ones at the cold season of the year--to the southward and
south-west. On two occasions I distinctly saw the balloons, when
started with S.E. winds, pass for a while to the N.W., and then, at a
great altitude, alter their course under the influence of a contrary
current, and pass as rapidly to the S.E., in the teeth of the light
airs we had on the floe.

The farthest distance from the point of departure at which any of these
papers were found, as far as I know, appears to have been within fifty
miles. The "Assistance" despatched some from near Barlow Inlet, which
were picked up on the opposite side of Wellington Channel north of Port
Innis. Neither this, however, nor our non-discovery of any papers
during our travelling in 1851, can be adduced as a proof against their
possible utility and success; and the balloons may still be considered
a most useful auxiliary.

Next--indeed we should say before the balloons--as a means of
communication, came carrier-pigeons. When first proposed, in 1850, many
laughed at the idea of a bird doing any service in such a cause; and,
maybe, might have laughed yet, had not a carrier-pigeon, despatched by
Capt. Sir John Ross, from his winter quarters in 1850, actually reached
its home, near Ayr, in Scotland, in five days. In our expedition none
of these birds had been taken; but on board the "Felix" Sir John Ross
had a couple of brace. I plead guilty, myself, to having joined in the
laugh at the poor creatures, when, with feathers in a half-moulted
state, I heard it proposed to despatch them from Beechey Island, in 74
degrees N. and 92 degrees W., to the meridian of Greenwich and 56
degrees N. latitude, even though they were slung to a balloon for a
part of the journey. At any rate it was done, I think, on the 6th
October, 1850, from Assistance Harbour. Two birds, duly freighted with
intelligence, and notes from the married men, were put in a basket,
which was attached to a balloon in such a manner, that, after
combustion of a certain quantity of match, the carrier-pigeons would be
launched into the air to commence their flight. The idea being that
they would fetch some of the whaling vessels about the mouth of
Hudson's Straits; at least so I heard. The wind was then blowing fresh
from the north-west, and the temperature below zero.

When we in the squadron off Griffith's Island heard of the departure of
the mail, the opinion prevalent was, the birds would be frozen to
death. We were mistaken; for, in about one hundred and twenty hours,
one of these birds, as verified by the lady to whom it had originally
belonged, reached her house, and flew to the nest in which it had been
hatched in the pigeon-house. It had, however, by some means or other,
shaken itself clear of the packet entrusted to its charge. This
marvellous flight of three thousand miles is the longest on record;
but, of course, we are unable to say for what portion of the distance
the bird was carried by the balloon, and when or where liberated; that
depending upon the strength and direction of the gale in which the
balloon was carried along.


Kites, which the kind Mr. Benjamin Smith had supplied me with, both as
a tractile power to assist us in dragging sledges, as well as a means
of signalizing between parties, afforded much interest, and the success
of our experiments in applying them to dragging weights was so great,
that all those I was able to supply gladly provided themselves with so
useful an auxiliary to foot-travellers. Experience, however, taught us
how impossible it was to command a fair wind, without which they were
useless weight, and in severe weather there was some danger, when
handling or coiling up the lines, of having to expose the hands and
being frost-bitten.

My attempts failed to despatch the kites with a weight attached
sufficient to keep a strain on the string, and so keep the kite aloft,
whilst at the same time it was enabled to proceed through the air in
any direction I chose; for, as may be conceived, a little too much
weight made the kite a fixture, whilst a little too little, or a sudden
flaw of wind, would topple the kite over and bring it to the earth. As
a means of signalizing between ships when stationary, the flying of
kites of different colours, sizes, or numbers, attached one to the
other, would, I am sure, in the clear atmosphere of the Arctic regions,
be found wonderfully efficacious.

Lastly, we carried out, more I believe from amusement than from any
idea of being useful, a plan which had suggested itself to the people
of Sir James Ross's expedition when wintering in Leopold Harbour in
1848-49, that of enclosing information in a collar, secured to the
necks of the Arctic foxes, caught in traps, and then liberated. Several
animals thus entrusted with despatches or records were liberated by
different ships; but, as the truth must be told, I fear in many cases
the next night saw the poor "postman," as Jack facetiously termed him,
in another trap, out of which he would be taken, killed, the skin taken
off, and packed away, to ornament, at some future day, the neck of some
fair Dulcinea. As a "sub," I was admitted into this secret mystery, or
otherwise, I with others might have accounted for the disappearance of
the collared foxes by believing them busy on their honourable mission.
In order that the crime of killing the "postmen" may be recognized in
its true light, it is but fair that I should say, that the brutes,
having partaken once of the good cheer on board or around the ships,
seldom seemed satisfied with the mere empty honours of a copper collar,
and returned to be caught over and over again. Strict laws were laid
down for their safety, such as an edict that no fox taken alive in a
trap was to be killed: of course no fox was after this taken alive;
they were all unaccountably dead, unless it was some fortunate wight
whose brush and coat were worthless: in such case he lived either to
drag about a quantity of information in a copper collar for the rest of
his days, or else to die a slow death, as being intended for Lord
Derby's menagerie.

The departure of a postman was a scene of no small merriment: all
hands, from the captain to the cook, were out to chase the fox, who,
half frightened out of its wits, seemed to doubt which way to run;
whilst loud shouts and roars of laughter, breaking the cold, frosty
air, were heard from ship to ship, as the fox-hunters swelled in
numbers from all sides, and those that could not run mounted some
neighbouring hummock of ice, and gave a view halloo, which said far
more for robust health than for tuneful melody.


During the darker period of the winter, and when the uncertainty of the
weather was such that, from a perfect calm and clear weather, a few
hours would change the scene to a howling tempest and thick drift, in
which, if one had been caught, death must inevitably have followed,
great care was necessary in taking our walks, to prevent being so
overtaken; but, nevertheless, walks of seven or eight miles from the
vessels were, on several occasions, performed, and a severe temperature
faced and mastered with perfect indifference. I remember well on the
13th January seeing mercury, in a solid mass, with a temperature of 40°
below zero, and being one of a good many who had taken three hours hard
walking for mere pleasure.

We joked not a little at the fireside stories at home, of bitter cold
nights, and being frozen to death on some English heath: it seemed to
us so incredible that people should be frost-bitten, because the air
was below freezing point; whilst we should have hailed with delight the
thermometer standing at zero, and indeed looked forward to such a state
of our climate, as people in the temperate zone would to May sunshine
and flowers.

With the increasing twilight, many an anxious eye was cast from the top
of Griffith's Island, to see the prospect of good foot-travelling
offered by the floe: it cannot have been said to be cheering, for
broken and hummocky ice met the eye whichever way one looked, with here
and there a small smooth space; and if it looked so from the heights,
we knew full well that when actually amongst those hummocks, the
travelling would be arduous indeed. There was some time yet, however,
to elapse before the tussle commenced; and many a snow-storm had time
meanwhile to rage. With seamen's sanguineness, we trusted that they
would fill up the hollows, and help to smooth over the broken pack; any
way, we all knew "a long pull, a strong pull, and a pull altogether,"
would master more difficulties than as yet had shown themselves in the
Arctic regions.

Such were our occupations, such the amusements, such the hopes and
fears of our winter quarters off Griffith's Island; and looking back
now at that period, we happily forget its dreariness, and recollect
only its brighter moments--the fast friendship there formed for many,
the respect and admiration for all.

_February 7th, 1851._--The stentorian lungs of the "Resolute's"
boatswain hailed, to say the sun was in sight from the mast-head; and
in all the vessels the rigging was soon manned to get the first glimpse
of the returning god of day. Slowly it rose, and loud and hearty cheers
greeted the return of an orb whom the world, without the frozen zone,
does not half appreciate, because he is always with them. For
ninety-six days it had not gladdened us, and now its return put fresh
life into our night-wearied bodies. For a whole hour we feasted
ourselves with admiring the sphere of fire, which illumined without
warming us; and, indeed, the cold now increased rather than otherwise,
and our lowest temperature and severest weather did not occur until


Preparations for spring travelling were now hastened; daily committees
of officers met, by order, to discuss every point, and receive,
approve, or reject proposals and plans. Every soul, high and low,
exerted his ingenuity and abilities to invent articles, portable and
useful for travellers; whilst others sent in to the leader of the
expedition schemes of search, in which distances, directions, weights,
and material were duly considered. Hopes rose high, as every one felt
that the field was thrown open to individual ability and skill. Every
one, naturally, (for orders "to put the men in training" did not come
out until afterwards,) commenced to "harden up" for the labour before
them. Zealous individuals might be daily seen trying all sorts of
patents. Out of their hard-earned wages some of the men bought and made
sails of peculiar cut for their sledges; others, after the "working
hours" were over, constructed water-bottles, velocipedes, cooking-tins;
in fact, neither pains nor trouble were spared--officers and men vying
in zeal.

Early in March an interchange of visits between our squadron and that
under Captain Penny opened the communication. His vessels had got
through the winter equally well with ourselves, and he, in like manner,
was hard at work, preparing for the foot journeys; and, as no sledges
or other equipment had been brought by him from England, in consequence
of his hurried departure, every nerve had to be strained, and every
resource called into existence, to enable him to overcome his
difficulties in lack of material.

On the 8th of March, at 11 A.M., the temperature in the shade having
been a couple of hours previously at 41° below zero, and mercury solid
in the open air, we were delighted to see a solitary drop of water
trickle down the black paint of the "Pioneer's" side: at that moment,
oddly enough, the temperature in the shade was 36°--, and in the sun
the thermometer only rose to 2° below zero! Water, however, it
undoubtedly was, and as such we cheerfully hailed it, to prove the
increasing heat of the sun, and to promise a coming summer. All March
was a scene of constant business, diversified with sledge parades and
amusing military evolutions, recalling to our minds unpleasant
recollections of sweltering field-days and grand parades.

Having briefly touched upon the leading incidents connected with our
winter, and brought events up to the preparations for a search on foot,
it may not here be out of place to give a brief sketch of the causes
which had brought about the necessity for so many Englishmen to be
sojourning in these inclement regions, as well as occasioned the voyage
of that distinguished navigator whose squadron we hoped to rescue.

The seamen of Northern Europe, the Norsemen and Scandinavians, seem,
from the earliest records extant, to have sought for the glory
attendant upon braving the perils of Polar Seas. From A.D. 860 to 982,
from the sea-rover Naddod's discovery of Iceland, to Eirek "of the Red
Hand's" landing on Greenland, near Hergolf's Ness, neither wreck,
disaster, nor tempest, checked the steady, onward march of their
explorations; robbing, as they eventually did a century afterwards, the
immortal Genoese of one half his honours, by actually landing, under
the pirate Biarni, on the new continent south of the river St.

In Greenland, a hardy race, the descendants of the Northland warriors,
appear to have multiplied; for, in A.D. 1400, a flourishing colony
stood on this threshold of the new world; converted to Christianity,
the cathedral of Garda had been constructed, and the archives in
Iceland proved it to have been successively held by no less than
seventeen bishops; the colonies were known under the general terms of
East and West Bygd (Bight), and numbered in all sixteen parishes, and
two hundred and eighty farms, numerously populated.


Strict commercial monopoly, and the naturally secluded position of the
Scandinavian colony in Greenland, seemed to have occasioned its perfect
decadence, or, otherwise, as traditions tell us, a sudden hostile
inroad of the Esquimaux swept off the isolated Europeans: from either
cause there remained, after the lapse of two centuries, but the
moss-covered ruins of a few churches, some Runic inscriptions, and the
legends of the Esquimaux, who talked of a tall, fair-haired race, their
giants of old.

The heirloom of the northern pirates, the dominion of the sea, passed,
however, into England's hands, and with it that same daring love of the
difficult and unknown, which had led the Viking from conquest to
conquest: and whilst southern Europe sought for the wealth of the
Indies in the more genial regions of the south, English seamen pushed
their barks to the west, in the boisterous seas of high northern
latitudes. Confining myself purely to those who essayed the passage to
Cathay Cipango, and the Indies, by the north-west, first on the
glorious scroll stands Frobisher. That sturdy seaman of Elizabeth's
gallant navy, on the 11th of July, 1576, with three craft, whose united
burden only amounted to _seventy-five tons_,--this "proud admiral"
sighted the east coast of Greenland, in 61° north latitude. Unable to
approach it for ice, which then, as now, hampers the whole of that
coast, he was next blown by a gale far to the south-west on to the
coast of Labrador, reaching eventually to 63° north latitude, and
landing in Frobisher's Straits. He extricated his vessels with
difficulty, and returned home, carrying a quantity of mica, which was
mistaken for gold; and awakening the cupidity of the court, nobles, and
merchants, three more expeditions sailed, exhibiting laudable courage
and skill, but adding little to our geographical knowledge.

Such a succession of miscarriages damped the ardour for north-west
discovery for a while; until, in 1535, "divers worshipful merchants of
London, and the West country, moved by the desire of advancing God's
glory, and the good of their native land," equipped "John Davis" for a
voyage of discovery to the unknown regions of the north-west.

Piteous as were his hardships--doleful as were his tales of the "lothsome
view of y^e shore, and y^e irksome noyse of y^e yce," "y^e stinking fogs
and cruelle windes" of Desolation Land--the seamen of that day seemed
each to have determined to see and judge for himself, and ably were they
supported by the open-handed liberality of wealthy private individuals,
and the corporation of London merchants; whose minds, if we may judge of
them by such men as Sir John Wolstenholme, Digges, Jones, and others,
soared far above Smithfield nuisances and committees on sewers. After
Davis we see Waymouth, then Hudson, who perished amid the scenes of his
hardships and honours. Captains Button and Bylot, followed by the ablest,
the first of Arctic navigators--Baffin,--he sweeping, in one short
season, round the great bay which records his fame, showed us of the
present day the high-road to the west; and did more; for he saw more of
that coast than we modern seamen have yet been able to accomplish.
Lastly, in that olden time, we have the sagacious and quaint Nor-West
Fox, carrying our flag to the head of Hudson's Bay; whilst James's
fearful sufferings in the southern extreme of the same locality,
completed, for a while, the labours of British seamen in these regions.


A lull then took place, perhaps occasioned by the granting of a charter
to certain noblemen and merchants in 1668, under the title of "Governor
and Company of Adventurers of England," trading into Hudson's Bay, with
the understanding that the discovery of a north-west passage was to be
persevered in by them. During a century, they accomplished, by their
servants, "Hearne and Mackenzie,"--the former in 1771, and the latter
in 1789,--the tracing of the Copper-mine and the Mackenzie rivers to
their embouchures into an arctic sea in the 70° parallel of north
latitude; whilst a temporary interest, on the part of Great Britain,
during the reign of George the Third, occasioned two names, dear to
every seaman's recollection, to be associated with the accomplishment
of geographical discovery in the same direction: the one was Nelson,
who served with Captain Phipps, afterwards Lord Mulgrave, in his
attempt to pass over the Pole; and the other, the greatest of English
navigators--Cook, who, in 1776, failed to round the American continent
by coming to the eastward from Behring's Straits.

At the commencement of the current century, our knowledge of the
northern coast of the American continent amounted to a mere fraction.
On the west, Cook had hardly penetrated beyond Behring's Straits; and
on the east, Hudson's and Baffin's Bay formed the limit of our
geographical knowledge; except at two points, where the sea had been
seen by Hearne and Mackenzie.

Shortly after the Peace, one whose genius and ability were only to be
equalled by his perseverance, the late Sir John Barrow, Secretary of
the Admiralty, turned his attention to Arctic discovery, and especially
the north-west passage. He had himself been to Spitzbergen, and as far
north as the 80th parallel of latitude. Combating the prejudiced,
convincing the doubtful, and teaching the ignorant, he awakened
national pride and professional enterprise in a cause in which English
seamen had already won high honours, and Great Britain's glory was
especially involved. What difficulties he mastered, and how well he was
seconded by others, and none more so than by the enlightened First Lord
of the Admiralty, Viscount Melville, Sir John Barrow himself has told,
in the able volumes which imperishably chronicle the deeds of ancient
and modern explorers in Polar regions. Since 1818, with the exception
of Sir John Ross's first voyage, we may have been said to have
constantly added to our knowledge of the north-west.

It was in 1819 that Parry sailed to commence that magnificent series of
discoveries which, since completed by Franklin, Richardson, Beechey,
the Rosses, Back, Simpson, and Rae, have left us, after thirty-five
years of well-spent toil and devotion, in perfect possession of the
geographical features of Arctic America, and added _three thousand
six hundred and eighty miles_ of coast-line to our Polar charts. Is
this nothing? If the mere _quid pro quo_ is required of public
servants, surely the Arctic navigator has far better repaid to his
country the pay and food he has received at her hands than those who,
in a time of universal peace, idle through year after year of foreign
service in her men-of-war; and most assuredly, if we are proud of our
seamen's fame and our naval renown, where can we look for nobler
instances of it than amongst the records of late Arctic voyages and
journeys. The calm, heroic sufferings of Franklin,--always successful,
let the price be what it would; the iron resolution of Richardson;
Back's fearful winter march to save his comrades; the devoted Hepburn,
who, old though he be, could not see his former leader perish without
trying to help him, and, whilst I write these lines, is again braving
an Arctic winter in the little "Prince Albert;" Parry, who knew so well
to lead and yet be loved; James Ross, of iron frame, establishing, by
four consecutive years of privation and indomitable energy, that high
character which enabled him to carry an English squadron to the
unvisited shores of Victoria Land at the southern pole; and lastly, the
chivalrous men, who, again under Franklin, have launched, in obedience
to their Queen and country, into the unknown regions between the
Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, to execute their mission or fall in the


It was to save these devoted servants, that the spring of 1851 saw full
500 British and American seamen within the frigid zone. That portion of
them that had come by Baffin's Bay had been so far successful in their
mission, that they had dispelled all the visions--gratuitous enough--of
Franklin having perished by shipwreck or other disaster in his passage
across the bay.

We had seen his winter quarters; we had seen his lookout posts, and the
trail of his explorations. They all said, Onward! To be sure, we did
not at once know by which route he had gone onward. The uncertainty,
however, gave a spur to those about to be engaged in the searching
parties, and each man thought there were especial reasons for believing
one particular route to be the true one. The majority--indeed all those
who gave the subject any consideration--believed Franklin to have gone
either by Cape Walker, or to the north-west by Wellington Channel.

Hope, thank God, rode high in every breast, and already did the men
begin to talk of what they would do with their new shipmates from the
"Erebus" and "Terror" when they had them on board their respective
ships: and I have no doubt they would have done as one gallant fellow
replied, when I asked him if he thought himself equal to dragging 200
lbs., "O yes, sir, and Sir John Franklin too, when we find him."

Increasing light, decreasing cold, plenty to do, and certain
anticipations upon each man's part, that he would be the fortunate one
to find and save Franklin, made the month of April come in on us before
we had time to think of it, but not before we were ready.

The original intention was for the sledges to have started on the
different routes laid down by our commodore on the 8th of April; but a
fall of temperature on the 6th altered this plan, and a delay of one
week was decided upon. I therefore availed myself of the occasion to
visit Captain Penny's winter quarters; proceeding there on the
dog-sledge of Mr. Petersen, who happened to be on board our vessel at
the time.

Nothing, I conceive, can be more exhilarating than dog-sledging in the
Arctic regions on a fine day, especially when, as in my case, the whole
affair has the charm of novelty. The rattling pace of the dogs, their
intelligence in choosing the road through the broken ice; the strict
obedience paid by the team to one powerful dog whom they elect as
leader; the arbitrary exercise of authority by the said leader; the
constant use of the whip, and a sort of running conversation kept up by
the driver with the different dogs, who well knew their names, as in
turn Sampson! Caniche! Foxey! Terror! &c., &c., were duly
anathematized, afforded constant amusement; apart from Petersen's
conversation, which was replete with interest, and the information he
gave me of the distances accomplished on the coast of Greenland by the
Danes with dog-sledges, made me regret much we had not provided
ourselves with a team or two for accomplishing any necessarily rapid

When Mr. Petersen, at Uppernavik, had so nobly thrown up an appointment
under the Danish crown to serve as interpreter with Penny in the search
for Franklin, he brought with him a sledge and a few dogs: these had
twice littered, and the numerous puppies were already grown into
serviceable dogs, forming two efficient teams. The major part of the
winter, scarcity of food, such as seal and bear, had told severely upon
the poor creatures; but an Esquimaux dog lives on little when not
worked; and, with a little oatmeal and grease, they had all outlived
the severe season; and some bear's flesh having been luckily procured,
there was every probability of good service being rendered by them. Our
rate of travelling was over five miles per hour, and though making a
considerable détour to avoid broken ice, I was shaking Penny by the
hand four hours after leaving the "Pioneer:" the distance between the
squadrons being about twenty miles in a straight line.


I was much struck with the great advantage of wintering in harbour, and
near the shore, over a position, such as our squadron's, in the midst
of the floe. There was a cheerfulness in the vicinity of the land,
barren though it was, quite refreshing to one who had always a mile to
walk during the winter to reach Griffith's Island, or remain satisfied
with the monotony of the ice-field around the "Pioneer." Besides being
snug in harbour, Captain Penny, satisfied of the security of his
vessels, intended to leave only one man in each of them,--every other
soul being told off for sledge-parties,--whereas our squadron would
have some sixty men and officers left behind to take care of them,
exposed as they were to be swept into Barrow's Strait, or farther, by
any sudden disruption of the ice. I, therefore, mentally gave my
adhesion to the opinion expressed by authorities at home, to secure
winter quarters in some bay or harbour, and not to winter in the pack,
unless it is unavoidable.

The oldest English officer who had ever wintered within the Arctic
circle on a voyage of discovery, Sir John Ross, was not likely to be
forgotten by me; and I sincerely congratulated the veteran on his
escape from sickness during the past winter: and, though a wonderful
instance of physical endurance, I, with others, could not but feel
regret that a Naval officer so advanced in years, and who had served so
long, should be necessitated to undergo privations, of which those who
did not witness them can form no conception.

Time enabled me to do little more than admire the perseverance
displayed by Capt. Penny, his officers and men, in their preparations
for travelling. Sledges, cooking apparatuses, tents, in short, every
thing was ready, having been made by themselves in the course of the
winter; and, on the 13th April, six sledges, drawn by seamen, with an
officer to each, and provisioned for forty days, would start for
Wellington Channel, there to part into two divisions,--Capt. Stewart,
of the "Sophia," taking the one side of the Channel, whilst Capt.
Penny, with two extra dog-sledges, would direct the search in general.
Delighted with all the arrangements, and equally so with the high
spirit of chivalrous devotion apparent in every word and action of
these our gallant coadjutors in the purest of enterprises, my heart was
full as I said "Good-bye" to my hospitable friend Penny, on the 11th of
April; and a rapid drive by Mr. Petersen carried me to the "Pioneer" in
less than three hours. After a short halt, Mr. P. returned to
Assistance Harbour, doing full forty miles, within twelve hours, on his

I was astonished to find, on my return, that as yet the temperature at
our winter quarters had not been registered as being above zero;
whereas, in Assistance Harbour, Capt. Penny's quarters, the thermometer
had occasionally for the past week ranged above it, and on the day
before I left showed 11° in the shade. This difference of temperature
was, doubtless, occasioned by the radiation of heat from the land, by
which they were, unlike ourselves, surrounded.

During my absence, I was told that Mr. M'Dougal, of the "Resolute," who
had been despatched as early as the 4th April to inspect the dépôts
formed in the autumn, had returned to the ships, and brought accounts
of a wholesale destruction of the one on Somerville Island, by bears.
Hunger and mischievousness seemed alike to have induced the brutes to
break and tear to pieces what they could not possibly eat--such as tins
of patent chocolate, some of which were fairly bitten through. This
information induced us all to take extra precautions in securing the
provisions, of which dépôts during the march were to be formed.


It is now time to describe the sledges and their equipment, upon the
completeness of which the lives of our travellers so entirely depended.

The sledges, constructed of tough and well-seasoned wood, had been
carefully constructed in Woolwich Dockyard. They were shod with iron,
and the cross-bars or battens which connected the two runners, and
formed the floor upon which the load was placed, were lashed in their
places by us when required for use. At the four corners of the sledges
light iron stanchions dropped into sockets, and formed the support for
the sides of a species of tray or boat, capable of serving to ferry the
sledge crew across water in an emergency, as well as to keep the
provisions and clothing in it dry. This boat was made in some cases of
gutta-percha, in others of oiled canvas;--


    And, together with the sledge and drag-ropes, which
    were made of horse-hair, to prevent their becoming
    hard and brittle from frost, weighed                      120

    Two fur blankets and spare blanket, two weighed            40

    Nine blanket-bags for sleeping in                          42

    A tent of oblong form, made of a species of
    brown holland, supported by four boarding-pikes,
    and a line which served as a ridge-rope, and was
    set up to any heavy thing that came to hand                55

    Mackintosh floor-cloth to spread over the snow
    or gravel                                                  12

    A shovel to dig out snow for banking-up with                5-1/2

    A cooking apparatus, invented by Lieutenant M'Clintock,
    capable of cooking a pint apiece of tea, cocoa, or
    pemmican, with a spirit lamp, tallow lamp, and spare
    kettle                                                     17

    Sextant, 1 gun, and gear                                   10

    A bag containing 5 tin pannikins and 5 spoons               5

    A knapsack for each man, containing 1 flannel shirt,
    1 Guernsey frock, 1 serge frock, 1 pair of drawers,
    flannel, 1 pair of boot hose, 1 pair of stockings,
    2 pairs of blanket-socks, 1 towel, 1 comb, 1 lb. soap      48

    Spare boots, and thick Guernsey frocks for sleeping in     36

    A tin case, containing pepper, salt, herbs dried,
    lucifer matches, grog-measure, calico and flannel
    bandages, plaster adhesive, lint, liniment, eye-wash,
    pills, simple ointment, glycerine, lancet, tincture
    of opium, pins, needles, and thread                        16

    Store-bag, containing broom or brush for sweeping the
    tent down with, spare boot-soles, wax, bristles, twine,
    shoe-tacks, crape awls, slow-match, nettle stuff, and
    strips of hide, cylinders for documents, printed
    records                                                    11

    Spare ammunition, cleaning rods, and wrench                14

    Kites and string                                           12-1/2

                                         Dead weight, lbs.    440

Such were the weights of the sledge equipment in the case of one of
those intended for a long journey. Nothing, it will be seen, was
forgotten, and there was nothing superfluous; yet, as the 440 lbs. had
to be dragged by six men, there was already 73 lbs. per man, which
would, from its nature, be hardly any lighter at the end of the
journey; and as about 200 lbs. was judged to be as much as a man could
drag, there only remained 172 lbs. per man available for provision and


The daily scale of provision, as ordered by Capt. Austin, during the
journeys, was to be as follows:--

    Pemmican                                   1 lb.
    Boiled pork                                6 oz.
    Biscuit                                    12 oz.
    Rum, concentrated                          3/4 gill.
    Tobacco                                    1/2 oz.
    Biscuit dust                               1 oz.
    Tea and sugar                              3/4 oz.
    Chocolate and sugar (alternate days)       1-3/4 oz.
    Lime-juice (for 10 days)                   1/2 oz.

The fuel allowed to cook this, for a party of seven men, amounted to
one pint and one gill of spirits of wine, or one pound eight ounces of

A little calculation soon showed that about forty days' provision was
as much as any one sledge could take with it, or for an outward journey
of about twenty days; which, at an average distance of ten miles per
diem, would only give an extent of coast-line examined by any one
sledge of two hundred miles.

Before I endeavour to show how, by a system of dépôts and relays,
greater distances were achieved, the complete load of a long-party
sledge may as well be shown.

    Total dead weight                               440
    Pemmican and cases                              330
    Biscuit and dust, &c.                           278
    Pork and packages                               123
    Tea, sugar, chocolate, tobacco, &c., in a case   47
    Lime-juice and rum                               67
    Spirits of wine and tallow                       78
    Sundries, tins, &c.                              45
                     Number of men to drag, 7      1408
                                                    201 lbs. per man.

The officer's load consisted of a gun, powder and ball, telescope,
compass, and note-book; and as all the party, in anticipation of cold
weather, had to be heavily clad, it may be supposed that the total
weight to be dragged through snow and over rough ice was quite as much
as the stoutest physical powers were capable of. Several days previous
to departure we had travelled short journeys, in perfect marching
order, and sledges ladened,--an arrangement which was highly
beneficial; and from the way the sledges went over the floe, they gave
us high hopes of answering our expectations in the forthcoming march.

From head-quarters the following arrangement of sledges was made

Capt. Erasmus Ommanney was to cross Barrow's Strait to Cape Walker,
with the following sledges and officers under his orders: he there was
to use his own judgment as to the disposal of the force, it being
required, in the event of two routes showing themselves, viz., one to
the S.W., and the other W., that Lieut. Sherard Osborn was to be
ordered to take up the latter.


                     _CAPTAIN OMMANNEY'S COMMAND._

| Long-party sledge |Reliance   | _Domine dirige nos_ |Captain Ommancy, |
|                   |           |                     |six men.         |
|   Ditto    ditto  |True Blue  | _Nil desperandum_   |Lieutenant       |
|                   |           |                     |Osborn, seven    |
|                                                     |men.             |
| Supporting sledge |Succour    | _Sequor juvare_     |Lieut. G. F.     |
|                   |           |                     |Mecham, six men. |
|                   |           | Gaze where some     |                 |
|                   |           |   distant speck     |                 |
|   Ditto   ditto   |Enterprise |   a sail implies,   |Lieut. W. H.     |
|                   |           | With all the        |Browne, six men. |
|                   |           |   thirsting gaze    |                 |
|                   |           |   of enterprise.    |                 |
|   Ditto   ditto  }|           | Nothing adventure,  |Mr. Vesey        |
| to Lieutenant    }|Adventure  | Nothing win         |Hamilton (mate), |
| Osborne                                             |seven men.       |
|   Ditto   ditto   |Inflexible | _Respice finem_     |Mr. Charles      |
|                   |           |                     |Ede (assist.     |
|                   |           |                     |surg.), six men. |
|   Ditto   ditto   |Success    | One and all         |Mr. F. S. Crabbe |
|                   |           |                     |(2d master),     |
|                   |           |                     |seven men.       |

To the highly important direction northward up the unknown channel of
Byam Martin Island, and which, as Lieut. Aldrich very properly thought,
would intercept the course of Franklin, should he, from Wellington
Channel, have sailed north about for Behring's Straits, two sledges
were told off under that officer:--

| Long-party sledge |Lady       | Faithful and firm   |Lieut. R. D.     |
|                   |Franklin   |                     |Aldrich, 7 men.  |
| Supporting sledge |Hotspur    | In Deo confide      |Mr. R. R. Pearse |
|                   |           |                     |(mate), 7 men.   |

Lastly to Melville Island, on which route a dépôt, forty miles in
advance, had already been placed in the autumn, and renewed in the
spring, the following party was appointed: Lieut. M'Clintock, on his
reaching the said island, acting as he should judge fit as to
despatching Mr. Bradford along the northern shores, whilst he
prosecuted the search to and beyond Winter Harbour:--

| Long-party sledge |Perseverance  | _Persevere to    |Lieut.           |
|                   |              |   the end_       |M'Clintock,      |
|                   |              |                  |6 men.           |
|                   |              | St. George and   |                 |
|                   |              |   merry England  |Dr. Bradford,    |
|      Do.          |Resolute      | Onward to        |6 men.           |
|                   |              |   the rescue     |                 |
| Supporting sledge |Excellent     | Respice,         |Mr. W. May       |
|                   |              |   prospice       |(mate), 6 men.   |
|      Do.          |Dasher        | Faithful &       |Mr. Shellabear   |
|                   |              |   intrepid.      |(2d master),     |
                                                      |6 men.           |
|      Do.          |Parry         | Endeavour        |Mr. Cheyne       |
|                   |              |   to deserve     |(mate), 7 men.   |

Mr. M'Dougal, I have before said, started during the first week of
April with his sledge, the "Beaufort,"--

    That future pilgrims of the wave may be
    Secure from doubt, from every danger free.

He had to replenish the dépôt formed for Lieut. M'Clintock, and then to
connect the search round a deep bay, which connected Bathurst and
Cornwallis Lands, for separate islands they were proved by him no
longer to be.


Thus fifteen sledges, manned by one hundred and five men and officers,
were equipped for the search, leaving on board the four vessels of the
squadron, seventy-five souls, which number was afterwards further
reduced by Mr. R. C. Allen being sent to search the islands to the
westward with the sledge "Grinnell" and seven men.

It now only remains for me to show in what manner it was proposed to
enable the supporting sledges to apply their resources, so that the
long-parties should reach far beyond the two hundred miles, or twenty
days' journey, of which they were alone capable when dependent on their
own provision.

The plan proposed in the southern division will give the best idea. The
supporting sledge "Success" was capable of feeding all the division for
five days, by which time we hoped to be at Cape Walker, and then have
sufficient to return back to the squadron, where it could again
replenish, and, returning to the same point at which we had separated
from it, form such a dépôt that each of the sledges in return would
find five days' provisions to carry them home. By this means six out of
the seven sledges in the southern search will be seen to reach a point
fifty miles from their original starting-point in perfect condition so
far as their provisions are concerned.

We will, for the sake of clearness, cause these six sledges to divide
into three divisions, of two each, viz., a long-party sledge and a
support: in each case the support can feed the long party for ten days,
and then, forming a dépôt of provisions equal to ten days more, have
sufficient left to reach back to Walker, and thence home. The long
party are now still complete, after receiving two supports, equal to
fifteen days, or 150 miles; and two dépôts stand in their rear, the one
for ten days, the other for five days. The long party now starts,
consuming its own provision (forming its own dépôts for the returning
march), advances for twenty days, and accomplishes 200 miles; which,
with that done whilst supported, makes in all a journey outward of
thirty-five days, or 350 miles from the ships. Of course, with an
increased number of supports, this distance and time may be carried on
as long as the strength of the men will endure, or the travelling
season admit of.

On the 12th of April, the day calm and cold, some 50° below
freezing-point, a scene of bustle and merriment showed that the sledges
were mustering previous to being taken to the starting-point, under the
north-west bluff of Griffith's Island, to which they marched with due
military pomp in two columns, directed by our chiefs. Our sense of
decorum was constantly overthrown by the gambols of divers dogs, given
to us by Captain Penny, with small sledges attached to them, on which,
their food duly marked and weighed, with flags, mottoes, &c., in fact,
perfect fac-similes of our own, were racing about, entangling
themselves, howling for assistance, or else running between the men's
legs and capsizing them on the snow, amidst shouts of laughter, and sly
witticisms at the _tenders_, as they were termed. Reaching the
halting-place, tents were pitched, luncheon served out, and all of us
inspected, approved of, ordered to fall in, a speech made, which, as
was afterwards remarked, buttered us all up admirably; the thanks of
our leader given to Mr. M'Clintock, to whose foresight, whilst in
England, and whose valuable information collated during his travelling
experience under Sir James Ross, we were so entirely indebted for the
perfect equipment we now had with us.


The inspection over, we trudged back to our ships, Sunday being spent
by the men in cooking and eating, knowing as they did that there were a
good many banian days ahead, packing up and putting away their kits,
and making little arrangements in the event of accidents to themselves.
Monday was no day for a start; but on the evening of the 15th April the
breeze slackened, and the temperature only some 14° below
freezing-point, we donned our marching attire, girded up our loins, and
all hands proceeded to the sledges.

As we shut in our wooden homes with a projecting point of Griffith's
Island, the weather suddenly changed, and a fast increasing breeze
enveloped us in snow-drift. Reaching the sledges, and shaking them
clear from the snow of the last two days, a hasty cup of tea and a
mouthful of biscuit were partaken of, a prayer offered up, beseeching
His mercy and guidance whose kind providence we all knew could alone
support us in the hazardous journey we were about to undertake; hearty
farewells, in which rough jokes covered many a kindly wish towards one
another; and then, grasping their tracking lines, a hundred hoarse
voices joined in loud cheers, and the divisions of sledges, diverging
on their different routes, were soon lost to one another in snow and

An April night, with its gray twilight, was no match for the darkness
of a snow-storm from the S.W., and we had almost to feel our road
through the broken ice off the bluffs of Griffith's Island.

At two o'clock in the morning we reached much piled-up ice; and in the
hope of clearer weather in the evening, the word to halt and pitch the
tents was given. The seven sledges of the division, picking out the
smoothest spots, were soon secured. The tents fluttering in the breeze,
a little tea cooked, short orders given, and then each man got into his
blanket-bag, and dreamed of a fine day and finding Sir John Franklin.

In the evening the weather was still thick as pea-soup, with a
double-reef topsail breeze blowing in our teeth; but detention was
impossible, so we again packed up after a meal of chocolate and
biscuit, and facing towards Cape Walker, we carried the hummocks by
storm. Ignorance was bliss. Straight ahead, over and through every
thing, was the only way; and, fresh, hearty, and strong, we surmounted
tier after tier, which more light and a clearer view might only have
frightened us from attempting. Here, a loud cheer told where a sledge
had scaled the pile in its path, or shot in safety down the slope of
some huge hummock. There, the cry, one! two! three! haul! of a party,
and quizzical jokes upon name, flag, or motto, betokened that "Success"
or "True Blue" had floundered into a snow-wreath, above which the top
of the sledge-load was only to be seen, whilst seven red-faced mortals,
grinning, and up to their waists in snow, were perseveringly
endeavouring to extricate it; officers encouraging, and showing the
way; the men labouring and laughing. A wilder or more spirit-stirring
scene cannot be imagined.

A hard night's toil cleared all obstacles, and nothing but a fair,
smooth floe was before us, sweeping with a curve to the base of Cape
Walker; but a fresh difficulty was then met with, in the total absence
of hummock or berg-piece, by which to preserve a course in the thick,
foggy weather, that lasted whilst the warm south wind blew. Imagine,
kind reader, a grayish haze, with fast-falling snow, a constant wind in
the face, and yourself trying to steer a straight course where floe and
sky were of one uniform colour. A hand dog-vane was found the best
guide, for of course it was impossible to keep a compass constantly in
hand; and the officers forming in a line ahead, so as just to keep a
good sight of one another, were followed by the sledges, the crews of
which soon learned that the easiest mode of travelling, and most equal
division of labour, consisted in marching directly after one another;
and as the leading sledge had the extra work of forming the road
through the snow, and straining the men's eyes in keeping sight of the
officers, the foremost sledge was changed every half hour or hour,
according to their will.


It will be seen that we travelled by night, and hoped by such means to
avoid the glare of the sun, and consequent snow-blindness. It entailed,
however, at this early season of the year, great suffering in the shape
of cold, the people being exposed to the weather during the severest
part of the day. From the 15th to the 19th the weather was of the same
nature,--constant gales of wind in our faces, snow-storms, and heavy
drift; against which we struggled, helped by a rising temperature, that
we flattered ourselves would end in summer,--a mistake for which we
afterwards suffered bitterly, the men having, from the ease with which
they kept themselves warm, become careless of their clothing, and
heedless of those precautions against frost-bite which a winter's
experience had taught them.

Easter Sunday came in gloomily, with a wind inclined to veer to the
northward, and with every appearance of bad weather. Setting our sails
on the sledges, and kites likewise when the wind served, the division
hurried on for Cape Walker, which loomed now and then through the
snow-drift ahead of us. The rapidity of the pace at which we now
advanced--thanks to the help afforded by the sails--threw all into a
profuse perspiration, especially the seamen, who really looked as if
toiling under a tropical sun rather than in an arctic night, with the
temperature below freezing-point. Fatigue obliged us to halt short of
the land, and postpone for another day's march the landing on the
unvisited shores of Cape Walker.

During the sleeping hours, the increased attention to the fur covering,
and the carefully closed door, told us that the temperature was
falling; and the poor cook, with a rueful countenance, announced that
it was below zero, as he prepared the morning meal. More than usual
difficulty was found in pulling on our stiffly-frozen boots, stockings,
and outer garments; and when the men went out of the tent they soon
found their clothing becoming perfectly hard, from the action of the
intense cold on what had been for several days saturated with
perspiration. To start and march briskly was now the only safety, and
in double-quick time tents were down and sledges moving. A nor'-wester
was fast turning up, and as the night of Easter Monday closed around
us, the cold increased with alarming rapidity. One of those magnificent
conglomerations of halos and parhelia common to these regions lit up
the northern heavens, and, by the brilliancy of colouring and startling
number of false suns, seemed as if to be mocking the sufferings of our
gallant fellows, who, with faces averted and bended bodies, strained
every nerve to reach the land, in hopes of obtaining more shelter than
the naked floe afforded from the nipping effects of the cutting gale.
Every moment some fresh case of frost-bite would occur, which the
watchful care of the officers would immediately detect. The man would
fall out from his sledge, restore the circulation of the affected part,
generally the face, and then hasten back to his post. Constant
questions of "How are your feet?" were heard on all sides, with the
general response, "Oh! I hope they are all right; but I've not felt
them since I pulled my boots on."


One halt was made to remove and change all leather boots, which, in
consequence of our late warm weather, had been taken into use, but were
now no longer safe; and then, with a rally, the piled-up floe around
the cliffs of Cape Walker was reached. Cold and hungry as we were, it
must have been a heavy barrier indeed to have stopped our men from
taking their sledges to the land; and piled as the floe was against the
Cape, full fifty feet high, we carried our craft over it in safety, and
just in time too, for the north-west wind rushed down upon us, as if to
dispute our right to intrude on its dominion. Hastily securing the
tents, we hurried in to change our boots, and to see whether our feet
were frost-bitten or not; for it was only by ocular proof that one
could be satisfied of their safety, sensation having apparently long
ceased. I shall not easily forget my painful feelings, when one gallant
fellow of my party, the captain of the sledge, exclaimed, "Both feet
gone, sir!" and sure enough they were, white as two lumps of ice, and
equally cold; for as we of the tent party anxiously in turn placed our
warm hands on the frost-bitten feet, the heat was extracted in a
marvellously short time, and our half-frozen hands had to be succeeded
by fresh ones as quickly as possible. With returning circulation the
poor fellow's agonies must have been intense; and some hours afterwards
large blisters formed over the frost-bitten parts, as if the feet had
been severely scalded. Sadly cramped as we were for room, much worse
was it when a sick man was amongst our number. Sleep was out of the
question; and to roll up in the smallest possible compass, and try to
think of something else than the cold, which pierced to the very marrow
in one's bones, was our only resource.

Next day, Tuesday, 22d April, wind N.W. blowing hard, and temperature
at 44° below freezing-point, parties left the encampment under
Lieutenants Browne and Mecham, to look around for cairns, &c., and
report upon the trend of the land, whilst the rest of us secured a
dépôt of Halkett's boats, and built a cairn as a record of our visit.

As it is not my intention to give a detailed account of the operations
of the Southern Division, but merely to tell of those events which will
convey to the reader a general idea of the incidents connected with
Arctic travelling, I shall without further comment give them, leaving
to the curious in the minutiæ of the journeys the amusement of reading
in the Admiralty Blue Books the details of when we eat, drank, slept,
or marched.

Cape Walker was found to form the eastern and most lofty extreme of a
land-trending to the south-west on its northern coast, and to the south
on its eastern shore. The cape itself, full 1000 feet in altitude, was
formed of red sandstone and conglomerate, very abrupt to the eastward,
but dipping with an undulating outline to the west.

In its immediate neighbourhood no traces of Franklin having visited it
were to be seen, and, as a broad channel ran to the southward (there
was every reason to believe down to the American continent, and thence
to Behring's Straits), by which Franklin might have attempted to pass,
Captain Ommanney, very properly despatched Lieutenant Browne to examine
the coast of Cape Walker Land, down the channel to the southward; and
then, the "Success" sledge having previously departed with invalids,
the five remaining sledges, on the evening of the 24th of April,
marched to the westward. Previous to that date it had been impossible
to move, on account of a strong gale in our faces, together with a
severe temperature.

[Headnote: _INJURY TO THE EYES._]

Every mile that we advanced showed us that the coast was one which
could only be approachable by ships at extraordinary seasons: the ice
appeared the accumulation of many years, and bore, for some forty
miles, a quiet, undisturbed look. Then we passed into a region with
still more aged features: there the inequalities on the surface,
occasioned by the repeated snows of winter and thaws of summer, gave it
the appearance of a constant succession of hill and dale. Entangled
amongst it, our men laboured with untiring energy, up steep acclivities
and through pigmy ravines, in which the loose snow caused them to sink
deeply, and sadly increased their toil. To avoid this description of
ice, amongst which a lengthened journey became perfectly hopeless, we
struck in for the land, preferring the heavy snow that encumbered the
beach to such a heart-breaking struggle as that on the floe. The injury
had, however, been done during our last day's labour among the
hummocks; a fine clear evening had given us the full effects of a
powerful sunlight upon the pure virgin-snow: the painful effect, those
alone can conceive who have witnessed it. All was white, brilliant, and
dazzling; the eye in vain turned from earth to heaven for rest or
shade,--there was none; an unclouded sunlight poured through the calm
and frosty air with merciless power, and the sun, being exactly in our
faces, increased the intensity of its effects.

That day several complained of a dull aching sensation in the eyeball,
as if it had been overstrained, and on the morrow blindness was rapidly
coming on. From experience, I can speak of the mental anxiety which
must have likewise, with others, supervened, at the thought of one's
entire helplessness, and the encumbrance one had become to others, who,
God knows, had troubles and labour enough of their own. Gradually the
film spread itself, objects became dimmer and dimmer, and at last all
was darkness, with an intense horror of the slightest ray of sunlight.
In this condition, many of the four sledge-parties reached a place
called by us all, in commemoration of the event, "Snow-blind Point," at
the entrance of a bay in 100° W. long.

Unable to advance in consequence of a severe gale, which raged for
six-and-thirty hours, we found, on the 1st of May, that sixteen men and
one officer were, more or less, snow-blind and otherwise unwell; a
large proportion out of the entire number of thirty souls. To be ill in
any place is trying enough; but such an hospital as a brown-holland
tent, with the thermometer in it at 18° below zero, the snow for a bed,
your very breath forming into a small snow called "barber," which
penetrated into your very innermost garments, and no water to be
procured to assuage the thirst of fever until snow had been melted for
the purpose, called for much patience on the part of the patients, and
true Samaritan feelings on the part of the "doctors,"--a duty which had
now devolved on each officer of a sledge-party, or, in default of him,
upon some kind volunteer amongst the men. Happily, the effects of
snow-blindness are not lasting, for we recovered as suddenly as we had
been struck down. The gale blew itself out, leaving all calm and still,
as if the death-like scenery was incapable of such wild revelry as it
had been enjoying; and again we plodded onwards, parting from the last
supporting sledge on the 6th of May.

Since leaving Cape Walker on the 24th of April, we had gradually
passed, in a distance of sixty miles, from a red sandstone to a
limestone region; the scenery at every mile becoming more and more
monotonous, and less marked by bold outline, cliff, or mountain: as far
as the bay, of which Snow-blind Point formed one extreme, a long range
of hills, soft and rounded in _contour_, faced the sea, and sloped
to it with a gradual inclination, some three miles in length; ravines
became more and more scarce; and after passing the bay, in 100° long.
W., none of any size were to be seen. Drearily monotonous as all Arctic
scenery must naturally be, when one universal mantle of snow makes
earth and water alike, such a tame region as this was, if possible,
more so; and walking along the weary terraces, which in endless
succession swept far into the interior, and then only rose in
diminutive heights of maybe 500 feet, I recalled to memory the like
melancholy aspect of the Arctic shores of Asia as described by Baron

[Headnote: _ZEAL OF THE MEN._]

The broken and rugged nature of the floes obliged us to keep creeping
along the coast-line, whilst our ignorance of the land ahead, its trend
or direction, occasioned, together with the endless thick weather that
we had until the 14th May, many a weary mile to be trodden over, which
a knowledge of the bays or indentations would have saved us. It was
under such unprofitable labour that the sterling value of our men the
more conspicuously showed itself. Captain Ommanney, myself, and Mr.
Webb of the "Pioneer," (who sooner than be left behind had voluntarily
taken his place as one of the sledge-crew,) were the only three
officers; we were consequently thrown much into the society of the men,
and I feel assured I am not singular in saying that that intercourse
served much to raise our opinion of the character and indomitable
spirit of our seamen and marines. On them fell the hard labour, to us
fell the honours of the enterprise, and to our chief the reward; yet
none equalled the men in cheerfulness and sanguine hopefulness of a
successful issue to our enterprise, without which, of course, energy
would soon have flagged. Gallant fellows! they met our commiseration
with a smile, and a vow that they could do far more. They spoke of cold
as "Jack Frost," a real tangible foe, with whom they could combat and
would master. Hunger was met with a laugh, and a chuckle at some future
feast or jolly recollections told, in rough terms, of by-gone good
cheer; and often, standing on some neighbouring pile of ice, and
scanning the horizon for those we sought, have I heard a rough voice
encouraging the sledge-crew by saying, "Keep step, boys! keep step! she
(the sledge) is coming along almost by herself: there's the 'Erebus's'
masts showing over the point ahead! Keep step, boys! keep step!"

[Headnote: _PLEASING DREAMS._]

We had our moments of pleasure too,--plenty of them, in spite of the
cold, in spite of fatigue. There was an honest congratulation after a
good day's work; there was the time after the pemmican had been eaten,
and each one, drawing up his blanket-bag around him, sat, pannikin in
hand, and received from the cook the half-gill of grog; and after
drinking it, there was sometimes an hour's conversation, in which there
was more hearty merriment, I trow, than in many a palace,--dry
witticisms, or caustic remarks, which made one's sides ache with
laughter. An old marine, mayhap, telling a giddy lamby of a seaman to
take his advice and never to be more than a simple private; for, as he
philosophically argued, "whilst you're that, do you see, you have to
think of nothing: there are petty officers, officers, captains, and
admirals paid for looking after you and taking care of you!" or perhaps
some scamp, with mock solemnity, wondering whether his mother was
thinking of him, and whether she would cry if he never returned to
England; on which a six-foot marine remarks, that "thank God, he has
got no friends; and there would only be two people in England to cry
about him,--the one, the captain of his company, who liked him because
he was the tallest man in it, and the canteen sergeant, whom he had
forgot to pay for some beer." Now a joke about our flags and mottoes,
which one vowed to be mere jack-acting; then a learned disquisition on
raising the devil, which one of the party declared he had seen done,
one Sunday afternoon, for the purpose of borrowing some cash to play
skittles with. In fact, care and thought were thrown to the winds; and,
tired as we were, sleep often overtook us, still laughing at the men's
witticisms. And then such dreams,--they seemed as if an angel had sent
them to reward us for the hard realities of the day: we revelled in a
sweet elysium; home was around us,--friends, kind, good friends, plenty
smiled on every side; we eat, drank, and were merry; we visited old
scenes with by-gone shipmates; even those who had long gone to that
bourne whence traveller returneth not, came back to cheer our sleeping
hours; and many a one, nigh forgot amongst the up-hill struggles of
life, returned to gladden us with their smiles: and as we awoke to the
morning meal, many a regret would be heard that so pleasant a delusion
as the night had been spent in should be dispelled: each succeeding
night, however, brought again "the cherub that watcheth over poor
Jack," to throw sunny thoughts around the mind, and thus relieve our
wayworn bodies.

On the 14th of May, the "Reliance" and "True Blue" sledges reached a
wide break in the continuation of the land, looking like a channel, and
some heights to the S.W. appeared to mark the opposite shore of a
channel full twenty-five miles wide. Captain Ommanney and myself
ascended an elevated mass of table-land, and looked upon the
wide-spread wintry scene. Landward, to the south, and far over the
rugged and frozen sea, all was death-like and silent as the grave: we
felt we might have been the first since "creation's morn" to have
looked upon it; the very hills were still clothed in their winter's
livery, and the eye could not detect the line of demarkation between
land and sea. The frozen foot-prints of a musk-ox excited our
curiosity, as being the first and only ones we had seen, and, together
with like traces of reindeer, a short distance from Cape Walker, was
the sum total of the realization of all our once rosy anticipations of
beef and venison to be found during the southern journey.

Ptarmigan, in small numbers, were occasionally seen, and about four
brace shot; and now and then a stray fox was espied, watching us,
although their numerous tracks showed them to be pretty plentiful:
traces of hares were very numerous, but none were fallen in with by our
sportsmen, except at Cape Walker, where many were seen by later
visitors, and several shot; indeed, it appeared as if it was the limit,
in this direction, of animal life: the Polar bears, and _ergo_ the
seals, not showing themselves west of the same headland in our route.

On the 17th May the "Reliance" and "True Blue" parted company, each
having provisions left to enable them to advance for a further period
of five days; Captain Ommanney generously allowing me, his junior, to
take the search up in a westerly direction, whilst he went down the
channel to the southward, which after all ended in a blind bay. I went
some fifty miles farther, and, finding the coast trend to the south,
endeavoured to march in a westerly direction across the floe. The
sledge was light, with only ten days' provision, and the men were well
inured to their work; but I saw, that from the severe strains that were
brought on the fastenings of the sledge, that wood, iron, and lashings
would not long stand it; and as every foot we advanced, progress became
more laborious, and risk greater, I desisted in the attempt; for,
situated as we were, nigh three hundred miles from our ship, the
breaking down of the sledge would have entailed fearful misery, if not
destruction, to my party. Turning southward, we again closed the land,
when another severe storm, on the 21st of May, obliged us to take
shelter in our tent, and remain there until it was time to return.


The journey homeward was light work: the sledges were now half emptied;
the weather had become mild, being only a little below freezing-point;
we knew the ground, and could make short cuts, and by forced marches we
succeeded in making two days' journey in one, thereby giving ourselves
a double quantity of food to consume. Lost flesh was quickly recovered;
and the two sledges, again rejoining, reached by the night of the 4th
of June a dépôt formed at Snow-blind Bay.

Here we met Lieutenant Mecham. He informed us that neither by our
parties, or those of Penny's, had intelligence of Franklin been brought
back by the supporting sledges. There was, however, hope yet: the long
parties had not yet come in; and Captain Penny had been stopped by
_water_--_open water_--early in May. He had again gone out with a boat;
and all attention was directed to Wellington Channel, for every one
felt that on no other route was there a chance of Franklin being heard
of. Lastly, great fears were entertained lest our long parties should
not beat those of the "Lady Franklin" and "Sophia" in time and
distance; a piece of _esprit-de-corps_ highly commendable, no doubt,
but which, I blush to say, I took no interest in, having gone to the
Arctic regions for other motives and purposes than to run races for a
Newmarket cup, or to be backed against the field like a Whitechapel

Whilst Captain Ommanney went to Cape Walker for some observations, we
pulled foot (with forced marches) straight across the floe for
Griffith's Island. Every hour wasted in the return journey was a crime,
we felt, towards those whom we had come here to save. The fast
increasing heat told that the open season was at hand: and even if we
could not get our ship to the water, we had brought out a number of
beautiful boats, built expressly, at a great expense; our foot journeys
in the spring had been new and successful, what might we not yet expect
from boat expeditions when the floes were in motion?

On reaching that part of the frozen strait which was evidently covered
with only one season's ice, namely, that of about three feet in
thickness, symptoms of a speedy disruption were very apparent; long
narrow cracks extended continuously for miles; the snow from the
surface had all melted, and, running through, served to render the
ice-fields porous and spongy: the joyful signs hurried us on, though
not without suffering from the lack of pure snow, with which to procure
water for drinking. At last Griffith's Island rose above the horizon; a
five-and-twenty-mile march brought us to it, and another heavy drag
through the melting snow carried us to our ships, on the 12th June,
after a journey of five hundred miles in direct lines, in fifty-eight
days. We were punished for our last forced march by having five out of
the sledge-crew laid up with another severe attack of snow-blindness.

Eight-and-forty hours afterwards, Captain Ommanney arrived; he had
crossed some of the cracks in the floe with difficulty, aided by a
bridge of boarding-pikes; and Lieut. Mecham, with the sledge "Russell,"
coming from Cape Walker, on the 17th of June, was obliged to desert his
sledge, and wade through water and sludge to Griffith's Island, and
thence to the ships: showing how remarkably the breaking up of the ice
in Barrow's Strait promised to coincide in date with the time it was
first seen to be in motion, by Sir E. Parry's squadron, in 1820.

All the parties were now in, except three sledges and twenty-one men,
towards Melville Island; the supports in that direction had suffered in
about the same ratio as ourselves to the southward; the progress,
however, as might be expected where the coast-line was known, was more
rapid. The total number of accidents from frost-bites amounted to
eighteen, and amongst them were several cases in which portions of
injured feet had to be amputated; only one man had fallen, John
Malcolm, a seaman of the "Resolute;" he, poor fellow, appears to have
been delicate from the outset, having fainted on his road to the place
of inspection and departure, in April, 1851.


After an absence of sixty-two days, Lieut. Aldrich, with the "Lady
Franklin" sledge, arrived from Byam Martin Channel. He had searched the
west coast of Bathurst Island, which tended a little westerly of north
until in latitude 76° 15' N. At that point, the channel was still full
twenty miles wide between Bathurst and Melville Islands, and extended
northward as far as could be seen. The only things of note observed,
were reindeer, in the month of _April_, on Bathurst Island, and, with
the temperature at 60° below freezing-point, they were grazing on moss
or lichen; this point placed beyond doubt the fact, which is now
incontestable, that the animals of the Parry group do not migrate to
the American continent in the winter. On his way back, Lieut. A. fell
in with large flocks of wild fowl winging their way _northward_.

The floes around our ships were entirely covered with the water of the
melted snow, in some places full four feet in depth, eating its way
rapidly through in all directions, when Lieut. M'Clintock's sledge, the
"Perseverance," and the "Resolute" sledge, Dr. Bradford's, hove in
sight, having been out exactly eighty days. Lieut. M'Clintock had been
to Winter Harbour, and visited all the points known to Parry's
squadron, such as Bushman Cove, Cape Dundas, &c.; but of course no
traces of Franklin. He had, however, brought a portion of Parry's last
wheel, used in his journey, and substantial proofs of the extraordinary
abundance of animal life in that remote region, in the hides and heads
of musk-oxen, the meat of which had helped to bring back his crew in
wonderful condition. Eighty head of oxen and reindeer had been counted
by Mr. M'Clintock, and he could have shot as many as he pleased. Dr.
Bradford's journey was not so cheering a one. He had been early knocked
up from a fall,--serious symptoms threatened, and for nearly a month
the gallant officer was dragged upon his sledge; carrying out--thanks
to his own pluck, and the zeal of his men--the object of his
journey,--the search of the eastern side of Melville Island. We were
now all in: Lieut. M'Clintock had fairly won the palm,--"palmam qui
meruit ferat;" in eighty days he had travelled eight hundred miles, and
heartily did we congratulate him on his success.

The day following, July 7th, I and one of the officers of the "Pioneer"
started to visit Penny's expedition: he was expected back, and we
longed to hear the news; Captain Penny having last been reported to
have reached the water with a sound boat, a good crew, and a month's
provisions. Landing at Cape Martyr, wet up to our necks with splashing
through the pools of water, nowhere less than knee-deep, and often a
mile in extent, we did not willingly leave the dry land again. On
ascending a slope which gave us a view of the south shore of Cornwall's
Island as far as Cape Hotham, and near a point known as that whence the
dog-sledges in the winter used to strike off when communicating with
the ships, our astonishment was great at finding the ice of Barrow's
Strait to have broken up;--the gray light of the morning, and the
perfect calm, prevented us seeing to what extent, but there was plenty
of it, and a sea again gladdened our eyesight. Oh! it was a joyous,
exhilarating sight, after nine months of eternal ice and snow.


The ground flew under our feet as, elevated in spirits, we walked
rapidly into Assistance Bay, and grasped by the hand our old friends of
the "Lady Franklin." We had each our tale to recount, our news to
exchange, our hopes and disappointments to prose over. One thing was
undoubtedly certain,--that, on May 16th, Captain Penny had discovered a
great extent of water northward of Cornwallis Island: that this same
water prevented Captain Stewart, of the "Sophia," from passing some
precipitous cliffs, against which a heavy sea was beating: that this
same sea was clear of all but _sea-washed_ ice, and no floes were to be
seen. Moreover, owing to a _southerly_ breeze, which blew away to
seaward the ice over which Dr. Goodsir had advanced to the westward,
his retreat was nearly endangered by the water obliging him with his
sledge to take to the neighbouring heights: and all this, _a month
before any thing like a disruption had taken place in Barrow's Strait_.
This latter event, it seems, took place about the 25th of June, 1851;
and, on the 28th June, the commander of the "Sophia" had gone in a
whale-boat from the entrance of the harbour to Wellington Channel.

Three days after our arrival at Assistance Harbour, not a particle of
ice was to be seen, east or west, in Barrow's Strait, looking from the
highland on the east side of the anchorage, except between Griffith's
Island and Cape Martyr, where, some ten miles from the water, and in
the centre of a fixed floe, our unlucky squadron was jammed. Every
where else a clear sea spread itself, sparkling and breaking under a
fresh southerly breeze. Some individuals, who had visited Cape Hotham,
reported the water in Wellington Channel to have made up as high as
Barlow Inlet, beyond which, up to the north water, a floe still

In default of Penny's arrival, I was much interested in a journey, upon
which Mr. John Stuart, surgeon of the "Lady Franklin," had been
despatched to follow the traces of some of Franklin's sledges, towards
Caswell's Tower, and to re-examine the traces found in 1850. The
sledge-tracts, which I have elsewhere alluded to, as existing on the
east side of "Erebus and Terror Bay," Mr. Stuart found, as we
conjectured, to have been those of some exploring party, sent from
Beechey Island to Caswell's Tower, in Radstock Bay; for at the base of
the said tower--a remarkable detached mass of limestone--two
carefully-constructed cairns were found, but no record in them; beyond
this, no farther signs of the missing navigators were found--nothing
whatever that could indicate a retreating party. That these cairns were
placed to attract attention, appears certain; the most conspicuous
points have been chosen for them; they are well and carefully built,
evidently not the mere work of an idle hour.

Failing Penny, and his intelligence, I contented myself with visiting
the neighbourhood of Assistance Harbour, and with observing the various
phenomena connected with the dissolution of the winter ice and snow
upon the land; and, of these, none was more interesting than the
breaking out of the ravines, which, having filled with snow during the
winter, had formed, during the previous fortnight, into large lakes of
water, sometimes of acres in extent; and then, in one moment, the
barriers which had pent up the ravines gave way, and, with irresistible
force, the waters rushed over every obstacle to the sea. Three large
ravines broke open whilst I was in Assistance Harbour, and the
thundering sound of the ice, water, and shingle, which swept down, and
soon cut a broad channel for many yards through the floe in the bay,
was a cheering tune to the gallant fellows who were looking forward to
being released from their winter imprisonment. Within twenty-four hours
the body of water in these ravines would release itself, and an almost
dry water-course be left. Nothing in the shape of a river seemed to
exist in this island--rather a remarkable fact, considering its size,
and the immense quantity of snow annually thawed in its interior
valleys and plains.


A beautiful lake existed about two miles inland; and, having been
discovered by one of Captain Penny's people on the anniversary of the
battle of Trafalgar, was very appropriately called Trafalgar Lake; in
it a small species of trout had been caught occasionally throughout the
winter; and if the ice broke up early, a good haul of fish was
anticipated from the seine-nets: on elevated land around the lake,
sorrel and scurvy-grass grew in abundance. I need hardly say we eat of
it voraciously, for the appetite delighted in any thing like vegetable

Occasionally eider and pin-tailed duck were shot, as well as a few
brent-geese, but these birds appeared remarkably shy and wary, although
evidently here to breed.

During the first week of my stay in Assistance Harbour, immense flights
of wild fowl were to be seen amongst the loose ice in Barrow's Strait;
but when the pack had dispersed, and left nothing but an open sea, the
birds appeared to have gone elsewhere for food. Indeed, I always
observed that at the edge of ice more birds were invariably to be found
in the Arctic regions, than in large or open water,--a rule equally
applicable to the whale, seal, and bear, all of which are to be found
at the floe-edge, or in loosely-packed ice.

A gale of wind from the southward occurred, and I was extremely anxious
to see whether it would bring over the ice from the opposite shore, as
the croakers in Assistance Harbour, unable to deny the existence of
water along the north shore of Barrow's Strait, consoled themselves by
declaring that the floe had merely formed itself into pack, and was now
lying along the coast of North Somerset, ready at an hour's warning to
spread itself over the waters. The southerly gale, however, piped
cheerily. A heavy swell and surf--Oh! most pleasant sound!--beat upon
the fixed ice of Assistance Harbour; yet no pack came, nor floe-pieces
either, and thus was placed beyond all doubt the fact that, at any
rate, as far west as Griffith's Island, Barrow's Strait was clear of
ice. In an angle formed between Leopold Island and North Somerset,
there was evidently a pack; for an ice-blink, which moved daily about
in that direction, showed that the mass was acted upon by the winds;
and at last the southerly wind drove it up into Wellington Channel. To
be condemned to inactivity, with such a body of water close at hand,
was painful to all but those whose age and prudence seemed to justify
in congratulating themselves on being yet frozen in; and trying as had
been many disappointments we experienced in the Arctic regions, there
was none that pained us more than the ill luck which had consigned our
squadron, and its 180 men, to inactivity, in an icy prison under
Griffith's Island, whilst so much might have been done during the
thirty days that the waters of Barrow's Strait, and God only knows how
much more beside, were clear from ice in every shape, and seeming to
beckon us on to the north-westward.

It was now we felt the full evil result of our winter quarters. Boats
could not be despatched, I suppose, because the ships might at any time
in July have been swept by the ice whither it pleased, and the junction
of boats and ships rendered uncertain. Future expeditions will,
however, hit this nail on the head, and three distinct periods for
Arctic exploration will be found to exist, viz.:--The spring, from
April to June 25th, for foot journeys; from June 25th to the first week
in August, for boat expeditions; and then six weeks (for steam vessels)
of navigable season.


Unable to remain with satisfaction away from our squadron, to be daily
tantalized with looking at a sea which might as well not have existed
for us, we returned to the "Pioneer," calling the attention of the
officers of Penny's squadron to the possibility of a vessel from
England, sent to communicate with the squadrons, actually running past
us all, and reaching Melville Island, mayhap, without detecting our
winter quarters; an opinion in which all seemed to concur; and a large
cairn was therefore afterwards erected upon the low land, in such a
position as to attract the attention of a craft bound westward.

On our return to the Naval squadron, we found them still seven miles
from the water to the southward from Griffith's Island. Towards the
westward, on the 25th of July, all was water, and a water sky. About
Somerville Island, and Brown Island, a patch of fixed ice, similar to
that we were in, connected itself with the Cornwallis Island shore; but
between that and us the water was fast making; indeed, it every day
became apparent that we should be released from the _northward_, and
not from the southward. One officer saw Lowther Island in a sea of
water; and thus early, if not earlier, I had the firmest conviction on
my mind that a ship might have been carried in a lead of water, very
similar to that Parry found in 1829, into Winter Harbour, Melville
Island; or, what, in view of our object, would have been more
desirable, up to the north-west, by Byam Martin Channel.

Griffith's Island had, by July 25th, put on its gayest summer
aspect--the ravines had emptied themselves--the snow had disappeared
from the slopes--a uniform dull brown spread from one end of the island
to the other--on its sheltered terraces, poppies, saxifrage, and sorrel
in full flower, intermingled with lichens and mosses of every hue and
description; and we, poor mortals, congratulated ourselves upon
verdure, which was only charming by comparison. The great body of
melted snow that had been on top of the floe, had now nearly all
escaped through it in numerous fissures and holes, and they were
rapidly connecting themselves one with the other. Canals, which had
been formed in the floe, for the purpose of enabling the squadron to
get out, should the water make exactly in the same way it did last
year, now spread snake-like over the floe, and the waters of Barrow's
Strait had approached to within a distance of four miles. Thus closed
the month of July, with the additional disappointing intelligence, that
Penny, who returned to Assistance Harbour on the 25th, had not been
able, owing to the constant prevalence of contrary winds setting in
from the N.W., and his want of provisions, to make much progress in
Wellington Channel. Indeed, he had, from all accounts, found his boat
but ill-adapted to contend with the strong breezes, heavy sea, and
rapid tides into which he had launched between the islands north of
Cornwallis Island, and never succeeded in obtaining a desirable offing;
the islands, however, were thoroughly searched for traces; a small
piece of fresh English elm was found on one of them, which Penny
believed to have been thrown overboard from the "Erebus" and "Terror;"
also a bit of charred pine, which Sir John Richardson believes to have
been burnt by a party belonging to the same ships. But the most
important result of Penny's efforts was the verification of the
existence of a great body of open water, north-west, and beyond the
barrier of ice which still existed in Wellington Channel.

I will not bore the reader with some days of hard labour, in which we
cut to the southward into the ice, whilst the water was trying hard to
get to us from the north; it eventually caught us, and (Saturday,
August 8th,) we were all afloat in open water, with a barrier of ice
_still southward towards Barrow's Strait_. The "Intrepid" had been
sent early in the week to look round the north end of Griffith's
Island, and reported a narrow neck of ice from the N.W. bluffs towards
Somerville Island. Eastward, and not westward, was, however, to be our
course, and we therefore remained where we were. On the 9th and 10th, a
general disruption of the little remaining ice took place: we made
gentle and very cautious moves towards Barrow's Strait; and, at last,
on August 11th, the ice, as if heartily tired of us, shot us out into
Barrow's Strait, by turning itself fairly round on a pivot. We were at
sea because we could not help it, and the navigable season was
proclaimed to have commenced.


Taking, like another Sinbad, our "Resolute" old burden behind us, the
"Pioneer" steamed away for Assistance Harbour, from whence, as we had
been given to understand some days previously, Jones's Sound was to be
our destination; a plan to which I the more gladly submitted, as I felt
confident, from all I had heard and seen of its geography or of that of
the neighbouring land, that it would be found to connect itself with
Penny's North Water: once in it we felt failure of our object to be
impossible; we had still three years' provisions, and nearly four years
of many things. One man had died, perhaps half-a-dozen more were
invalids, but the rest were strong and hearty: to be sure, we all
lacked much of that sanguineness which had animated us hitherto.
Repeated disappointment, long journeys in the wrong direction (as it
had proved), over regions which had, of course, shown no trace of those
we had hoped to rescue--had all combined to damp our feelings.

The morning fog broke, and a day, beautiful, serene, and sunny,
welcomed us into Assistance Harbour, which we found had just cleared
out of ice; and the "Lady Franklin," "Sophia," and "Felix," with
anchors down, rode all ready for sea. As we towed the "Resolute" up to
her anchorage, Captain Penny pulled past in his gig, evidently going to
make an official visit to our leader. Directly after the "Pioneer" was
secured, I went on board the "Resolute," to hear the news, her first
lieutenant having been in Assistance Harbour (Captain Penny's quarters)
up to the moment of our arrival. I then learned that Penny was going to
volunteer to proceed up Wellington Channel, if it cleared out, in one
of our steamers; and my gallant friend, the first lieutenant, spoke
strongly upon the necessity of still trying to reach the North Water by
the said route, whilst I maintained that, until we had visited Jones's
Sound, it was impossible to say whether it would not be found an easier
road into the open sea seen by Captain Penny than Wellington Channel
appeared to be. Captain Penny soon joined us, and there, as well as
afterwards on board the "Lady Franklin," I heard of his proposal above
alluded to, which had been declined. Failing in his offer of
coöperation, which was for one reason not to be wondered at,--insomuch
that our large and efficient squadron needed no assistance either in
men or material to do the work alone,--Captain Penny had decided on
returning home, believing that Franklin was so far to the N.W. as to
be beyond his reach, and also looking to the tenor of his instructions,
which strictly enjoined him to return to England in 1852.

                     *      *      *      *      *


Next morning, by four o'clock, we were all bound to the eastward. A few
amongst those of our squadron still hoped by Jones's Sound to reach
that sea of whose existence, at any rate, we had no longer any doubt,
whatever might be its difficulty of access. Off Cape Hotham we found a
loose pack; it extended about half way across Wellington Channel, and
then a clear sea spread itself eastward and northward along the shores
off North Devon to Cape Bowden. From a strong ice-blink up Wellington
Channel there was reason to think the barrier[4] still athwart it; we
did not, however, go to ascertain whether it was so, but, favoured by a
fair wind, steamed, sailed, and towed the "Resolute," as fast as
possible past Beechey Island. The form of sending letters to England
had been duly enacted, but few were in a humour to write; the news
would be unsatisfactory, and, unless Jones's Sound was an open sea, and
we could not therefore help entering it, there was a moral certainty of
all being in England within a short time of one another.

      [4] Had we but happily known at that time of the perfect
      description of the Wellington Channel ice subsequent to our
      passage across in 1850, as shown by the tract of the American
      Expedition and Lieutenant De Haven's admirable report, we should
      not then have fallen into the error of believing _barriers_
      of ice to be permanent in deep-water channels, a fallacy which it
      is to be hoped has exploded with many other misconceptions as to
      the fixed nature of ice, and the constant accumulation of it in
      Polar regions.

And so it proved. Leaving the "Assistance" and "Resolute" to join us
off Cape Dudley Digges, the steamers proceeded, under Captain Austin,
with three months' provisions, on the night of the 14th of August, for
Jones's Sound.

Next morning brought the steamers close in with the shore between Capes
Horsburgh and Osborn, along which we steered towards Jones's Sound.
Glacier and iceberg again abounded, and the comparatively tame scenery
of Barrow's Strait was changed for bold and picturesque mountains and
headlands. As the evening of the 15th drew in, Jones's Sound gradually
opened itself in the Coburg Bay of the charts, and, in spite of a
strong head-wind, we drew up to and commenced working up it under sail
and steam. During the night, Cape Leopold showed to be an island,
dividing the sound into two entrances; and the exhilarating effect of a
fine broad expanse of water leading to the westward, up which we were
thrashing under a press of canvas, was only marred by the unpleasant
fact that we had parted from the ships containing our main stock of
provisions, without the means of following up any traces, should we be
happy enough to discover them, of the poor missing expedition.

                     *      *      *      *      *

_Saturday, August 16th, 1851._--The sound is evidently narrowest about
the entrance; from a point to the N.W. of us it evidently increases in
width; loose patches of ice are occasionally met with, and the tides
seem somewhat strong, judging by the set of the vessel. The scenery is
magnificent, especially on the south shore, where some ten miles in the
interior a huge dome of pure white snow envelopes land some 3000 or
4000 feet high, which Captain Austin has named the Trenter Mountains,
in compliment to the family of Sir John Barrow (that being the maiden
name of the Dowager Lady Barrow). From this range long winding glaciers
pour down the valleys, and project, through the ravines, into the
deep-blue waters of this magnificent strait. Northward of us the land
is peculiar, lofty table-land, having here and there a sudden dip, or
thrown up in a semi-peak. The draught of the wind has blown constantly
down the strait. Such are my rough notes made during the day, as the
"Pioneer" and "Intrepid" worked to the westward; but as evening drew
on, the increasing smoothness of the water, and a hard icy blink to the
west, prepared us for a report which came from the crow's nest about
midnight, that there was very much ice to the windward of us.


Next day, 17th, after a fog which caused some delay had cleared off,
the disagreeable truth revealed itself: from a little beyond a
conical-shaped island on the north shore, the sound was still barred
with floes, although at this point it increased at least twelve miles
more in breadth. Going up to the floe-edge, the steamers crossed to the
S.W., following the ice carefully along until it impinged upon the
southern shore. The night was beautifully serene and clear; and, as if
to add to our regret, four points and a half of the compass, or 54° of
bearing to the westward, showed no symptom of land. The northern side
of the sound trended away to the west, preserving its lofty and marked
character; whilst on the south the land ended abruptly some fifteen
miles farther on, and then, beyond a small break, one of those
wedge-shaped hills peculiar to the limestone lands of Barrow's Strait
showed itself at a great distance; and the natural suggestion to my own
mind was, that the opening between the said wedge-shaped hill and the
land on our southern hand would have been found to connect itself with
the deep fiords running to the northward from Croker Bay, in Lancaster
Sound; and for an opinion as to the direction of Jones's Sound, whose
frozen surface forbade us to advance with our vessels, I was, from what
I saw, fully willing to believe in the report of my ice quarter-master,
Robert Moore, a clever, observant seaman, as the annexed report will


    "It was in 1848 that I was with Captain Lee in the 'Prince of
    Wales,' when we ran up Jones's Sound. The wind was from the S.S.E.
    compass (_E.N.E. true_), thick weather, with a strong breeze. We
    steered up Jones's Sound, N.E. by compass (_westwardly true_), for
    fourteen hours, when, seeing some ice aground, we hauled to.

    "The next day, being fine weather, we proceeded farther up, and
    seeing no ice or fish (_whales_), a boat was sent on shore. She,
    returning, reported not having seen any thing but _very high land_
    and _deep water close to_ rocks on the south shore.

    "We tacked ship, and stood to the N.E. compass (_N.W. true_); saw
    some ice aground on a sand-bank, with only six feet water on it at
    low water, but standing on the N.E. compass (_N.W. true_), found
    deep water from five to eight miles across from the sand to the
    north shore. When past the sand, open water as far as we could see
    from the masthead, and extending from about _N.E. to N.N.W.
    compass_ (N.W. to W.S.W. true). We then returned, being fine and
    clear, and could not see what we were in search of (whales).

    "Leaving the north land, a long, low point, running up to a
    _table-top mountain, we came across to the south side, which was
    bold land right out of the sound_.

    "We saw the _Pinnacle Rocks at the end of that sound_ (_Princess
    Charlotte's Monument_); and _this and the low land between that
    sound_ and _Lancaster Sound_, as we were running to the S.E., makes
    me confident is the same place which we were up in the 'Pioneer.'

    "The distance we ran up the sound in the 'Prince of Wales,' I
    think, to the best of my judgment, was about a hundred and fifty or
    sixty miles, &c.

    "(Signed) ROBERT MOORE,

    "Ice quarter-master, H.M.S. 'Pioneer.'

    "To Lieut. Sherard Osborn."

The italics in the above letter serve to show how correctly these
observations of my quarter-master agreed with the sound we were up; and
taking this, together with the description of the land seen by Captain
Stewart and Dr. Sutherland, during their late journey up the eastern
side of Wellington Channel, I believe that a very narrow intervening
belt of low land divides Jones's Sound from Baring Bay, in Wellington
Channel, and that, turning to the northward, this sound eventually
opens into the same great Polar Sea which washes the northern shores of
the Parry group.

[Headnote: _ERECTION OF A CAIRN._]

Unable to advance, we returned, upon our wake, to the conical island on
the north side of the sound; and a boat, with two officers in it, was
sent to erect a cairn. They returned next morning, having found, what
interested me very much, numerous Esquimaux traces, though of very
ancient date, and shot several birds--a seasonable increase to our
stock for table-consumption. One of the sportsmen assured me that, in
spite of the increased number of glaciers around us, and other
appearances of a more severe climate than we had been in the habit of
seeing in Barrow's Strait, he was of opinion that there was much more
vegetation in our neighbourhood than in the more southern latitude of
Cornwallis Island. The specimens of plants brought off in the boat,
such as poppies, saxifrage, and moss, were all finer than we had seen
elsewhere; and reindeer horns, near the Esquimaux ruins, showed that
these animals were to be found.

The island was a mass of gray-coloured granite, with some dark masses
of ferruginous-coloured rock intermixed, the whole much broken and rent
by the agency of frost and water.

Monday, the 18th of August, we proceeded along the northern shore,
towards another entrance which had shown itself on the north side of
Leopold Island,--the Jones's Sound of the old charts,--which we now
proved not to have been blocked up by either land or glaciers.

The land about Cape Hardwicke was little else, in my opinion, than a
group of islands,--an impression in which I became the more confirmed
when the ice obliged us to strike off directly to the eastward; and
Cape Clarence stood out bold and clear, with a midnight sun behind it:
and the light streamed through the different ice-choked channels
between Capes Hardwicke and Clarence, throwing up the land, _where
there was land_, in strong and dark relief.

Beyond Cape Clarence I saw no symptom of land, nor did any one else
either. It is said to recede; very possibly it may; but as neither we,
nor the "Resolute" and "Assistance," (who all reached a higher latitude
than any discovery-ships have been since Baffin's memorable voyage,)
ever saw land north of Cape Clarence, I trust, for the sake of
geography, that the beautifully-indented line which now joins the land
about Smith's Sound to that of Clarence Head, in our charts, may be
altered into a dotted one, as denoting that the said coast exists
rather in the imagination of channel-closing voyagers than actually in
the north-west corner of Baffin's Bay.

A multitude of grounded icebergs showed a shoal, which appears to bar
the northern entrance to Jones's Sound; and, during the night, a sudden
gale from the north, together with high water in the tides, set them
all floating and dancing around us in a very exciting style. Edging
constantly along large floe-pieces, we were eventually carried next day
into the packed ice, through which our way had to be found under
double-reefed sails, the two pretty screw-schooners thrashing away in
gallant style, until a dead calm again left us to steam our best;
indeed, all night of the 19th was a constant heavy tussle with a pack,
in which the old floe-pieces were being glued together by young ice,
varying from two to five inches in thickness; patches of water, perhaps
each an acre in extent, were to be seen from the crow's nest, and from
one to the other of these we had to work our way. By-and-by the Cary
Isles showed themselves to the northward, and then the flat-topped land
between Cape York and Dudley Digges.


Our last hope of doing any service this season lay in the expectation
that open water would be found along the northeast side of Baffin's
Bay; but this expectation was damped by the disagreeable knowledge that
our provisions on board the steamers were too scanty to allow us to
follow up any opening we should have found.

On the afternoon of the 28th of August, a strong water-sky and heavy
bank showed the sea to be close at hand to the south, as well as a
strong breeze behind it. We rattled on for Wolstenholme Island, reached
under its lee by the evening, and edged away to the north, quickly
opening out Cape Stair, and finding it to be an island, as the Cape
York Esquimaux, on board the "Assistance," had led us to believe.
Passing some striking-looking land, which, although like that of the
more southern parts of Greenland, was bold and precipitous, intersected
with deep valleys, yet comparatively free from glaciers, we saw the
Booth Sound of Sir John Ross, and shortly afterwards sighted what
proved afterwards to be the southern bluff of Whale Sound. We could not
approach it, however, and, choosing an iceberg, we anchored our
steamers to await an opening.

On Thursday, the 21st of August, I started in a boat with Mr.
MacDougal, to see if we could get as far as Whale Sound. The bay-ice,
in which we could neither pull nor sail, whilst it was too thin to
stand upon, or track the boat through, materially checked our progress.
By the afternoon we reached a close pack-edge, which defied farther
progress; but, on landing, we found ourselves to be at the entrance of
a magnificent inlet, still filled with ice, which extended to the
eastward for some fifteen miles, having in its centre a
peculiarly-shaped rock, which the seamen immediately christened "Prince
Albert's Hat," from its resemblance to a marine's shako. The numerous
traces here of Esquimaux were perfectly startling; their tent-places,
winter abodes, cachés, and graves, covered every prominent point about
us. Of what date they were, it was impossible, as I have elsewhere
said, to form a correct idea. The enamel was still perfect on the bones
of the seals which strewed the rocks, the flesh of which had been used
for food. On opening one of the graves, I found the skeleton of an old
man, with a good deal of the cartilage adhering to the bones, and in
the skull there was still symptoms of decaying flesh; nothing, however,
was seen to denote a recent visit of these interesting denizens of the
north. Each caché, or rather, circle of stones, had a flat slab for a
cover, with a cairn near it, or else an upright mass of stone, to
denote its position; and some of the graves were constructed with a
degree of care and labour worthy of a more civilized people: several
had huge slabs of stone on the top, which it must have required a great
many men to lift, and some ingenuity to secure.

Scurvy-grass in great abundance, as well as another antiscorbutic
plant, bearing a small white flower, was found wherever we landed; and
I likewise observed London-pride, poppies, sorrel, dwarf willow,
crow-feet grass, saxifrage, and tripe-de-roche, besides plenty of turf,
which, with very little trouble, would have served for fuel,--and this
in latitude 76° 52' N. Large flocks of geese and ducks were flying
about; the great northern diver passed overhead, and uttered its shrill
warning cry to its mate, and loons, dovekies, and plalaropes, in small
numbers, gave occasional exercise for our guns.


The coast was all of granitic formation: and if one might judge from
the specimens of iron pyrites and copper ore found here and there, the
existence of minerals in large quantities, as is the case about
Uppernavik, may be taken for granted.

The 22d, 23d, 24th, and 25th of August passed without a favourable
change taking place; indeed, by this time our retreat, as well as
advance, had been barred by the pack. Pressed up from Baffin's Bay by
the southerly gales of this season of the year, the broken floes seemed
to have been seeking an outlet by the north-west. The winter was fast
setting in, temperature falling thus early, and the birds every day
more scarce.

About one o'clock on the morning of the 26th August, I was aroused and
told that Esquimaux were coming off on dog-sledges. All hands turned
out voluntarily to witness the arrival of our visitors. They were five
in number, each man having a single sledge. As they approached, they
uttered an expression very like Tima! or rather Timouh! accompanied by
a loud, hoarse laugh. Some of our crew answered them, and then they
appeared delighted, laughing most immoderately.

The sledges were entirely constructed of bone, and were small,
neat-looking vehicles: no sledge had more than five dogs; some had only
three. The dogs were fine-looking, wolfish animals, and either white or
tan colour. The well-fed appearance of the natives astonished us all;
without being tall (averaging about 5 ft. 5 in.), they were
brawny-looking fellows, deep-chested, and large-limbed, with Tartar
beards and moustachios, and a breadth of shoulder which denoted more
than ordinary strength. Their clothing consisted of a dressed seal-skin
frock, with a hood which served for a cap when it was too cold to trust
to a thick head of jet-black hair for warmth. A pair of bear-skin
trowsers reaching to the knee, and walrus-hide boots, completed their
attire. Knowing how perfectly isolated these people were from the rest
of the world,--indeed, they are said with some degree of probability to
have believed themselves to be the only people in the world,--I was not
a little delighted to see how well necessity had taught them to clothe
themselves; and the skill of the women was apparent in the sewing, and
in one case tasteful ornamental work of their habiliments.

I need hardly say that we loaded them with presents: their ecstacy
exceeded all bounds when each was presented with a boat-hook staff, a
piece of wood some twelve feet long. They danced, shouted, and laughed
again with astonishment at possessing such a prize. Wood was evidently
with them a scarce article; they had it not even to construct sledges
with. York, the interpreter, had before told us they had no canoes for
want of it; and they seemed perfectly incapable of understanding that
our ships and masts were altogether made of wood. The intelligence
shown by these people was very gratifying; and from having evidently
been kindly treated on board the "North Star," during her sojourn in
this neighbourhood, they were confident of good treatment, and went
about fearlessly. On seeing a gun, they laughed, and said, "Pooh!
pooh!" to imitate its sound. One man danced, and was evidently anxious
to repeat some nautical shuffling of the feet to the time of a fiddle,
of which he had agreeable recollections, whilst another described how
we slept in hammocks. After some time, a document was given them, to
show any ship they might visit hereafter; and they were sent away in
high spirits. The course they had taken, both coming and going, proved
them to be from Wolstenholme Sound; and, as well as we could
understand, they had lately been to the northward, looking for pousies
(seals), and no doubt were the natives whose recent traces had been
seen by some of the officers near Booth Inlet, who had likewise
observed the remnants of some old oil-cask staves, which once had been
in an English whaler.

[Headnote: _GALE IN THE PACK._]

_August 26th, 1851._--Beset against a floe, which is in motion, owing
to the pressure of bergs upon its southern face; and as it slowly
_coachwheels_ (as the whalers term it) round upon an iceberg to
seaward of us, we employ ourselves heaving clear of the danger. A
gale--fast rising, and things looking very ugly. The "Intrepid," who
had changed her berth from the "inshore" to the "offshore" side of the
"Pioneer," through some accident of ice-anchors slipping, was caught
between the floe and the iceberg, and in a minute inextricably, as far
as human power was concerned, surrounded with ice; and as the floe,
acted upon by the pressure of bergs and ice driving before the gale,
forced more and more upon the berg, we were glad to see the vessel rise
up the inclined plane formed by the tongue of the iceberg under her
bottom. Had she not done so, she must have sunk. Sending a portion of
our crew to keep launching her boats ahead during the night, we watched
with anxiety the fast-moving floes and icebergs around us. A wilder
scene than that of this night and the next morning it would be
impossible to conceive. Our forced inactivity--for escape or reciprocal
help was impossible--rendered it the more trying.

Lieutenant Cator has himself told the trials to which the "Intrepid's"
qualities were subjected that night and day; how she was pushed up the
iceberg high and dry; and how the bonnie screw came down again right
and tight. We meanwhile drifted away, cradled in floe-pieces, and
perfectly helpless, shaving past icebergs, in close proximity, but
safely, until the gale as suddenly abated, and we found ourselves some
six miles north of the "Intrepid," and off the Sound, which, for want
of a name, we will call "Hat Sound." Steaming and sailing up a head of
water back towards our consort, we soon saw that she was all right and
afloat again, though beset in the pack. We therefore took advantage of
an opening in the ice to run to the northward alone. About midnight,
the Whale Sound of Baffin being then open to our view, but filled with
broken ice, and our farther progress impeded by the pack, we again made
fast at this, the farthest northern latitude reached by any of our
squadron, viz., 77° north latitude.

                     *      *      *      *      *

_Friday, August 29th._--Finding progress in this direction hopeless, we
rejoined the "Intrepid" as close as the ice would allow us, and learnt
that she had injured her rudder and screw-framing. It was now decided
to rejoin the "Resolute" and "Assistance" at their rendezvous off Cape
Dudley Digges; and as the winter snow was fast covering the land, and
pancake-ice forming on the sea, there was little time to be lost in
doing so.

The 30th and 31st, the "Pioneer" made fruitless attempts to reach the
"Intrepid." The leads of water were evidently separating us more and
more: she was working in for Wolstenholme Sound, whilst we were obliged
to edge to the westward.

September 1st, 1851, came in on us. From the crow's nest one
interminable barrier of ice spread itself around; and as the
imprisonment of our vessels would have entailed starvation upon us, it
was necessary to make a push, and endeavour, by one of us at any rate
reaching supplies, to secure the means of rescue to both.


A lucky slackening of the ice encouraged us to enter the pack, and we
entered it. It was a long and tough struggle, sometimes for an hour not
making a ship's length of headway, then bursting into a crack of water,
which seemed an ocean by comparison. Screwing and heaving, my gallant
crew working like Britons, now over the stern, booming off pieces from
the screw as she went astern for a fresh rush at some obstinate bar;
now over the bows, coaxing her sharp stem into the crack which had to
be wedged open until the hull could pass; now leaping from piece to
piece of the broken ice, clearing the lines, resetting the anchors,
then rushing for the ladders, as the vessel cleared the obstacles, to
prevent being left behind,--light-hearted, obedient, and zealous, if my
heartfelt admiration of them could have lightened their labours, I
should have been glad indeed. Late in the evening, the "Intrepid" was
seen working inside of Wolstenholme Island: we made fast to a lofty
iceberg, to obtain a good view, for the most promising lead of water;
and the experienced eye of a quarter-master, Joseph Organ, enabled him
to detect the glisten of open water on the horizon to the westward. For
it we accordingly struck through the pack. Never were screw and steam
more taxed. To stop was to be beset for the winter, and be starved and
drifted Heaven knows where. An iron stem and a good engine did the
work,--I will not bore the non-professional reader how. A little before
midnight the "Resolute" and "Assistance" were seen, and by four o'clock
on the morning of the 2d September we were alongside of them. Shortly
afterwards our amateurs and visitors left us, and the three vessels
cruised about, waiting for the "Intrepid," it being generally
understood that when she rejoined the squadron we were to return to

We learned that the ships had been in open water as high as the Cary
Islands: _they had seen no land on the west side, north of Cape
Clarence_. On Cary Islands they had found traces of the remote visits
of whalers, and had shot immense numbers (about 700) of birds, loons
especially. On one occasion they had been placed in trying
circumstances by a gale from the southward amongst the packed ice, the
extraordinary disappearance of which to the northward, was only to be
accounted for by supposing the ice of Baffin's Bay to have been blown
through Smith's Sound into the Polar Sea, a small gateway for so much
ice to escape by. In my opinion, however, the disappearance of the ice,
which a fortnight earlier had spread over the whole sea between the
Arctic Highlands and Jones's Sound, under the influence of southerly
gales, confirmed me the more strongly in my belief that the north-west
portion of Baffin's Bay is open, and forms no _cul-de-sac_ there any
more than it does in Jones's Sound, Lancaster Sound, or Pond's Bay.

From Hudson's Straits, in latitude 60° N., to Jones's Sound, in
latitude 76° N., a distance of 960 miles, we find on the western hand a
mass of islands, of every conceivable shape and size, with long and
tortuous channels intersecting the land in every direction; yet vain
men, anxious to put barriers in the way of future navigators, draw
large continents, where no one has dared to penetrate to see whether
there be such or not, and block up natural outlets without cause or


I will now, with the reader's permission, carry him back to a subject
that here and there has been cursorily alluded to throughout these
pages--the Esquimaux traces and ruins, every where found by us, and the
extraordinary chain of evidence which, commencing in Melville Island,
our farthest west, carries us, link by link, to the isolated
inhabitants of North Greenland, yclept Arctic Highlands.

Strange and ancient signs were found by us in almost every sheltered
nook on the seaboard of this sad and solitary land,--signs indubitably
of a race having once existed, who have either decayed away, or else,
more probably, migrated to more hospitable portions of the Arctic zone.
That all these traces were those of the houses, cachés, hunting-posts,
and graves of the Esquimaux, or Innuit, there could be on our minds no
doubt; and looking to the immense extent of land over which this
extraordinary race of fishermen have been, and are to be found, well
might Captain Washington, the talented compiler of the Esquimaux
vocabulary, say, that they are one "of the most widely-spread nations
of the globe."

The seat of this race (arguing from traditions extant during Baron
Wrangell's travels in Siberia) might be placed in the north-east
extreme of Asia, the western boundary being ill defined; for on the
dreary banks of the Lena and Indigirka, along the whole extent of the
frozen _Tundra_, which faces the Polar Sea, and in the distant isles of
New Siberia, rarely visited by even the bold seekers of fossil ivory,
the same ruined circles of stone, betokening the former abode of human
beings, the same whalebone rafters, the same stone axes, the same
implements of the chase, are to be found as to this day are used, and
only used, by the Tchuktches of Behring's Straits, the Innuit of North
America, or the Esquimaux of Hudson's Straits and Greenland,--a people
identical in language (of which they all speak different dialects),
habits, and disposition.

Supposing, then, that from the east of Asia these people first migrated
to the American continent, and thence, eventually wandered to the
eastern shores of Greenland, it became an interesting question to us,
how the lands upon our northern hand, in our passage to the west up
Barrow's Strait, should bear such numerous marks of human location,
whereas upon the southern side they were comparatively scarce; and how
the natives residing in the northern portion of Baffin's Bay should
have been ignorant that their brethren dwelt in great numbers southward
of the glaciers of Melville Bay.

Some amongst us--and I was of this number--objected to the theory
summarily advanced, that at a remote period these northern lands had
been peopled from the south, and that the population had perished or
wasted away from increased severity of climate or diminution of the
means of subsistence. Our objections were argued on the following
grounds:--If the Parry group had been colonized from the American
continent, that continent, their nursery, would have shown signs of a
large population at points immediately in juxtaposition, which it does
not do.

From the estuary of the Coppermine to the Great Fish River, the
Esquimaux traces are less numerous than on the north shore of Barrow's
Strait. To assert that the Esquimaux have travelled from the American
continent to the bleak shores of Bathurst Island, is to suppose a
savage capable of voluntarily quitting a land of plenty for one of
gaunt famine: on the other hand, it seems unreasonable to attribute
these signs of a by-gone people's existence to some convulsion of
nature, or some awful increase of cold, since no similar catastrophe
has occurred in any other part of the world. Contrary to such opinions,
we opined that the traces were those of a vast and prolonged
emigration, and that it could be shown, on very fair premises, that a
large number of the Innuit, Skræling, or Esquimaux--call them what you
please--had travelled from Asia to the eastward along a much higher
parallel of latitude than the American continent, and, in their very
natural search for the most hospitable region, had gone from the _north
towards the south, not from the south towards the north_, or, what may
yet one day be laid open to the world, reached a high northern
latitude, in which a deep and uncongealable sea gives rise to a milder
climate and an increased amount of the capabilities of subsistence.

I will now lightly sketch the probable route of the Esquimaux
emigration, as I believe it to have taken place in the north-east of
Asia. The Tchuktches, the only independent tribe in Siberia, are seen
to assume, amongst that portion of them residing on the sea-coast,
habits closely analogous to those of the Esquimaux. The hunters of
Siberia tell how a similar race, the Omoki, "whose hearths were once
more numerous on the banks of the Lena than the stars of an Arctic
night," are gone, none know whither. The natives now living in the
neighbourhood of Cape Chelajskoi, in Siberia, aver that emigration to a
land in the _north-east_ had occurred within the memory of their
fathers; and amongst other cases we find them telling Wrangell, that
the Onkillon tribe had once occupied that land, but, being attacked by
the Tchuktches, they, headed by a chief called Krachnoi, had taken
shelter in the land visible northward from Cape Jakan.

This land, Wrangell and others did not then believe in. British seamen
have, however, proved the assertion to be a fact; and Captains Kellett
and Moore have found "an extensive land" in the very direction the
Siberian fishermen declared it to exist. It is not my purpose to enter
into a disquisition upon the causes which brought about this
emigration. Sad and bitter necessity alone it must have been which
thrust these poor members of the human family into localities which,
even in Asia, caused the Russians to exclaim, "What could have led men
to forsake more favoured lands for this grave of Nature?" Choice it
could not have been, for, in America, we see that the Esquimaux has
struggled hard to reach southern and genial climes. In the Aleutian
Isles, and on the coast of Labrador, local circumstances favoured the
attempt, and the Indian hunter was unable to subsist in lands which
were, comparatively, overflowing with subsistence for the Arctic
fishermen; but elsewhere the bloodthirsty races of North America
obliged the human tide, which for some wise cause was made to roll
along the margin of the Polar Sea, to confine itself purely to the
sea-coast; and although vast tracts, such as the barren grounds between
longitudes 99° and 109° W., are at the present day almost untenanted,
still a sufficient population remains to show that an emigration of
these tribes had taken place there at a remote period.

These people reached, in time, the shores of Davis's Straits and the
Atlantic Ocean; and, in a line parallel to them, others of their
brethren who reached the land lately re-discovered, northward of
Behring's Straits, may have likewise wandered along the Parry Group to
Lancaster Sound.

In order to have done this, land must be presumed to extend from the
meridian of Behring's Straits to Melville Island,--a point upon which
few who study the geography of that region can have now a doubt; and
eminent men have long supposed it to be the case,[5] from various
phenomena, such as the shallow nature of the sea between the Mackenzie
River and Behring's Straits, and the non-appearance of heavy ice in
that direction--all indicating that a barrier lay northward of the
American continent. The gallant squadron, under Captains Collinson and
M'Clure, will, doubtless, solve this problem, and connect, either by a
continent or a chain of islands, the ruined _yourts_ of Cape Jakan with
the time-worn stone huts of Melville Island.

      [5] The present talented hydrographer of the navy, Sir F.
      Beaufort, foretold to the author, a year before it was
      discovered, the existence of land north of Behring's Straits.

Situated as these places are, under the same degree of latitude, the
savage, guided by the length of his seasons and the periodical arrival
of bird and beast, would fearlessly progress along the north shore of
the great strait, which may be said to extend from Lancaster Sound to
the Straits of Behring. This progress was, doubtless, a work of
centuries, but gradual, constant, and imperative. The seal, the
rein-deer, and the whale, all desert or avoid places where man or beast
wages war on them whilst multiplying their species, and have to be
followed, as we find to be the case with our hunters, sealers, and
whalers of the present day.

As the northern Esquimaux travelled to the east, offshoots from the
main body no doubt struck to the southward. For instance, there is
every reason to believe Boothia to have been originally peopled from
the north. The natives seen there by Sir John Ross spoke of their
fathers having fished and lived in more northern lands. They described
the shores of North Somerset sufficiently to show that they knew that
it was only by rounding Cape Bunny, that Ross could carry his vessel
into that western sea, from whose waters an isthmus barred him: and
this knowledge, traditional as I believe it to have been, has since
been proved to be correct by those who wintered in Leopold Harbour
finding Esquimaux traces about that neighbourhood, and by the foot
journey of Sir James Ross, in 1848, round Cape Bunny towards the
Magnetic Pole.

In corroboration of my idea that these inhabitants of the Arctic zone
were once very numerous along the north shore of Barrow's Strait and
Lancaster Sound, the following localities were found to abound with
ruins:--The gulf between Bathurst and Cornwallis Land, the whole
southern shore of Cornwallis Island, Wellington Channel, Cape Spenser,
and Cape Riley; Radstock Bay, Ommanney Harbour, near Cape Warrender,
where the "Intrepid" discovered numerous well-finished graves, bearing
the marks of a _comparatively_ more recent date. Passing Cape
Warrender, I supposed the remnant of the northern emigration from Asia
to have still travelled round the coast; the more so, as at Jones's
Sound, the only spot one of our officers happened to land upon,
Esquimaux had evidently once lived. (_Vide_ page 173.) The Arctic
Highlander, Erasmus York, who was serving in our squadron, seemed to
believe his mother to have dwelt about Smith's Sound: all his ideas of
things that he had heard of, but not seen, referred to places
northward. He knew a musk-ox when shown a sketch of one, and said that
they were spoken of by his brethren: with a pencil he could sketch the
coast-line _northward_ of where he embarked, Cape York, as far as Whale
Sound, or even farther, by tradition; but _southward_ he knew of nothing.

Old whale-fishermen say that, when in former days their pursuit carried
them into the head of Baffin's Bay, they found the natives numerous;
and it is undoubted that, in spite of an apparently severe mortality
amongst these Arctic Highlanders, or Northern Esquimaux, the stock is
not yet extinct. Every whaler who has visited the coast northward of
Cape York, during late years, reports deserted villages and dead
bodies, as if some sudden epidemic had cut down men and women suddenly
and in their prime. Our squadron found the same thing. The "Intrepid's"
people found in the huts of the natives which were situated close to
the winter quarters of the "North Star," in Wolstenholme Sound,
numerous corpses, unburied, indeed, as if the poor creatures had been
suddenly cut off, and their brethren had fled from them. Poor York,
who, amongst the dead, recognized his own brother, described the malady
of which they died as one of the chest or lungs: at any rate, the
mortality was great.

Where did the supply of human life come from? Not from the south, for
then the Northern and Southern Esquimaux would have known of each
other's existence. Yet the Southern Esquimaux have faint traditions of
the head of Baffin's Bay and Lancaster Sound; and Egede and Crantz tell
us of their belief in a northern origin, and of their tales of remote
regions where beacons on hills had been erected to denote the way.
Surely all this points to the long and landward route pursued by this
extraordinary people.

It may be quite possible that a portion of the Esquimaux crossed
Davis's Straits by accident from the west to the east: such things have
occurred within the memory of living men; but I deny that it would ever
be a voluntary act, and therefore unlikely to have led to the
population of South Greenland. A single hunter of seals, or more, might
have been caught in the ice and been drifted across, or a boat's load
of women may have been similarly obliged to perform a voyage which
would have been very distasteful to an Esquimaux; but such accidents do
not populate countries.

Lastly, before I quit this subject, it would be as well to call the
attention of those interested in such questions to the extraordinary
fact of the existence of a constantly starving race upon the _east_
side of Greenland. The Danish surveyor's (Capt. Graah) remarks lead me
to the opinion that these people come from more northern parts of their
own side of Greenland; and it would be a curious circumstance if future
geographical discoveries should give us grounds to believe that from
the neighbourhood of Smith's Sound the Esquimaux migration divided, and
the one branch of it followed down the shores of Baffin's Bay and
Davis's Straits, whilst the other, tracing the northern coasts of
Greenland, eventually descended by the eastern seaboard to Cape
Farewell. The nursery, the hot-bed of this race, I believe to exist
northward of spots visited by us in Baffin's Strait,--for bay it is
not, even if it had no other outlets into the Polar Sea than Lancaster,
Jones's, and Smith's Sound.

_Revenons à nos moutons!_ The 2d, 3d, and 4th of September passed with
much anxiety; the signals thrown out by our leader, "Where do you think
the 'Intrepid' is gone?" and on another occasion, "Do you think the
'Intrepid' is to leeward of the pack?" denoting how much he was
thinking of the missing steamer. We of the sister screw had little
anxiety as to her safety or capability of escaping through any pack;
especially when alone and unhampered by having to keep company. A
knowledge of the screw, its power, and handiness, gave us a confidence
in it, which we had never reason to regret. At first we had been
pitied, as men doomed to be cast away: we had since learned to pity
others, and to be envied in our safe vessels. The "great experiment,"
as it was called, had succeeded, in spite of the forebodings of the
ignorant and the half-measured doubts of questionable friends; but its
crowning triumph was yet to come: the _single steamer_ was, alone,
unaided, to penetrate the pack and seek her missing mate. Find her, if
she could; if not, winter, and seek with foot parties, both this autumn
and next spring.


There was a momentary pang of regret on the morning of the 5th
September, when I first learned that the "Pioneer" was to return into
Wolstenholme Sound with provisions sufficient for herself and the
"Intrepid" to meet _two_ winters more; but pride soon, both with myself
and my officers and men, came to the rescue. The "Intrepid" might have
been caught, and unable to extricate herself. Of course it was an
honourable mission to go to the aid of our comrades, to give them the
means of subsistence, to spend the winter with them, and, please God,
escape next season, if not before, from the disagreeable position into
which our summer tour in Baffin's Bay had carried us: and furthermore,
the screws, helpless babes! were to winter alone, alone to find their
way in and out of the ice, and alone make their way home, whilst the
huge incubi that had ridden us like nightmares during the search for
Franklin would be (D.V.) safely lashed in Woolwich dockyard.

The 5th was spent in sending away all our sickly or weak hands,
increasing the complement of seamen by four, receiving abundance of
public and private stores, bidding good-bye to our dear brother
officers in the squadron, and friends, who generously pressed upon us
every thing they had to spare, in which they were not more generous
than our leader, who put, with the utmost liberality, both his kit and
storeroom at our disposal. The "Pioneer" was by midnight as deep as a
sand-barge. Next morning the commodore came on board, gave me highly
flattering orders, and, having read prayers, made a speech, in which he
took an affectionate farewell of the "Pioneers," and struck with happy
effect the two strongest chords in our hearts, thus:--"You hold," said
he, "Pioneers, the honour of the squadron in your hands. I thank you
all for the alacrity and spirit with which you have prepared yourselves
to re-enter the ice. You shall be no losers by it; and on my arrival in
England I will take care to insure that you are not forgotten in
rewards: indeed, I shall consider that you have the first claim,
provided your commander, on his arrival in England, reports favourably
on your conduct." At eight o'clock we parted company, and, under sail
and steam, steered direct for Wolstenholme Island.

A little after ten o'clock we broke through a neck of ice, and had just
put the helm up to run down a lead, when, happening to look over my
shoulder at the "Resolute," now hull down to the westward, I was
astonished to see what appeared the smoke of a gun, and soon afterwards
another, and another. The general recall at the mast-head was next
seen, and the "Assistance," under all sail, pressing to the south,
showed that the "Intrepid" had been caught sight of. Joy was strongly
marked on every countenance as we turned on our heel, and one
exclamation--"Thank God for our escape from a second winter," was on
every tongue. It would have been indeed an unprofitable detention to
have been caught in Wolstenholme Sound by the pack, as we undoubtedly
should have been, whilst the vessel we went to relieve was safe without
it. However, the evil was now averted; the whole squadron was united,
my provisions, men, and stores again taken out, and a memorandum
issued, the purport of which was that we were to go to Woolwich. At
eight o'clock the yards were squared, sails spread, and homeward we

Fresh and fair gales, a sea entirely clear of all but stray icebergs,
and here and there a patch of broken ice, gave us nothing to do but
endeavour to reduce our speed sufficiently under canvas to insure not
outrunning our consorts. In eight days we reached the latitude of Cape
Farewell. Once in the Atlantic, strong gales and dark nights rendered
it impossible for such ill-matched consorts to keep company, and we
found ourselves alone, sighting the Orkneys fourteen days after bearing
up from the latitude of Wolstenholme Island in Baffin's Bay, and
anchored at Grimsby in the river Humber, exactly three weeks from the
commencement of our homeward-bound voyage. The rest of the squadron
followed us to Woolwich, where all were paid off safe and sound, with
the exception of one man, the only one missing out of the original one
hundred and eighty officers and men who had sailed in 1850, under
Captain Horatio T. Austin, C.B., to rescue or solve the fate of the
expedition commanded by Captain Sir John Franklin.


Our self-importance as Arctic heroes of the first water received a sad
downfall when we were first asked by a kind friend, what the deuce we
came home for? We had a good many _becauses_ ready, but he overturned
them altogether; so we had resort to the usual resource of men in such
a position: we said, "There was a barrier of ice across Wellington
Channel in 1850." Our friend said, "I deny it was a permanent one, for
the Americans drifted through it!" "Indeed!" we exclaimed, "at any rate
there was one there in 1851." "Yes, granted, on the 12th of August; but
you know there was a month of open season left: and, like an honest
man, say how long it would take for that barrier, fifteen or twenty
miles wide, to disperse." "As many hours!" was our reply: "and we have
forsworn in future barriers of ice as well as barriers of land."

What the deuce we came home for? and why we deserted Franklin? were
pleasant questions; and at first we felt inclined to be angry. Those,
however, who asked them had cause and reason for doing so. We were in
the dark as to much that had been arrived at in England. We knew but of
our own limited personal experience, and had had neither time nor
opportunity to compare notes with others. The public at home sat down
with the accumulated evidence of two British expeditions and an
American one. They passed a verdict that Franklin had gone up
Wellington Channel, and that, having gone up there, in obedience to his
country's orders, it was the duty of that country to send after him,
save him, or solve his fate. I for one knew I had done my duty in the
sphere allotted to me, although feeling at first that the public
verdict reflected somewhat upon me as well as others. But "Vox populi,
vox Dei." I bowed tacitly to its decision, until attempts were made to
damp the hopes of the more sanguine,--in fact, to save our credit at
the expense of Franklin's existence. It was time then to reconsider in
all its points the subject of farther search, to compare my own recent
impression of things with facts that were now before the world, and
then to judge for myself whether any one had a right to declaim against
farther efforts to save Franklin's expedition.

Need I say I found none. On comparing the information, the phenomena
observed in our own squadron with those of Captain Penny's, and the
Americans under Lieutenant De Haven, I saw more and more clearly that a
northern sea, an open water, must have been close to us in 1850 and
1851, when we were about Wellington Channel; that that sea was _not_
blocked with ice in 1850, as we had ignorantly supposed; and that as
assuredly as it was proved that Sir John Franklin had not gone to Cape
Walker, nor disobeyed his orders by going to Melville Island, so
certain did it now become that up Wellington Channel he had steered to
that open sea, which, whether limited or encircling the Pole, it was
his object to enter. It was water and an open sea that Franklin wanted
to achieve the North-west Passage; and there it was before him. Can any
one suppose him, accuse him, capable of hesitating to enter it?

Those who will not admit this, have recourse to two infallible Arctic
solutions for the dilemma in which they are placed; it must be either
an impenetrable barrier of ice in Wellington Channel, or the ships must
have been beset in the pack, and have perished, without God's
providence helping them, as it has helped all others similarly placed,
without leaving a single survivor or a vestige of any description. No
such wholesale calamity is on record.


Let us inquire into this barrier of ice in Wellington Channel. Twice
had Parry seen the channel, in 1819 and 1820; he saw no barrier then.
We reached it in the fall of 1850, after a very backward and severe
summer, with winter fast closing in upon us. We saw long flights of
birds retreating from their summer breeding-places somewhere beyond the
broad fields of ice that lay athwart its channel. We wondered at the
numerous shoals of white whale passing, from some unknown northern
region, southward to more genial climes. We talked of fixed ice, yet in
one day twelve miles of it came away, and nearly beset us amongst its
fragments. We heard Captain Penny's report that there was water to be
seen north of the remaining belt, of about ten miles in width. We were
like deaf adders; we were obstinate, and went into winter quarters
under Griffith's Island, believing that nothing more could be done,
because a barrier of fixed ice extended across Wellington Channel! We
were miserably mistaken.

The expedition under Lieutenant De Haven was then drifting slowly over
the place where we, in our ignorance, had placed fixed ice in our
charts; and to them likewise the wisdom of an all-merciful Providence
revealed the fact of a northern sea of open water, that they might be
additional witnesses in the hour of need. We cannot do better than read
the plain unvarnished tale of the gallant American--a tale of calm
heroism under no ordinary trials, which stamps the document as the
truthful narration of a gentleman and a sailor. He says, after
describing the being beset by young ice in the mouth of Wellington
Channel, and drifting northward, owing to southerly winds,--

"On the 18th September we were above Cape Bowden.... To account for
this drift, the fixed ice of Wellington Channel, which we had observed
in passing to the _westward_, must have been broken up, and driven to
the southward by the heavy gale the 12th (September).

"We continued to drift slowly to the N.N.W. until the 22d, when our
progress appeared to be arrested by a small low island, which was
discovered about seven miles distant.

                     *      *      *      *      *

"_Between Cornwallis Island and some distant high land visible in the
north, appeared a wide channel, leading to the westward._ A dark,
misty-looking cloud which hung over it (technically termed frost-smoke)
was indicative of much open water in that direction.

"Nor was the open water the only indication that presented itself in
confirmation of theoretical conjecture as to a milder climate in that
direction. As we entered Wellington Channel the signs of animal life
became more abundant."

So much, then, for the barrier of ice in Wellington Channel in 1850.
Let us now speak of what was there in 1851. On the 11th of August about
as much fixed floe was remaining in Wellington Channel as had been
found by us on the previous year, _a month later in the season_. On
that occasion, late as it was, we have the evidence of Lieutenant De
Haven to prove the channel opened: why should we doubt it doing so in
1851? An open sea existed on both sides of a belt of ice, rotten, full
of holes, unfit to travel over (as Penny's officers reported it), full
thirty days before the winter set in; is there an Arctic navigator
hardy enough to say he believes that that belt would have been found
there on the next spring-tide after our squadron was liberated from
Griffith's Island? Then, I repeat, if it is allowed that Wellington
Channel was open in 1819, 1820, 1850, and 1851, it is natural to infer
that it was open when Franklin wished to pass through it in 1846, and
that, under such circumstances, he would, in obedience to his orders,
have gone by it to the N.W.

The day has not long passed by when it was tried to be proved, on
_undoubted testimony_, that Barrow's Strait was barred with the
accumulated ice of years,--and this in the face of an autumnal drift of
a naval squadron for 350 miles in the pack of Lancaster. What say these
barrier-builders to the winter drift of the American schooners under
Lieutenant De Haven? Does his marvellous cruise teach us nothing?
Between the 1st of November, 1850, and the 6th of June, 1851, his
squadron was swept in one vast field of ice from the upper part of
Wellington Channel to the southward of Cape Walsingham, in Davis's
Straits, through a tortuous route of full 1000 miles! Yes, reader, the
"Rescue" and "Advance" were beset in young bay-ice in and about
Wellington Channel; but during the winter, amidst the darkness, amidst
fierce gales, when the God of storms alone could and did shield those
brave barks, they and _the ice_ in _which they had been beset_, moved,
with few pauses, steadily and slowly to the Atlantic Ocean, and reached
it by the summer of the following year.

It is true, our expedition was prevented, by ice, from advancing to the
west of Griffith's Island. But let it not be supposed that we came, in
that direction, upon any _fixed_ bar of ice or interminable floe-edge:
far otherwise; for when, as I have elsewhere said, Lieutenant Aldrich
was sent, a few days after our arrival at winter quarters, to travel on
foot to Lowther Island, he found the task a hopeless one, as _water_,
bay-ice, and a broken pack, lay between Somerville Island and it. We,
likewise, in our spring journeys, found ice, smooth as glass, formed,
evidently during the past winter, surrounding Lowther Island. It was
traced by Lieutenant M'Clintock, leading, in exactly the form of the
lead of water found in 1819 and 1820 by Sir E. Parry, in his voyage to
Winter Island; and there can be little doubt, that, beyond the
floe-pieces which choked the channel between Griffith's Island and Cape
Bunny, we should, in 1850, have found water leading us to Winter
Harbour, and up the noble channel north of Byam Martin Island.

Enough of icy barriers. I do not believe in Nature having placed such
fixtures on the "vasty deep;" but I am ready to allow that there are
places in which accumulations of ice naturally exist, and where the ice
moves away less rapidly than in other parts. By looking at the chart,
and taking into consideration the geographical conformation of such
spots, the cause will at once appear.

In a line across the head of Davis's Straits, the pack hangs, because
it is there met, in its downward course, by the whole weight of the
Atlantic Sea, and strong southerly gales blowing up that funnel-shaped
strait. About Leopold Island the pack hangs, for it is acted upon by
the cross-tides of Wellington Channel and Regent's Inlet running
athwart those of Barrow's Strait, and forming a sort of eddy, or still
water. This occurs again in the _elbow_ of Wellington Channel, and
between Griffith's Island and Cape Bunny, where a narrowing strait, and
the cross-tide of the channel towards the American coast, tie up the
broad floes formed in the great water-space west of that point; and
lastly, a similar choke takes place, apparently off the S.W. extreme of
Melville Island.

Failing in barriers, these Job's comforters dismiss the subject by
swallowing up the "Erebus" and "Terror," hull, masts, sails, and crew,
in some especially infernal tempest or convulsion executed for the
occasion: they--the Job's comforters--have no similar case to adduce in
proof of such a catastrophe. Every body who goes to the frozen regions
tells of the hairbreadth escapes and imminent dangers attendant on
Arctic navigation. I am free to acknowledge, I have "piled the agony"
to make my work sell. Behold the "Pioneer" in a nip in Melville Bay;
the "Resolute" thumping the pack off Griffith's Island; the
"Assistance" holding on to a floe-edge with a moving one threatening to
sink her; and the "Intrepid" on the slope of an iceberg, high and dry:
yet all are safe and sound in Woolwich dockyard: the brigs, "Rescue"
and "Advance," beset for 267 days, drifting during a Polar winter 1150
miles, enduring all possible hardship and risk, yet both vessels and
men are safe and sound. Captain Penny's two vessels, the "Lady
Franklin" and "Sophia," if their figure-heads could speak, would "a
tale unfold." Not the most extraordinary part of their adventures was,
being caught in a gale in a bay on the coast of Greenland, and being
forced by a moving iceberg through a field of ice full three feet
thick, the vessels rearing and plunging through it; yet they are all
safe and sound. The "North Star," the "Enterprise," and "Investigator,"
and farther back, the "Terror," farther still, the "Dorothea" and
"Trent," have, with many more we could enumerate, seen no ordinary
Arctic dangers; but, thanks to a merciful Providence, unattended with
loss of life. Why, therefore, in the name of charity, consign those who
are dear to us, as relatives, friends, or countrymen, to sudden death
in the dark waters of Lancaster Sound or Baffin's Bay. No one who knew
the men of that gallant squadron would so libel the leader, or his
officers, as to suppose them to have turned back when at the threshold
of their labours: if he does so, he does them foul injustice. And
against such I appeal, in the name of that humanity which was never
invoked in vain in a Christian land.

Give the lost ones the benefit of the doubt, if there is one on your
minds. Let not selfish indifference to your fellow-creatures' fate
induce you to dismiss the question by adopting any of the horrible
opinions to which unfeeling men have given utterance. True it is, they
are in sad peril; true it is, they have suffered long and much; true it
is, that many may have fallen by the way: but the remnant, however
small, of that heroic band, be assured, by one who knew many of them
intimately and dearly, will despair not, but, trusting in their God,
their Queen, and country, they will cling to hope with life's latest

They have done their duty: let us not be wanting in ours. The rescue of
Franklin's squadron, or the solution of their fate, entails no
extraordinary risk of life upon the part of those employed in the
search. Insurances to any amount--and I speak from a knowledge of the
fact--may be effected in the various insurance offices in London with a
lighter premium than is demanded for the Bights of Benin or Bengal.
This is a pretty good test, and a sound practical one, too, of the
much-talked-of dangers of Polar navigation. Ships are often lost; but
the very floe which by its pressure sinks the vessel saves the crew.

In short, we have every thing to stimulate Arctic exploration. No loss
of life; (for Franklin it will be time enough to mourn when we know he
is not of the living,) the wonderful proofs lately acquired of a Polar
sea; the undoubted existence of animal life in regions which were
previously supposed to be incapable of supporting animal life; the
result of the deeply philosophical inquiries of the talented
geographer, Mr. Peterman, which seem to establish the fact of an open
Polar sea during the severest season of the year; and lastly, the
existence of Esquimaux in a high northern latitude in Baffin's Bay, who
appear to be so isolated, and so unconnected with their brethren of
South Greenland, as to justify us in connecting them rather with the
numerous ruined habitations found westward as far as Melville Island,
and lead the mind to speculate upon some more northern region,--some
_terra incognita_, yet to be visited by us,--encourages us, aye, urges
us not to halt in our exploration. Humanity and science are united in
the cause: where one falters, let a love for the other encourage us to

Franklin and his matchless followers need no eulogy from me; the
sufferings they must have undergone, the mystery that hangs over them,
are on every tongue in every civilized land.

The blooming child lisps Franklin's name, as with glistening eye and
greedy ear it hears of the wonders of the North, and the brave deeds
there done. Youth's bosom glows with generous emotion to emulate the
fame of him who has gone where none as yet have followed. And who
amongst us does not feel his heart throb faster in recalling to
recollection the calm heroism of the veteran leader, who, when about to
enter the unknown regions of which Wellington Channel is the portal,
addressed his crews in those solemn and emphatic words of Holy
Writ,--his motto, doubtless,--"Choose ye this day whom you will serve;"
and found in that blissful choice his strength and his endurance.

To rescue even one life were surely well worthy our best endeavours;
but if it so please an all-merciful Providence that aid should reach
Franklin's ships too late to save even that one, yet would we have
fulfilled a high and imperative duty: and would it be no holy
satisfaction to trace the last resting-place of those gallant spirits?
to recover the records, there assuredly to be found, of their manly
struggle, under hardships and difficulties, in achieving that
North-west Passage, in the execution of which they had laid down their
lives? and to bring back to their surviving relatives and friends those
last kind messages of love, which show that sincere affection and stern
sense of duty sprang from one source in their gallant and generous

Yes, of course it would. Then, and not till then--taking this, the
gloomiest view of the subject--shall we have done our duty towards the
captains, officers, and crews of Her Majesty's ships "Erebus" and
"Terror;" and then, and not until then, of their honoured leader we may
safely say:--

    "His soul to Him who gave it rose;
    God led its long repose,
      Its glorious rest!
    And though the warrior's sun has set,
    Its light shall linger round us yet,
      Bright, radiant, blest!"


*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Stray Leaves from an Arctic Journal; - or, Eighteen Months in the Polar Regions, in Search of Sir - John Franklin's Expedition, in the Years 1850-51" ***

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