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MY DEAR SIR,
CAPTAIN PARRY'S VOYAGE.
H. M. S. Fury, Igloolik, (N. E. Coast of Amer.)
It is rather a painful task, to sit down and recount to one's friends the history of two years, the issue of which, although the most successful results were anticipated, has been little more than a series of vexation and disappointment. Yet such is our case; and the account I am about to give you, is rather of what we have failed to do, than of what has been done by us; an account which will prove, perhaps, as tedious to the reader as painful to the narrator, and one I should scarcely venture upon writing, were I not apprehensive that silence would wear the appearance of an indifference, if not of a negligence, which I am very far from feeling, and of which I should be sorry to incur even the suspicion.
The return of the Nautilus Transport furnishes you with information of our having arrived off Resolution Island, and, you must have subsequently learned by the Hudson's bay ship, that as late as the 20th of July we were still struggling with the ice, in endeavouring to get to the westward, through Hudson's straight. On the 22d of July, we succeeded in getting into clear water, off the middle Savage Islands, and, with very little farther interruption, reached Southampton Island, on the 4th of August, being then in lat. 65d. 23 m. north, and long. 81 d. 24 m. west. This place, only a few miles from where Bylot and Baffin, in 1615, gave up "all further search of a passage," might be said to be the starting post of our discoveries; and although we were surrounded by a quantity of ice, of a heavy kind, and in more extensive floes than we had before met with, the prospect before us was far from unfavourable. The land to the northward and westward seemed broken, and for a considerable space in that direction, there was none to be seen. We had little doubt, therefore, but that we had arrived at the entrance of Middleton's Frozen Strait; and in spite of the ice with which it was now filled, and the appalling name it bore, we fully expected that a westerly wind would open a passage for the ships, enabling us to reach Repulse Bay, and so proceed along the shores of the continent, in prosecution of our enterprize. By slow degrees, gaining a mile now and then, as the ice opened, we continued to advance to the westward, and in a few days discovered two distinct inlets; one, the smallest, bearing due west from us, and a larger
opening in the north west. first in order, was, of course, that to which our attention was first directed; and as we advanced towards it, we were glad to observe, that the entrance itself was free from ice, and that a few miles farther would bring us into clear water. This we reached on the 15th of August, and on the following morning beat through the narrow entrance, in full expectation of getting into the Welcome, near the entrance to Wager River; but great was our astonishment in discovering that we had entered an extensive bay, entirely free from ice, and with no other opening than that by which we had come in. The western shore of the bay was remarkably low swampy land, intersected by numerous lakes; and, as was soon evident to us, must be that which Middleton describes as a "low shingly beach, like Dungeness," not suspecting that a sheet of water four leagues in breadth, and about nine leagues north and south, existed between it, and the higher land he saw over it, and which, of course, he concluded to be immediately connected with it. Having examined the whole of this bay, (named in honour of the Duke of York,) and ascertained that there was no other outlet for the ships, we returned by the way we came, and on the 19th repassed the entrance, in order to pursue our investigation in the larger inlet to the south west. The southern headland of this entrance, (Cape Welsford,) is in lat. 65 d. 28 m. long. 48 d. 40 m. The breadth of the entrance is about five or six miles, but several small islands, which occupy its northern side, reduce the breadth of the channel to within two miles.
The westernmost one, being the
A north-westerly breeze, which prevailed at this time, had drifted the ice off from the western shore of the inlet we had now to examine, enabling the ships to proceed along it without difficulty, and on the evening of the 21st, we had the satisfaction of discovering ourselves in Repulse Bay; the inlet we had just sailed through being actually the frozen straight, which we had been fortunate in passing without the slightest interruption from ice. The 22d was employed on shore in obtaining observations, when the latitude was found to be 66 d. 31 m. long. 86 d. 31 m. The dip of the magnetic needle 88 d. 7 m. and the variation 48 1-2 westerly. We now felt assured of having reached the continent of America, at the farthest point to which its north-eastern coast had ever been explored by Europeans; and began to entertain the most sanguine expectation, that, by keeping close along the land, we should soon arrive at its utmost limit, in that direction, and be enabled to pursue
our route to the westward. By what unforeseen accidents these hopes were frustrated, the sequel of this account will best show.
Having determined the continuity of land, quite round the bay, we proceeded to trace it in continuation; which kept us along the south-eastern coast of the frozen strait, till noon on the 23d, when a disjunction of the land was discovered. The ice which occupied this little opening of the land, prevented the ship from immediately entering it, and a party was, therefore, despatched on shore to examine its extent and communications, who soon found that the remaining part of the southeastern shore of the frozen strait was composed of islands, and that the opening communicated with what appeared another strait, running parallel to the former, and having a number of islands off the eastern extremity of its north shore. The whole sea was much covered with ice, and a very strong tide found to prevail in it; so that the navigation became uncertain and extremely hazardous, and several days were occupied in exploring it farther in boats, before the vessels could be ventured in it. At length, however, on the 30th of August, the ships were got through the opening, and an attempt made to push to the northward, between any of the islands, in order to keep hold of the continent, but every channel was so loaded with ice that a passage in this direction was found impracticable. All our efforts to proceed in this direction proved unavailing; and, after passing two days, in extreme anxiety and hazard to the ships, we proceeded to the eastward of all the islands, when the chance of getting to the northward seemed as hopeless as ever, one vast expanse of ice covering the whole sea in that direction. Thick foggy weather now compelled us to make the ships fast to a floe of ice, and by the combined influence of wind and tide we were drifted with such rapidity to the southward and eastward, that on the 3d of September we found ourselves once more at the southern entrance of the frozen strait, and nearly in the same position as reached by us in the first week of August, having occupied a whole month in difficult and dangerous, but fruitless investigation of an extensive groupe of islands.
A very large island, forming about two-thirds of the north eastern shore of the frozen strait was named Vansittart Island. A smaller one, lying to the south-eastwerd of it, being the land seen by Bylot and Baffin in 1615, bearing N. E. by E. of them, and which brought the former to the conclusion that they were in "nought else than a great bay," was named Baffin Island, and the northern groupe, through which we had in vain endea
voured to reach the continental shore, were called Sturges Bourne Islands.
Scarcely any thing could be less promising then the prospect at this time before us. The whole sea around was entirely covered with ice; in the midst of which we were closely beset without the means of helping ourselves; and had we not before experienced how sudden are the alterations which occasionally take place in the state of the ice, we might have given up all hope of being released for the season. A single day, however, brought a better prospect; and by the morning of the 5th, we were again in clear water, and proceeding to the northward. On arriving off Sturges Bourne Islands, we found the sea, to the northward of them, also free of ice; and favoured by a leading wind, we had quick run to the northward and westward. On the morning of the 6th, we arrived at the narrow part of another large opening; and as its examination could be properly accomplished by boats, the ships were anchored in a small bay to await the result. The latitude of this place was 66 d. 37 m. long. 84 d. 11 m., dip. of mag. needle 87 d. 47 m. and variation 57 westerly.
It is impossible to attempt, within the limits of a letter, any thing like a detail of the investigation by boats, which occupied the next sixteen days. I must confine myself therefore, to stating, that at the end of that period, Capt. Parry had fully ascertained, that the opening in which we then were was an extensive inlet of the continent (named after Capt. Lyon,) stretching northwards to the 67th parallel, and as far west as 85 d. 20 m.
The continuity of land, from the place where the ships were compelled to leave the continent, to our present station, had also been determined by the boats; and it now only remained to continue our examination of the continental coast, by proceeding along the last shore of Lyon Inlet, onwards, to whereever it might lead us, but this was to be the work of another season. On reaching an island that lies off the north eastern entrance of Lyon inlet, we found the ice so closely packed against it as to render a passage impracticable. A day or two after, a gale of wind compelled us to seek shelter in a small cove, a little up the inlet, where we were kept several days with two anchors to the ground, and lower yards and topmast struck. The winter was now making rapid advances; the thermometer fell low at night; the ground was entirely covered with snow, the lakes on shore were all frozen over, and the season evidently on the close, when, at length, on the 5th of Oct. the weather became moderate, and the ice began to recede from the land.
We again attempted to get round the Island; but, on reaching the south-eastern extremity, on the 18th of October, our progress was wholly arrested by the constant formation of young ice on the sea, and we considered ourselves fortunate in getting the ships into a little bay, which the land formed here, to establish our quarters for the winter. Thus ended the operarations of our first season; in which nearly six hundred miles of coast had been discovered and thoroughly investigated, but scarcely any advance made towards the object, for the attainment of which we are so anxious.
In making our winter arrangements, we were, of course, wholly guided by former experience; the improvements which had been made for increasing the warmth of the ships, and the superior comforts with which we were furnished, enabled us to bid defiance to any degree of cold that we were likely to be assailed with; and the approach of winter did not produce one unpleasant idea, beyond what arose from the consideration of being inactive, for so tedious a length of time.
For the amusement of the ship's companies, theatrical entertainments were again established; the officers performing a play every fortnight, to the infinite amusement and satisfaction of both ship's companies. A still better source of entertainment was found for a majority of the men; in the establishment of a school for instruction in reading and writing; and more than twenty men in each ship, devoted two hours of every day, to the laudable purposes of becoming acquainted with their Bible, and acquiring some proficiency in the art of writing.
The monthly meteorological table annexed to this account, will show the degree of cold we have had to encounter, which, in this first winter, was much less severe than we anticipated. On the shortest day, we had nearly five hours of good daylight, and the sun was just above the horizon at noon; so that, comparing it with Melville Island, we considered ourselves in a temperate climate. The Aurora Borealis was visible more or less almost every night, but it was very seldom that we had any brilliant display.
On the 1st of February, a tribe of Esquimaux, (about sixty in number) arrived at Winter Island, and established themselves in snow huts, about two miles from the ships. With these people we immediately became on the most intimate and friendly footing; and having soon acquired an indifferent knowledge. of their language, were enabled to make many useful inquiries respecting the north-eastern coast of America, and obtained several rude charts, conveying a distinct idea of the general