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Passage to the Whale-fish Islands, and Removal of Stores from
the Transport. -Enter the Ice in Baffin's Bay.-Difficulties of Penetrating to the Westward.—Quit the Ice in Baffin's Bay. - Remarks on the Obstructions encountered by the Ships, and on the Severity of the Season.
The equipment of the Hecla and Fury, and the loading of the William Harris transport, being completed, we began to move down the river from Dept. ford on the 8th of May, 1824, and on the 10th, by the assistance of the steamboat, the three ships had reached Northfleet, where they received their pow. der and their ordnance stores.
Early on the morning of the 3d of July, the whole of our stores being removed, and Lieutenant Pritchard having received his orders, together with our despatches and letters for England, the William Harris weighed with a light wind from the northward, and was towed out to sea by our boats.
Light northerly winds, together with the dull sail. ing of our now deeply-laden ships, prevented our making much progress for several days, and kept us in the neighbourhood of numerous icebergs, which it is dangerous to approach when there is any swell. We counted from the deck, at one time, no less than one hundred and three of these im. mense bodies, some of them from one to two hun. dred feet in height above the sea ; and it was neces. sary, in one or two instances, to tow the ships clear of them with the boats.
From this time, indeed, the obstructions from the
quantity, magnitude, and closeness of the ice were such as to keep our people almost constantly em. ployed in heaving, warping, or sawing through it ; and yet with so little success, that, at the close of the month of July, we had only penetrated seventy miles to the westward, or the longitude of about 62° 10'.
Sept. 9th.--I shall, doubtless, be readily excused for not having entered in this journal a detailed nar. ative of the obstacles we met with, and of the unwearied exertions of the officers and men to over. come them, during the tedious eight weeks employed in crossing this barrier.
The constant besetment of the ships, and our daily observations for latitude and longitude, afforded a favourable opportunity for ascertaining precisely the set of any currents by which the whole body of ice might be actuated. By attending very carefully to all the circumstances, it was evident that a daily set to the southward obtained when the wind was northerly, differing in amount from two or three, to eight or ten miles per day, according to the strength of the breeze; but a northerly current was equally apparent, and fully to the same amount, whenever the wind blew from the southward. A circumstance more remarkable than these, however, forced itself strongly upon my notice at this time, which was, that a westerly set was very frequently apparent, even against a fresh breeze blowing from that quarter. I men. tion the circumstance in this place, because I may hereafter have to offer a remark or two on this fact, in connexion with some others of a similar nature noticed elsewhere.
With respect to the dimensions of the ice through which we had now scrambled our way, principally by warping and towing, a distance of between three and four hundred miles, I remarked that it for the most part increased, as well in the thickness as the extent of the floes, as we advan. ced westward about the parallel of 71°. During our subsequent progress to the north, we also met with some of enormous dimensions, several of the floes, to which we applied our hawsers and the power of the improved capstan, being at their mar, gin more than twenty feet above the level of the sea; and over some of these we could not see from the masthead. Upon the whole, however, the mag. nitude of the ice became somewhat less towards the northwest, and within thirty miles of that margin the masses were comparatively small, and their thickness much diminished. Bergs were in sight during the whole passage, but they were more numerous towards the middle of the pack," and rather the most so to the southward.
Enter Sir James Lancaster's Sound.-Land at Cape Warren.
der.-Meet with yoiing Ice.-Ships beset and carried near the Shore.-Driven back to Navy-board Inlét.-Run to the Westward, and enter Prince Regent's Inlet.--Arrival at Port Bowen.
All our past obstacles were in a moment forgot. ten when we once more saw an open sea before us ; but it must be confessed that it was not so easy to
forget that the middle of September was already near at hand, without having brought us even to the entrance of Sir James Lancaster's Sound. That not a moment might be lost, however, in pushing to the westward, a press of canvass was crowded, and, being happily favoured with an easterly breeze, on the morning of Sept. 10th we caught a glimpse of the high bold land on the north side of the magnificent inlet up which our course was once more to be directed. From the time of our leaving the main body of ice, we met with none of any
kind, and the entrance to the Sound was, as usual, entirely free from it, except here and there a berg, floating about in that solitary grandeur, of which these enormous masses, when occurring in the midst of an extensive sea, are calculated to convey so sublime an idea.
On the morning of the 12th we were once more favoured with a breeze from the eastward, but so light and unsteady that our progress was vexatiously slow; and on the 13th, when within seven leagues of Cape York, we had the mortification to perceive the sea ahead of us covered with young ice, the thermometer having, for two days past, ranged only from 18° to 20°.
The next breeze sprung up from the westward, drawing also from the southward, at times, out of Prince Regent's Inlet, and for three days we were struggling with the young ice to little or no purpose, now and then gaining half a mile of ground to windward in a little “hole” of open water, then losing as much by the necessity of bearing up or wearing (for the ice was too strong to allow us to tack), sallying from morning to night with all
hands, and with the watch at night, two boats constantly under the bows; and, after all, rather losing ground than otherwise, while the young ice was every hour increasing in thickness.
Towards sunset on the 17th we became more and more hampered, and were eventually beset during the night. The sea was covered with ice be. tween us and the shore, all of this year's forma. tion, but now of considerable thickness and formi. dable appearance. The wind continuing strong, the whole body was constantly pressed in upon the land, bearing the ships along with it, and doubling one sheet over another, sometimes to a hundred thicknesses. We quickly shoaled the water from seventy to forty fathoms, the latter depth occurring about a mile from the beach ; and after this we drifted but little, the ice being blocked up between the point and a high perpendicular berg lying • aground off it.
Under such circumstances, it evidently became expedient to endeavour, by sawing, to get the ships as close in-shore as possible, so as to secure them either to grounded ice, or by anchoring within the shelter of a bay at no great distance inside of us ; for it now seemed not unlikely that winter was about to put a premature stop to all farther operations at sea for this season. At all events, it was necessary to consult the immediate safety of the ships, and to keep them from being drifted back to the eastward. I therefore gave orders for endeavouring to get the ships in towards the bay, by cutting through what level floes still remained. so strong had been the pressure while the ice was forcing in upon us, that on the 20th, after libera.