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NARRATIVE

OF

AN ATTEMPT TO REACH THE

NORTH POLE,

Y

IN BOATS FITTED FOR THE PURPOSE, AND ATTACHED

TO HIS MAJESTY'S SHIP HECLA,

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NARRATIVE.

INTRODUCTION.

In April, 1826, I proposed to the Right Honour. able Viscount Melville, first lord commissioner of the Admiralty, to attempt to reach the North Pole by means of travelling with sledge-boats over the ice, or through any spaces of open water that might occur. My proposal was soon afterward re. ferred to the president and council of the Royal Society, who strongly recommended its adoption ; and an expedition being accordingly directed to be equipped for this purpose, I had the honour of being appointed to the command of it; and my commis. sion for his majesty's ship the Hecla, which was in. tended to carry us to Spitzbergen, was dated the 11th of November, 1826.

Two boats were constructed at Woolwich, under my superintendence, after an excellent model suggested by Mr. Peake, and nearly resembling what are called “ troop-boats," having great flatness of floor, with the extreme breadth carried well forward and aft, and possessing the utmost buoyancy, as well as capacity for stowage. Their length was twenty feet, and their extreme breadth seven feet. The timbers were made of tough ash and hickory, one inch by half an inch square, and a foot apart, with a "half-timber" of smaller size between each

two. On the outside of the frame thus formed was laid a covering of Macintosh's water-proof can. vass, the outer part being covered with tar. Over this was placed a plank of fir, only three sixteenths of an inch thick ; then a sheet of stout felt; and, over all, an oak plank of the same thickness as the fir; the whole of these being firmly and closely secured to the timbers by iron screws applied from without. The following narrative will show how admirably the elasticity

of this mode of construc. tion was adapted to withstand the constant twisting and concussion to which the boats were subject. On each side of the keel, and projecting consider. ably below it, was attached a strong “runner,” shod with smooth steel, in the manner of a sledge, upon which the boat entirely rested while upon the ice; and, to afford some additional chance of making progress on hard and level fields, we also applied to each boat two wheels, of five feet diameter, and a small one abaft, having a swivel for steering by, like that of a Bath chair; but these, owing to the irregularities of the ice, did not prove of any service, and were subsequently relinquished. A “ span” of hide-rope was attached to the forepart of the runners, and to this were affixed two strong ropes of horse-hair, for dragging the boat : each individual being furnished with a broad leathern shoulder-belt, which could readily be fastened to or detached from the drag-ropes. The interior ar.

* The first travelling boat, which was built by way of experiment, was planked differently from these two; the planks, which were of half-inch oak, being ingeniously “tongued” together with copper, in order to save the necessity of caulking in case of the wood shrinking. This was the boat subsequently landed on Red Beach.

rangement consisted only of two thwarts; a lock. er at each end for the nautical and other instru. ments, and for the smaller stores; and a very slight framework along the sides for containing the bags of biscuit and our spare clothes. A bamboo mast nineteen feet long, a tanned duck sail, answering also the

purpose of an awning, a spreat, one boathook, fourteen paddles, and a steer-oar, completed each boat's equipment.

Two officers and twelve men (ten of the latter being seamen, and two marines) were selected for each boat's crew. It was proposed to take with us resources for ninety days; to set out from Spitzbergen, if possible, about the beginning of June; and to occupy the months of June, July, and August in attempting to reach the Pole and returning to the ship; making an average journey of thirteen, miles and a half per day. Our provisions consisted of biscuit of the best wheaten flour ; beef pemmican ;* sweetened cocoa powder, and a small pro. portion of rum, the latter concentrated to fifty-five per cent. above proof, in order to save weight and stowage. The proper instruments were provided, both by the Admiralty and the Board of Longitude, for making such observations as might be interest. ing in the higher latitudes, and as the nature of the enterprise would permit. Six pocket chronome. ters, the property of the public, were furnished for

* This article of our equipment contains a large proportior. of nutriment in a small weight and compass, and is therefore invaluable on such occasions. The process, which requires great attention, consists in drying large thin slices of the lean of the meat over the smoke of wood-fires, then pounding it, and lastly mixing it with about an equal weight of its own fat. In this state it is quite ready for use, without farther cooking.

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