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A Whale killed.-Other Charts drawn by the Esquimaux.
Account of a Journey to the Narrows of the Strait.- Discov. ery of the Sea to the Westward.—Total Disruption of the Ice at the Eastern Entrance of the Strait.- Instance of local Attraction on the Compasses.--Sail through the Narrows, and again stopped by fixed Ice.-Account of several Land Journeys and Boat Excursions.--Observations on the Tides. -Continued Obstacles from fixed Ice.
Aug. 1.-The information obtained by Captain Lyon on his late journey with the Esquimaux served very strongly to confirm all that had before been understood from those people respecting the existence of the desired passage to the westward in this neighbourhood, though the impossibility of Captain Lyon's proceeding farther in that direction, combined with our imperfect knowledge of the lan. guage, still left us in some doubt as to the exact position of the strait in question. While, there. fore, Captain Lyon was acquainting me with his late proceedings, we shaped a course for Igloolik, in order to continue our look-out upon the ice, and made the tents very accurately by the compass, after a run of five leagues.
The present state of the ice, which was thin and rotten,"
"served no less to excite our surprise than to keep alive our hopes and expectations. The spaces occupied respectively by ice and holes were about equal; and so extensive and danger. ous were the latter, that the men could with ex.
treme difficulty walk twenty or thirty yards from the ship to place the anchors, and that at no small risk of falling through. We were astonished, therefore, to find with what tenacity a field of ice, whose parts appeared thus loosely joined, still continued to hang together, notwithstanding the action of the swell that almost constantly set upon its margin.
We had for several days past occasionally seen black whales about the ships, and our boats were kept in constant readiness to strike one, for the sake of the oil, in which endeavour they at length succeeded this morning. The usual signal: being exhibited, all the boats were sent to their assist. ance, and in less than an hour and a half had kill. ed and secured the fish, which proved a moderatesized one of above “ nine feet bone," exactly suit. ing our purpose. The operation of "flinching" this animal, which was thirty-nine feet and a half in length, occupied most of the afternoon, each ship taking half the blubber and hauling it on the ice, " to make off” or put into casks.
As soon as we had completed the stowage of the blubber, and washed the ships and people's clothes, we cast off on the 6th, taking in tow the carcass of the whale (technically called the “ crang”) for our friends at Igloolik. The wind dying away when the ships were off the northeast end of the island, the boats were despatched to tow the whale on shore, while Captain Lyon and myself went ahead to meet some of the canoes that were paddling towards us. We soon joined eleven of them, and on our informing the Esquimaux of the prize the boats were bringing them, they paddled
off with great delight. When they arrived at the spot, and had civilly asked permission to eat some of it, they dropped their canoes astern to the whale's tail, from which they cut off enormous lumps of flesh and ravenously devoured it; after which they followed our boats in-shore, where the carcass was made fast to a mass of grounded ice for their fu. ture disposal.
As we made several tacks off the island next to the northward of Igloolik, called by the Esquimaux Neerlo-Nackto, two canoes came off to us, in one of which was 'Toolemak. He and his companions came on board the Fury, when I employed him for a couple of hours in drawing a chart of the strait. Toolemak, though a sensible and intelligent man, we soon found to be no draughtsman, so that his performance in this way, if taken alone, was not a very intelligible delineation of the coast. By dint, however, of a great deal of talking on his part, and some exercise of patience on ours, we at length obtained a copious verbal illustration of his sketch, which confirmed all our former ac. counts respecting the existence of a passage to the westward in this immediate neighbourhood, and the large extent of land on the northern side of the strait. Toolemak also agreed with our other Es. quimaux informants in stating, that from the coast of Akkoolee no land is visible to the westward ; nor was any ever heard of in that direction by the Es. quimaux. This fact they uniformly assert with a whine of sorrow, meaning thereby to intimate that their knowledge and resources are there both at an end,
The disruption of the ice continued to proceed
slowly till early on the morning of the 14th; the breeze having freshened from the northwest, another floe broke away from the fixed ice, allowing us to gain about half a mile more to the westward; such was the vexatious slowness with which we were permitted to advance towards the object of our most anxious wishes !
On the 14th I left the ship with Mr. Richards and four men, and furnished with provisions for ten days, intending, if possible, to reach the main land at a point where we could overlook the strait. In this we succeeded after a journey of four days, arriving on the morning of the 18th at the extreme northern point of a peninsula, overlooking the narrowest part of the desired strait, which lay imme. diately below us in about an east and west direction, being two miles in width, apparently very deep, and with a tide or current of at least two knots, setting the loose ice through to the eastward, Beyond us, to the west, the shores again separated to the distance of several leagues ; and for more than three points of the compass, in that direction, no land could be seen to the utmost limits of a clear horizon, except one island six or seven miles distant. Over this we could not entertain a doubt of having discovered the Polar Sea; and, loaded as it was with ice, we already felt as if we were on the point of forcing our way through it along the northern shores of America.
After despatching one of our party to the foot of the point for some of the sea-water, which was found extremely salt to the taste, we hailed the interesting event of the morning by three hearty cheers and by a small extra, allowance of grog to
our people, to drink a safe and speedy passage through the channel just discovered, which I ven. tured to name, by anticipation, THE STRAIT OF THE FURY AND HECLA. Having built a pile of stones upon the promontory, which, from its situation with respe to the Continent of America, I called CAPE NORTHEAST, we walked back to our tent and bag. gage, these having, for the sake of greater expedi. tion, been left two miles behind ; and, after resting a few hours, set out at three P.M. on our return.
We reached the ships at ten o'clock P.M. on Tuesday the 20th. On almost all the shores both of the main land and islands that we visited, some traces of the Esquimaux were found; but they were less numerous than in any other places on which we had hitherto landed. This circumstance rather seemed to intimate, as we afterward found to be the case, that the shores of the strait and its immediate neighbourhood are not a frequent resort of the natives during the summer months.
We got under way on the 21st, were off Cape Northeast on the 26th, and I gave the name of CAPE Ossory to the eastern point of the northern land of the Narrows; but on that day, after clearing two dangerous shoals, and again deepening our soundings, we had begun to indulge the most flattering hopes of now making such a rapid progress as would in some degree compensate for all our delays and disappointments, when, at once to crush every expectation of this sort, it was suddenly announced from the crow's nest that another barrier of fixed ice stretched completely across the strait, a little beyond us, in one continuous and impenetrable field, still occupying its winter station. In,