« AnteriorContinuar »
less than an hour we had reached its margin, when, finding this report but too correct, and that, there. fore, all farther progress was at present as imprac. ticable as if no strait existed, we ran the ships un. der all sail for the floe, which proved so rotten" and decayed that the ships forced themselves three or four hundred yards through it before they stopped. Keeping all our canvass spread, we then tried to break the thin edges about the numerous holes, by dropping weights over the bows, as well as by various other equally ineffectual expedients ; but the ice was “ tough” enough to resist every effort of this kind, though its watery state was such as to increase, if possible, our annoyance at being stopped by it. The passage to the northward of the island was not even so clear as this by above two miles of ice, so that in every respect our pres. ent route was to be preferred to the other; and thus, after a vexatious delay of six weeks at the eastern entrance of the strait, and at a time when we had every reason to hope that nature, though hitherto tardy in her annual disruption of the ice, had at length made an effort to complete it, did we find our progress once more opposed by a barrier of the same continuous, impenetrable, and hope. less nature as at first!
As soon as the anchors were dropped, my atten. tion was once more turned to the main object of the expedition, from which it had for a moment been diverted by the necessity of exerting every effort for the immediate safety of the ships. This being now provided for, I had leisure to consider in what manner, hampered as the ships were by the present state of the ice, our means and exer.
tions might, during this unavoidable detention, be employed to the greatest advantage, or, at least, with the best prospect of ultimate utility.
Whatever doubts might at a distance have been entertained respecting the identity, or the contrary, of the place visited by Captain Lyon with that sub. sequently discovered by myself, there could be none on a nearer view ; as, independently of the observ. ed latitude, Captain Lyon could not, on approach. ing the narrows, recognise a single feature of the land ; our present channel being evidently a much wider and more extensive one than that pointed out by Toolemak, on the journey. It became, there. fore, a matter of interest, now that this point was settled and our progress again stopped by an insu. perable obstacle, to ascertain the extent and com. munication of the southern inlet; and, should it prove a second strait, to watch the breaking up of the ice about its eastern entrance, that no favoura. ble opportunity might be missed of pushing through it to the westward. I therefore determined to de. spatch three separate parties, to satisfy all doubts in that quarter, as well as to gain every possible information as to the length of the strait, and the extent of the fixed ice now more immediately be. fore us.
With this view, I requested Captain Lyon to take with him Mr. Griffiths and four men, and proceed overland in a S.b.E. direction, till he should deter. mine, by the difference of latitude, which amounted only to sixteen miles, whether there was or was not a strait leading to the westward, about the parallel of 69° 26', being nearly that in which the place called by the Esquimaux Khēmig had been found
by observation to lie. In the mean time, Lieutenant Palmer was directed to proceed in a boat to Igloolik, or Neerlo-Nackto, as might be necessary, to ascertain whether the passage leading towards Khē. mig was yet clear of ice; and, should he find any one of the Esquimaux willing to accompany him to the ships with his canoe, to bring him on board. as a pilot. The third party consisted of Mr. Bush. nan, with three men, under the command of Lieu. tenant Reid, who was instructed to proceed along the continental coast to the westward, to gain as much information as possible respecting the termi. nation of our present strait, the time of his return to the ships being limited to four days, at the expi. ration of which the other two parties might also be expected to reach us.
On the morning of the 29th, the wind being light from the eastward, but the weather much more clear than before, we weighed and stood over to the mainland with the intention of putting our travellers on shore, but found that coast now so lined with the ice which had lately broken adrift that it was not possible for a boat to approach it. Standing off to the westward, to see what service the late disruption had done us, we found that a considerable foe had separated, exactly in a line between the island off which we lay and a second to the westward of it, subsequently named in honour of LORD AMHERST. Tacking at the newly-formed margin of the fixed ice, we observed, not only that it was still firmly at. tached to the shores, but that it was now almost en. tirely “hummocky,” and heavier than any we had seen since making Iglooik; some of the hummocks, as we afterward found, measuring from eight to ten feet above the surface of the sea.
The different character now assumed by the ice, while it certainly damped our hopes of the passage being cleared this season by the gradual effects of dissolution, confirmed, however, in a very satisfac. tory manner, the belief of our being in a broad channel communicating with a western sea. As the conclusions we immediateley drew from this circumstance may not be so obvious to others, I shall here briefly explain that, from the manner in which the hummocky floes are formed, it is next to impossible that any of these of considerable extent can ever be produced in a mere inlet having a nar. row communication with the sea. There is, in fact, no ice to which the denomination of “
may be more strictly and exclusively applied than this; and we therefore felt confident that the immense floes which now opposed our progress must have come from the sea on one side or the other; while the current, which we had observed to run in an easterly direction in the narrows of this strait, precluded the possibility of such ice having found its way in from that quarter. The only remaining conclusion was, that it must have been set into the strait from the westward towards the close of a summer, and cemented in its present situation by the frost of the succeeding winter.
A great deal of snow having fallen in the last two days, scarcely a dark patch was now to be seen on any part of the land, so that the prospect at day. light on the 30th was as comfortless as can well be imagined for the parties who were just about to find their way among the rocks and precipices. Soon after four A.M., however, when we had ascertained that the drift-ice was no longer lying in their way,
they were all despatched in their different directions. For each of the land-parties a depôt of several days' provision and fuel was, in case of accidents, estab. lished on the beach; and Lieutenant Palmer took in his boat a supply for nine days.
On the 31st the wind blew fresh and cold from the northwest, which caused a quantity of ice to separate from the fixed floe in small pieces during the day, and drift past the ships. Early in the morning, a she-bear and her two cubs were ob. served floating down on one of these masses, and, coming close to the Hecla, were all killed. The female proved remarkably small, two or three men being able to lift her into a boat.
At half past nine on the morning of the 1st of September, one of our parties was descried at the appointed rendezvous on shore, which, on our send. ing a boat to bring them on board, proved to be Captain Lyon and his people. From their early arrival we were in hopes that some decisive information had at length been obtained ; and our disappointment may therefore be imagined, in find. ing that, owing to insuperable obstacles on the road, he had not been able to advance above five or six miles to the southward, and that with ex. cessive danger and fatigue, owing to the depth of
and the numerous lakes and precipices. At nine A.M. on the 2d, Lieutenant Reid and his party were descried at their landing-place, and a boat being sent for them, arrived on board at half past eleven. He reported that the ice seemed to extend from Amherst Island as far as they could see to the westward, presenting one unbroken surface from the north to the south shore of the strait.