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Narrow Escape of Wrangell.


From this extreme limit of their adventurous journey they could not, however, retrace their course without braving dangers as great as those which they had encountered in their northward advance. “We had hardly proceeded one werst,” says Wrangell, “when we found ourselves in a fresh labyrinth of lanes of water, which hemmed us in on every side. As all the floating masses of ice around us were smaller than the one on which we stood, which was seventy-five fathoms across, and as we saw many indications of an approaching storm, I thought it best to remain on the larger mass, which offered rather more security; and thus we calmly awaited whatever Providence should decree. Dark clouds now rose from the west, and the atmosphere became charged with damp vapour. A strong breeze suddenly sprung up from the west, and increased in less than half an hour to a storm. Every moment huge masses of ice around us were dashed against each other, and broken into a thousand fragments. Our ice-island was tossed to and fro by the waves, and we gazed in painful inactivity on the wild conflict of the elements, expecting every moment to be swallowed up. We had been three long hours in this position, and still the mass of ice beneath us held together, when suddenly it was caught by the storm, and hurled against a large field of ice. The crash was terrific, and the mass beneath us was shattered into fragments. At that dreadful moment, when escape seemed impossible, the instinct of self-preservation saved us. We all sprang at once on the sledges, and urged the dogs to their utmost speed. They flew across the yielding fragments to the field on which we had been stranded, and safely reached a firm part of it, on which were several hummocks, and where the dogs immediately ceased running, conscious, apparently, that the danger was past. We were saved : we joyfully embraced each other, and united in thanks to God for our preservation from such imminent peril." Having reached the coast at the mouth of the Wakon, they proceeded eastward as far as Cape Kekurnoi; and, having determined to search for the land mentioned by the Tchuktche chief, they resumed their exploration on the 7th of April, along a low coast, where many deer were seen. Cape Jakan was reached on the following day, and they gazed long and anxiously from its summit, hoping, as the day was clear, for a glimpse of the northern land; but they could discern nothing beyond the waste of snow-covered ice and blue water. Continuing their journey eastward, they reached the North Cape on the 9th-a slate rock, rising more than a hundred feet above the sea. Some Tchuktches were encamped on the isthmus which connects the cape with the mainland, and their chief undertook, for the much desired reward of a gun, to supply them with provisions, and guide them to Kuliutchin Islandthe Burney Island of Cook.

They set out on the following day, along a flat coast, crossed the rapid river Ekechta, and on the 14th reached a Tchuktche camp on the left bank of the Wankarem. Next day they sighted Kuliutchin Island, looking like a round hill on the horizon, and distant thirty-three wersts. They reached it on the ice, and found it bordered by steep rocks of reddish granite, with a Tchuktche village or camp on the beach. Here they rested two days, trading with the Tchuktches for furs; and on the 22nd commenced their westward journey. Cape Schelagskoi was reached once more on the 1st of May, and on the 10th they were again at Kolimsk, having been absent seventy-eight days, and travelled during that time no less a distance an two thousand three hundred wersts.

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He incentives to renewed exertions afforded by the

discoveries of Parry, and the experience which had been gained by recent voyages within the Arctic Circle, resulted in a second expedition under the same enterprising officer. He sailed from the Thames, with the same ships, on the 8th of May,

1821, with instructions to make for Repulse Bay, in which direction it was hoped that a north-west passage might be found in a lower latitude than that of Melville Island, where the icy barrier had been found impassable. The eastern entrance of Hudson Strait was reached on the 2nd of July, and the bare crags, snowy valleys, and ice-bound shores of Resolution Island were dimly seen through the fog, while immense icebergs, one of which was estimated at two hundred and fifty feet in height, drifted with the current from the westward.

Owing to the hindrances presented by ice and fog, such slow progress was made in Hudson Strait, that the ships were not abreast of the Savage Islands until the 21st. A considerable number of Esquimaux came off in their canoes, and eagerly exchanged skins of deer, foxes, and seals, for knives, saws, and nails. These people were of wilder aspect, and rougher manners, than those seen by previous voyagers, and the ugliness of the old women reminded the officers of the description of Settle, the narrator of Frobisher's voyage. Fox Channel was reached in the beginning of August, and on the 15th the voyagers discovered a bay, which they sailed into, supposing it to be the Frozen Strait of Middleton; but, discovering their mistake, they named it after the Duke of York, and retraced their way. On the 21st they sailed through Frozen Strait in a thick fog, and knew by the heavy swell which met them from the southward that they had entered the channel called Sir Thomas Roe's Welcome.

Repulse Bay was entered a few days afterwards, and found to be free from ice. Boat parties immediately began to explore its shores, and every opening was diligently examined, with the result of proving that Middleton was right, and that no passage existed there by which the westward waters of the Polar Ocean could be reached. A hunting party explored the shores of a creek, which was named Gore Inlet, and, though ice still floated about the bay, found them verdant with grass and moss, and the air melodious with the songs of birds and the hum of insects. Yet, in returning to Fox Channel, ice and fog again impeded the navigation, and the ships became involved in a labyrinth of islets, between which strong currents ran in various directions. One of the vessels dragged her anchor, and was carried by the current into the fog and mist, narrowly escaping a run upon rocks.

On the 3rd the voyagers were again in Fox Channel, and sailing northward, where, on the eastern shore, two inlets were discovered, which were named respectively after Lieutenants Lyon and Hoppner. While exploring these openings, traffic was renewed with the Esquimaux, among whom was an

A Christmas at Winter Island.


old woman who sold the fur boots which she was wearing, but refused to complete the transaction, delivering only one boot, and endeavouring to make off with the article she had received for both. The buyer seized her, however, and forcibly divested her of the other boot, discovering thereby the cause of her unwillingness to part with it, in the fact that she had concealed in it two spoons, and a pewter plate which she had stolen from the ship.

It was now the end of September, and the season for exploring was at an end. Snow, which had fallen during the summer as often as rain does in England, now began to whiten the earth, and fresh ice began to form. Parry looked out for a secure harbour, therefore, but had to saw through a floe for half a mile before the vessels could be moored for the winter. The locality selected was an island off the northern point of Lyon Inlet, and which received the name of Winter Island. Here the sailors again found instruction in school a pleasant relief from the dreary monotony of their existence; and celebrated the festive season of Christmas with fresh beef and cranberry pies. The cold was not so intense here as at Melville Island, Winter Island being eight degrees farther from the Pole, and just without the Arctic Circle; and the earth did not become entirely void of animal life. Foxes were numerous, and several hares and an ermine were seen. The fur of these animals, and also the plumage of the grouse of Arctic regions, changes from brown to white on the approach of winter, which arrangement of Divine providence seems specially designed for their protection from enemies during the seasons when both earth and sea are covered with snow. Haloes, and the phenomenon called parhelia, or mock suns, the cause of which has not been satisfactorily determined, were frequent; and at night the sky was often illuminated by the

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