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A few years afterwards it was again asserted that the unknown land had been seen, and Lachoff, a merchant of Yakutsk, accompanied by a friend, started in March, 1770 from the mouth of the Yana in a sledge to discover it. Coasting the bay to its north-eastern extremity, they there saw a large herd of deer crossing the ice from the north; and starting at daybreak they followed these tracks backward until they reached an island seventy wersts from the headland. There they pitched their tent and passed the night; and, on the following day, still guided by the tracks of the deer, discovered another island twenty wersts from the first. The tracks still leading northward, they went a few miles further, but the ice became so rugged and mountainous that their progress was slow, and they were obliged to halt, and pitch their tent upon the most sheltered spot they could find. There being no land in sight to the northward, and their dogs' food being exhausted, they returned to the coast with all possible speed.
In the following summer they succeeded in reaching the second island in a boat, and the air being clear, they distinctly saw land to the northward, and went in search of it. They found a third island, very mountainous, destitute of trees, and without any indications of its ever having been inhabited. Mammoth ivory was abundant, however, and the adventurers built a hut, and passed the winter there, returning in the following summer with the ivory which they had collected, the deposits of which were subsequently a source of wealth to them. The group of islands thus discovered received the name of New Siberia.
MIDDLETON'S VOYAGE TO HUDSON Bar-DISCOVERY OF REPULSE BAY AND THE FROZEN STRAIT
GREAT REWARD OFFERED FOR THE DISCOVERY OF A NORTH-WEST PASSAGE-HEARNE'S DESCENT OF THE COPPER-MINE RIVER-CAPTAIN PHIPP'S VOYAGE TO SPITZBERGEN.
E must now go back about a quarter of a century, to
the time when, at the instance of a gentleman named Dobbs, who had devoted much attention to the question of a north-west passage, the British Government fitted out two vessels, under the
command of Captain Middleton, to search for such a passage westward of Hudson Bay. Middleton sailed in the spring of 1741, reached the designated scene of his explorations without any mischance, and, doubling Cape Southampton, coasted the south-western side of Southampton Island, and sailed up Sir Thomas Roe's Welcome. Coming to Wager Bay, he explored it in the hope that it would prove a strait, but found it to be inclosed by land, and a river flowing into its head. He therefore retraced his course, and sailed up to the head of the Welcome. Discovering another opening to the westward, he entered it, but soon found the land closing round its head, and sailed out again, calling it Repulse Bay. He then turned homeward, and finding the shore of Southampton Island trend eastward, followed it, discovering and sailing through the Frozen Strait.
Dobbs was not convinced by Middleton's report that no north-west passage existed, and he agitated the question until, in 1743, Parliament offered a reward of £20,000 to any explorer who should sail to the north-west from Hudson Strait. No immediate results accrued from this munificent offer, and the spirit of Arctic research slumbered for more than a quarter of a century. In 1769, however, Samuel Hearne, a gentleman in the service of the Hudson Bay Company, conceived the design of reaching the Polar Seas by descending the Copper-mine River, which flows northward from Lake Providence. After two abortive attempts, in the prosecution of which he endured severe hardships and privations, he started the third time from the western shore of Hudson Bay, with several Canadian trappers and a party of Indians, numbering in the whole one hundred and fifty. He struck westward across the pathless continent to a post of the Company on the shores of Great Slave Lake. Thence he turned northward, to seek for the Copper-mine River, which was known only by the reports of the wandering tribes of Indians.
The Arctic Circle was crossed on the 15th of June, in a storm of sleet and snow; and even then they were able to cross the rivers and lakes on the ice. The thaw commenced a few days 'afterwards, and on the 22nd they had to use canoes to cross a river. They had only three, which would have rendered the passage very tedious, if a tribe of Indians whom they found encamped there had not placed all their canoes at Hearne's disposal. They halted here ten days to replenish their store of provisions by shooting deer, which were very numerous; but Hearne's Indians behaved very badly, robbing their friendly neighbours of their arms and implements, and even of their wives. The journey was resumed on the 2nd of July, with a recurrence of bad weather, which entailed much suffering and discomfort.