« AnteriorContinuar »
First Expedition of Ross and Parry.
tions. The reply of that learned body being favourable, two expeditions were fitted out, one to search for a north-west passage, and the other to endeavour to reach the North Pole. The two vessels prepared for the former object were intrusted to Captain Ross, who had previously surveyed the White Sea, and been as far north as Bear Island ; and Lieutenant Parry, a rising young officer of great merit. They were specially instructed to explore the great openings described by Baffin as existing at the head of the bay which bears his name, and which it was believed would prove the true avenues both of the pole and the unnavigated seas between Baffin Bay and Behring Strait.
The expedition sailed from the Thames on the 18th of April, 1818, and on the 27th of May was in view of Cape Farewell, the south-eastern extremity of Greenland. Many lofty icebergs of varied form and tint were here in sight, and at the Whale Islands, where they arrived on the 14th of June, the governor of the little Danish settlement there informed Ross that the winter had been very severe, and that the bays and sounds farther north were still ice-bound. Three days afterwards, an impenetrable barrier of ice was encountered near Waygat Island, and they moored to a large iceberg, in company with no fewer than forty-five whalers, to await its breaking-up. When the ice at length separated, and began to drift westward, they sailed slowly through the channel between the coast and the ice, observing a great number of whales.
On the 7th of August, the ships encountered a heavy gale, which drove the ice against them, crushing a boat, breaking cables, and carrying away anchors. For a few moments of awful suspense both vessels seemed to be threatened with instant destruction; but“He who is greater than ice or stream," as Baffin had observed two centuries before, in a similar situation, caused the ice to recede at a critical moment, and they escaped with little injury. Anchoring on a part of the coast which had not been visited before, they found a tribe of Esquimaux, who, unlike others of the race, had knives of native manufacture, but resembled those of the opposite coast in their desire to possess implements and utensils of European make. They appeared, by the wonder with which they regarded the ships, never to have seen such a construction before; and when allowed to go on board, showed a strong desire to possess themselves of everything they saw, without much regard to weight or size. One man endeavoured to carry off a spare topmast, another an anchor, and a third the smith's anvil; and the last, finding the anvil too heavy to be lifted, ran off with the hammer.
Sailing northward, along a mountainous coast, the curious phenomenon of red snow was observed, which some suppose to be due to the presence of some minute form of vegetation, and others ascribe to the droppings of the little auk, a bird very numerous in some parts of the Arctic regions, and which feeds on shrimps. On the seventy-sixth parallel being passed, the special objects of the expedition demanded the Commander's attention; but he does not seem to have examined the sounds more closely than Baffin did. He sailed past Wolstenholme Sound and Whale Sound without even approaching the entrances, concluding them to be closed by the ice; but for this there was the excuse, that the passage which he was to seek could not be found on that side of the bay. Smith Sound was examined, but Ross thought he saw land across it ; and though the land could not have been less than eighteen leagues distant, he was satisfied with that view, and proceeded no farther. Sailing round the edge of the bay, and doubling Clarence Head, he came to Jones Sound, the entrance of which
Failure of Ross's Expedition.
was closed by ice, while land was thought to be discernible in the distance.
On the 30th of August, the expedition was at the mouth of Lancaster Sound, a magnificent inlet, bordered by lofty mountains, and free from ice. This the vessels entered, and sailed westward thirty miles, officers and men crowding the upper rigging, and gazing eagerly and anxiously for the confirmation of their hopes or their fears. Ross thought he saw a high ridge of land directly across the channel, and came to the conclusion that no passage would be found; but, as the weather was too misty for a clear view, he sailed on. Presently Beverly, the assistant surgeon, announced from the topmast that he could see land stretching nearly across the broad sound; and Ross says that three hours later, he distinctly saw a chain of mountains ahead, continuous with those rising from the shores. Parry thought that the appearances did not warrant the conclusion that no passage could be found; but the Commander's view prevailed, and the vessels were turned about, and steered into Baffin Bay.
There was now nothing to be done but to run southward, and examine Cumberland Sound, which has since been found to terminate in a narrow strait leading into Fox Channel. But Ross thought that this inlet would be found to lead only into Hudson Bay, and he resolved, therefore, to return to England, where the failure of the expedition, and the opposing views and opinions of the two commanders, excited feelings which could only be satisfied by new efforts in the same direction.