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Particulars of the Voyage of the Maria under Captain James
Wintering at Charlton Island–Formation of Winter Quarters, with various other particulars—Return of Summer-Preparations for re-embarking-Conflagration on the Island_Escape of the Crew to the Vessel-Continuation of Voyage-Further Hardships-Return Home-King of Denmark despatches a Vessel, commanded by Captain Danell-Return without results-Second Expedition equally unprofitable Proposal of M. de Grosseliez to the French Government, to form Settlements on the Shores of Hudson's Bay–His Project rejected by France, but embraced by England-Carried into execution, under the Patronage of Prince Rupert-Grant of Territorial Rights to Hudson's Bay Company.
We have already noticed the meeting of Captain Luke Fox and Captain Thomas James in the bottom of Hudson's Bay, and we now proceed to examine the
voyage of the latter.
The vessel, which was built expressly for the purpose by the Bristol adventurers, was of seventy tons burthen, and was victualled for eighteen months, with a complement of twenty-two hands. James tells us in the narrative, which he published at the king's desire,' that he would neither allow any of his men to be married, nor would he take any that had before “ us'd the northerly icy seas,” though there were numerous applicants; thus keeping all the power in his own hands, and making all immediately in dependance upon him, which proved in the end rather questionable policy. On the 3rd May, the Maria left the Severn on her voyage of discovery, and on the 4th June, off Cape Farewell, was in great danger from the ice, in warding off which they laboured day and night, and broke all their poles. 'Early in the morning of the 17th, Resolution Island was seen high above the fog, which covered the face of the ocean, and they succeeded in rounding its southern point on the 20th. From this date, James's journal is full of the most dismal entries. Though a man possessed of a kind and feeling heart, and many other amiable qualities, it does not appear that he was fitted for the command of an expedition like the present, where the ordinary duties and experiences of a sailor stood for naught, and the navigation was among stupendous masses of ice, dangers totally unlike any that he has commonly to encounter, and from which there is no escape, if not opportunely met, or providentially turned aside.
1 “The Strange and Dangerous Voyage of Captain Thomas James, in his intended Discovery of the N. W. Passage into the South Sea, wherein the Miseries indured both Going, Wintering, and Returning, are related at large; published by the special Command of King Charles I.,” &c., quarto, 1633. Reprinted with the greatest integrity, in Churchill's Coll. of Voy., v. ii. p. 429.
It is hardly necessary to recount the numerous perils through which they passed, before they reached Salisbury Island.
On the 29th, after passing Mansells Island, they became so firmly enclosed in the ice that, “notwithstanding we put aboard all the sail that was at the yards, and it blew a very hard gale of wind, the ship stirr'd no more than if she had been in a dry dock. Hereupon we went all boldly out upon the ice, io sport and recreate ourselves, letting her stand still under all her sails.” On the 11th of August they sighted Hubbert's Hope, and on the 16th, Port Nelson. Shortly after this a serious accident occurred while heaving up the anchor, by which several of the crew were hurt, and the gunner “had his leg taken betwixt the
cable and the capstang, which wrung off his foot and tore all the flesh off his leg.” On the 29th of August Fox's ship was seen at anchor, and after saluting him “according to the manner of the sea,” the two commanders met, as we have before narrated; but we do not find in James's journal any disparaging remarks on his brother sailor. On the 3rd of September, a cape, in latitude 55° 5', was named after her Majesty Henrietta Maria, the queen consort; and on the 12th they were again so unfortunate as to strike on a rock. James, who was awakened out of a deep sleep by the blow, thought at first that he had better provide himself for another world; but becoming more calm, and controlling the revengeful feeling that took possession of him, to do some harm to those who, “ blind with self-conceit, and enviously opposite in opinion,” had committed the error, he took all the means in his power to remedy the evil; the water was started, and the beer only just escaped a similar fate; the coal was thrown overboard, and a variety of articles were put into the long-boat, as it was feared that the vessel had now received “her death-wound.” However, after five hours beating furiously, during which time she received a hundred blows, each of which threatened to be her last, she happily beat over all the rocks, and the crew went to prayers, to return thanks to God for their deliverance. James now determined to steer for the bottom of the bay, in order to find, if possible, a passage into the river of Canada; or, if he failed, to winter on the main. In carrying out his design, he fell in with some islands, and named them after Lord Weston, the Earl of Bristol, Sir Thomas Roe, and Earl Danby; on the latter, now commonly known as Charlestown by contraction, Charlton Island, he determined to pass the winter. A hovel was built on shore, and the sick men carried to it, while the ship, which had driven on the beach, soon became a perfect mass of ice. To add to their distress, they had to pass knee-leep through half-congealed water if they wanted to hold communication with their comrades; it was therefore determined to abandon the ship altogether, and take up their quarters on shore. The 1st December was so cold that James walked over the ice to the ship, where the boat had gone the day previously. The 13th they began to dig the boat out of the ice, in doing which, many had their noses, cheeks, and fingers, frozen as white as paper. The 23rd all their sack, vinegar, oil
, and everything else that was liquid, was frozen as hard as a piece of wood, and required to be cut with a hatchet. “ Christmas-day was solemnized in the joyfullest manner we could, and now,
instead of a christmas tale, I will describe the house that we did live in, with those adjoyning. When I first resolved to build a house, I chose the warmest and convenientest place, and the nearest the ship withal. It was among a tuft of thick trees, under a south bank, about a slight shot from the sea-side. True it is, that at that time we could not dig into the ground to make us a hole or cave in the earth, which had been the best way, because we found water digging within two foot, and therefore that project faild. It was a white light sand, so that we could by no means make up a mud wall. As for stones, there were none near us; moreover, we were all now cover'd with the snow. We had no boards for such a purpose, and, therefore, we must do the best we could with such materials as we had about us. “ The house was square, about twenty foot
every way; as much, namely, as our main course could well
First, we drove strong stakes into the earth round about: which we wattld with boughs, as thick as might be, beating them down very close. This our first work, was six foot high on both sides, but at
the ends, almost up to the very top. There we left two holes for the light to come in at; and the same way the smoke did vent out also. Moreover, I caus'd, at both ends, three rows of thick bush trees to be stuck up, as close together as possible. Then, at a distance from the house, we cut down trees, proportioning them into lengths of six foot, with which we made a pile on both sides, six foot thick and six foot high; but at both ends, ten foot high and six foot thick. We left a little low door to creep into, and a portal before that, made with piles of wood, that the wind might not blow into it. We next fasten'd a rough tree aloft over all, upon which we laid our rafters, and our main course over them again, which, lying thwartways over all, reach'd down to the very ground on either side; and this was the fabrick of the outside of it. On the inside, we made fast our bonnet sails round about, then we drove in stakes, and made us bedstead frames, about three sides of the house, which bedsteads were double, one under another, the lowermost being a foot from the ground. These we first filled with boughs, then we laid our spare sails on that, and then our bedding and cloaths. We made a hearth in the middle of the house, and on it made our fire. Some boards we laid round about the hearth to stand upon, that the cold damp should not strike
into With our waste cloaths we made us canopies and curtains, others did the like with our small sails. Our second house was not past twenty foot distant from this, and made for the wattling much after the same manner; but it was less, and cover'd with our fore-course. It had no piles on the south side, but in lieu of that, we piled up chests on the inside; and, indeed, the reflex of the heat of the fire against them did make it warmer than the Mansion House. In this house we dress'd our victuals, and the subordinate crew did refresh themselves all