« PreviousContinue »
their constitutions." They were 116 days without the sun. What must it be after seven winters ?.. : On the 25th of August, the expedition being at the mouth of Wellington Channel, it was visited by a boat from one of the American ships, to say that traces of the Franklin expedition had been found at Cape Riley ; and the next day Captain Penny and a party visited the spot and made further important discoveries on Beechy Island ; but we need not now refer to the discoveries made, as the results obtained have been previously discussed. Dr. Sutherland speculates upon the cause of death to the three men found buried at these first winter-quarters of Franklin's party (1846). The doctor appears to have been desirous that the graves should have been opened, to see if scurvy had broken out among the crew at that early period; but a strong feeling was expressed against this otherwise very proper proceeding.
Not long after this Penny obtained a view of open water northward of Cornwallis Island, from Cape Spencer, which is about 700 feet above the sea-level. This discovery of the existence of open water beyond the ice in the Wellington Channel, enabled them to account for the flocks of ducks that had been seen flying down the channel during the preceding week. White whales and narwhales were at the same time making the best of their way to the southward in almost one continuous stream.
The long Arctic winter—the sixth that the possible survivors of the Franklin expedition had perchance been anxiously looking out for succour -was passed in Assistance Bay. Close by their winter-quarters was a small lake, and not only did it supply the crew with fresh water, but several salmon were caught through holes which had been opened for the purpose through the ice. When a brief return of sunshine announced approaching spring, “ the feelings,” says Dr. Sutherland, “ which appeared to have taken possession of every one I met, were certainly very amusing. Nothing could be heard but expressions of astonishment at the shortness and cheerfulness of the winter; and our kind and most welcome visitors seemed to vie with us in making it appear as a mere pastime, and the opposite of what each had anticipated in an Arctic winter. These expressions were a sufficient proof that the winter had not failed to leave its impressions on our minds, or to do its work on our constitutions, and that it had been felt, too, although we had a desire to conceal our true feelings from others as well as from ourselves, lest we should lose confidence in ourselves, or betray a cowardly feeling, in speaking of the winter with chilling recollections, or in dressing it up in its real winter garb.”
With spring came the preparations for sledge-travelling, in which parties from all the ships were to take part, the exploration of Wellington Channel being reserved to Penny's expedition. A first excursion to Captain Austin's expedition initiated our travellers into many of the discomforts of Arctic sledging; among which, not the least distressing was the intense and almost unendurable thirst, which arose from a circumstance little to be anticipated in so severe a climate-profuse perspiration. Yet such is the love of variety implanted in our nature, that the change from the monotonous life on board for the exposure of sledge-travelling, was hailed by the men as comparatively pleasurable. · Their jokes could be heard even when their thirst was excruciating, and when the sledges were sticking fast in the snow, or among the hummocks.
The cooking was a duty which they took by routine, and the officer of each sledge was exempt from it. Each person had one day of cooking out of six. Sitting in the tent writing up my notes it was exceedingly amusing to hear the conversation in which the cooks engaged: it was a very common feature in their language to use irony, and always represent circumstances better than they were ; for example, "Well, Lucas, how is your conjuror doing during this cold night among the drifting snow ?” “Oh! it has just gone out three times, but I have managed to light it again ; and now our fellows have had their second kettle ; but how are you getting on yourself, Samuel, for you seem to have a comfortable shelter behind that bank of snow and hummocks ?” “ Yes, I have a comfortable place here ; and I am just making off a little water, to be a drink in the tent, after we have had our smoke, for we have finished our hot pemmican and tea half an hour ago ; but don't you hear them in that tent with the flute? Findlay tells me they have all turned in for the night.” The truth was, that not one of their conjurors had made the water lukewarm for the first kettle of tea, and there seemed to be no chance of having supper for probably two hours.
The breaking loose of the Esquimaux dogs, and their devouring the bear's flesh, was also a source of serious inconvenience. The suffering to the eyes was also very great. There was one not uncommon condition of the atmosphere, in which refraction made objects appear very large, which defied all sorts of preservative means, for neither neutral tint, nor black, nor green veils afforded relief. When a man has to haul at a sledge, and yet, from snow-blindness, to be led at the same time, he has to guard against sprains and fractures, as he plods over the rough hummocks, and goes to his knees among the snow in fissures in the level ice. Yet it was under such circumstances that a heavy whale-boat was conveyed over upwards of one hundred miles of rough and hummocky ice before it could be launched into the open water, and that, with the assistance of dogs, Penny, Stewart, and Sutherland explored the shores and islands of Wellington and Queen Victoria Channels. At the very onset of Penny's journey they had to divide Mr. Petersen's seal-skin dress among the famished dogs. The account of this part of the journey is derived from the laconic but interesting journal of the Arctic voyager himself. “On June 12th,” he writes, “at half-past seven P.M., we started, parting with Sutherland and his fine fellows with three British cheers. How pleasant it is to see with what enthusiasm they perform their duty !” On Saturday, June 14th, “at two P.M., voices were heard in shore of us; and who could the party be that was thus hailing us? The sledges and the boat were stopped. I went on shore directly, and found the party to consist of Messrs. Marshall and Goodwin, with six men, on their return. Mr. Goodwin stated that they had proceeded westward until the island which I had seen in my former journey, and called Houston Stewart Island, bore about north-east. He also stated that they could have advanced much further west, had it not been for the open water, which obliged them to return.” On the 17th, he writes," after three hours' travelling and running after the deer, I ascended a high headland, and behold, the water was within twenty miles of the boat! clear open water!" Since the day that the weary Greeks, after their long and toilsome and perilous retreat from the burning plains of Babylonia, and across the snowy uplands of Armenia, first shouted “ Sea! sea !" there has been no example of equal interest connected with the discovery of open water.
At 11} a.m. (continues Captain Penny) called all hands. The first person that turned out called out, “The water the water !" There was no waiting for dressing. The water was distant somewhat less than ten miles, bearing about W.N.W. at the nearest part. At 2 P.M. We were all packed up and starting. The wind was fair ; being off the land, we set our sails and got on rapidly. At 5 P.M. we reached the water, and launched our boat into it, and in an hour it was loaded with provisions for forty days ; however, I said we should manage for fifty days. The fatigue party received orders to proceed to the ships without loss of time, taking with them all the dogs. The wind was blowing strong from W.S.W. We close-reefed our sail, and set off like a courser, but not with a very bold side. As the course was W. and by N., the wind was shy; we had to take down our sail and ply with our oars, first right ahead of the wind, and then along the land. The party consisted now of seven men besides myself, and their names were,
John Leiper, second mate, Lady Frunklin.
We continued to tug at the oars until 11 P.M., when the wind came to blow strong from W. and by N., and we were obliged to bear up for a bay on the south shore of the South Channel. Here we landed, and determined to remain until it should moderate ; indeed, it was so violent, that we could not help ourselves.
On the 18th it blew a perfect gale all night, with thick snow. The ice began to move and to perplex them. This continued on the 19th. Every day since they had been in comparatively open water ; seals, walruses, white whales, and narwhales, were seen in the open water, and occasionally in the small openings among the pack, which the wind brought down upon the coast. They were very numerous, and Penny says he could have counted them in numbers of twenty or thirty at a time. On the 24th there came a strong wind from N.N.W., right down the Queen's Channel. The tides flowed regularly, except on such occasions. Gales and heavy squalls continued till the 28th. The shooting-parties were all this time busy, but very unsuccessful—on the 28th alone bringing in twenty-nine kittiwakes. On Sunday, the 29th, a large space of water was observed opening out under the lee of the island. Every one was out, and, in a few minutes, actively employed carrying the provisions to the water's edge. " What a cheerful effect this change had upon the seamen's spirits ! and upon no one more than myself ; for I expected that even yet we should be able to accomplish a long search. After worship, we started on our mission with a single-reefed sail.”
The ice of Cape Fitzjames put a stop to their progress. The cape, named after the missing gallant officer, is a bold and perpendicular headland of a very remarkable appearance, from the blocks of rock, of a black colour, which jut out among the white snow or ice.
July 1st.— The wind was light and variable. The channel completely blocked up with ice. Our spy-glasses were frequently occupied examining the two cairns to the northward, and some said they saw " the poles" in the centre of them. Every person was out searching along the coast. The headlands and beaches were all well examined. The tides are very rapid in this channel.
The grinding of the ice on the shoals along the beach, and the squeezing up which takes place, emit a sound which may well be compared to distant thunder. At 9 P.M. two hares were brought in by the hunting parties.
Wednesday, July 2nd.—The first few hours of morning we had a partial breeze from the eastward, which brought the ice out of the channel. It came tearing along the land at a fearful rate, turning up immense hummocks in its progress. I felt very restless, and could not sleep. The boat began to move a little. I took it into my head that there was a bear outside. My hand was upon my pistol, and all ready for action : I put out my head beneath the lower edge of the covering of the boat, and it was well I did so at the time, for immense hummocks were tumbling over and over, with the pressure within a few yards of us. No one waited to put on his clothes, for each flew to the provisions and conveyed them up to the face of the precipice, and then to the boat to attend to its safety. The ice on which it rested was broken into several pieces, and thrown very much from its level, by the pressure among the hummocks around it. In the middle of the channel it was truly fearful, and could be compared to nothing but an earthquake. Some pieces were rising to a height of twenty feet, and tumbling down with tremendous crashing and rending. We again turned in beneath our covering; but little sleep was obtained, for every one was peeping from beneath the housing-cloth. Our situation was rather awkward, I must confess.
Detained at this point by bad weather, the next few days were spent in hunting and searching. “I do not think," writes Penny, on the 4th of July, “ there is a spot of Hamilton Island but has been gone over. Oh! for a week of strong easterly winds.” At length, on the 11th, he writes: 66 The weather at last became clear and dry. We launched the boat into the water at the lee end of the island, and shot some birds. Oh! for an easterly wind.” On the 12th, a crack opened half across the channel. An attempt was made to get across, but it failed, and they were glad to get back again. On the 14th, the ice again took a favourable turn; they launched the boat; the poor fellows were very active, for they knew the danger, and at noon they reached Margaret Island. The long-seen cairn was now within four miles of them, on the east end of Dundas Island.
Tuesday, July 15th. - After two hours and a half searching without finding any traces, I returned to the party loaded with fossil remains, in which the island is very abundant. Its extent from north to south is about five miles, east to west three miles, and the height of the southern extremity westward from Cape Benjamin Smith is about four hundred feet. From S.É. to N.W. its length is about seven miles, and it slopes away in the latter direction to a low spit. It is divided from Dundas Island by a strait six miles in length, and one and a half in breadth, running N. and by W. I erected a cairn upon it, and left a document. We had some fresh soup for dinner, which was made of birds that had been shot at this bluff. At 3 P.M. we started with a favourable tide, and washed down along the edge of the pushed-up bummocks, which were in parts at least twenty feet high. There was no place where we could have landed, until we reached Dundas Island, at 4 h. 30 in. P.m., and then we had to cut a slip before the boat could be got upon the land terrace. Immediately upon landing I set off, accompanied by one of the men, to examine the cairn-like objects, which had for such a long time danced before our eyes and tantalised us. When I was within one hundred yards of it, I felt so engrossed with what I was to discover, that even then the deception was not detected. It was a disappointment in real earnest, but it was much less felt, owing to the fact that we had been inured to such, ever since I came to Point Surprise, on the 17th of May.
From this object we struck across the land, and after three hours' travelling a channel was discovered, leading W. and by N., and from ten to twelve miles in breadth. This proved the correctness of the ideas I had when this island was named. The channel was named North Channel, to distinguish it from the South Channel, which had been discovered in my first journey. After crossing the island we coasted along two beautiful bays : one of them was about a mile deep from north to south, and it had no pressed-up ice in it along the beach. It would suit well for a winter harbour. The N.W. extremity of this island is seven to eight hundred feet high ; it was named Cape Liddell, after the first lieutenant of the “Terror.” The opposite, or north-eastern point of the same island, was named Cape Collins, after the second master of the “ Erebus." Although it rained hard, it was clear along the horizon, and this made me all the more anxious to push on to have a good look to the westward from the north-west bluff. Just as I was within one hundred yards of the top, the curtain dropped, and everything was obscured. I ascended, thinking it might clear again; but it did not, and rain poured down in torrents. A cairn was erected, and as I and my companion descended, we came out of the fog or mist which rested on the hill-top. We had no difficulty from thick, weather in finding our way back to the boat; but, as usual, we were without traces.
They reached the boat at half past one, A.M., after eight hours and a half hard walking, wet and fatigued alike ; but none of the fine hearty fellows ever complained, after eighteen hours' hard labour, and not a dry stitch upon them. The next day was devoted to examining the west side of the island, and in the evening they plied up between Margaret and Dundas Islands with a favourable tide; Queen Ởictoria’s Channel being open as far as the eye could reach. But the ice-floes were carried along with such fearful rapidity, huge blocks turning over and over, and disappearing with such tremendous crashing, that they were glad to bear up and return to Margaret Island.
Thursday, July 17th.-Strong W.N.W. wind. What an extensive search we should have made, had we been but favoured with easterly winds! My hopes of accomplishing one thousand miles with the boat, where were they? I had to submit to this as to a dispensation of Providence. At 10 A.M. We had the slack of the tide ; and as there was a partial opening in the ice, an attempt was made to cross the channel obliquely to the west end of Hamilton Island, where water was seen from the top of Margaret Island. Robert Bay was reached, and a landing effected, just as the weather was becoming quite thick. During the passage we had to launch over several floes. Thick weather, strong W. N. W. wind.
Friday, July 18th.–Strong W.N.W. wind, with very thick fog. At 4 A.M. got breakfast, and were ready for a start, watching the state of the ice in the channel. At 8 A.M. a lead was observed in the sailing ice through a partial clear in the fog. Off we started for Baring Island, as the opening in the ice led in that direction. The sail was set most of the time, the wind being from N.W. The course steered was W. and by S. At 51 P.M. we landed on Baring Island. The passage to it occupied nine hours, the distance being about thirty miles. We sailed and pulled occasionally, and also made traverse courses. The above distance is estimated ; but it is most probably under the real distance than above it. The moment we landed every one set out to search for traces as well as for ducks' eggs. I calculated that I should have got as many eggs on this island as would last fourteen days ; and I believe so we should, had not the continued rains kept the ground so wet and cold, that the ducks could not lay upon it. Their nests were to be seen in hundreds, and they appeared to be in an advanced state of preparation to receive the eggs. Only a dozen were found. These were a little help when our provisions were getting so nearly exhausted. After the half of the