Page images



Pole, and he knew that such a man as Franklin was not likely to suggest and adopt a measure, that did not carry with it a fair chance of success. When two such men as Parry and Franklin, after weighing well the risk to be encountered, and all the circumstances which make for and against an undertaking of this nature, offer a plan, for the execution of which they propose to embark themselves, it would surely be something like presumption to affect to undervalue their experience, or to pronounce their scheme rash and chimerical.

The president and council of the Royal Society were clearly of this opinion. In a letter to Lord Melville, they signified their approbation of Captain Parry's proposal, and their opinion that such an enterprize cannot fail to afford many valuable scientific results, and to settle matters of philosophical inquiry; and they concluded by expressing their wishes, that this proposition of so brave, enlightened, and scientific an officer might meet with the attention it appeared to them to deserve, from the Admiralty.

The Board of Admiralty will scarcely be accused of inattention to any recommendation of this learned body, or of any backwardness in lending its aid towards such undertakings as may have for their object the promotion of science, or the acquirement and extension of useful knowledge. Accordingly, on this recommendation of the proposal of Captain Parry, the Hecla has been ordered to be prepared for the service in question, and to be ready in the early part of the next spring. The plan is, as we understand, to proceed in the Hecla to that part of Spitzbergen called

Cloven Cliff,' in lat. 79° 52', so as to reach it towards the end of May: its distance from the Pole is about 600 miles. This distance is to be performed by means of two boats, so constructed as to be light, tough, and rather flexible; to be furnished with runners, in the manner of sledges; and to be covered with leather like the Russian baidars, in which long voyages are performed: to have besides a covering or awning of oil-skin, convertible into a sail. Each boat is to be manned with two officers and ten men; and to carry provisions for ninety-two days, which, at the moderate rate of thirteen miles a day, will be sufficient for the performance of the journey to the Pole, and back again to Spitzbergen.

The boats are furnished with runners in the uncertainty of the intermediate space being ice or water: the probability is, that it will be found to consist of both; in which case, the boats will sail in the water, and be dragged over the ice. Captain Parry proposes to take from Spitzbergen a few dogs or rein-deer to assist in dragging the boats; both animals will feed on fish which may perhaps be easily caught; and if their provisions fail, they may become food for the use of the party. в в 3

• The


[ocr errors]

The practicability,' says Captain Parry, of thus reaching the North Pole appears to me to turn wholly on the question of resources. This being the case, it would very soon become a matter of scientific calculation, whether or not the object was within the reach of the resources with which the party was furnished; so that they might at any time proceed or return, according to circumstances. In other respects I can perceive nothing whatever that should make it an enterprize of extraordinary risk. The summer temperature of the Polar regions is by no means uncomfortable; the sun would be constantly above the horizon; and our men have always enjoyed remarkably robust health during excursions of this nature. If open water should frequently occur, it is always sure to be smooth ;* and even if it were otherwise, a boat hauled up on a floe of içe is as secure as on shore. In fact, the more open water is found, the more easy would be the accomplishment of the enterprize; and taking the chance of such occasional assistance, I cannot but entertain a confident hope that the whole might be completed by the end of August, and the Expedition again in England before the middle of October.

During the three months absence of the Polar party, it is intended to make the boats of the Hecla subservient to the interests of science, by sending out a qualified surveyor to explore and survey the eastern coast of Spitzbergen, of which, not without shame be it spoken, we are at present wholly ignorant. The party left with the ship might also be most usefully employed in conducting a series of experiments on the pendulum, in making a variety of interesting magnetic observations, in attending to the various meteorological phenomena, and in collecting specimens of natural history. It will also be an object of importance to ascertain whether new whale fishing stations may not be discovered on the eastern side of Spitzbergen, to supply the place of those nearly worn out ones on the western side, from which the whales have either been driven away or destroyed by the long and constant visits of ships employed in the fishery—just as the Davis' Strait fishery was worn out on the eastern side, and was annually declining, till Parry led the way to the western shore of that strait

, whither the fishing ships now constantly resort, and whence they generally return with full cargoes,

• A decrease of wind invariably takes place in passing under the lee, not merely of a close and extensive body of high and heavy ice, but even of a stream of small piecesand so immediate is this effect, that the moment a ship comes under the lee of such a stream, if under a press of sail, she rights considerably,

! Another remarkable feature observable in the Polar regions, at least in those parts encumbered with ice, is the total absence of heavy or dangerous squalls of wind. I cannot call to my recollection a single instance, in the Polar regions, of such squalls as, in other climates, oblige the seaman to lower his topsails during their continuance.'Parry, p. 180.

We verily believe that on the Pole itself, neither wind nor tide, rain nor snow, thunder nor lightning, will be found to exist-or, 'if any of them exist at all, it will be in the smallest possible degree.



When we call to mind the enterprizing expedition of the Baron Wrangel, who was forty days on the ice of the Polar Sea, with sledges not convertible into boats, we confess that Parry's projected journey appears to us divested of any very great danger: doubly provided, as he is to be, he will not be exposed, at any rate, to the risk which the Baron experienced, when cast adrift on a pack of ice, and driven about at the mercy of the wind, which fortunately blew him at last only to the coast of Siberia.

We are not here intending to inquire into the various objects attainable by a successful visit to the North Pole; it is enough to satisfy us of its importance, that the government, at the recommendation of one of the most distinguished scientific Boards,* has sanctioned, by act of parliament, the payment of a reward of five thousand pounds to the first vessel that shall approach within one degree of the North Pole. British naval officers, however, who embark on arduous and hazardous enterprizes of this nature, are influenced by higher motives than pecuniary rewards. Dr. Johnson said that the man who had seen the Great Wall of China might be considered as shedding a lustre on his children;' but, with how much more brilliant a lustre would this great moralist have decorated the descendants of that man, who had stood on the pivot on which this globe of ours turns, and hoisted the British flag on the most remarkable point on the earth's surface! To such as may raise their feeble objections, and start eternal difficulties, against all daring enterprizes of this nature, (and many such, we doubt not, there are,) Captain Parry may give a reply similar to that ascribed to good Sir Martin Frobisher when dissuaded by his friends from attempting the discovery of a North-West passage-- it is the only thing in the world that is left yet undone, whereby a notable mind might be made famous and fortunate.' Thus it is that,

Fame is the spur that the clear spirit doth raise,
(That last infirmity of noble mind)

To scorn delights, and live laborious days.' But leaving the individual adventurer out of the question, the very spirit of enterprize, which such undertakings as these we are speaking of keep alive, is of no inconsiderable moment, in a national point of view, to a country such as ours. They tend, as they have already done, to raise Great Britain, as in better days they did Spain and Portugal--now alas ! how fallen!—in the eyes of every civilized nation. It is, indeed, and ought to be a subject of high exultation, that, while a spot remains untrodden by the foot of man, her subjects should be engaged in exploring it; that, with a liberal and enlightened policy, which disregards the prospect of immediate and exclusive benefit, her flag should * The Commissioners of the Board of Longitude. в в 4


[ocr errors]

be the first to wave over the most remote and hitherto inaccessible portions of the globe, from the Equator to either Pole.

From this digression we advert, with much pleasure, to the little volume whose title stands second at the head of this Article,the Voyage of Captain Weddell into the Antarctic Seas. It furnishes a striking example of how much may be done, by skill and good management, with slender means; and it furnishes also an additional proof how little there is to apprehend for loss of life, or ships, among fields of ice in the navigation of the Polar seas, when prudence and good seamanship guide the helm. The object of this voyage was to procure cargoes of the furbearing sealskins on the Sandwich Land, which was considered to be the projecting cape of a southern continent, stretching from it east and west, behind the recently recovered (not discovered) islands of Gerritz, which have assumed the new name of South Shetland. Captain Weddell has shown the conjecture we have mentioned to be ill-founded, and has moreover added very considerably to our knowledge of the Antarctic seas.

The two vessels employed on this voyage were, the brig Jane, of 160 tons, commanded by Captain Weddell, and the cutter Beaufoy of 65 tons, by Mr. Brisbane; the former having a crew of twenty-two officers and men, and the latter of thirteen, both ships fitted out in the ordinary way, and provisioned for two years. Mr. Weddell made the best of his way to the South Orkneys, a group of islands which he had discovered the year before, lying to the eastward of the South Shetlands, than which they were represented as being more rugged, peaked and terrific in their appearance. Here they captured a few large sea-leopards, a new species of phoca, which professor Jameson, from its spotted skin, has named the Leopardine Seal.

Finding no appearance of a continent, Mr. Weddell determined to continue standing to the southward. • I accordingly, says he, informed Mr. Brisbane of my intention, and he, with a boldness which greatly enhanced the respect I bore him, expressed his willingness to push our research in that direction, though we had been hitherto so unsuccessful.'

Mr. Brisbane and his little cutter bring to our recollection the Frobishers, the Davises, and Baffins of former times, who, with their Sunshines and Moonshines of some thirty tons, worked their

way in so surprizing a manner through fields and floes of ice. Thus the Beaufoy kept pace with her somewhat more powerful consort through those streams of ice which surround the New Shetlands, the Orkneys, the Sandwich Land, and that more southerly belt, which Captain Cook entered, but was glad to escape from again as speedily as possible. Proceeding therefore to the southward, in about the lati





tude 65°, they thought they had discovered land, which showed itself in the shape of a black rock; but, on a nearer approach, it proved to be only an ice-island, covered on one of its sides with black earth. Their disappointment, however, was somewhat soothed by the consideration that it must have disengaged itself from some high land possessing a considerable quantity of soil, and the possibility that this land might not be far distant. From this place, however, till their arrival in latitude 69°, detached bergs, or islands of ice, were constantly occurring, so numerous indeed, about the latter point, as almost to impede and prevent their passing farther. *Sixty-six,' says Captain Weddell, were counted around us; and for about fifty miles to the south, we had seldom fewer in sight.

Arrived at 70° 26' S., the wind became moderate, the sea tolerably smooth, the weather pleasant, and the ice-islands had almost disappeared. Unfortunately the two thermometers had been broken, and the temperature from this time could not be ascertained, but we are told it was fully as mild as in the latitude 61°, in the month of December (34° to 36°) and they

now near the parallel of 73o. The sea was literally covered with birds of the blue peterel kind, but nothing like land nor any indication of land appeared. The weather continued mild and serene, and not a particle of ice of any description was to be seen; and this absence of ice continued till the 20th of February, when, in latitude 74° 15', longitude 34° 17', three iceislands were in sight from the deck, and one more from the masthead.

Having attained this high latitude, which is three degrees and five minutes farther south than Captain Cook, or any preceding navigator, had reached; and the wind blowing fresh from the south, the season too fast advancing, Captain Weddell deemed it prudent to return.

I would willingly (says he) have explored the S. W. quarter, but taking into consideration the lateness of the season, and that we had to pass homewards through 1000 miles of sea strewed with ice-islands, with long nights, and probably attended with fogs, I could not determine otherwise than to take advantage of this favourable wind for returning.' -!Veddell, p. 37.

Captain Weddell, on leaving this high degree of southern latitude, comes to a conclusion which, in our present state of ignorance, he is hardly authorized to do. He says that, as the sea in this high latitude was free from ice, and as in 61° (that is, in a lower latitude by 13 degrees) his ship was beset in heavy packed ice, which extended to the distance of 100 miles from the land, the South Pole must be much more attainable than the North; because, in a much more advanced position towards the latter,


« PreviousContinue »