At the beginning of this century many secrets of the sea still remained unrevealed to man. The north coast of America and the Arctic Ocean beyond were still plunged in mysterious darkness. Cook in several places had advanced far into the Antarctic Ocean, but a wide area still lay open to the adventurous seaman.
Many coasts, many groups of islands scattered over the vast ocean, awaited a more accurate survey, and would no doubt have remained unexplored for longer time, if gold, as in former times, had still been the sole magnet which attracted the seafarer to distant parts of the world. But fortunately science had now become a power which inspired man, without any prospect of immediate profit, with the same great expense and the same great danger.
The Arctic Navigators
We shall begin with a short history of Arctic discovery and afterwards continue towards the South Pole. In spite of the unsuccessful efforts of a Frobisher, a Davis, a Hudson, and a Baffin, England had never given up the hope of discovering a northern passage to India, either direct across the Pole, or round the north coast of America. It had been one of the chief objects of Cook's third voyage to find a sea-path from Behring's Straits to Baffin's or Hudson's Bay. Some years yerlier we see Captain Phipps renewing the old attempt to sail direct to the Pole (1773), but, like his predecessor Hudson, he reached no farther than the northern extremity of Spitzbergen, where his vessel, surrounded by mighty ice-blocks, would have perished but for a timely change of wind.
This drive back damped for a time the spirit of discovery; but hope refreshed again when it became known that Scoresby, on a whaling expedition in the Greenland seas in 1806, had attained 81' N. lat. and thus approached the Pole to within 540 miles. No one before him had ever reached so far to the north, and an open sea tempted him mightily to proceed, but as the object of his voyage was strictly commercial, Scoresby felt obliged to sacrifice his inclinations to his whaling duty and to steer again to the south.
During the continental war, England indeed had little leisure to prosecute discoveries in the Arctic Ocean but not long after the conclusion of peace in 1818 two expeditions were sent out for that purpose.
Captain Buchan, with the ships "Dorothea" and "Trent," sailed with instructions to proceed in a direction as due north as might be possible through the Spitzbergen Sea. Having after much difficulty gained lat. 80' 34'north in that polar archipelago, he was compelled to withdraw and try his fortune off the western edge of the pack. Here however a tremendous gale, threatening every moment to crush the ships between the large ice-blocks persuaded the bold experiment of dashing right into the body of the ice, a practice which has been used by whalers in extreme cases, as their only chance of escaping destruction.
After the storm, by setting more head-sail and risking to lose the masts already battered with the great pressure, the vessels splitting the ice were finaly released from their perilous situation. Unfortunately the "Dorothea" was found to be completely disabled. A short time at Fairhaven in Spitzbergen was spent to do the necessary repairs, and even then she was unfit for any farther service than the voyage of return to England. Franklin volunteered to prosecute the enterprise with the "Trent" alone, but the Admiralty Orders opposed such a proceeding, and the vessels returned home in company.
Meanwhile Captain John Ross, with the "Isabella" and "Alexander," had proceeded to Baffin's Bay, but instead of exploring Smith's, Jones's, and Lancaster Sounds, which later voyages have proved to be each an open channels to the Polar Sea, he contented himself with Baffin's assertion that they were enclosed by land, and, after having thus fruitlessly accomplished the circuit of the bay, returned to England.
With Parry's first expedition, which took place in the following year of 1819, the epoch of modern discoveries in the Arctic Ocean, may be said to begin. Sailing right through Lancaster Sound, he discovered Prince Regent Inlet, Wellington Channel, and Melville Island. Then the ice was rapidly gathering, the vessels were soon beset, and, after getting free with great difficulty, Parry was only too glad to turn back, and settle down in Winter Harbour. It was no easy task to attain this dreary port, as the canal two miles and a third in length had first to be cutt throuhg solid ice of seven inches, newerless this was accomplish in three days. The two vessels were immediately put in winter trim, and everything done to make the ten months' imprisonment in those Arctic solitudes as comfortable as possible.
It was not before the 1st of August that the ships were able to leave Winter Harbour. Parry once more stood boldly for the west, but no amount of skill or patience could penetrate the obstinate masses of ice. Finding, the barriers absolutely invincible he gave way, and, steering homeward, reached London on November 3, 1820
Franklin's Overland Expedition in 1821
At the same time Franklin, Richardson, and Back, with two English sailors and a troop of Canadians and Indians, were penetrating by land to the mouth of the Coppermine River, where they planed to make boat voyage of discovery along the coasts of the Icy Ocean. The travellers started from Fort York, in Hudson's Bay, on the 30th of August, 1819, and after a voyage of 700 miles up the Saskatchewan, reached Fort Cumberland, where they spent the first winter. The next found them 700 miles further on their journey, entrenched during the extreme cold at Fort Enterprise.
During the summer of 1821 they accomplished the remaining 334 miles, and on the 21st of July commenced their exploration of the Polar Sea in two birch-bark canoes. In these, brittle shallops they skirted the desolate coast of the American continent, 555 miles to the cast of the Coppermine, as far as Point Turnagain, when the rapid decrease of their provisions and the shattered state of the canoes imperatively compelled their return.
Then began a dreadful land-journey of two months, accompanied by all the horrors of famine. They were glad to satisfy their hunger with scraps of roasted leather or burnt bones, from prey which the wolves might have abandoned. On reaching the Coppermine a raft had to be framed, a task accomplished with the utmost difficulty by the exhausted party. One or two of the Canadians had already fallen behind, and never rejoined their comrades, and now three or four sank down, and could proceed no farther. Back, with the most vigorous of the men, had already pushed on calling help from Fort Enterprise. Richardson, Hood, and Hepburn volunteered to remain with the disabled men, near a supply of the rock-tripe, while Franklin pursued his journey with the others capable of bearing him company.
They found the Fort Enterprise completely deserted and a note from Back stating that he bad gone in search of the Indians. Some cast-off deer-skins and a heap of bones sustained their flickering life-flame. After eighteen miserable days, they were joined in their dreary quarters by Richardson and Hepburn, the sole survivors of their party. At length, when on the point of sinking under their sufferings, three Indians sent by Back brought them timely succour. After a while they were able to join this valuable friend, and the following year brogth them safely back to England.
Parry's Sledge-journey to the North Pole
We can pass over Parry's second and third voyages, undertaken in the years 1821 and 1824, which were consumed in fruitless endeavours to penetrate westward, the first through some unknown channel to the north of Hudson's Bay, the second through Prince Regent's Inlet; but his last attempt to reach the North Pole, by boat and sledge-travelling over the ice, is definitively worth of notice. His hopes of success were founded on Scoresby's descriptions, who had seen ice-fields so free from either fissure or hummock, that, had they not been covered with snow, a coach might have been driven many leagues over them in a direct line, But when Parry reached the ice-fields to the north of Spitzbergen lie found them of a very different nature, composed of loose rugged masses, which rendered travelling over them extremely fatiguing and slow.
The strong flat-bottomed boats-amphibious constructions, half sledge, half canoe, expressly built for an amphibious journey over a region where solid ice was expected to alternate with pools of water, had frequently to be unloaded, in order to be raised over the intervening blocks or mounds, and repeated journeys backward and forward over the same ground were the necessary consequences. In some places the ice took the form of sharp pointed crystals, which cut the boots like perknives. Iin others, sixteen or eighteen inches of soft snow made the work of boat-dragging both rationing and tedious. Sometimes the men were obliged, in dragging the boats, to crawl on all-fours, to make any progress at all, and one day, when heavy rain melted the surface of the ice, four hours of vigorous effort accomplished only half a mile.
Yet in spite of all these obstacles they toiled cheerfully on and on, until at length the discovery was made, that while they were apparently advancing tonvards the Pole, the ice-field on which they journeyed was moving to the south, and thus rendering all their exertions fruitless. Yet though disappointed in his great hope of planting his country's standard on that unattainable goal, Parry had the glory of reaching the highest latitude (82' 45) ever attained by man.
Before this adventurous voyage, Franklin, Richardson, and Back, forgetful of their long life and death struggle with famine (1819), had once more (1825) bent their steps to the north. This time they chose the mouths of the Mackenzie for the starting point of their discoveries, and having separated into two parties, proceeded to the east and west, and explored 4000 miles of unknown coast.
In 1829 Captain John Ross, having, for a loner time vainly solicited government to send him out once more on an Arctic expedition, was enabled by the charity of a private individual, Mr. Felix Booth. He purchased a small steamer christened "Victory". The selection of the vessel was unlucky and very unpractical for paddle-boxes sticking among ice-blocks. The veteran commander was fortunate to be accompanied by his nephew, James Ross, who with every quality of the seaman united the ardour and knowledge of the most devoted naturalist.
He it was who discovered the peninsula which in compliment to the patron of the expedition was named Boothia Felix; to him also we owe the discovery of the Magnetic Pole. But the voyage is far more remarkable for its unexampled continuity during a space of five years.
The first season had a fortunate termination. On the 10th of August, 1829, the "Victory" attained Prince Regents Inlet, and reached on the 13hs the spot where Parry on his third voyage had been obliged to abandon the "Fury." Of the ship itself no traces remained, but the provisions which had providently been stored up on land were found untouched. The solid tin boxes had effectually preserved them from the voracity of the white bears, and the flour, bread, wine, rum, and sugar were found as good after four years, as on the day when the expedition started.
It was to this discovery, that Ross owed his following preservation, because how else could he have passed four winters in the Arctic waste?
On the 15th of August Cape Garry was attained, the most southern point of the inlet which Parry had reached on his third voyage. Fogs and drift-ice considerably retarded the progress of the expedition, but Ross, though slowly, moved on, so that about the middle of September the map of the northern regions was enriched by some 500 miles of newly discovered coast. But now winter broke in with all its Arctic severity, and the "Victory" was obliged to seek refuge in Felix Harbour, where the useless steam-engine was thrown overboard as a nuisance, and the usual preparations made for spending the cold season as agreeably as possible.
The following spring, from the 17th of May to the 13th of June, was employed by James Ross on a sledge journey, which led to the discovery of King William's Sound and King William's Land; and during which he penetrated so far to the west, that he had only ten days' provisions for a return voyage of 200 miles through an empty wilderness.
After an imprisonment of full twelve months the "Victory"' was set free on the 17tli of September, 1830, and proceeded once more on her discoveries. But the period of her liberty was short indeed. After advancing three miles in one continual battle against the currents and the drift-ice, she again froze fast on the 27th of the same month.
In the following spring we again see James Ross extending the circle of his excursions and hoisting the British flag upon the site of the Northern Magnetic Pole, which, however moves from place to place within the glacial zone.
On the 28th of August, 1831, the "Victory," after a second imprisonment of eleven months, was warped into open water, and, after having spent a whole month to advance four English miles, was again enclosed by the ice on the 27th of September.
But seven miles in two long years! According to this measure, there was but little hope indeed of ever seeing Old England again the only chance left was to abandon the vessel and to reach Baffin's Bay by open boats, and get a homeward passage in some whaler. Accordingly the colours were nailed to the mast-head of the "Victory" and then Officers and crew took leave of the ill-fited little vessel, on the 23rd of April,1832. Captain Ross was deeply moved on this occasion, becaus, after having served forty-two years in tlhirty-five different ships, this was the first he had ever been obliged to abandon as a wreck.
Provisions and boats had now to be transported over long tracts of rugged ice, and as their great weight made it impossible to carry all at once, the same ground had to be traversed several times. Terrific snow storms retarded the progress of the wanderers. During the first month of their pilgrimaue through the wilderness, although they had travelled 329 miles, they only gained thirty in a direct line.
On the 9th of June, James Ross, accompanied by two men and with a fortnights provisions, left the main body to ascertain the state of the boats and supplies at Fury Beach. Returning, they met their comrades on the 25th of June with news that they had found three of the boats washed away but enough still remained for their purpose, and that all the provisions were in good condition.
On the 1st of July the whole party arrived at Fury Beach, where after having repaired the weather-worn boats, they set out again on the 1st of August, and, after much buffeting among the ice in their frail shallops, reached the mouth of the inlet by the end of the month. But here they were doomed to disappointment because after several fruitless attempts to run along Barrow's Strait, the obstructions from the ice forced them to haul the boats on shore and pitch their tents.
Barrow's Strait was found from repeated surveys to be one impenetrable mass of ice. After lingering here till the third week in September, it was unanimously agreed that their only resource was to fall back again on the stores at Fury Beach, and spend their fourth winter in that dreary solitude. Here they sheltered their canvass tent with a wall of snow, and setting up an extra stove made themselves tolerably comfortable until the increasing severity of the winter made them perfect prisoners. Scurvy now began to appear, and several of the men fell victims to the scourge. Their diminishing food gave them but little hope of surviving another year.
It may be imagined how anxiously the aspect of the sea was watched during the ensuing summer, and with what beating hearts they at length embarked on the 16th of August. The spot which the year before they had attained after the most strenuous exertions was soon passed, and slowly winding their way through the ice-blocks with which the inlet was encumbered, they now saw the wide expanse of Barrow's Strait open before them. With spirits invigorated by hope they push on, alternately rowing and sailing, and on the night of the 25th rest in a good harbour on the eastern shore of Navy Board Inlet. "A ship in sight! " is the joyful sound that awakens them early on the following morning; and never have men more hurriedly and energetically set out, never have oars been more indefatigably plied. But the elements are against them, calms and currents conspire against their hopes, and to their inexpressible disappointment the ship disappears in the distant haze.
But after a few hours of suspense the sight of another vessel lying to in a calm relieves their despair. This time their exertions are crowned with success; and, wonderful! the vessel which receives them on board is the same "Isabella " in which Ross made his first voyage to these seas.
They told him of his own death, and could hardly be persuaded that it was really he and his party who now stood before them.
Thus when Back, volunteered to lead a relief expedition in quest of Ross, 4000 pounds were immediately raised by public subscription to defray the expenses of the undertaking. While deep in the American wilds Back learned the object of his search had safely arrived in England, but, instead of returning home, he decided to trace the unknown course of the Thlu-it-scho, or Great Fish River, down to the distant outlet where it pours its waters into the polar seas. It would take a volume to recount his adventures in this wonderful expedition.
MClure, Kane, M'Clintock
The account of Arctic discovery have gronwn into distinctness on the map. Passing over Simpson's wonderful boat-voyage along the northern shores of America, which led to the discovery of 1600 miles of coast (1837-1839), and Rae's important researches on Melville Peninsula (1846, 1847), I proceed to the last expedition of Sir John Franklin. The veteran seaman left England in the sixtieth year of his age, once more to try the northwestern passage. But since his last despatches, dated from the Whalefish Islands, Baffin's Bay, July 12th, 1845, months and months, and then years and years, elapsed without bringing any tidings of his fate. Collinson and MClure, Penny and Inglefield, Kane and Bellot, and so many other worthies, went out to search for the "Erebus" and "Terror," and in spite of all their efforts mystery still overhung the ill-fated expedition. Thenl M'Clintock raised the veil and informed world how miserably most of the gallant seamen perished in those dreary wastes.
The search for Franklin is a page in history of which a nation may well be proud. Had Franklin been ever so successful, he could not possibly have achieved so much for Arctic discovery as his loss gave rise to. To the disasters of his voyage we owe the knowledge of all the coasts of that intricate conglomeration of islands which faces the Pole, and of all the channels.
South Polar Expeditions
The series of modern South Polar expeditions was opened in 1819 by Smith's casual discovery of New South Shetland. Soon afterwards a Russian expedition under Lazareff and Bellinghausen discovered in January, 1821, in 69' 3' south lat., the islands Paul the First and Alexander, the most southern lands that had ever been visited by man.
The year after, Captain Weddell, a sealer, penetrated into the icy sea as far as 74' 15' south lat. three degrees nearer to the pole than had been attained by the indomitable perseverance of Cook. Swarms of petrels animated the sea, and no ice impeded his progress, but as the season was far advanced, and Weddell apprehended the dangers of the return voyage, he steered a again to the north.
In 1831 Biscoe discovered Enderby Land, and soon afterwards Graham's Land, to which the gratitude of geographers has since given the discoverer's name.
Then follows Balleny who in 1839 revealed the existence of the group of islands called after him, and of Sabrina Land (69' south lat.)
About the same time three considerable expeditions appear in the southern seas, sent out by France, the United States, and England.
Dumont D'Urville discovered Terre Louis Philippe (63' 30' south lat.) in February, 1838, and Teirre, Adelie (66' 67' south lat.) on the 21st of January, 1840.
Almost on the same day, Wilkes, the commander of the United States exploring expedition reached a coast which he followed for a length of 1500 miles, and which has been called Wilkes' Land, to commemorate the discoverer's name. But of all the explorers of the southern frozen ocean, the palm unquestionably belonos to Sir James Ross, who penetrated farther towards the Pole than any other navigator before or after, and followed up to 79' south lat. a steep coast, whose enormous glaciers, stretched far out into the sea.
In 77' 5' south lat. he witnessed a magnificent eruption of Mount Erebus. The enormous columns of flame and smoke rising two thousand feet above the mouth of the crater, which is. elevated 12,000 feet tbove the level of the sea, combined, with the snow-white mountain-chain and the deep blue ocean, to form a scene, the magnificence of which seemed to be enhanced by the reflection that no human eye had ever witnessed its beauty, as most likely none will ever witness it again. As all the efforts of the gallant leader to penetrate still farther to the south were baffled by a mighty ice-barrier he yielded to the invincible obstacles of nature, and returned to more genial climes. It is worthy of notice, that Sir James Clark Ross had accomipanied Parry on his sledge-expedition to the North Pole, and thus acquired the unique distinction of having approached both poles nearer than any other man.
Scientific Voyages of Circumnavigation
The wonders of oceanic life have first been shown in a more distinct light by the labours of Chamisso, Meyen, Lesson, Darwin, Gray, Hooker, Robinson, Dana, & co., who accompanied Kotzebue, Freycinet, Fitzroy, Ross & co., on their world-encircling course; and numerous coasts and groups of islands, situated in the remotest seas, and formerly only superficially known, have been accurately measured and traced on the map by hydrographers who took part in those far-famed voyages.
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