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Journal of a Second Voyage for the Discovery of a North West Passage, • from the Atlantic to the Pacific, performed in the years 1821,
1822, 1823, in his Majesty's ships Fury and Heela, under the orders of Capt. WILLIAM EDWARD PARRY, R.N. 4to. pp. 572. 13 Maps, and 26 Engravings. Price 4l. 14s: 6d. Longman. London. 1824.
The last voyage of Captain Parry, the expedition of Captain Franklin, and the original survey of Baffin's sea by Captain Ross, are so fresh in the minds of our readers, that it is unnecessary even to allude to them, in the sketch which we are about to give of the present narrative. It is almost equally unnecessary to state what the immediate objects of all these expeditions were, and what they continue to be. Originally, those who knew the world, in their warm closets at home, better than the arduous spirits which have circumnavigated it, determined that there was no such bay as Baffin had found. Captain Ross, unfortunately for his repose, determined that the gentlemen of the Polar Basin were wrong, and that Baffin was right. He circumnavigated that bay, and extinguished the whole speculation; a dream which seemed to have addled half the brains of Britain, as if there had never been visions of the same stamp and quality before, and as if similar overweening confidence, if less of despotism, had not been the character of the whole tribe of projectors. His crime was unpardonable. Had he found that bay open to the north, and Greenland an island, Sir James Lancaster, and the new owner, might have settled the property of Croker's mountains, and Rosamond's bay as they pleased. His rash and silly determination on the impassability of that strait would have been overlooked; but the pride of confidence was pricked, and the consequences are known to all.
It was prudent, after this, to suppress the very name of the Polar basin. The public also, which generally opens its eyes when left to itself, has thought fit, very impertinently, to ask about the uses of a North-west passage. It has asked the merchants of the Thames, what goods they would ship for China, through Lancaster's sound; and has enquired of the undertakers at Lloyd's, at what premium they would do a Northwest cargo. Even the bold shake their heads, like my lord Burleigh, and say nothing. The North-west passage is now heard of no more, but we are to discover the hyperborean ana
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tumy of America. What is the object? honour. We like not the " grinning honour” that Captain Parry hath, against the zephyrs of the pole: but that is his affair. The Russians would gain the honour, if we did not. Doubtless, it is all very proper, and doubtless also, Captain Parry will gain the icy crown, if it is to be gained.
One general remark we may be allowed to make, before proceeding to this narrative. We have a professed respect for æconomy, and a much more professed one for the high department which orders, directs, and controls these expeditions. And, at all times, in every thing that related to the ships, to their fittings, and to their supplies, the utmost liberality, and the utmost attention to every object of utility and comfort, as it regarded the people, has been consistently displayed. All this cannot be praised more than it merits. Yet Captain Franklin's perilous expedition was wrecked and defeated by misplaced economy. He was left almost to the mercy of men, who are (whether with justice or not, we do not know,) proverbially worthless. It is something, to humanity, though it may be nothing to official rules, that a gallant man, with gallant followers, should have been hazarded for a few hundred pounds, where thousands had been expended in furthering the general objects. Captain Franklin ought to have effected his junction with Captain Parry, and might have done it: but human powers have their limits; and surely no man ever transgressed them with the impunity that he did. Nothing should have been left to other discretion than his own, and that of the governntent which commanded him. Not to have entrusted him with the most unlimited power over men, forms, and money, can be attributed only to that melancholy usage of routine, which arranges even new designs upon old precedents, and which, in one breath, reposes trust, and denies confidence.
Another remark; and if we are wrong, we shall be corrected without fail. A ship should have been sent round by Behring's strait, at the same, or rather at a calculated and corresponding time. That ship might have operated on the other side of the question, on the western extremity of the north shore. She might have effected a junction. Had she done neither; had she done nothing, the very hope of such a friend at hand, the mere promise, had it been a fallacious one, a deception, would have maintained the energies of the people, both of the land and sea expedition. It would have given them a confidence in undertaking difficulties, and an energy in surmounting them. We will not, and do not imagine, that either were wanting : yet to have known that there was a refuge somewhere, that there were supplies and friends to be found at any fixed point, · however distant, would have added to all the energies of man,
those almost superhuman ones, which hope rouses out of despair, and would have tempted to hazards which it would have been censurable in the highest degree to have risked, as the ships and the people on shore were then situated. Whether this is to be done in the impending expedition, we know not. If it be not, there must be good reasons unknown to the public; but which the public, that has made this its private interest and question, ought to know. We shall now only further say, that, combining the various observations of Behring, Cook, Hearne, Mackenzie, Kotzebue, Baffin, Hudson, Franklin, and Parry, there are only about four hundred and fifty miles of a great continuous line of the northern American land remaining unexplored, though many minor portions remain to be filled up. Should that line prove to be the coast that is expected, it will define that continent by a boundary coinciding, in a general view, with the parallel of the estuary of Hearne's river; though leaving many lacunæ to be still surveyed, either from the sea, or through the interior. All the land which lies to the north of Lancaster's straits, will thus also be found to be a group of islands, as Greenland itself will prove; and thus the Polar basin may at length be revived, with new honours, to the infinite delight of those to whom nature and geography shall have thus proved unmeritedly kind.
The Fury and the Hecla, old friends, and ancient bomb vessels, newly fortified and fitted, with the Nautilus Transport, left the river on the 8th of May, 1821; reaching Davis's straits in June, and Resolution island, in Hudson's straits, on the 7th of July. The orders were, to penetrate to the westward, so as to reach some part of the continent of America, either in Repulse bay, or in some part of Hudson's bay to the north of Wager's river. On the 22d of August, Captain Parry had determined that there was no passage to the westward through Repulse bay; but the details, being of the usual nature, need not be given. Hence, therefore, the proper novelty of the voyage commences; the expedition then turning to the northward, for the purpose of exploring any possible opening toward the west. A month was then spent, in making minor discoveries which it is useless to mention ; since, like much more, they would be unintelligible without a chart: and, at the end, the expedition found itself at the point whence it had commenced. This was, however, unavoidable; for thus it is that valuable time must necessarily be lost on unknown shores, and, above all, amid such incumbrances as these offer. The remainder of Septem
ber was occupied in a similar manner; and, on the 8th of October, the ships were secured in their winter quarters. The details of working through the ice are of the usual nature; and have now been so often repeated, as to have lost the freshness of novelty. But two hundred leagues of coast were explored, of which one half belonged to the continent; and the commander was satisfied, that the whole of Repulse bay eastward was a part of that continent.
The usual arrangements for comfort and health in winter quarters were made, the theatre was re-established, with improved “scenery, dresses, and decorations ;" and a school was also set up in the ships; while dispositions were made for pursuing scientific observations. The thermometer had already fallen to zero, and to minus 10°: and, having risen, temporarily, to +23, the heat became inconvenient. Captain Parry here remarks, that changes of this nature, even at those two temperatures, produce the same effects as at higher degrees in the scale. That the freezing point should, by contrast, be incommodiously hot, is a proof that the Physiologists are not quite such adepts in the animal economy as they flatter themselves. The lowest temperature, during December, was minus 29°; and the greatest, plus 2°; a degree of cold less than might have been anticipated ; and the general average of this winter weather, appears to have been fine. The arrangements and observations, with the history of the health, occupations, and feelings of the officers and men, resemble so much those related of Melville's island in the former voyage, as to give no room for remarks that would not be repetition. A splendid aurora borealis is minutely described; and also a remarkable example of a double moon, resembling the more common solar phenomenon of the same nature. In January, they were visited by a party of Esquimaux; of whose good qualities and conduct Captain Parry speaks in warm terms. This is the more remarkable, as he is equally severe on those whom he had met in the straits, and who had acquired all the vices in their power, by communicating with the whaling vessels. Every report, indeed, seems to mark this as a race, docile, gentle, and free, in their natural state, from the prevailing faults of rude nations. Their great fondness for music is also noticed ; a remark coinciding with the observations of the Moravian missionaries of Labrador. With some exceptions, their conscientious honesty also meets the same praise. We would willingly have extracted or abridged some part of the account of this detachment; but as we find that we could do neither the one nor the other to any purpose, on account of its great length, we must refer our rea
ders to the original work. Such room as we can spare for this purpose, must be appropriated to the general essay on the Esquimaux, which is appended to the voyage.
One remark, of a scientific nature, we must here be permitted to make on Captain Parry's thermometrical observations, and are somewhat surprised at the want of knowledge in this subject which they imply. He is extremely minute in pointing out the circumstances of a thermometer giving the temperature in the sun, and in explaining the possible effects of radiant heat on it. We do not, however, lay the blame of this inadvertence on himself, but rather on all those under whose auspices his scientific plans were originally formed. The heat marked by a thermometer in the sun, means nothing. It is always the heat accumulated by the scale; and it varies, of course, according to the nature of that scale, while it indicates nothing respecting the state of the atmosphere. An insulated bulb, if sufficiently thin, shews scarcely any difference in the shade. Could it perfectly reflect all the light, as it does the greater part, it would show none. The philosophy is as simple, as the fact is certain. It is not, however, for the sake of noticing an error in Captain Parry, that we have made this observation. He has but followed the stream; and we mark him, only for the purpose of correcting a popular and universal error. We hear miraculous stories every day, from travellers in hot climates, respecting thermometers rising to 180, or what not; with additional wonders, wondering how the human constitution bore it, and how they felt, and all such things. There is not the slightest regard due to such observations; nor, we verily believe, to any thermometrical observation in a hot climate that ever was published. The other errors of popular observers in this matter are, however, out of the bounds of our present criticism; which was merely meant to show that observations in the sun proved nothing more, than that the substances surrounding the instrument had been heated to a certain point by the continued action of its rays. Captain Parry himself knows very well, that if he had placed his thermometer on the ship's tarry sides, or had painted the scale black, the heat would have risen accordingly. That is only an extreme case of the same simple fact.
A pedestrian expedition on the ice, in March, by Captain Lyon, was attended by those sufferings arising from extreme cold, which have been at various times described; and these were produced, as is usual, by the wind and the snow drift. The temperature was minus 256. The effect resembling