Literary Thoughts edition presents Arctic Searching Expedition by Sir John Richardson ------ Now for the first time available as one single ebook, the "Arctic Searching Expedition" was originally published in 1851 by surgeon, naturalist and Arctic explorer Sir John Richardson (1787–1865) and is a journal of a boat-voyage through Rupert's Land and the Arctic Sea, in search of the discovery ships under command of Sir John Franklin. The story charts the journey which would inevitably fail in its ambition: Franklin, unknown to Richardson, had already died in June 1847. Volume 1 depicts the journey to Fort Confidence in the Canadian Arctic, ending with detailed descriptions of the aboriginal Inuit and Gwich'in peoples encountered, whereas volume 2 begins with detailed descriptions of the Chipewyan and Cree peoples. All books of the Literary Thoughts edition have been transscribed from original prints and edited for better reading experience. Please visit our homepage www.literarythoughts.com to see our other publications.
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ROUTE ASSIGNED TO THE EXPEDITION UNDER COMMAND OF SIR JOHN FRANKLIN.—NAMES OF THE OFFICERS.—EREBUS AND TERROR.—DATE OF ITS SAILING.—LAST LETTERS.—SIR JOHN FRANKLIN'S LAST OFFICIAL LETTER.—LAST SIGHT OF THE EXPEDITION.—SIR JOHN ROSS PROPOSES A SEARCH.—DISCUSSION OF VARIOUS OPINIONS OFFERED RESPECTING THE FATE OF THE EXPEDITION.—PLANS OF SEARCH ADOPTED.—MAIN OBJECTS OF THE OVERLAND SEARCHING EXPEDITION.—INSTRUCTIONS FROM THE ADMIRALTY.
Her Majesty's government having deemed it expedient that a further attempt should be made for the accomplishment of a north-west passage by sea from the Atlantic to the Pacific, the "Erebus" and "Terror" were fitted out for that service, and placed under the command of Captain Sir John Franklin, K. C. H. He was directed by the Admiralty instructions, dated on the 5th of May, 1845, to proceed with all despatch to Lancaster Sound, and, passing through it, to push on to the westward, in the latitude of 74½°, without loss of time or stopping to examine any openings to the northward, until he reached the longitude of Cape Walker, which is situated in about 98° west. He was to use every effort to penetrate to the southward and westward of that point, and to pursue as direct a course for Beering's Straits as circumstances might permit. He was cautioned not to attempt to pass by the western extremity of Melville Island, until he had ascertained that a permanent barrier of ice or other obstacle closed the prescribed route. In the event of not being able to penetrate to the westward, he was to enter Wellington Sound in his second summer.
He was further directed to transmit accounts of his proceedings to the Admiralty, by means of the natives and the Hudson's Bay Company, should opportunities offer; and also, after passing the 65th meridian, to throw overboard daily a copper cylinder, containing a paper stating the ship's position. It was also understood that he would cause piles of stones or signal-posts to be erected on conspicuous headlands at convenient times, though the instructions do not contain a clause to that effect.
NAMES OF THE OFFICERS.
The following officers joined the expedition:—
Captain, Sir John Franklin, Kt. K. C. H.
Capt., Francis R. M. Crozier.
Commander, James Fitzjames.
Lieutenant, Edward Little.
Lieutenant, Graham Gore.
Lieut., George H. Hodgson.
Lieut., H. P. D. Le Vesconte.
Lieutenant, John Irving.
Lieut., James W. Fairholme.
Ice-Master, Thomas Blanky.
Ice-Master, James Read.
Surgeon, John S. Peddie.
Surgeon, Stephen S. Stanley.
Assist.-Surgeon, A. M'Donald.
Paymaster, C. H. Osmer.
Sec. Mr., Gillies A. Maclean.
Assist.-Surg., H. D. S. Goodsir.
Clerk-in-Charge, Edward J. H. Helpman.
Sec. Master, Henry F. Collins.
And the conjoined crews of the two ships amounted to 130 souls.
The "Erebus," originally built for a bomb-vessel, and therefore strongly framed, was of 370 tons measurement, and had been fortified, in 1839, after the most approved plan, by an extra or double exterior planking and diagonal bracing within, for Sir James C. Ross's antarctic voyage, from which she returned in 1843. Having been carefully examined and refitted for Sir John Franklin, she was considered to be as strongly prepared to resist the pressure of the ice as the resources of science, and the utmost care of Mr. Rice, the skilful master-shipwright who superintended the preparations, could ensure. The "Terror," of 340 tons, was also constructed for a bomb-vessel, and had the bluff form, capacious hold, and strong framework of that class of war vessels. When commanded by Captain Sir George Back, on his voyage to Repulse Bay in 1836-7, she had been beset for more than eleven months in drifting floes of ice, and exposed to every variety of assault and pressure to which a vessel was liable in such a dangerous position. In this severe and lengthened trial, the "Terror" had been often pressed more or less out of the water, or thrown over on one side, and had, in consequence thereof, sustained some damage, particularly in the stern post. All defects, however, were made good in 1839, when she sailed for the Antarctic Seas, under the command of Captain Crozier, the second officer of Sir James C. Ross's expedition. She was again examined, and made as strong as ever, before Captain Crozier took the command of her a second time in 1845.
The best plans that former experience could suggest for ventilating and warming the ships in the winter were adopted, and full supplies of every requisite for arctic navigation were provided, including an ample stock of warm bedding, clothing, and provisions, with a proportion of preserved meats and pemican.
The expedition sailed from England on the 19th of May, 1845, and, early in July, had reached Whalefish Islands, near Disco, on the Greenland coast of Davis's Straits, where, having found a convenient port, the transport which accompanied it was cleared and sent home to England, bringing the last letters that have been received from the officers or crew. The following extract of a letter, from Lieutenant Fairholme, of the "Erebus," will serve to show the cheerful anticipation of success which prevailed throughout the party, and the happy terms on which they were with each other:—
"We have anchored in a narrow channel between two of the islands, protected on all sides by land, and in as convenient a place for our purpose as could possibly be found. Here we are with the transport lashed alongside, transferring most actively all her stores to the two ships. I hope that this operation will be completed by to-morrow night, in which case Wednesday will be devoted to swinging the ships for local attraction, and I suppose Thursday will see us under way with our heads to the northward. We have had the observatory up here, on a small rock on which Parry formerly observed, and have got a very satisfactory set of magnetic and other observations. Of our prospects we know little more than when we left England, but look forward with anxiety to our reaching 72°, where it seems we are likely to meet the first obstruction, if any exists. On board we are as comfortable as it is possible to be. I need hardly tell you how much we are all delighted with our Captain. He has, I am sure, won not only the respect but the love of every person on board by his amiable manner and kindness to all; and his influence is always employed for some good purpose both among the officers and men. He has been most successful in his selection of officers, and a more agreeable set could hardly be found. Sir John is in much better health than when we left England, and really looks ten years younger. He takes an active part in every thing that goes on, and his long experience in such services as this makes him a most valuable adviser. July 10th.—The transport is just reported clear, so I hope that we may be able to swing the ships to-morrow and get away on Saturday. We are very much crowded; in fact, not an inch of stowage has been lost, and the decks are still covered with casks, &c. Our supply of coals has encroached seriously on the ship's stowage; but as we consume both this and provisions as we go, the evil will be continually lessening."
Letters from most of the other officers, written in a similarly buoyant and hopeful spirit, were received in England at the same time with the above. An extract of a letter from Sir John Franklin himself to Lieutenant Colonel Sabine deserves to be quoted, as expressing his own opinion of his resources, and also his intention of remaining out should he fail after a second winter in finding an outlet to the south-westward from Barrow's Strait. The letter is dated from Whalefish Islands, on the 9th of July, 1845, and, after noticing that the "Erebus" and "Terror" had on board provisions, fuel, clothing, and stores for three years complete, from that date, adds, "I hope my dear wife and daughter will not be over anxious if we should not return by the time they have fixed upon; and I must beg of you to give them the benefit of your advice and experience when that time arrives, for you know well that, without success in our object, even after the second winter, we should wish to try some other channel if the state of our provisions and the health of the crews justify it."
The following is the last official letter written by Sir John Franklin to the Admiralty.
Her Majesty's Ship 'Erebus,'
Whalefish Islands, July 12. 1845.
"I have the honour to acquaint you, for the information of the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, that Her Majesty's ships 'Erebus' and 'Terror,' with the transport, arrived at this anchorage on the 4th instant, having had a passage of one month from Stromness. The transport was immediately taken alongside this ship, that she might be more readily cleared; and we have been constantly employed at that operation till last evening, the delay having been caused not so much in getting the stores transferred to either of the ships, as in making the best stowage of them below, as well as on the upper deck. The ships are now complete with supplies of every kind for three years: they are, therefore, very deep; but happily we have no reason to expect much sea as we proceed further.
"The magnetic instruments were landed the same morning; so also were the other instruments requisite for ascertaining the position of the observatory; and it is satisfactory to find that the results of the observations for latitude and longitude accord very nearly with those assigned to the same place by Sir Edward Parry. Those for dip and variation are equally satisfactory, which were made by Captain Crozier with the instruments belonging to the 'Terror,' and by Commander James with those of the 'Erebus.'
"The ships are now being swung, for the purpose of ascertaining the dip and deviation of the needle on board, as was done at Greenhithe; which I trust will be completed this afternoon, and I hope to be able to sail in the night.
"The governor and principal persons are at this time absent from Disco; so that I have not been able to receive any communication from head quarters as to the state of the ice to the north. I have, however, learned from a Danish carpenter in charge of the Esquimaux at these islands, that, though the winter was severe, the spring was not later than usual, nor was the ice later in breaking away hereabout. He supposes, also, that it is now loose as far as 74°, and as far as Lancaster Sound, without much obstruction.
"The transport will sail for England this day. I shall instruct the agent, Lieutenant Griffiths, to proceed to Deptford, and report his arrival to the Secretary of the Admiralty. I have much satisfaction in bearing my testimony to the careful and zealous manner in which Lieutenant Griffiths has performed the service entrusted to him, and would beg to recommend him, as an officer who appears to have seen much service, to the favourable consideration of their Lordships.
"It is unnecessary to assure their Lordships of the energy and zeal of Captain Crozier, Commander Fitzjames, and of the officers and men with whom I have the happiness of being employed on this service.
I have, &c. John Franklin, Captain. "The Right Hon. H. L. Cary, M.P. &c. &c. &c."
The two ships were seen on the 26th of the same month (July) in latitude 74° 48′ N., longitude 66° 13′ W., moored to an iceberg, waiting for a favourable opportunity of entering or rounding the "middle ice" and crossing to Lancaster Sound, distant in a direct westerly line from their position about 220 geographical miles. On that day a boat from the discovery ships, manned by seven officers, one of whom was Commander Fitzjames, boarded the "Prince of Wales," whaler, Captain Dannett. They were all in high spirits, and invited Captain Dannett to dine with Sir John Franklin on the following day, which had he done, he would doubtless have been the bearer of letters for England, but a favourable breeze springing up he separated from them. The ice was then heavy but loose, and the officers expressed good hopes of soon accomplishing the enterprise. Captain Dannett was favoured with very fine weather during the three following weeks, and thought that the expedition must have made good progress. This was the last sight that was obtained of Franklin's ships.
In January 1847, a year and a half after the above date, Captain Sir John Ross addressed a letter to the Admiralty, wherein he stated his conviction that the discovery ships were frozen up at the western end of Melville Island, from whence their return would be for ever prevented by the accumulation of ice behind them, and volunteered his services to carry relief to the crews. Sir John also laid statements of his apprehensions before the Royal and Geographical Societies, and, the public attention being thereby roused, several writers in the newspapers and other periodicals published their sentiments on the subject, a variety of plans of relief were suggested, and many volunteers came forward to execute them.
The Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, though judging that the second winter was too early a period of Sir John Franklin's absence to give rise to well founded apprehensions for his safety, lost no time in calling for the opinions of several naval officers who were well acquainted with arctic navigation, and in concerting plans of relief, to be carried out when the proper time should arrive.
A brief review of the replies most worthy of notice may help the reader to form a judgment of the plans that were eventually adopted by the Admiralty for the discovery and relief of the absent voyagers. It is convenient to consider first the notions of those who believe that Sir John Franklin never entered Lancaster Sound, either because the ships met with some fatal disaster in Baffin's Bay, and went down with the entire loss of both crews, or that Sir John endeavoured to fulfil the purposes of the expedition by taking some other route than the one exclusively marked out for him by his instructions. That the ships were not suddenly wrecked by a storm, or overwhelmed by the pressure of the ice, may be concluded from facts gathered from the records of the Davis's Straits whale-fishery, by which we learn that of the many vessels which have been crushed in the ice, in the course of several centuries, the whole or greater part of the crews have almost always escaped with their boats. It is, therefore, scarcely possible to believe that two vessels so strongly fortified as the "Erebus" and "Terror," and found by previous trials to be capable of sustaining so enormous a pressure, should both of them have been so suddenly crushed as to allow no time for active officers and men, disciplined and prepared for emergencies of the kind, to get out their boats. And having done so, they would have had little difficulty in reaching one of the many whalers, that were occupied in the pursuit of fish in those seas for six weeks after the discovery ships were last seen. Moreover, had the ships been wrecked, some fragments of their spars or hulls would have been found floating by the whalers, or being cast on the eastern or western shores of the bay, would have been reported by the Greenlanders or Eskimos. Neither are any severe storms recorded as having occurred then or there, nor did any unusual calamity befall the fishing vessels that year.
With respect to Sir John Franklin having chosen to enter Jones's or Smith's Sounds in preference to Lancaster Sound, his known habit of strict adherence to his instructions is a sufficient answer, and the extract quoted above from his letter to Lieutenant Colonel Sabine, which gives his latest thoughts on the subject, plainly says that such a course would not be pursued until a second winter had proved the impracticability of the route laid down for him. This point is mooted, because Mr. Hamilton, surgeon in Orkney, states that Sir John, when dining with him on the last day that he passed in Great Britain, mentioned his determination of trying Jones's Sound. But Sir John's communication to Colonel Sabine shows that this could be meant to refer only to the contingency of a full trial by Lancaster Sound proving fruitless. Supposing that, contrary to all former experience, he had found the mouth of Lancaster Sound so barred by ice as to preclude his entrance, then, after waiting till he had become convinced that it would remain closed for the season, he might have tried to find a way, by Jones's Sound, into Wellington Sound; but in such a case, we may hold it as certain that he would have erected conspicuous cairns, and deposited memoranda of his past proceedings and future intentions, at the entrance of Lancaster Sound.
Taking it, then, for granted that the expedition entered Lancaster Sound, the most probable conjecture respecting the direction in which it advanced is that Sir John, literally following his instructions, did not stop to examine any openings either to the northward or southward of Barrow's Strait, but continued to push on to the westward until he reached Cape Walker in longitude 98°, when he inclined to the south-west, and steered as directly as he could for Beering's Straits. But even supposing that the state of the ice permitted him to take the desired route, and to turn to the south-westward by the first opening beyond the 98th meridian, we are ignorant of the exact position of that opening, the tract between Cape Walker and Banks's Land being totally unknown. That a passage to the southward does exist in that space, and terminates between Victoria and Wollaston Lands in Coronation Gulf, is inferred from the observed setting of the flood tide. There is, it is true, an uncertainty in our endeavours to determine the directions of the tides in these narrow seas, where the currents are influenced by prevailing winds; but Mr. Thomas Simpson, who was an acute observer, remarked that the flood tide brought much ice into Coronation Gulf round the west end of Victoria Land, and facts collected on three visits which I have made to that gulf lead me to concur with him. Entirely in accordance with this opinion is the fact noted by Sir Edward Parry, that the flood tide came from the north between Cornwallis and the neighbouring islands, and that the ice was continually setting round the west end of Melville Island and passing onwards to the south-east.
These observations, while they point to an opening to the eastward of Banks's Land, may be adduced as an argument against the existence of a passage directly to the westward between it and Melville Island; and, though they are not conclusive, they are supported by another remark of Sir Edward Parry's, that he thought there was some peculiar obstruction immediately to the west of that island, which produced a permanent barrier of ice.
But wherever the opening which we presume to exist may be situated, the channels among the islands are probably not direct, and may be intricate. Vessels, therefore, having pushed into one of them would be exposed to the ice closing in behind and barring all regress. Sir John Ross, whose opinions are first recorded in the parliamentary Blue Book, believes that "Sir John Franklin put his ships into the drift ice at the western end of Melville Island," and that, "if not totally lost, they must have been carried by the ice, which is known to drift to the southward, on land (Banks's Land) seen at a great distance in that direction, and from which the accumulation of ice behind them will," says he, "as in my own case, for ever prevent the return of the ships."
Sir W. Edward Parry is of opinion that Sir John Franklin would endeavour "to get to the southward and westward before he approached the south-western extremity of Melville Island, that is, between the 100th and 110th degree of longitude: how far they may have penetrated to the southward between those meridians, must be a matter of speculation, depending on the state of the ice and the existence of land in a space hitherto blank in our maps." "Be this as it may, I (Sir W. E. Parry) consider it not improbable, as suggested by Dr. King, that an attempt will be made by them to fall back on the western coast of North Somerset, wherever that may be found, as being the nearest point affording a hope of communication, either with whalers or with ships sent expressly in search of the expedition."
Sir James C. Ross says: "It is far more probable, however, that Sir John Franklin, in obedience to his instructions, would endeavour to push the ships to the south and west as soon as they passed Cape Walker; and the consequence of such a measure, owing to the known prevalence of westerly winds, and the drift of the main body of the ice, would be, their inevitable embarrassment; and if he persevered in that direction, which he probably would do, I have no hesitation in stating my conviction, that he would never be able to extricate his ships, and would ultimately be obliged to abandon them. It is, therefore, in latitude 73° N. and longitude 135° W. that we may expect to find them involved in the ice, or shut up in some harbour."
The opinions here quoted are contingent on the supposition, that Sir John Franklin found the state of the ice to be such that he could take the routes in question; but the several officers quoted admit that, in the event of no opening through the ice in a westerly or south-westerly direction being found, Sir John would attempt Wellington Sound, or any other northern opening that was accessible. Commander Fitzjames, in a letter dated January, 1845, says: "The north-west passage is certainly to be gone through by Barrow's Straits, but whether south or north of Parry's Group remains to be proved. I am for going far north, edging north-west till in longitude 140° W., if possible." Mr. John Barrow, to whom this letter was addressed, appends to it the following memorandum: "Captain Fitzjames was much inclined to try the passage to the northward of Parry's Islands, and he would no doubt endeavour to persuade Sir John Franklin to pursue that course, if they failed to get to the southward."
My own opinion, submitted to the Admiralty in compliance with their commands, was substantially the same with that of Sir James Clark Ross, though formed independently; and I further suggested that, in the event of accident to the ships, or their abandonment in the ice, the members of the expedition would make either for Lancaster Sound to meet the whalers, or Mackenzie River to seek relief at the Hudson's Bay posts, as they judged either of these places most easy of attainment.
After deliberately weighing these and other suggestions, and fully considering the numerous plans submitted to them, the Admiralty determined that, if no intelligence of the missing ships arrived by the close of autumn, 1847, they would send out three several searching expeditions—one to Lancaster Sound, another down the Mackenzie River, and the third to Beering's Straits.
The object of the first, and the most important of the three, was to follow up the route supposed to have been pursued by Sir John Franklin; and, by searching diligently for any signal-posts he might have erected, to trace him out, and carry the required relief to his exhausted crews. Sir James Clark Ross was appointed to the command of this expedition, consisting of the "Enterprise" and "Investigator;" and, as his plan of proceeding bears upon my own instructions, I give it at length:—
"As vessels destined to follow the track of the expedition must necessarily encounter the same difficulties, and be liable to the same severe pressure from the great body of the ice they must pass through in their way to Lancaster Sound, it is desirable that two ships, of not less than 500 tons, be purchased for this service, and fortified and equipped, in every respect as were the 'Erebus' and 'Terror,' for the Antarctic Seas.
"Each ship should, in addition, be supplied with a small vessel or launch of about 20 tons, which she could hoist in, to be fitted with a steam-engine and boiler of ten-horse power, for a purpose to be hereafter noticed.
"The ships should sail at the end of April next, and proceed to Lancaster Sound, with as little delay as possible, carefully searching both shores of that extensive inlet, and of Barrow's Strait, and then progress to the westward.
"Should the period at which they arrive in Barrow's Strait admit of it, Wellington Channel should next be examined, and the coast between Cape Clarence and Cape Walker explored, either in the ships or by boats, as may at the time appear most advisable. As this coast has been generally found encumbered with ice, it is not desirable that both ships should proceed so far along it as to hazard their getting beset there and shut up for the winter; but in the event of finding a convenient harbour near Garnier Bay or Cape Rennell, it would be a good position in which to secure one of the ships for the winter.
"From this position the coast line might be explored, as far as it extends to the westward, by detached parties early in the spring, as well as the western coast of Boothia, a considerable distance to the southward; and at a more advanced period of the season the whole distance to Cape Nicolai might be completed.
"A second party might be sent to the south-west as far as practicable, and a third to the north-west, or in any other direction deemed advisable at the time.
"As soon as the formation of water along the coast between the land and main body of the ice admitted, the small steam-launch should be despatched into Lancaster Sound, to communicate with the whale ships at the usual time of their arrival in those regions, by which means information of the safety or return of Sir John Franklin might be conveyed to the ships before their liberation from their winter quarters, as well as any further instructions the Lords Commissioners might be pleased to send for their future guidance.
"The easternmost vessel having been safely secured in winter quarters, the other ship should proceed alone to the westward, and endeavour to reach Winter Harbour in Melville Island, or some convenient port in Banks's Land, in which to pass the winter.
"From this point, also, parties should be despatched early in spring, before the breaking up of the ice. The first should trace the western coast of Banks's Land, and, proceeding to Cape Bathurst, or some other conspicuous point of the continent, previously agreed on with Sir John Richardson, reach the Hudson's Bay Company's settlement of Fort Good Hope on the Mackenzie, whence they may travel southward by the usual route of the traders to York Factory, and thence to England.
"The second party should explore the eastern shore of Banks's Land, and, making for Cape Krusenstern, communicate with Sir John Richardson's party on its descending the Coppermine River, and either assist him in completing the examination of Wollaston and Victoria Land, or return to England by any route he should direct.
"These two parties would pass over that space in which most probably the ships have become involved (if at all), and would, therefore, have the best chance of communicating to Sir John Franklin information of the measures that have been adopted for his relief, and of directing him to the best point to proceed, if he should consider it necessary to abandon his ships.
"Other parties may be despatched, as might appear desirable to the commander of the expedition, according to circumstances; but the steam-launches should certainly be employed to keep up the communication between the ships, to transmit such information for the guidance of each other as might be necessary for the safety and success of the undertaking.
(Signed) "James C. Ross, Captain, R. N. "Athenæum, 2 December, 1847."
By a subsequent arrangement between Sir James Ross and myself, under the sanction of the Admiralty, I undertook to deposit pemican at Fort Good Hope and Point Separation on the Mackenzie, and Capes Bathurst, Parry, Krusenstern, and Hearne, on the sea-coast, for the use of Sir James Ross's detached parties.
The Beering's Straits expedition was composed of the "Herald," Captain Kellet, then employed in surveying the Pacific coasts of America, and the "Plover," Commander Moore. The vessels were expected to arrive in Beering's Straits about the 1st of July, 1848, and were directed to "proceed along the American coast as far as possible, consistent with the certainty of preventing the ships being beset by the ice." A harbour was to be sought for the "Plover" within the Straits, to which that vessel was to be conducted; and two whale-boats were to go on to the eastward in search of the missing voyagers, and to communicate, if possible, with the Mackenzie River party. The "Plover" was fitted out in the Thames in December, 1847; but having been found to leak when she went to sea, was compelled to put into Plymouth for repair, and did not finally leave England until February, 1848. This tardy departure, conjoined with her dull sailing, prevented her from passing Beering's Straits at all in 1848; but she wintered near Cape Tschukotskoi, on the Asiatic coast, just outside of the Straits.
The "Herald" visited Kotzebue Sound, repassed the Straits before the arrival of the "Plover," and returned to winter in South America, with the intention of going northwards again next season.
The main object of the searching party entrusted to my charge was to trace the coast between the Mackenzie and Coppermine Rivers, and the shores of Victoria and Wollaston Lands lying opposite to Cape Krusenstern. In a preceding page I have adduced reasons for believing that there is a passage to the northwards between these lands; and if so, its position makes it the most direct route from the continent to the unknown tract interposed between Cape Walker and Banks's Land, into which Sir John Franklin was expressly ordered to carry his ships. Should he have done so, and his egress by the way he entered be barred by the ice closing in behind him as already suggested, there remained a probability that the annual progression of the ice southwards would eventually carry the ships into Coronation Gulf, or, if abandoned before that event, their crews were to be sought for on their way to the continent.
At the time when Sir John Franklin left England, two other openings from the north into the sea washing the continental shores were supposed to exist. The most westerly of these is between Boothia and Victoria Land, and it was part of Sir James Ross's plan to examine the whole western side of Boothia and North Somerset by one of his steam-barges.
The other supposed entrance was by Regent's Inlet. Dease and Simpson had left only a small space unsurveyed between that inlet and the sea, which was known to afford in good seasons a passage all the way to Beering's Straits; and this might have recommended the route by Regent's Inlet for trial. But, exclusive of its being absolutely prohibited by Sir John Franklin's instructions, Sir Edward Parry and Sir James Ross, on whose opinions Sir John placed deservedly the greatest reliance, were decidedly averse to his attempting a passage in that direction; and it was known that Sir John Franklin had resolved on trying all the other openings before he entered Regent's Inlet, which was to be his last resource. It fortunately happened before any of the searching expeditions were finally organised, that the non-existence of a passage through that inlet was fully ascertained.
Mr. John Rae, a Chief Trader in the service of the Hudson's Bay Company, left Fort Churchill in the beginning of the summer of 1846, with two boats, for the express purpose of completing the survey of Regent's Inlet. He arrived in Repulse Bay in the month of August of that year, and immediately crossed an isthmus, forty-three miles wide, to the inlet, taking one boat with him. Finding that the season was too far advanced for him to complete the survey that year, he determined, with a boldness and confidence in his own resources that has never been surpassed, to winter in Repulse Bay, and to finish his survey of Regent's Inlet on the ice next spring; so that he might be able to return to Churchill and York Factory by open water in the summer of 1847. He therefore recrossed the isthmus again with his boat, and set about collecting provisions and fuel for a ten months' winter. To one less experienced and hardy, the desolate shores of Repulse Bay would have forbidden such an attempt. They yielded neither drift-wood nor shrubby plants of any kind; but Mr. Rae employed part of his men to gather the withered stems of the Andromeda tetragona, a small herbaceous plant which grew in abundance on the rocks, and to pile it in cocks like hay: others he set to build a house of stone and earth, large enough to shelter his party, amounting in all to sixteen; whilst he himself and his Eskimo interpreter were occupied in killing deer for winter consumption. He succeeded in laying up a sufficient stock of venison, and kept his people in health and strength for next year's operations, though not in comfort, for the chimney was so badly constructed for ventilation, that when the fire was lighted it was necessary to open the door, and thus to reduce the temperature of the apartment, nearly to that of the external air. The fire was, therefore, used as seldom as possible, and only for cooking or melting snow to drink. In the spring he completed the survey of Prince Regent's Inlet on foot, thereby proving that no passage existed through it, and confirming the Eskimo report, first made to Sir Edward Parry and afterwards to Sir John Ross. A party of Eskimo, who resided near Mr. Rae in the winter, informed him, through his interpreter, that they had not seen Franklin's ships, thereby excluding the Gulf of Boothia from the list of places to be searched.
Having thus mentioned the opinions most worthy of note, respecting the quarters in which search was to be made, the plans of search adopted by the Admiralty after duly weighing a great variety of suggestions, and the extent of coast and parts of the Arctic Sea embraced in the three expeditions of the summer of 1848, I subjoin the instructions I received from the Admiralty.
Instructions to Sir John Richardson, M. D., 16th March 1848. By the Commissioners for executing the office of Lord High Admiral, &c.
"Whereas we think fit that you should be employed on an overland expedition in search of Her Majesty's ships 'Erebus' and 'Terror,' under the command of Captain Sir John Franklin, which ships are engaged in a voyage of discovery in the Arctic seas, you are hereby required and directed to take under your orders Mr. Rae, who has been selected to accompany you, and to leave England on the 25th instant by the mail steamer for Halifax in Nova Scotia, and New York; and on your arrival at the latter place, you are to proceed immediately to Montreal, for the purpose of conferring with Sir George Simpson, Governor of the Hudson's Bay Company's Settlements, and making arrangements with him for your future supplies and communications.
"You should next travel to Penetanguishene, on Lake Huron, and from thence, by a steamer, which sails on the 1st and 15th of every month of open water, to Saut Ste. Marie, at the foot of Lake Superior, and there embark in a canoe, which, with its crew, will have been provided for you, by that time, by Sir George Simpson.
"Following the usual canoe route by Fort William, Rainy Lake, the Lake of the Woods, Lake Winipeg, and the Saskatchewan River, it is hoped that you will overtake the boats now under charge of Mr. Bell, in July 1848, somewhere near Isle à la Crosse, or perhaps the Methy Portage.
"You will then send the canoe with its crew back to Canada, and having stowed the four boats for their sea voyage, you will go on as rapidly as you can to the mouth of the Mackenzie; leaving Mr. Bell to follow with the heavier laden barge, to turn off at Great Bear Lake, and erect your winter residence at Fort Confidence, establish fisheries, and send out hunters.
"Making a moderate allowance for unavoidable detention by ice, thick fogs, and storms, the examination of the coast between the Mackenzie and the Coppermine Rivers will probably occupy 30 days; but you cannot calculate to be able to keep the sea later than the 15th of September, for, from the beginning of that month, the young ice covers the sea almost every night, and very greatly impedes the boats, until the day is well advanced.
"If you reach the sea in the first week of August, it is hoped you will be able to make the complete voyage to the Coppermine River, and also to coast a considerable part of the western and southern shores of Wollaston Land, and to ascend the Coppermine to some convenient point, where the boats can be left with the provisions ready for the next year's voyage; and you will instruct Mr. Bell to send two hunters to the banks of the river to provide food for the party on the route to Fort Confidence, and thus spare you any further consumption of the pemican reserved for the following summer.
"As it may happen, however, from your late arrival on the coast, or subsequent unexpected detentions, that you cannot with safety attempt to reach the Coppermine, you have our full permission in such a case to return to Fort Good Hope, on the Mackenzie, there to deposit two of the boats, with all the sea stores, and to proceed with the other two boats, and the whole of the crews, to winter quarters on Great Bear Lake.
"And you have also our permission to deviate from the line of route along the coast, should you receive accounts from the Eskimos, which may appear credible, of the crews of the 'Erebus' and 'Terror,' or some part of them, being in some other direction.
"For the purpose of more widely extending your search, you are at liberty to leave Mr. Rae and a party of volunteers to winter on the coast, if, by the establishment of a sufficient fishery, or by killing a number of deer or musk oxen, you may be able to lay up provisions enough for them until you can rejoin them next summer.
"As you have been informed by Captain Sir James Ross, of Her Majesty's ship 'Enterprize,' who is about to be employed on a similar search in another direction, of the probable directions in which the parties he will send out towards the continent will travel, you are to leave a deposit of pemican for their use at the following points—namely, Point Separation, Cape Bathurst, Cape Parry, and Cape Krusenstern; and as Sir James Ross is desirous that some pemican should be stored at Fort Good Hope, for the use of a party which he purposes sending thither in the spring of 1849, you are to make the necessary arrangements with Sir George Simpson for that purpose, as his directions to that effect must be sent early enough to meet the Company's brigade of Mackenzie River boats at Methy Portage, in July 1848.
"Should it appear necessary to continue the search a second summer (1849), and should the boats have been housed on the Coppermine, you are to descend that river on the breaking up of the ice in June 1849, and to examine the passages between Wollaston and Banks's and Victoria Lands, so as to cross the routes of some of Sir James C. Ross's detached parties, and to return to Great Bear Lake in September 1849, and withdraw the whole party from thence to winter on Great Slave Lake, which would be as far south as you will have a prospect of travelling before the close of the river navigation.
"Should you have found it necessary to return to the Mackenzie (September 1848), instead of pushing on to the Coppermine, the search in the summer of 1849 would, of course, have to be commenced from the former river again; but should circumstances render it practicable and desirable to send some of the party down the Coppermine with one or two boats, you are at liberty to do so.
"A passage for yourself and Mr. Rae will be provided in the 'America,' British and North American mail-steamer, which sails from Liverpool on the 25th of March, and you will receive a letter of credit on Her Majesty's Consul at New York for the amount of the expense of your journey from New York to Saut Ste. Marie, and the carriage of the instruments, &c.
"And in the event of intelligence of the 'Erebus' and 'Terror' reaching England after your departure, a communication will be made to the Hudson's Bay Company to ascertain the most expeditious route to forward your recal.
"We consider it scarcely necessary to furnish you with any instructions contingent on a successful search after the above-mentioned expedition, or any parties belonging to it. The circumstances of the case, and your own local knowledge and experience, will best point out the means to be adopted for the speedy transmission to this country of intelligence to the above effect, as well as of aiding and directing in the return of any such parties to England.
"We are only anxious that the search so laudably undertaken by you and your colleagues should not be unnecessarily or hazardously prolonged; and whilst we are confident that no pains or labour will be spared in the execution of this service, we fear lest the zeal and anxiety of the party so employed may carry them further than would be otherwise prudent.
"It is on this account you are to understand that your search is not to be prolonged after the winter of 1849, and which will be past on the Great Slave Lake; but that, at the earliest practicable moment after the breaking up of the weather in the spring of 1850, you will take such steps for the return of the party under your orders to England as circumstances may render expedient.
"It must be supposed that the instructions now afforded you can scarcely meet every contingency that may arise out of a service of the above description; but reposing, as we do, the utmost confidence in your discretion and judgment, you are not only at liberty to deviate from any point of them that may seem at variance with the objects of the expedition, but you are further empowered to take such other steps as shall be desirable at the time, and which are not provided for in these orders.
Given under our hands, 16th March 1848. (Signed) Auckland. J. W. D. Dundas.
"To Sir John Richardson, M. D., &c. By command, &c. (Signed) "W. A. B. Hamilton."
OVERLAND SEARCHING EXPEDITION.—ROUTES THROUGH THE INTERIOR.—HUDSON'S BAY SHIPS.—PEMICAN.—BOATS.—BOAT PARTY LEAVES ENGLAND.—ARRIVES AT WINTER QUARTERS.—VOLUNTEERS.—MR. JOHN RAE APPOINTED TO THE EXPEDITION.—THE AUTHOR AND MR. RAE SAIL FROM ENGLAND.—LAND AT NEW YORK.—PROCEED TO MONTREAL AND LA CHINE.—CANOE-MEN.—SAUT STE. MARIE.—VOYAGE TO THE NORTH.—REACH CUMBERLAND HOUSE.
The preceding pages contain an exposition of the objects of the expedition, with a general outline of the course to be pursued after leaving the Mackenzie; but as that great river can be attained only by a long and laborious lake and river navigation, it is proper that I should introduce the narrative by a brief account of that first stage of our overland journey. There are two routes to the Mackenzie, one of which, traced at an early period by the Canadian fur companies, passes through Lakes Huron and Superior, the Kamenistikwoya, or Dog River, the Lake of the Woods, Rainy Lake, Lake Winipeg, Cedar Lake, the Saskatchewan River, Beaver and Half-moon Lakes, Churchill or English River, Isle à la Crosse Buffalo and Methy Lakes to the Methy Portage, and the Clear-water or Little Athabasca River, one of the affluents of the Mackenzie. From thence there is a continuous water-course to the sea, through the Elk or Athabasca River, Athabasca Lake, Slave River and Lake, and the Mackenzie proper.
The length of this interior navigation from Montreal to the Arctic Sea is, in round numbers, four thousand four hundred miles, of which sixteen hundred miles are performed on the Mackenzie and its affluents, from Methy Portage northwards, and in which the only interruptions to boat navigation are a few cascades and rapids in Clear-water and Slave Rivers.
During the existence of the North-west, X-Y, and other fur companies trading from Canada, supplies were conveyed to their northern posts by the way of the Ottawa river and great Canada lakes; but they reached the distant establishments on the Mackenzie only in the second summer, having been deposited in the first year at a depôt on Rainy River. Owing to the shallowness of the streams, and badness of the portage roads over the heights between Lake Superior and Rainy Lake, the transport of goods requires to be performed in canoes, with much manual labour, and is, consequently, very expensive. On this account the Hudson's Bay Company, who are now the sole possessors of the northern fur trade, no longer take their trading goods from Canada, but send them by the shorter and cheaper way of Hudson's Bay; though they still employ two or three canoes on the Lake Superior route, to accommodate the Governor in his annual journeys from his residence at La Chine to Norway House, and for the transport of newly-hired servants to the interior, or for bringing down officers coming out on furlough, and men whose period of service has expired. No repairs having of late years been made on the portage roads, they have very much deteriorated, and are truly execrable.
The distance between York Factory in Hudson's Bay and Norway House, situated near the north-east corner of Lake Winipeg, does not much exceed three hundred miles; and as the navigation, though much interrupted by rapids and cascades, admits, in the majority of seasons, of boats carrying a cargo of between fifty and sixty hundred-weight, it offers a much more economical approach to the interior of the fur countries than the other; since one of these boats may be managed by the same crew that is required for a canoe carrying only twenty hundred-weight. The Hudson's Bay ships are generally two in number; one of them being employed in taking supplies to Moose Factory, at the bottom of James's Bay, and the other to York Factory, in latitude 57° N., longitude 92½° W., on the west coast of Hudson's Bay. They sail annually from the Thames on the first Saturday in June, and, after touching at the Orkneys, to receive labourers for the Company's service, proceed on their voyage to Hudson's Straits. The York Factory ship has dropped her anchor at the mouth of Hayes River as early as the 5th of August, and as late as the beginning of September. A tardy arrival is very inconvenient, both in respect of forwarding goods into the interior, and also with regard to the return of the ship to England, there being in such a case scarcely time for the embarkation of the cargo of furs and the passage of Hudson's Straits before the winter sets in.
This brief notice of the modes of communication with Rupert's Land—for so the possessions of the Hudson's Bay Company are named—is given, to explain some parts of the plan of the expedition, and particularly to show why the stores and men were sent out by ships which sailed in June 1847, although the expediency of searching expeditions was not considered by the Admiralty to be established until the last of the whalers came in at the close of that season, without bringing tidings of the discovery ships. It was arranged that in that case, the officers were to leave England early in 1849, and, travelling as rapidly as they could through the United States and Canada, were to overtake the party conveying the stores in the vicinity of Methy Portage.
In April, 1847, I had the advantage of a personal interview with Sir George Simpson, Governor-in-chief of Rupert's Land, who was then on a visit to England, and of concerting with him the measures necessary for the future progress of the expedition; and I may state here that he entered warmly into the projects for the relief of his old acquaintance Sir John Franklin; and from him I received the kindest personal attention, and that support which his thorough knowledge of the resources of the country and his position as Governor enabled him so effectively to bestow. He informed me that the stock of provisions at the various posts in the Hudson's Bay territories was unusually low, through the failure of the bison hunts on the Saskatchewan, and that it would be necessary to carry out pemican from this country, adequate not only to the ulterior purposes of the voyage in the Arctic Sea, but also to the support of the party during the interior navigation in 1847 and 1848. I, therefore, obtained authority from the Admiralty to manufacture, forthwith, the requisite quantity of that kind of food in Clarence Yard; and as I shall have frequent occasion to allude to it in the subsequent narrative, it may be well to describe in this place the mode of its preparation.
The round or buttock of beef of the best quality, having been cut into thin steaks, from which the fat and membranous parts were pared away, was dried in a malt kiln over an oak fire, until its moisture was entirely dissipated, and the fibre of the meat became friable. It was then ground in a malt mill, when it resembled finely grated meat. Being next mixed with nearly an equal weight of melted beef-suet or lard, the preparation of plain pemican was complete; but to render it more agreeable to the unaccustomed palate, a proportion of the best Zante currents was added to part of it, and part was sweetened with sugar. Both these kinds were much approved of in the sequel by the consumers, but more especially that to which the sugar had been added. After the ingredients were well incorporated by stirring, they were transferred to tin canisters, capable of containing 85 lbs. each; and, having been firmly rammed down and allowed to contract further by cooling, the air was completely expelled and excluded by filling the canister to the brim with melted lard, through a small hole left in the end, which was then covered with a piece of tin, and soldered up. Finally, the canister was painted and lettered according to its contents. The total quantity of pemican thus made was 17,424 lbs., at a cost of 1s. 7¼d. a pound. But the expense was somewhat greater than it would otherwise have been from the inexperience of the labourers, who required to be trained, and from the necessity of buying meat in the London market at a rate above the contract price, occasioned by the bullocks slaughtered by the contractor for the naval force at Portsmouth being inadequate to the supply of the required number of rounds. Various temporary expedients were also resorted to in drying part of the meat, the malt kiln and the whole Clarence Yard establishment being at that time fully occupied night and day in preparing flour and biscuit for the relief of the famishing population of Ireland. By the suggestions of Messrs. Davis and Grant, the intelligent chief officers of the Victualling Yard, and their constant personal superintendence, every difficulty was obviated.
As the meat in drying loses more than three fourths of its original weight, the quantity required was considerable, being 35,651 lbs.; and the sudden abstraction of more than one thousand rounds of beef from Leadenhall Market occasioned speculation among the dealers, and a rise in the price of a penny per pound, with an equally sudden fall when the extra demand was found to be very temporary.
The natives dry their venison by exposing the thin slices to the heat of the sun, on a stage, under which a small fire is kept, more for the purpose of driving away the flies by the smoke than for promoting exsiccation; and then they pound it between two stones on a bison hide. In this process the pounded meat is contaminated by a greater or smaller admixture of hair and other impurities. The fat, which is generally the suet of the bison, is added by the traders, who purchase it separately from the natives, and they complete the process by sewing up the pemican in a bag of undressed hide with the hairy side outwards. Each of these bags weighs 90 lbs. and obtains from the Canadian voyagers the designation of "un taureau." A superior pemican is produced by mixing finely powdered meat, sifted from impurities, with marrow fat, and the dried fruit of the Amelanchier.
By order of the Admiralty, four boats were built; two of them in Portsmouth Dock Yard, and two in Camper's Yard at Gosport. These boats, to fit them for river navigation, were required to be of as small a draught of water as was consistent with the power of carrying a cargo of at least two tons; to have the head and stern equally sharp, like a whale-boat, that they might be steered with a sweep oar when running rapids; and to be of as light a weight as possible, for more easy transportation across the numerous portages on the route, and especially the formidable one between Methy Lake and Clear-water River. They were also to be as good sea-boats as a compliance with the other requisites would allow. It is manifest that the invention of a form of boat possessing such various and in some respects antagonistic qualities would task the skill of the constructor, and I felt much indebted to William Rice, Esq., Assistant Master Builder of Portsmouth Yard, for the care and skill with which he worked out a successful result. The Company's boats, or barges, as they term them, are generally about 36 feet long from stem to stern-post, 8 feet wide, stoutly framed and planked, and are capable of carrying seventy packages of 90 lbs. each, with a crew of eight men. The thickness of the planks of these boats is such that they sustain with little injury a severe blow against a rock, to which they are much exposed in descending the rapids; but their weight being proportionally great, they are transported with much labour across the ordinary portages, and it is necessary to avoid this operation altogether at Methy Portage by keeping a relay of boats at each terminus. Moreover, these boats resemble the London river barges in the great rake of the stem and stern, by which they are better fitted for the descent of a rapid, but from the flatness of their floors they are leewardly and bad sea-boats.
Two of the expedition boats measured 30 feet from the fore part of the stem to the after part of the stern-post, 6 feet in breadth of beam, and 2 feet 10 inches in depth; and each of them weighed 6½ cwt., or, including fittings, masts, sails, oars, boat-hook, anchor, lockers and tools, half a ton. The other two boats measured 28 feet in length, 5 feet 6 inches in width, 2 feet 8 inches in depth; and weighed 5¼ cwt., or, with the moveable fittings and equipment, 9 cwt. They were all clinker-built of well-seasoned Norway fir planks 5/16 of an inch thick; ashen floors placed 9 inches apart; stem, stern-posts, and knees of English oak; and gunwales of rock-elm. To admit of their stowing the requisite cargo, they were necessarily very flat-floored, but screws and bolts were fitted to the kelson, by which a false keel might be readily bolted on before they reached the Arctic Sea, so as to render them more weatherly. The larger boats when quite empty drew 7¼ inches of water, and, when loaded with two tons but without a crew, 14¼ inches. They were constructed of two sizes, that the smaller might stow within the larger ones during the passage across the Atlantic.
For the voyage on the Arctic Sea, a crew of five men to each boat was considered sufficient, but for river navigation a bowman and steersman experienced in the art of running rapids were required in addition. Five seamen and fifteen sappers and miners were selected in the month of May, for the expedition, from a number of volunteers. They were all men of good physical powers, and, with one exception, bore excellent characters in their respective services. The solitary exception was one of the sappers and miners who had repeatedly appeared on the defaulters' list for drunkenness, but as he was reported to be in other respects a good and willing workman, and I knew that he would have no means of obtaining intoxicating drinks in Rupert's Land, I yielded to his request that I would allow him an opportunity of retrieving his character. Few seamen were employed, since I knew from experience that as a class they march badly, particularly when carrying a load, and the bulk of the party was composed of sappers and miners, because that corps contains a large proportion of intelligent artizans. Of the men selected, six were joiners or sawyers, and four were blacksmiths, armourers, or engineers, who could be useful for repairing the boats, working up iron, constructing the buildings of our winter residence, or making the furniture.
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