PROCEEDINGS OF THE ARCTIC EXPEDITION UNDER SIR J. ROSS.
We noticed in our late summary of English news, received by the Comet from Sydney, that the expedition sent out under Sir James Ross, in search of Sir John Franklin, had returned without success. The Enterprise and Investigator, the ships which formed the expedition, arrived off Scarborough on the 3d of November, where Sir James Ross landed, and proceeded by railway to London, to acquaint the Admiralty of the ill success of his expedition, and that he bad neither seen nor heard of the missing party. The gallant officer appeared to have suffered from his perilous voyage. He gave as his confident opinion, that Sir John Franklin and his brave companions are nowhere to the eastward of any navigable point in the Arctic regions, and that if they are yet safe, it is on the supposition that they had proceeded in a westerly direction, and in that case news of them may be obtained from the Mackenzie detachment, or by H.M.S. Plover, by way of Russia. By the arrival of another whaler, however, from Davis* Strait, further intelligence is brought of the Esquimaux having seen four ships, for four successive winters, ice-bound in Prince Regent's Inlet. While the fate of Sir John Franklin and his party remains yet uncertain, the following account of the proceedings of the expedition under Sir James Ross, will be interesting : —
The last accounts from the expedition were from Uppernavick, via the Danish Consul. The ships started thence on the 20th July, 1848, and worked up along the east coast, opposite Melville Monument, in Melville Bay, long. 75* 35;, when they crossed over to the middle sea, and finally got through it August 19. They ran down to Pond's Bay, the western coast of Baffin's Bay, the settlement of the natives, and where the whalers annually visit, and arrived there 22d August. No one landed here; but the ships coasting along as far as Possession Mount, reached there on the 26tn, and Lieutenant M'Clure, and the surgeon of the Investigator, went ashore. Here they accidentally discovered, under a beacon, a bottle left by Parry, bearing an inscription, "Hecla and Griper," of which they took poisession, erected another cairn, and deposited a copper cylinder, with information of the objects of the expedition. The ships then proceeded towards Cape York, up Barrow's Strait, on the western shore, where all was clear water, no ice whatever being visible. At Cape York, a beacon and flagstaff were erected, and cylinders deposited. From this place ice was seen, extending right across Prince Regent's Inlet ; consequently the ships stood towards the north, for Cape Fellfoot, upon the north shore of Barrow's Straits ; early in September, and on the 7th of that month, stood across to Leopold, the place of rendezvous, and here getting entangled in the ice, were swept past the island ; but subsequently got free, and entered Port Leopold, a spacious harbour, with excellent groundings and deep water, 11th September, 1848. Here were immediately deposited three months' provisions for each ship on shore at Whalers' Point, at the entrance of the harbour. The harbour at that time was perfectly clear of ice.
The provisions were deposited with all despatch, under the impression that the expedition would start the next morning ; but on the 12th, the significant appearance of the young ice setting in very sharp, and the probability of being frozen in at a more disadvantageous position, Sir James Ross was induced to delay his departure, and ultimately to make this anchorage his' winter quarters — this being the most eligible point of departure in the ensuing spring. la the course of a few days, Sir James Ross's predictions were verified — the harbour continued to freeze over, alternately freezing and clearing, until about the 24 th, when the ice became settled.
The crew were now employed to cut a canal forty feet wide, leading in towards the north-east side of the harbour, and protected by Whalers' Point from any heavy pressure of ice setting in from the Inlet or Barrow's Strait. This harbour was found to be most commodious and safe, with good depth of water and sandy bottom. The ice was periectly flat, and frozen over with as plain a surface as the Serpentine in January. The ships were moored abreast of each other, about 200 yards apart. As soon as they were frozen in, they were housed over from the forecastle to the mizenmast, and the anchors were weighed and stowed.
The crews then commenced building a wall of snow seven feet high from one ship to the other, to facilitate communication, and the next thing was the erecting of an observatory for each ship for magnetic observations. They were composed entirely of snow, with plates of ice for the windows. They were six feet high inside, and built of snow-bricks one foot thick and two feet long, cut out with a cutlass, and well squared and trimmed — these little houses displaying tasteful, varied, and in some instances fantastic forms of architecture. This wall of communication required great attention, from the accumulation of snow. The sun was not seen from the 9th of November until the 9th of February from the ships ; but from the top of a hill north-east of Cape Leopold, a sight was caught of him so early as the 26th of January.
During the whole of that dreary winter, the only other Jiving animals seen were the white foxes. These were not allowed to be shot, but as many were taken alive as could be trapped, and about forty were sent away with copper collars round their necks, upon which were stamped the names of the ships, and the localities of the deposits of provisions, &c. As it was well known that these foxes travel an immense distance, this measure was resorted to with the view of making them the possible medium of acquainting the missing parties with the means taken for their relief and succour. The foxes were caught in a barrel, con* verted into a door-trap ; and in order to show the
intensity of the cold, it may be stated that the poor little animalsrin endeavouring to escape, often attempted to gnaw the iron bars, when in tnany cases their tongues adhered to the iron, and were frozen off, when they were killed from motives of humanity. The foxes were facetiously denominated " twopenny postmen." The thermometers at this time were about 15' below zero ; but the Sylvester stove apparatus, which answered remarkably well, always kept the lower deck at a temperature of between 55' and 60. The crews during the winter were also employed in making tools and portable apparatus for travelling in the spring, and some parties were employed in laying down gravel on the ice, to facilitate the cutting of the passage out for the ships from the harbour at the proper season. The gravel, which was taken from the shore on sledges, was laid so as to absorb the sun's cays, which, acting upon the ice, predisposed it to rot and melt away. This work very much assisted the arduous task of cutting a canal out of the harbour of fifty feet wide, and two miles and a half long. These and other exercises during winter, somewhat acclimated the men, and inured them to sustain the privations which they subsequently encountered in the searching expeditions. AH around Leopold Harbour nothing was seen but snow, rocks 1,100 feet high bounded on each side, and a narrow low ridge enclosed the harbour northward. There were very few icebergs seen from this point.
Sir James Ross began to send out detached parties at the early part of the month of April. From the Enterprise Sir James was the first to go himself, and with Mr Cheyne and a party of ten men, left the ship, and proceeding with a quantity of bread, preserved meat, fuel, and skins, went fifteen miles to the westward. He was accompanied by Lieutenant Barnard and a party from the Investigator, the provisions being carried on two sledges. They penetrated as far as Cape Hurd. Another party from both ships, under Lieutenant Robinson (Investigator), and Lieutenant Brown (Enterprise), and Mr Adams, assistant-surgeon (Investigator), were despatched on similar service, and proceeded about fifteen miles southward. They deposited their provisions about fifteen miles north of Elwin Bay. Both parties suffered severely from this expedition, being most of them blinded by the snow drifts. It was arranged that the principal expedition should leave the ships on the 15th May. The morning; did not give any indication of fine weather, for the wind blew high, and the snow was a foot and a half deep. About six o'clock however, in the evening, the weather moderated, and the parties started with three hearty cheers from the ships. It was composed of Sir James Ross, Lieutenant M'Clintock, and twelve seamen of the Enterprise ; the first Lieutenant, Mr. M. Clure, [having been left in charge of the ship. They were absent exactly forty days. They carried with them preserved meats, with supplies of pork, biscuit, and rum, and also their sleeping apparatus, which consisted of tarpaulins to spread out on the snow to prevent the heat of their bodies from thawing it, buffalo ropes to lay upon, the blanket bags in which they esconced themselves, and racoon-skin blankets to serve as counterpanes ; they also had two sledges, six men to each, and two tents. They travelled to the westward, from Cape Clarence around the shore of North Somerset. Here they found the coast as far as the Cape Bunny, about 100 miles upon which had been up to that time unexplored, trending to the southward. They pursued that course about 140 miles further, at the extreme point of which they erected a cairn and deposited cylinders therein, with the usual notices, dating them sth June, 1849. They had by this time shortened their provisions, and the men were so knocked up, that Sir James was reluctantly compelled to return. From the extreme point they reached they could see the coast southward for forty miles further. The ice in this direction was pressed up in some parts to the height of between fifty and sixty feet. They shot, in this expedition, eight ptarmigan and a few ducks. On the western coast they saw the remnants of an Esquimaux hut, and the relics of a deer's antlers, which were supposed to have been there for at least a century, and from the appearance of the ice in this direction, there was no possibility of any ships having penetrated in that direction, at all events that season. Every one was on the sick list, with the exception of Lieutenant M'Clintock. Many were also frost-bitten. A fatigue party from the Investigator, under Captain Bird, with Dr. Robertson, accompanied this expedition for five days and then returned, all of whom were pretty well knocked up. In the course of this journey the whole party were charged by an immense bear. Bruin walked boldly up to them, and was only checked in his advance by an attempt to fire at him. Of the entire number of guns levelled, however, the only firearm that went off was Lieutenant M'CHntock's. The ball took effect, but the gentleman did' not seem to care much about it ; he merely scratched his head with his paw, stopped within fifteen yards, and then turned his back upon them, and walked off, with a most contemptuous air. The track of blood which marked his retirement in the snow, showed that he was wounded; The fatigue party proceeded just as far as the eastern side of Cape Rennell, about forty miles from the ships, and returned, after supplying the other party with their stock of provisions. The second party consisted of Lieut. Robinson of the Investigator, and eight men. They proceeded down along the western side of Prince Regent's Inlet, until they arrived at Fary Point. Here they found the provisions of the Fury all in a good state of preservation ; and Sir John Ross's (Somerset House) standing in good order. A tent was erected inside, in which they lit some fires, and here Lieutenant Robinson was obliged to leave two of hi» party, who were too much fatigued to go any farther. With the remainder he pushed on to Crenwell Bay, about twenty-five miles distant, where he erected a cairn and deposited the usual contents. By order of the captain he destroyed all the gunpowder at Fury Beach.
On return^ to the wreck of the Fury, he picked up his ~*\valids and came back to the ship after an absence of three weeks, having just oce day's provisions remaining. This party saw some young seals and lots of bears, but had no time for port or pursuit.
The third party, under. Lieutenant Barnard, consisted of himself,. Dr. Anderson, and four men (Investigator). They proceeded to the north shore of Barlow's Straits, as far as Cape Hurd, A fatigue party under Mr. Creswell (mate of Investigator) accompanied Mr. Barnard as far as Leopold island, where they bivouacked for the night. They endeavoured to procure a supply of fowl for the sick, but did not succeed.
This party witnessed a very natural, and at the same time an easy mode of descent from a height of about seven hundred feet. A bear squatted himself down on his hams, slid from top to bottom, at railway speed, steadying himself with great judgment by his paws in' his rapid descent. Lieutenant Barnard fixed a beacon 'and notices at Cape Hurd, and then tried to push up a short distance to the westward, along the shore ; but as the weather was very strong, and having only a, week's provisions, they were compelled to return at the end of six days.
. A fourth party, consisting of four men under Lieutenant Brown (Enterprise), and a fatigue party, composed of Mr. Court (second master), and four seamen, accompanied them about ten miles, set off in an easterly direction, across the ice, from the eastern nameless shore of Prince Regent's Inlet. They were absent about seven days,, and exhausted all their provisions when they returned. They had -very bad weather, so thick that no observations could be taken, and were obliged to steer by compass (Captain Ca tor's). The sun was only visible twice— just before midnight, and just before morning. They went across to a place called Peak, a remarkably peaked hill in Parry's chart. Here they erected a cairn, as conspicuously as possible, and made the usual deposits. On the east, they found a remarkable difference as compared with the west coast. On lifting the stones on the former coast they .found small quantities of water. Half way across the Inlet, the ice was completely smooth ; but towards the eastern shore the ice got so exceedingly rough and " hummocky," that Mr. Brown was obliged to leave the sledges about seven miles off shore, and picked them up again on his return, after they erected the cairn, &c. In the passage back, they suffered from the snow drift, and the temperature was down to 12* below zero. They saw a flight of gulls, and several bear tracks, during their expedition. During one night, or day rather, a bear must have passed close to their restingj place, as his track was fresh on the snow xound the tent when the party awoke.
Sir James Ross returned to the ship on the 22d of June, in the middle of the night, with only one day's provisions left. They were most glad to see him safe again, ' and all hands cheered heartily from both ships as he neared them. Captain Bird was beginning to be anxious about his worthy chief, and a party was ordered to be got ready to proceed to meet him the day following, had he not returned. As it was, a detachment was sent out to his relief on his appearing in sight. The gallant officer returned the same way he went.
A little time was now devoted to rest, relaxation, and doctoring. As soon as the parties had sufficiently recovered, the cutting of the canal was commenced, the ships having in the meantime been caulked and refitted.
The process of cutting through the ice was a most arduous one. The line having been marked out by the officers, fifteen feet and eighteen feet ice- saws were set to work with triangles, and cut on an average 206 feet a day; four saws, and sometimes six saws being employed at once, the ice being from three feet to five feet thick.
The ships first moved a little down the canal about the 6th August, and then, watching and seizing every opportunity, they gradually got down to the entrance ; the ice in the Inlet having receded considerably from the harbour, created a little motion, which assisted in some degree in breaking up the ice at the entrance of the harbour. On the 28th, the ships got in open water, and stood out to the northward, with the intention of going to Melville Island till the Ist of September, when on the morning watch of that day, thick weather prevailing, and the wind blowing hard, the ice gradually filled in all round, and finally encircled both ships — first the Enterprise, then the Investigator, in spite of all her efforts to keep out. She at last took up a berth as near as she could to her consort, at about a mile. All communication was here cut off, except by signal, and from this time the ships drifted perfectly helpless, until the 25th September, when they cleared the pack of Pond's Bay, having, drifted' about 240 miles. The aspect was indeed cheerless, as they gradually approached the western shore of Baffin's Bay, a coast which has proved fatal to so many whalers. On the 24th they had a strong breeze ; and on the 25th open water was observed at a distance of about five or six miles, and as soon as the ice split up, sail was made upon both ships, and on the forenoon of the 25th, .after crashing though the ice for about thirty-six hours, they succeeded in getting quite clear. The ships now stood right across to the eastern shore of Baffin's Bay, for the purpose of clearing the middle ice, and first saw the land October 3, which was the coast of Greenland, called Sanderson's Hope, near Uppernavick. With baffling winds and thick weather, the ships now made the best of their way southward, passing an immense number of gigantic icebergs, varying from 100 to 300 feet high, and from a quarter to half-a-mile in length. The tremendous bergs often came between and threatened the ships with destruction, and were a source of perpetual harrass, often exciting much apprehension from their colour, or rather their colourless appearance. It was, indeed, a task of no ordinary skill and ability sometimes to steer clear of them. On the sth the two ships first communicated since they began to drift; and now joyfully exchanged cheers of congratulation at #eir narrow escape. On the 18th they rounded Cape Farewell, and from theuce had « good passage with strong westerly gales, till they made the Orkneys on the 29th nit., and Scarborough on the 3d of November. On Sunday the 4th, they got a pilot, fresh beef, and vegetables — a great treat to all on board — and picked ap the steamer off Lowestoffe on Thursday night, when from ■ that time to Saturday they were employed in dragging (they cannot tow) the Enterprise to Purfieet, and the Investigstor to Woolwich: the latter reaching Woolwich in the afternoon, and the former having been towed up on Sunday morning.