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felt in the distant Strait of Gibraltar and on the more distant coast of Africa. It must also be recollected, that several of the largest rivers of Asia, and two or three of North America, discharge a very copious supply of water into the polar basin.
The same circumstance of whales struck with harpoons in the sea of Spitzbergen, or in the Strait of Davis, being found on the north-west coast of America, as far down as Nootka Sound, affords an additional argument for a free communication between the Atlantic and Pacific; unless it should be contended that such wounded whales took the long and circuitous route by Cape Horn. It was a fact of this kind which, at a very early period, led to the. conjecture of a passage from the sea of Japan to the northern Atlantic. Mr. M'Leod mentions the fact, which he got from Grozier, who had it from the Recueil des Voyages,' which took it from Hendrick Hamel's Unfortunate Voyage of the yacht Sparwer, in the year 1653:' this vessel was wrecked on the island of Quelpaert, and the crew carried to Corea, where they were kept prisoners for more than thirteen years. Hamel says, In the sea to the northeast of Korea, they take every year a great number of whales, in some of which are found harpoons and striking-irons of the French and Dutch, who practise the whale-fishery at the extremities of Europe; whence we infer (he adds) that there is surely a passage between Korea and Japan which communicates to the Strait of Waigatz.'
The cause of failure in every attempt, either to make the passage, or to ascertain its impracticability, appears of no difficult explanation. Owing to the great depth at which ice floats in water, it must take the ground at a considerable distance from the shore, where, as we have already observed, it becomes a nucleus for floating patches to form round it; and the summer sun having little power on such enormous masses, they accumulate in magnitude, and spread over a wider surface from year to year; and if large fragments were not frequently torn from them and borne away by the currents, the whole surface of the straits and narrow seas would in process of time be covered with ice. Owing to this circumstance, we find the bays and harbours of Newfoundland, of Nova Scotia, and Cape Breton, the Strait of Belleisle, and the shores of the islands in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, every year choked up with ice, though all of them are more to the southward, and some of them many degrees to the southward of London. The more northerly straits and islands, which form the passages into Hudson's Bay, are of course never free from mountains and patches of ice; and yet all the navigators, proceeding on discovery, have either entered these straits, and had to struggle against the ice and currents, and tides on the east coast of America, or have kept so close to the
land on the west coast of Greenland, as to encounter the same obstacles; so that, on the former, the highest point ever reached is the arctic circle, or at most the 67th parallel, which is three or four degrees short of the point A., near which, as we have before stated, the north-eastern extremity of America may be expected to be found.
The mid-channel of Davis's Strait, on the contrary, is known at particular seasons to be free of ice in much higher latitudes. Mr. Graham Muirhead, master of the Larkins above mentioned, after passing the ice and reaching the latitude 75° SO' N., the coast of Greenland then in sight to the eastward, stood from hence to the westward, in that parallel, three hundred miles, the sea entirely free, with the exception of here and there a detached ice-berg floating to the southward. At this point he observed a yellow sky, or what is usually termed the land-blink, to the south-west. The position of the ice, however, is constantly changing. The same year the James, of Whitby, meeting with a compact body of ice in latitude 75°, turned back and came home; but the Larkins, as we before stated, persevered and got through, when she proceeded as high as 77°, found plenty of whales, and the sea clear of ice.
Spitzbergen is usually surrounded with ice; but the sea to the northward is generally so open, that it is a prevailing idea among the whale fishers, that there would be no difficulty of approaching the pole from that quarter. The late Mr. Daines Barrington collected much curious information on this point, and was so well satisfied of the practicability of approaching the pole, that he prevailed on the president and council of the Royal Society to recommend to Lord Sandwich a voyage of discovery towards the north pole; the suggestion was adopted, and the command of the expedition given to Captain Phipps, (afterwards Lord Mulgrave,) who obviously failed by getting entangled in the ice near Spitzbergen. It is this accumulation of ice round the land, rather than the degree of latitude, that causes the extreme cold and tempestuous weather about Spitzbergen and Nova Zembla: it is not the neernesse of the north pole,' says De Veer, in his preface to Barentz's Three Voyages, but the ice that cometh in and out from the Tartarian sea that causeth us to feel the greatest cold.' Instead therefore of coming near the land, or endeavouring to pass through narrow straits, it will be prudent to avoid the land, and to keep as much as possible in the open sea, and in or near to the edge of the current, where the sea may be expected to be free. This last year the Neptune, of Aberdeen, before mentioned, reached the latitude of 63° 20′, in the sea of Spitzbergen, which is within four hundred miles of the pole, the sea open and clear of ice: Dr. Gregory found the master a clear-headed, cautious seaman, and supplied
with the ordinary instruments for nautical purposes. We have heard of several other whalers who reached beyond 81° north.
The surface of the sea, in fact, is not easily frozen in any latitude; the thermometer of Fahrenheit must be down to 27° before a pellicle of ice can be formed; and it will not form even at zero, unless, the weather be calm and the surface unruffled; and then only what, the whalers call pancake ice. We have frequently the mercury in Fahrenheit's thermometer below zero, yet who ever saw the English channel frozen over, or any part of the Atlantic on this side? It is the narrow seas only, and those without tides or currents, that freeze over. The ice-bergs, or mountains of ice, are generated on the land, either in valleys, or against steep shores; they are avalanches: and it is a remarkable fact, that all the ice, brought by the south-west current round Spitzbergen, is field-ice; whilst that which comes down Davis's Strait is mountain-ice. It is on this ground that we have marked on the diagram the undefined land, which has been named New Siberia, as the probable source of ice-bergs; and if this be so, the sea, through which these massy mountains float, must be open; and where they can float, a ship will find no difficulty in sailing. If whole fleets bound to and from Archangel annually double the North Cape in the 72d or 73d parallel, without interruption from ice, why should the polar basin be obstructed in the same or in lower latitudes ? Captain Cook was well aware that the ice in Behring's Strait was not permanently fixed, and would probably have succeeded the following year in passing into the basin had his life been spared. It is well known that the Strait of Belleisle is one day so closed up that waggons may pass it, and the next so open, that no ice is to be seen the same may be the case with Behring's Strait. Lieutenant Kotzebue, it seems, has found no difficulty in passing this strait, nor in entering a deep bay beyond it; to what extent his discoveries may subsequently have proceeded, we have yet to learn. Not a word is mentioned in his report of obstruction from ice, which would appear, indeed, to have also broken up in this eastern quarter, from the multitude of white bears which infested the peninsula of Kamtschatka, at the time when they usually seek their food on the ice, the resort of seals and sea-horses in the spring. The Russians have for some time been strongly impressed with the idea of an open passage round America; and the Kamtschatka frigate, commanded by Captain Golovnin, who was a prisoner in Japan, has proceeded on the same discovery, at the public expense, which Kotzebue is employed on by the private liberality of Count Romanzoff. It would be somewhat mortifying, if a naval power but of yesterday should complete a discovery in the pineteenth century, which was so happily commenced by English
men in the sixteenth; and another Vespucius run away with the honours due to a Columbus. There is, however, little to fear on this score. Two expeditions, of two small ships each, are fitting out for northern discoveries and scientific researches; the one, we understand, is to proceed northerly into the polar basin, and to endeavour, by passing close to the pole, to make a direct course to Behring's Strait; the other is to push through Davis's Strait for the north-east coast of America; and, if successful in discovering and doubling the unknown point A., to proceed to the westward, with the view of passing Beliring's Strait.
From one or both of these expeditions lively hopes are entertained, that this curious and important problem in geography, which engaged the attention of our early navigators, will be solved; and, if a practicable passage does exist, that it will not much longer remain undiscovered. The character of the several officers who have been appointed, and the men of science who, we understand, are to embark on this grand enterprize, and the means in preparation, afford the strongest presumption, that whatever talent, intrepidity, and perseverance can accomplish will be effected.
Four merchant-vessels have been hired, and rendered as strong as wood and iron can make them. Their names are the Isabella and the Alexander, the Dorothea and the Trent; the first two being intended to proceed up Davis's Strait, under the command of Captain Ross; the other two by the route of the north pole, under Captain Buchan, and all four to make the best of their way to Behring's Strait. The Alexander and the Trent are two brigs, the former commanded by Lieutenant Parry, the latter by Lieutenant Franklyn, with a junior lieutenant to each of the four vessels, and two midshipmen, who have served their time and passed their examinations, one assistant-surgeon, and a purser. To each vessel have also been appointed a master and a mate, well-experienced in the navigation of the Greenland seas and Davis's Strait, who are to act as pilots among the ice. All the men to be employed on this bold and hazardous enterprize are to be volunteers, and both they and the officers are to receive double pay. Every preparation has been made of fresh provisions, wine, spirits, medicine, and warm clothing, in the event of their being obliged to winter in the ice, or on the coast of America.
Captain Ross was long and actively employed in the Baltic, and, having twice wintered there, is well trained to the cold and the ice; he has also been as far to the northward as Cherry, or Bear island in the Greenland seas. Lieutenant Parry, who accompanies him, served for several years on the coast of America, is an excellent navigator, theoretical as well as practical, and has published a valuable treatise, for the use of the young officers in the fleet,
on nautical astronomy. Captain Buchan is an active and enterprizing officer, who for many years has been accustomed to the navigation of the icy seas in the neighbourhood of Newfoundland, and received his promotion to the rank of commander for his zeal and good conduct on that station. He also made a land journey, over ice and snow, into the very heart of Newfoundland, in order to obtain an interview with the natives, being the first European who ever ventured among them. Lieutenant Franklyn, who accompanies him as second in this expedition, was brought up under the late Captain Flinders, and is well acquainted with nautical surveying and the use of instruments. The junior lieutenants in each of the brigs are the sons of two eminent artists, and both good draughtsmen, the one the son of the late Mr. Hoppner, who conducted Lord Amherst and his party in the open boats to Batavia, after the wreck of the Alceste; the other of the present Sir William Beechy.
It probably may not strike the reader at first, that the distance from Shetland islands to Behring's Strait, by pursuing the route of Davis's Strait, and supposing a passage along the northern coast of America, on the parallel of 72°, is just half as long again as that from the same point on a meridian passing through the pole; such, however, is the case; the former being 1,572 leagues, and the latter only 1,048 leagues.* The distance by the polar route, from the mouth of the Thames to Canton, is much less than half of that by the usual track round the Cape of Good Hope, being only 2,598 leagues, while the other is 5,500 leagues.
If an open navigation should be discovered across the polar basin, the passage over the pole, or close to it, will be one of the most interesting events to science that ever occurred. It will be the first time that the problem was practically solved with which the learners of geography are sometimes puzzled—that of going the shortest way between two places, lying east and west of each other, by taking a direction of north and south. The passage of the pole will require the undivided attention of the navigator. On approaching this point, from which the northern coasts of Europe, Asia, and America, and every part of them, will bear south of him, nothing can possibly assist him in determining his course, and keeping on the right meridian of his destined place, but a correct knowledge of the time, and yet no means of ascertaining that time will be afforded him. The only time he can have with any degree of certainty, as long as he remains on or near the pole, must be that of Greenwich, and this he can know only from good chrono
* The northern extremity of Shetland islands
1° 0' W.
169° 0' W.