Page images
PDF
EPUB

Captam Ross also notices, as a thing worthy of remark, that the icebergs here were only three-fourths under water, while those to the south were tive-sixths; this remark, we presume to say, is unworthy of notice, and cantend only to convey erroneous notions on the floating of icebergs. The merest dabbler in natural philosophy might be expected to know that every iceberg, there and elsewhere, will differ altogether in the proportion of the parts above and below the surface, according to the different shapes of each individual mass. Lieutenant Parry, who had more correct notions on the subject, formed pieces of ice into cubes, which, when floated in salt water, invariably remained at one part above, and six parts below the surface. This proportion agrees precisely with that assigned by Baffin in his two voyages, though he sadly miscalculates the height of one of his icebergs, by assuming its form as a cube, and concluding it to have been 1680) feet from the top to the bottom, though it was not, probably, one third of that height.

The land was now observed to take a southerly direction, and the ships proceeded along it as near as they could conveniently approach for the floating masses of ice. On the 28th August, the sea became more clear of ice, and no bottom was found with 300 fathoms of line; in the afternoon of that day they succeeded in getting completely clear of ice, and once more found themselves in the open sea. The sea towards the northern parts of Baffin's bay being clear of ice would appear not to be an accidental circumstance. Baffin found it so; and Davis, in his third voyage, having reached lat. 75o on the Greenland shore, standing over to the westward, says, 'neither was there any yse towards the north, but a great sea, free, large, very salt and blue, and of an unsearchable depth.' A remarkable circumstance was observed with regard to the land. The mountains between the lat. 74° and 75°, estimated at the height of 4000 feet, were only partially covered with snow;' and even at the very tops of them, which were visible above the clouds, black rocks were plainly seen. Their sides, as appeared from the sea, were almost clear of snow, and the country appeared as habitable as that part of the opposite coast, which we found to be actually inhabited.'

The next day (29th) they sounded in 240 fathoms, and found the temperature of the water to have increased from soo to 36°, which I concluded,' says Captain Ross,' to be the natural consequences of the absence of ice, together with our advance to the south.' A wide opening was now observed in the land, which they entered the soth. « On each side was a chain of high mountains; and in the space between west and south-west, there appeared a yellow sky, but no land was seen, nor was

there

66

there any ice on the water, except a few icebergs; the opening, therefore, took the appearance of a channel, the entrance of which was judged to be forty-five miles; the land on the north side lying in an E. N. E. and W. S. W. direction, and the south side nearly east and west.' All sail was made to get to the westward; and as the evening closed, the wind died away, the weather became mild and warm, the water much smoother, and the atmosphere clear and serene. The temperature of the water at four o'clock had increased to 361°. Under these favourable circumstances, which could not fail to raise the hopes of every person employed in the enterprize, we were exceedingly ill prepared for the paragraph which immediately follows.

• During this day much interest was excited on board by the appearance of this Strait; the general opinion, however, was that it was only an inlet. Captain Sabine, who produced Baffin's account, was of opinion that we were off Lancaster Sound, and that there were no hopes of a passage until we should arrive at Cumberland Strait; to use his own words, there was “no indication of a passage,” no appearance of a current," no driftwood,” and “ no swell from the north-west.” On the contrary the land was partially seen extending across, the yellow sky was perceptible; and, as we advanced, the temperature of the water began to decrease. The mast-head and crow’s-nest was (were] crowded with those who were most anxious, but nothing was finally decided at the setting of the sun.'—p. 171.

The' general opinion that it was only an inlet’! On what circumstance could such a premature opinion have been founded? Baffin pretends not to know any thing about it; he distinctly says, that he did not enter it; and no human being that we know of, but himself and his little crew, had ever seen it before or since. Very far, however, we are bold enough to say, was it from being the ‘general opinion,' in either ship, that it was only an inlet. In a brief, but sensible and comprehensive view of this voyage, published in one of the monthly journals, we find the following passage, which we quote with the more confidence as Captain Sabine has pronounced it' a well written, and, which is more important, a faithful account of the proceedings of the expedition.'

* From the northern to the southern headlands (of the inlet) it appeared to be at least fifty miles in width. As we knew that Baffin had not entered this sound, but stood away from it to the south-eastward, its appearance inspired hope and joy into every countenance, and every officer and man, on the instant, as it were, made up his mind that thię. must be the North-West Passage : the width of the opening, the extraordinary depth of water, the increased temperature, and the surrounding sea and the strait so perfectly free from ice, that not a particle was seen floating, were circumstances so encouraging, and so different from any

thing we had yet seen, that every heart panted to explore this passage, which was to conduct us all to glory and to fortune, -to find so grand an opening under such circumstances as I have mentioned, and in the very spot too of all others most likely to lead us at once to the northern coast of America, was so unexpected, and at the same time so exhilarating, that I firmly believe every creature on board anticipated the pleasure of writing an overland dispatch to his friends, either from the eastern or the western shores of the Pacific.'

So much for the general opinion' of its being only an inlet !

But Captain Sabine, it seems, volunteered his individual opinion that there were no hopes of a passage until they should arrive at Cumberland Strait.' And when was this opinion given?—When they were off Lancaster Sound! So idle and unguarded an expression (for it can hardly be called an opinion) was not worth listening to, much less recording; and we are somewhat surprized that on a question of this kind it should be quoted as a sort of sanction for nautical proceedings. But what could Captain Sabine possibly know either of Lancaster Sound or of the land to the southward of it? From this Sound to Mount Raleigh, is just eight degrees of latitude, or 560 English miles, over which no European was ever known to have cast an eye! Let us however hear the reasons said to have been assigned by Captain Sabine against a passage through Lancaster Sound; they are singular enough, when considered as proceeding from a gentleman recommended by the Royal Society for his skill in general science and philosophy. It seems he repeatedly assured Captain Ross that there was

no indication of a passage,' because there was no appearance of a current, no drift-wood, no swell from the northwest;' on these points we should have thought a Captain of the Navy was as competent a judge as a Captain of Artillery; but that either of them should consider these contingencies as the necessary and invariable accompaniments of a strait or passage, appears to us very extraordinary. It is true, had all these accidental circumstances stared them in the face, on opening the inlet, the communication with another ocean would scarcely have remained problematical; but that the absence of any or all of them should have been considered as decisive against its existence, is a species of reasoning that we should not have expected from either Captain Ross or Captain Sabine. We know that a current always flows into the Mediterranean, and another generally out of the Baltic, and that hundreds of straits exist without any current running through them at all. What general inference then could be safely drawn from the existence of a current either way? But it would have been satisfactory at least to know the means that were taken to try the current, for we find none, and have reason to believe that none were tried: it is not anknown to navigators how exceedingly difficult it is to detect currents that move below the surface, especially at such depths as were found in Lancaster Sound. As to drift-wood,' Captain Sabine surely did not expect to find a floating forest in the lat. of 7410 Besides, how could he know what might have occurred farther on, or by the shores of this broad strait? The hasty manner in which it was abandoned was not very favourable for research or observations of any kind. With regard to the north-west swell, we perceive a very considerable difference of opinion, and find it asserted that such a swell did actually meet the ships.

reason

These, however, as we said before, are mere contingencies with which, in our opinion, Captain Ross had nothing to do; his business was to ascertain facts, and not to be guided by Captain Sabine's speculations. Currents,' and swells,' and drift-wood,' were accidents which, had they occurred, a wise man would know how to turn to his advantage; but the absence of which would not justify him in coming away satisfied that there was no passage: such a step would betray a weakness, or a want of * ardour,' ill suited for successful discovery. It was not in this manner that Vancouver proceeded, when in search of a passage from the north-west coast of America: this excellent officer examined every inlet, nor came out of it till a boat could no longer swim. Instead of seeking excuses, it would have been better for Captain Ross to have honestly confessed, in the words of old Davis, that, 'having found a broad passage directly west into the land, we entered into the same thirty or forty leagues, (miles in the present case)' finding it neither to wyden nor straighten, then considering that the yeere was spent, for this was in the fyne of August, and not knowing the length of this straight and danger thereof, we tooke it our best course to retourne with notice of our good successe for this small time of search ;' this at least would have been intelligible.

Captain Ross, however, seems to have been aware that something more than Captain Sabine's 'indications' would be necessary for his justification,-and he continued standing up the inlet all night. At 8 o'clock he sounded, and found the enormous depth of 674 fathoms. Mr. Beverley, (assistant surgeon,) who is stated to have been the most sanguine,' went up to the crow's nest, and reported that he had seen the land across the bay, except for a very short space. Although all hopes, we are now told, were given up,

even by the most sanguine,' that is by Mr. Beverley, they stood on till dinner time. Captain Ross shall tell what then happened.

At

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

At half past two, (when I went off deck to dinner) there were some hopes of its clearing, and I left orders to be called on the

appearance of land or ice a-head. At three, the officer of the watch, who was relieved to his dinner by Mr. Lewis, reported, on his coming into the cabin, that there was some appearance of its clearing at the bottom of the bay: I immediately, therefore, went on deck, and soon after it completely cleared for about ten minutes, and I distinctly saw the land, round the bottom of the bay, forming a connected chain of mountains with those which extended along the north and south sides. This land appeared to be at the distance of eight leagues; and Mr. Lewis, the master, and James Haig, leading man, being sent for, they took its bearings, which were inserted in the log; the water on the surface was at the temperature of 34o. At this moment I also saw a continuity of ice, at the distance of seven miles, extending from one side of the bay to the other, between the nearest cape to the north, which I named after Sir George Warrender, and that to the south, which was named after Viscount Castlereagh. The mountains, which occupied the centre, in a north and south direction, were named Croker's Mountains, after the Secretary to the Admiralty. The south-west corner, which formed a spacious bay, completely occupied by ice, was named Barrow's Bay, and is bounded on the south by Cape Castlereagh, and on the north by Cape Rosamond, which is a head-land, that projects eastward from the high land in the centre. The north corner, which was the last I had made out, was a deep inlet; and as it answered exactly to the latitude given by Baffin of Lancaster Sound, I have no doubt that it was the same, and consider it a most remarkable instance of the accuracy of that able navigator.* Ata quarter past three, the weather again became thick and unsettled; and being now perfectly satisfied that there was no passage in this direction, nor any harbour into which I could enter, for the purpose of making magnetical observations, I tacked to join the Alexander, which was at the distance of eight miles.'— p. 174.

We are seriously grieved to meet with such inconsistencies, and impossibilities, as are contained in the passage here quoted,—and to observe the means employed to give them a claim to authenticity ;-we allude to what are termed an accurate view of Baffin's Bay,' and a special chart of the land. — The first observation that strikes us is, that there was not an officer on deck but Mr. Lewis, the whale-fisher, when the Isabella was put about,--not an officer, not a man, saw any thing of the land or ice that blocked up this vast strait, but Mr. Lewis, the master, and James Haig, leading man. All the other officers were at dinner; a word would have brought them up in half a second: that word, however, was not spoken ; the whole operations of taking the special chart of the land,' the accurate view of the bay, and heaving the

[ocr errors]

* If Captain Ross has read Baffin's voyage at all, it must be very loosely, or he would have known that Baffin never entered the inlet, and of course saw none of his • north corners.' VOL. XXI. NO. XLI.

Q

ship

« PreviousContinue »