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sions, and the little probability of a passage—had he speculated on
indications, instead of exploring—the splendid discovery, second only to that of the Cape of Good Hope, had been reserved for another. But he persisted, and told the murmurers, with great composure, that' were it certain they should be reduced to the necessity of eating the hides that were on the ship’s yards, his determination was to proceed, and make good his promises to the Emperor.' Captain Ross talks of danger in Lancaster's Sound, and of the bad sailing of the Alexander. A voyage of discovery implies danger ; but a mere voyage, like his, round the shores of Baffin's Bay, in the three summer months, may be considered as a voyage of pleasure. There was very great danger when Cook persevered in penetrating through fields of ice, for eighteen or twenty degrees of latitude towards the southern pole, in ships not half so strong as the Isabella and Alexander. Vancouver, Flinders, and Broughton encountered innumerable dangers; but, great as they were, they did not prevent them from effectually performing the business they were sent upon. Reputation and risk are almost inseparable in the life of a naval Officer; at least the former is rarely acquired without a large portion of the latter.
After what Captain Ross has stated with regard to the discouraging observation made by Captain Sabine on the improbability of a passage through Sir James Lancaster's Sound, it is but justice to that gentleman to give his own opinion in his own words, written and printed before he could possibly have seen Captain Ross's book. In speaking of the seven sounds mentioved by Baffin, he observes — The last is Lancaster's Sound, which Baftin merely opened, but we sailed into it for about thirty miles. It is needless to enter into a detail here of the many encouraging coincidences which awaited us in this, the only one of Baffin's sounds into which we entered--the great depth of water, the sudden and considerable increase in its temperature, direction of the swell,* the width of the shores apart, being much more than that of Behring's straits, and the different character of the northern and southern shores, especially in the latter being wooded.'+ Captain Sabine adds in a note, - It is worthy of notice, and has not been, I believe, remarked before, that the only one of Baffin's Sounds which has been since examined, namely, the“ faire sound in latitude 70° 20'," where he anchored for two days on his way up the Greenland coast, proves to have been, in fact, the entrance
* It would appear from this and Lieutenant Parry's journal, that Captain Ross was mistaken in the direction of the swell, though that was one of his reasons for not proceeding † Journal of Literature, &c. for April.
of the Waigat straits. So easy is it for the most experienced
person to be mistaken, except upon a very close examination.* The
' southern shore being wooded in this high latitude is a new and very extraordinary feature, but it is in part confirmed by a landing on that shore, as we shall presently see. We have quoted the
, . above passage as being totally irreconcileable with Captain Ross's statement of Captain Sabine's former opinions.
Lieutenant Parry and his officers, who had been straining their eyes in vain from the crow's-nest to find out the cause of the Isabella putting about, knew nothing of the reason of this extraordinary movement till they were fairly out of the sound. It would not indeed have been consistent either to hail the Alexander or communicate with her by signal, while every thing was carried on so snugly in the Isabella, that even the officers were ignorant of what had happened. Their surprize, it may be imagined, was not diminished when they were informed of it on the following day. On this day a party was ordered on shore to take possession of the southern point of the entrance of Lancaster's Sound, and to make observations; on which occasion Captain Sabine thought the weather too foggy for the dipping needle.' We confess we cannot see what objection the fog could oppose to the making of observations on the dip of the needle, which would have been particularly desirable on this spot. Besides, the fog, it would
for we are told that the variation of the compass was found to be 1 10° west, by several sights for an azi.. muth taken on shore by Lieut. Hoppner. From this observation it is concluded that, at the extreme westerly point in Lancaster Sound, the variation was 114° W. Lieut. Parry, who commanded the shore party, thus describes this part of the coast:
. In this bay was a steep beach of sand and very small pebbles. There is always something pleasing in the idea of landing in a country where no European foot has ever trodden before, and we enjoyed our ramble here to day exceedingly. The land at the back of the bay is a valley of considerable size, the country gently rising as it recedes from the shore, and flanked on each side by high hills covered with snow, of which none was to be seen in the valley. The land was here by no means destitute of soil, and a number of very beautiful plants were sent to the Commodore, such as would make no despicable figure in an English garden. We walked along the side of the deep bed of a river about Lifty yards broad, and not less than twenty-four feet deep, having a good stream of water running down it to the sea, at half a mile from which it
• Captain Ross and all the gentlemen employed in the expedition seem to think that by the word ' Sound,' Baffin meant an inlet terminated by land. It never had such a meaning among geographers and navigators, being used by them, as the word implies, to denote a sea, strait, bay, &c. which could be sounded. The Sound, for inHance, leading to the Baltic, is a strait.
divided * Private Journal of Lieutenant Parry.
divided into two branches. We pursued the left branch for a mile, and could trace it a long way farther. There was something extremely picturesque in this place, and nothing but a few trees were wanting to make it very beautiful. An interesting circumstance occurred, however, which makes it highly probable that trees were not very far distant; for we picked up in the bed of the stream a piece of the bark of a birch tree, I believe of the silver birch, it having none of that brown colour which the bark has of that species of which the Indians at Quebec ard Halifax construct their canoes. It was very white on both sides, and appeared to have peeled and dropped off in the course of nature. I saw no appearance of iron, but abundance of limestone. The tracks of bears of enormous dimensions were very frequent; and the recent one of some cloven-footed animal, seven inches and a half long by five inches and a half broad. I saw no traces of human habitations, but we have met with no spot within the Arctic regions which I should prefer to this. Indeed, it was impossible to fancy oneself within the polar circle, while walking upon tolerable good soil, entirely free from snow, and not a piece of ice to be seen to the utmost limits of a clear horizon in every
direction.'* This birch bark found by Mr. Parry, and part of the stem of a fir tree tive inches in diameter, would seem to prove that the branches of the river proceed from a part of the country on which trees are growing.
We find nothing whatever of interest in the voyage after their departure from this spot. It is quite obvious they were homeward bound as expeditiously as they could well proceed, sometimes in sight of the land and at other times not, but always at such a distance as to obtain very little information respecting the numerous islands and inlets on this side of the bay. From Lancaster Sound, says Captain Sabine,“ to the entrance of Cumberland Strait, the coast was imperfectly known before, and was very imperfectly seen by us ;' and yet Captain Sabine is said to have asserted, when opposite Lancaster Sound, that there was no passage through this coast, which he now admits to be imperfectly known.' It so happened that they came opposite to the mouth of Cumberland Strait, but not near it, on the 1st October: and as the 1st October,' says Captain Ross,' was the latest period which, by my Instructions, I was allowed to continue on this service, I was not authorized to proceed up this strait to explore it, which, perhaps, at the advanced season of the year, might be too hazardous an attempt.' We say, on the contrary, that he was fully authorized;
. and have not the smallest doubt, judging from his Instructions, that such a proceeding would have met with the unqualified approbation of his employers; and saved them the mortification of
hearing from him that, 'from the circuinstance of a current being found at the entrance of this strait, there is no doubt a much better chance of a passage there than in any other place.' Having thus found the current of which he had so long been in search, the least he could do was to follow it up; and though it might be, and certainly was ' a subject of much regret that they had not been able to reach the strait's entrance sooner,' yet it was better late than not at all, and the time was wholly at command. But there appear to be different opinions as to the lateness of the season. At this very spot, Lieutenant Parry observes Nothing can be finer than the weather we have had for some days past; and I feel confident from all I have lately witnessed, that the attempts at discovery in the polar regions have always hitherto been relinquished, just at a time when there is the greatest chance of succeeding; for eight or nine hours of night are not a disadvantage by any means equal to the advantage of a sea clear of ice, which can only be expected towards this time of the year.' There can, we think, be no doubt that the three months of August, September, and October are the most favourable in this respect. The new ice rarely begins to form before the latter part of December and till then the old ice continues to waste away.
But the officers of the Alexander were of opinion that a southeasterly current had been experienced long before they approached the entrance of Cumberland Strait; and whatever Captain Ross may say or think to the contrary, there cannot remain the slightest doubt that the great body of the water in Baffin's Bay has a motion in that direction; else how could the great icebergs (to the amount of some thousands) which are principally formed in the northern part of the bay, be floated down till they are grounded in the narrows and shoals of Davis's Strait, whence, as soon as broken away till they again float, they are invariably swept along the coast of Labrador into the Atlantic where they are finally dissolved? As a further proof of what we are advancing, these icebergs have been observed over and over again by intelligent residents of Greenland, as well as by whale fishers, working their way to the southward directly in the teeth of both wind and tide, the action of these on a very small substance of the berg above water being unable to countervail that of the water on the vast body immersed in it. If the water of the polar sea circulates into the Atlantic, it is not by a superficial current, which the regular tides may overcome, but by the whole body of the water. A bottle thrown overboard from the Alexander off Cape Farewell on the 24th May, 1918, was picked up on the Island of Bartragh in the Bay of Killala, on the 17th March, 1819, having
floated across the Atlantic at the rate of about four miles a-day. An iceberg in the same situation would have coasted Labrador, crossed the tail of the gulph stream and the bank of Newfoundland, being carried southerly by the under current, whereas the bottle floated easterly by the superficial movement of the water.
There can be little doubt that the great quantity of field ice and the multitude of those icebergs which, from gales of wind or some other cause, were dislodged from their abodes in Baffin's Bay and the Greenland seas in the winter and spring of 1817, and carried into the Atlantic, were the main cause of the extreme chilliness and dampness of the weather on the coast of America, and over the eastern coasts of Europe in the summer of that year, and that the almost total absence of ice in 1818 produced that warmth and dryness felt through the winter, not only by us and all the northern parts of Europe, but also along the whole coast of America. In the depth of last winter, the Baltic remained unfrozen; so late as the end of February the bays of Newfoundland were free from ice; and even to the middle of April there had been neither ice nor snow on Iceland, a circumstance which had not happened before in the memory of man. The fact may probably be accounted for by the long continuance of southerly winds, which, as found by both the late expeditions, had hemmed up the ice to the northward; and so likely is this
, that the Greenland fishermen have a common observation that when the winter at home is mild, they are sure to meet with a close season in the Arctic seas. That the approach to the southward and the melting of such masses of ice should exert an influence on the temperature and movement of the atmosphere is no new idea; and the dissolution of an ice-mountain of the following dimensions, measured by Mr. Parry, must be allowed very materially to disturb the equilibrium of the atmosphere. It was more than two miles square and 367 feet high: its weight by measurement was 1,292,397,673 tons--and it was capable, if reduced to a plane of a foot in thickness, of covering a space equal to 1750 square miles.
Having thus fairly stated our objections to the conduct of the voyage, we shall just glance at the advantages which have resulted from it
. In the first place, we are now quite sure that there is such a bay, or rather inland sea, as that of Baffin, though neither so wide nor of the same form as it is usually represented
in charts. One chart, however, must be excepted, which is that of the navigator who quaintly calls himself, the North-west Foxe. The coincidence of the latitudes and longitudes, but more especially of the latter, with those observed by Captain Ross, is so very striking (being within a degree of longitude on both sides, or fif