Arctic Discovery. Sir William Edward Parry. Sir John Ross. Sir John Franklin.
The greatest and most important enterprise, after the peace of 1815, was the renewal of Arctic exploration under the auspices of Sir John Barrow. To the great work of Scoresby, and to the careful observations of himself and his fathers, were are indebted for the most exhaustive account of the Spitzbergen seas, and of the ice which encumbers them. When the Government expeditions were undertaken, the volumes of Scoresby formed a storehouse of useful and well-digested information.
The true object of modern Arctic enterprise has been the advancement of science, a noble and sufficient reason for incurring expenditures and facing dangers and hardships. In consequence of Sir John Barrows representations, orders were given in 1818 for the preparation of four vessels for Arctic service, -- two to attempt the passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and to attempt an approach to the North Pole. But, as Sir John Barrow himself explained, the main objects were not the accomplishment of voyages by these routes, but the acquisition of useful knowledge.
Sir John Ross, who commanded one of the two expeditions, circumnavigated Baffins Bay on the track of that great navigator, and re-established his fame. Captain Buchan, who led the other, battled with the impenetrable pack to the north of Spitzbergen, like Phipps before him, and then returned.
There can be no great success without continuity of effort and perseverance, and the early voyages of this century achieved lasting results, because those who sent them out were endowed with tenacity of purpose. No sooner had Ross returned than Parry was appointed to command two strongly built vessels, the "Hecla" and "Gripper," and to proceed on the same service. On the 11th of May 1819 Parry sailed, and on the 1st of August he entered the portals of Lancaster Sound, and commenced the discovery of a new region. He succeeded in sailing for 300 miles along the southern shores of the islands which now bear his name, among ice floes of moderate thickness, until he reached the edge of the impenetrable polar pack at the western extreme of Melville Island. He went as far as it will ever be possible for any vessel to go in this direction, and then wintered in a harbour of Melville Island. In 1820 he returned with a rich harvest of scientific observations, and of valuable information in all branches of inquiry. This first expedition was most successful.
Parrys second voyage was into Hudsons Bay in search of a passage westward in that direction. He discovered a strait (that of "Fury and Hecla"), and passed two winters 1821-23 on the coast of Melville Peninsula.
The third voyage (1824-25) was again up Baffins Bay; but it was unsuccessful, and of his vessels, the "Fury," was lost. Still every voyage, whether successful or not in its main object, brought back valuable results.
Meanwhile the "Griper," commanded by Captain Clavering, had, in 1823, penetrated through the ice to the east coast of Greenland in 76º N., to enable Captain Sabine to take pendulum observations in that position.
The Russian Captain Lutke had also surveyed the west coast of Novaya Zemlya from 1821 to 1824.
Parry, after his return from the third voyage, proposed an attempt to reach the Pole by traveling over the ice during the summer, on the Spitzbergen meridians. He sailed on this service in the "Hecla" on the 3rd of April 1827, and, after placing her in a secure harbour in Spitzbergen, he began his bold and interesting attempt with two boats, fitted with runners for being dragged over the ice. But the whole mass of ice was drifting south faster than Parrys men, with all their efforts, could advance north. However, on July 23, 1827, he attained the latitude of 82º 45´ N., which continued to be the highest parallel ever reached by man until Captain Markham went beyond it in 1875. Parry returned to England in October.
Another expedition of a private character left England in June 1829 under the command of Sir John Ross, who was accompanied by his distinguished nephew James C. Ross. In August they reached Lancaster Inlet, wintering on the most northern peninsula of America, to which Ross gave the name of Boothia. Here they passed three winters, while, during the intervening summers, some exploring work was accompanied, and James Ross planted the Union Jack on the North Magnetic Pole on the 1st of June 1831. At last they were forced to abandon their little vessel the "Victory," and make their way to the whalers in Baffins Bay in open boats. They were picked up and arrived in England after an absence of four years.
While these bold and perilous voyages were being conducted in the Arctic seas, a series of land journeys completed the delineation of the northern coast of America, which had just been touched at two points in the last century, by Hearne and Mackenzie.
From 1819 to 1823 the gallant Sir John Franklin, with Dr Richardson and George Back, were struggling to explore the Arctic coast eastward from the mouth of the Coppermine River. After great sufferings they embarked on the river on June 30, 1820, reaching the mouth on July 18, and exploring 550 miles of coast line to the eastward, as far as Point Turnagain. On the return journey across the barren lands, the party escaped death from starvation almost by a miracle.
Undaunted by this terrible experience, Franklin, Richardson, and Back started on another expedition in 1825, this time by descending the Mackenzie Rover. Reaching its mount on July 7, Franklin and Back discovered 374 miles of coast to the westward, as far as Return Reef; while Richardson explored the space between the mouths of the Mackenzie and Coppermine.
In 1833 Back undertook a third journey with the object succouring the Rosses, who had long been missing. His discovered and explored the Back or Great Fish River for 530 miles, and in July 1834 reached its mouth in the arctic Ocean. The gaps on the north coasts, which were left by Franklin and Back, were subsequently filled in by servants of the Hudsons Bay Company.
In 1837 Messrs Simpson and Dease, in a boat, connected Return Reef with cape Barrow.
In 1839 the same explorers went from Cape Turnagain to the mouth of Backs River, and still further eastward to Castor and Pollux River. On August 26, 1839, Simpson built a cairn at Cape Herschel, on King William Island, separated by a strait ten miles wide from the mainland.
Dr Rae was sent in 1846 to winter in Repulse Bay, and in 1847 he traveled round the Gulf of Akkoolee and connected the work of Ross in Boothia with that of Parry during his second voyage. In 1854 he united the work of Ross with that of Simpson, and ascertained that Boothia was connected with the mainland of America by an isthmus. Thus the whole northern coast of America was explored and delineated without a break.
The Russians were engaged on daring Arctic exploration at the same time. In 1809 to 1812 a Russian officer named Hedenstrom surveyed the New Siberia Islands; and in 1821 Lieutenant Anjou made further investigations respecting the state of the ice to the northward.
Baron Wrangell prosecuted similar researches from his headquarters at Nijni Kolymsk, near the mouth of the Kolyma. He made four sledge journeys over the Polar Sea from 1820 to 1823, exploring the coast from the Kolyma to cape Chelagskoi, and making several attempts to advance northwards, but always encountering weak ice. Wrangells interesting narrative is an important addition to Arctic literature.
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