Parry's Voyages for the Discovery of the North-West Passage
The ships made very little way this night, but in the morning they advanced with more speed, and more land was seen to the westward. The space to the westward was now so broad, that captain Parry thought best to appoint a place where the Griper should find the Hecla in case of a separation. But about 7 P. M., this precaution was found to have been needless, for the ice stretched across the strait, and barred the passage. Captain Parry now resolved to seek a passage along the northern shore. As the vessels were rounding the eastern side of the island captain Sabine was despatched to make observations, and examine the natural productions of the shore. He reported that he had found the island much more interesting than any other parts of the shores of the polar regions they had yet visited. The remains of Esquimaux habitations were found in four different places. Some of them are described by captain Sabine, as consisting of stones rudely placed in an elliptical form. They were from seven to ten feet in diameter, the flat sides of the stones standing vertically, and the whole structure being similar to that of the summer huts of the Esquimaux, which had been seen the preceding year. Attached to each were smaller circles of about four or five feet in diameter, and from the moss and sand which covered some of the lower stones, the whole encampment appeared to have been deserted for several years. The fogs now froze hard upon the rigging, which made it difficult to work the ship, as each rope was increased to twice or three times its proper diameter.
On the evening of the 29th, a very thick fog came on, and they sailed under such circumstances as have seldom occurred in navigation. Observing that the wind always blew some hours steadily from one quarter, the quarter-masters steered by the vane at the mast head, instead of the compass, which was here utterly useless. At night the ships made fast to a floe, about six or seven feet thick, which was covered with numerous pools of water, all hard frozen. The officers amused themselves in skating upon the pools, and the men in sliding, foot-ball, and other games. Thus the ships remained until the 21st, when a new expedient for sailing was adopted.
Before the fog commenced, and while they were sailing on a course, which they knew to be the right one, the Griper was exactly astern of the Hecla, at the distance of about a quarter of a mile. The quarter master stood aft, near the taffrail, and kept her constantly astern, by which means they were enabled to steer a tolerably straight course to the westward. The Griper, on the other hand, kept the Hecla right ahead, and thus they steered one ship by the other, for the distance of ten miles out of sixteen and a half, which they traversed between one and eleven P. M. The morning of the first of September brought a breeze, and with it a snow storm, so that they were unable to shape their course that afternoon. At one on the 2d, a star was seen, the first that had been visible for more than two months. The fog came on again, and there was not wind enough to enable them to keep the ships under command. On the morning of the 3d, a northern breeze enabled them to make considerable progress, and on the 4th, at nine P. M., they crossed the meridian of 110 deg. west from Greenwich, latitude 74 deg. 44 min. 20 sec., by which the ship's company became entitled to a reward of 5000 pounds, offered by the king's order in council to such British subjects as might penetrate so far west within the Arctic circle.' On the 5th, they found the passage blocked up again, and as no change seemed likely to take place, they came to anchor in a tolerable roadstead, a mile and a half from the northern shore. In the evening, Captain Sabine and some of the other officers landed on an island, to which they gave the name of Melville Island. Here they saw several flocks of ducks and gulls; tracks of the deer and musk ox were also observed, and some addition made by the gentlemen to their collection of marine insects. The bay of the Hecla and Griper, as they called the roadstead where the ships lay, was the first place in which they had dropped anchor since leaving England. The flags were hoisted in honor of the epoch; the first time that the eye of civilized man had looked on that barren and inhospitable region. In the afternoon the ice . was observed to be in motion; and the ship got under way and sailed a short distance. But finding no opening, the ships were secured to a floe, which it was necessary to do every night, the weather being too dark to allow them to keep under way. Captain Parry, fearing that the floes might change their position, determined to remove nearer the shore. Two large masses lay aground, and the vessels were secured between them and the shore. Parties went out and returned with a white hare, some fine ptarmigans, a few snow-buntings, skulls of the musk ox, and several reindeer's horns; but they were unable to meet with either of the two latter animals. Several lumps of coal were also picked up, and were found to burn with a clear lively flame, like canalcoal, but without splitting and crackling in the same manner. At five A. M., on the 10th, a floe ran against the berg, within which the Hecla was secured and turned it round as on a pivot.
They were now so surrounded with ice, that all they could do was to attend carefully to the safety of the ships. On the 11th, one of the officers killed the first musk ox they had yet been able to approach.