Parry's Voyages for the Discovery of the North-West Passage


On the 16th of January, 1819, Lieutenant Parry was appointed to the command of his Majesty's ship Hecla, a bomb of three hundred and seventy-five tons and the Griper, gun brig, one hundred and eighty tons, commissioned by Lieutenant Matthew Liddon was at the same time directed to put herself under his orders. The object of the expedition was to discover a north west passage into the Pacific. Every individual engaged in the expedition was to receive double pay. They took in provisions for two years, and also a supply of fresh meats and soups preserved in tin cases, essence of malt and hops, and other stores adapted to cold climates and a long voyage. The ships were ballasted entirely with coals, and the men were supplied with an abundance of warm clothing.

Captain Parry was to pass, if possible, through Lancaster's Sound to Behring's Strait. If he succeeded, he was to proceed to Kamtschatka and return to England round Cape Horn. Other instructions were given, but much was left to his own discretion. He sailed in the beginning of May, and proceeded up the straits of Davis, where he found the ice close packed. As he was making his way towards the western shore, on the 25th of June, the ice closed round the ships and arrested their progress. Here the ice was so close, that the whales could not descend in the usual way, but were obliged to go down tail first, much to the amusement of the Greenland sailors. Their situation during the 28th was unpleasant, and would have been dangerous to ships built in the ordinary way. Each roll of the sea forced the heavy masses of ice against the rudder and counter with great violence; but being so well strengthened, they escaped without damage. While in this state, a large white bear approached the Griper, attracted by the smell of some red herrings, which the men were frying at the time. They killed him, but he sunk between the pieces of ice, and they were unable to obtain him. On the 30th, the ice began to slacken a little about the ships, and after two hour's heaving, they succeeded in moving the Hecla about her own length to the eastward; and the ice continuing open after eight hours' incessant labor, they hauled both ships into open water.

Captain Parry having failed in his first attempt to approach the western shore, came to the determination of trying to effect this object, about the latitude of mount Raleigh, which forms one side of the narrowest part of Davis' Strait. They kept on during the 1st and 2d of July, without finding any opening. On the third day, the wind having shifted to the south-west, another large chain of icebergs was seen to the northward. They could find no bottom near these icebergs with one hundred and ten fathoms of line. At four A. M. on the 4th, they came to a quantity of loose ice floating among the bergs. The breeze blew lightly from the southward, and wishing to avoid going to the eastward, they pushed the Hecla into the ice, in hopes of being able to make way through it. But it immediately fell calm and the ship becoming perfectly unmanageable, was for some time at the mercy of swells, which drifted her fast towards the bergs. The Griper's signal was made not to enter the ice, and after two hours' hard pulling, they succeeded in getting the Hecla clear of the icebergs, which it is very dangerous to approach whenever there is a swell.

The ice was now so close that they found it impossible to proceed further westward, and they made the best way they could, by beating northward, until the 10th, when a thick fog came on, which made it necessary to use great caution in sailing, to avoid the icebergs. The reflection of light, however, is so strong from these vast bodies of ice, that in the thickest fog they can be seen at a sufficient distance to enable the navigator, if in smooth water, to keep clear of them. The people succeeded in killing a large bear, which was seen near them on a piece of ice, and towed it on board. These animals sink immediately on being wounded, and to secure them, it is necessary to throw a rope over the neck, at which the Greenland seaman are very expert. After encountering many difficulties from the tenacity of the ice, on the 21st Captain Parry reached latitude 73 deg. As he was unwilling to increase his distance from Lancaster's Sound, he determined to enter the ice here. He accordingly ran in among the floes, and on the evening of the 22d, the ships were so beset, that no open water could be seen from the mast-head. The weather being clear on the next day, and a few narrow lanes of water appearing to the westward, they proceeded to warp the ships through the ice. At eight P. M., they had advanced four miles to westward, and having come to the end of clear water, they secured the ships in a deep bight or bay in a floe, called by the sailors, Natural Dock. On the next day, a boat was sent to try to find a lane of clear water leading to the westward. She returned without success, and the weather was so foggy, that it was with difficulty she found her way back to the ships by means of muskets and other signals.