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12. Additional Papers relative to the Arctic Expedition, under
the orders of Capt. Austin and Mr. William Penny. London,
1851. Pp, 370. 13. Arctic Expedition; a Lecture delivered at the London Insti
tution, Feb. 6,1850. By CHARLES RICHARD WELD, Assist
ant Secretary to the Royal Society. London, 1850. Pp. 48. 14. Arctic Miscellanies, a Souvenir of the late Polar Search.
By the Officers and Seamen of the Expedition. 1 vol., with numerous Illustrations. London, 1851. Pp. 348.
Six years and seven months have elapsed since Sir John Franklin and his devoted band quitted their native shore to explore the almost forbidden regions of the Arctic Zone, and if an ever watchful Providence has preserved them from its dangers, the days of another long year must be numbered before they can be embraced by their friends and welcomed by their country. But whether they return, or not return-whether they remain in their prison of ice, from which there is no escape, or have perished amid the storms and rigours of a polar winter—whether they have reached a more genial climate where the remnant of life can be spent without pain, or are doomed to drag out a weary existence under the united pressure of hunger and coldever looking for deliverance and never finding it--whatever be their condition, their adventures, chronicled, as they may yet be, by themselves, or painted by others in the lights and shadows of fancy, will ever be a subject of romantic interest, and their fate a source of unmingled joy or of deep lamentation.
Nor will it be in England alone that this interest will be felt, and this sympathy awakened. Nations whom political differences have estranged, and parties who, on every other subject are at variance, have, with united bearts, striven to discover the adventurous exiles, and as hope languished and despair succeeded, the general anxiety for their safety and return increased in the same proportion.
He who sacrifices his life for his country, has but his countrymen to mourn his loss. He who makes the sacrifice for science and philanthropy is lamented throughout a wider sphere. The tears of the Old World and the New are shed over his tomb, and universal humanity bewails the departed sage. The fate of the Arctic traveller has therefore excited an interest co-extensive with civilisation. Though the territory of ice and snow would have belonged to England, the problem of a north-west passage would have been solved for humanity; and though the glory of the deed would have illustrated but a British name, the mysteries of the polar regions would have been unveiled for the instruction of the world.
Influenced, doubtless. hy these views, the Government of EngArctic Expeditions first Suggested by Capt. Scoresby. 447 land have nobly discharged their duty in fitting out Expeditions by sea and by land, in search of Sir John Franklin. Private wealth has been liberally embarked in the same enterprise ; and the sovereigns of Europe and the States of America have generously contributed their aid. Along every accessible meridian the polar regions have been approached, and though but slight traces of the wanderers have rewarded the labours of the past, we yet look forward, in the brightness of hope, to their discovery and their return. But whatever be the result of these noble efforts, the history of the Searching Expeditions will form one of the most affecting chapters in the annals of our race, and will stand in bright contrast with the chapter of war and of conquest. The poet will appropriate its romantic details, and the epic which emblazons the deeds of the pilgrim traveller lost and found, will be read with tears of joy when the tragedy of bloodshed has ceased to excite and to interest us. The white sail, which carries the bread and wine of the State to the shipwrecked crew, will be followed by the blessing of the good and the wise, while the red flag of the war-ship, on its way to destroy, will be pursued by the curses of every country but its own.
Before we proceed to give our readers an account of the different Expeditions which have been sent out in search of Sir John Franklin, we must remind them of the steps which had been previously taken, during the present century, to explore the regions which surround the pole. After the voyage of Capt. Phipps, who, in 1773, approached within 9° 12' of the North Pole,* the question of a north-west passage had ceased to interest the public, and it was not till the year 1817 that Capt. Scoresby, jun., (now the Rev. Dr. Scoresby), in a letter to Sir Joseph Banks, again attracted to it the attention which it deserved. This excellent and accomplished individual, to whom science owes many obligations, had observed, while navigating the Greenland seas in 1817, that about 18,000 square miles of the ice that covered them had disappeared within the two preceding years. The ice which had thus broken loose from the Greenland coast, floated round Iceland, filling the bays and creeks of the island, and drifting southward in icebergs and large floes till they reached the shores of Labrador and Newfoundland, and even found their way into the Atlantic. This letter was communicated by Sir Joseph Banks to his friends; and Sir John Barrow, whose name has been so honourably associated with Arctic discovery, took such an interest in the suggestion of Captain Scoresby, that he induced the Government to fit out an Expedition for the purpose of exploring Baffin's Bay, and inquiring into the probability of a north-west passage. The ships appropriated to this service were the Isabella, of 385 tons, commanded by Captain Ross, to whose care the Expedition was entrusted, and the Alexander, of 252 tons, commanded by Lieutenant W. E. Parry. The ships left the Thames on the 18th April 1818, and proceeding between the ice and the western shore of Greenland, they reached Waygat Straits, where they were detained, along with forty whalers, till the loosened ice set them free on the 20th of June. On the 17th of July the two ships were nearly crushed to atoms by the ice-floes which closed in upon them; and during a gale of wind which sprung up in the first week in August, they fell foul of each other, breaking their ice-anchors and cables, and crushing a boat in pieces; and when the fall of the masts was every minute expected, the sudden separation of the two ice-fields relieved them from their perilous position. On the 8th of August, when the gale had abated, Captain Ross observed an island, apparently uninhabited, though marked with small heaps of stones, which the Esquimaux raise over the dead. The inhabitants, however, appeared on the following day in their dog-drawn sledges, and the description of these “ Arctic Highlanders” forms an interesting chapter in Captain Ross's volume.
* In 1806 Capt. Scoresby, sev., reached the latitude of 81° 30' within 8* 30' of the Pole.
In rounding the northern summit of Baffin's Bay, and sailing along the upper part of its western coast, Captain Ross passed Smith's Sound, Jones's Sound, and Lancaster Sound, which were discovered by Baffin, and through the last of which Captain Parry subsequently found a passage to the great Northern Ocean. Captain Ross gave the names of his ships, Isabella and Alexander, to the two capes which form the entrance to Smith's Sound, and he considered “the bottom of the Sound to be about eighteen leagues distant, but its entrance was completely blocked up with ice.” In passing Jones's Sound, on the shore of which Baffin had sent his boat, Captain Ross only remarks that it “ answers the description given by Baffin, who discovered it.” When the Expedition reached Lancaster Sound on the 30th August,“ much interest,” as Captain Ross states, “ 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 canoe—no drift-wood, and no swell from the north-west.” Captain Ross likewise states, that the land was seen at the bottom of the inlet by the officers of the watch, and Difficulty of Distinguishing at Sea Land from Clouds. 449 that he himself distinctly saw a high ridge of mountains, which he named after Mr. Croker, the Secretary to the Admiralty.
Although Captain Ross thus passed Lancaster Sound with the conviction that it was a mere inlet of the sea, yet it appears that Lieutenant Parry and others had entertained a different opinion, and that, from the nature of the swell, they “ felt a hope that it might be caused by this inlet being a passage into a sea to the westward of it.” This difference of opinion respecting the nature of Lancaster Sound gave rise to an angry discussion, in which Captain Ross was unjustly charged with an unreasonable desire to return to his family, at a time when he might have achieved the great object of his Expedition. Those who know this gallant officer, or who are acquainted with the noble and disinterested part which he has performed in the subsequent history of Arctic research, will have some difficulty in believing that a love of home had allured him from his duty, and that he had allowed his imagination to upheave a range of mountains as an excuse for his return. But whatever was the judgment of his rivals or his enemies, the Admiralty approved of his conduct by giving him promotion immediately on his return; “ while no other officer was promoted, not even Parry, who commanded the second ship, and who was not only suffered to remain a Lieutenant, but was sent out the following year with two ships under his command on a similar expedition, still as Lieutenant.**
That Captain Ross formed an erroneous judgment on the subject of Lancaster Sound, and that the mountains which he believed he saw had no existence, is now placed beyond a doubt; but since that time similar mistakes have given rise to similar controversies; and while these mistakes, committed by navigators of the highest name, will defend the reputation of Captain Ross from the ungenerous allegations of his enemies, they will protect future commanders against the treatment he has experienced. Every traveller, whether by land or sea, is aware of the extreme difficulty of distinguishing mountains from clouds in particular conditions of the atmosphere, and we believe that there is not an officer in Her Majesty's Navy who has not experienced the same illusion. When Lieutenant Wilkes, the distinguished commander of the United States Exploring Expedition, was surveying what he calls the Antarctic Continent, he repeatedly approached the icy barrier which defends it, and he and all his officers distinctly saw the mountains which composed it. Nay, “to remove all possibility of doubt, and to prove conclusively that there was no deception in the case, views of the same land were taken from the vessels in three different positions, with the bearings of its peaks and promontories, by whose intersections their position is nearly as well established as the peaks of any of the islands we surveyed from the sea."* After this distinct description of the Antarctic Continent, our readers will scarcely believe that Sir James Ross actually sailed over the mountains on the western side of this Antarctic Continent, just as Captain Parry sailed over the Croker range in Lancaster Sound.t
* We quote the words of Sir John Barrow, (p. 63,) who would seem at this time to have had no influence at the Admiralty, though his friend Lord Melville was then at its head.
In the same year in which Capt. Ross circumnavigated Baffin's Bay, a voyage of discovery towards the North Pole was performed by Capt. Buchan and Lieut. Franklin in the Dorothea and Trent. They were instructed to make the best of their way into the Spitzbergen seas, to endeavour to pass to the northward between Spitzbergen and Greenland, and use their best endeavours to reach the North Pole. Although this Expedition was
* Narrative of the United States Exploring Expedition from 1838-1842, vol. ii. pp. 282-3. See our notice of this work, vol. viii. 215, 216.
† We cannot close this discussion without noticing, in terms of reprobation, the second chapter of Sir John Barrow's latest work, in which, throughout thirtyeight pages, he maintains an incessant attack upon Sir John Ross and the narrative of his first voyage. Even in the pages of a Review, where the critic claims the widest license, we have never read such a tissue of unjust and ungenerous criticism. Twenty-eight years had elapsed since the angry discussion on Lancaster Sound had ceased; and though the Board of Admiralty, of which Mr. Barrow was one of the secretaries, acquitted Captain Ross of every charge, we should not have greatly blamed any expression of triumph on the part of his opponent, when Captain Parry had proved that Captain Ross had been mistaken. But it is painful to perceive that such bitterness of feeling should have continued for so long a period, and should have been publicly expressed against a man who had, during that interval, acquired such high distinction as an Arctic discoverer, and in the very field from which his antagonist had gleaned his reputation. Unable, apparently, to induce Captain Sabine to give a direct contradiction to Captain Ross's account of their conversation in Lancaster Sound, in which he gives Captain Sabine's words under inverted commas, Sir John Barrow refers to it in the following note :-“ Without giving a direct contradiction to Commander Ross's statement regarding Captain Sabine's opinion of Lancaster Sound, it was thought better to leave that to Captain Sabine himself, to deal with it as he might think proper." It is not likely, after twenty-eight years' silence, that Captain Sabine should follow the advice. Captain Ross had called Lancaster Sound a dangerous inlet, which it might be one year and not another; and in contradicting this opinion of its danger, Sir John Barrow thus alludes to that noble and heart-rending episode in Captain Ross's life, when, after four and a half years' imprisonment, he and his crew, without food and clothing, were rescued by the Isabella :-“ Nay, Ross himself had the courage--can it be called—' moral courage !' to revisit some years afterwards this horrible spot in a miserable kind of ship, (the Victory,) fitted out at the expense of a private individual, (Sir Felix Booth,) for some purpose or other, which ship, however, he left frozen up at the bottom of Regent's Inlet, and with great fatigue and difficulty succeeded in getting back to Lancaster Sound, and had the good luck to be picked up in this dangerous inlet' by a whaler-the very identical Isabella which he once commanded.”— Voyage, &c., pp. 46, 47. In thus recording our opinion of this chapter, we grieve to add that the writer of it was an amiable individual in the eighty-second year of his age, and his victim about to enter upon his seventieth year.