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Narrative of a Second Voyage in Search of a north-west passage and of a residence in the Arctic Regions, during the Years 1829, 1830, 1831, 1832, and 1833

By Sir John Ross

(London: A.W. Webster, 1835)


{i} THAT the public should expect some introduction to the journal of a voyage which has attracted so much notice, is natural; but having placed at the commencement of the narrative, all those matters which relate to the original project, to the financial arrangements under which the expedition was undertaken, to the fitting out of the ship, and the selection of the officers and crew, I have anticipated, if I may so say, in the work itself, much of that which is generally referred to an introduction, in books of this nature.

That in giving an account of the last voyage which has been undertaken for the discovery of a north-west passage, and of the last which will probably be attempted for some years to come, I ought to have sketched, at least, the history of the endeavours made to find such a passage to the westward round the northern shores of America, has been the opinion of many of my friends, and of him in particular on whom I have most relied.

But so much has been published on this subject, and by so many writers, long before my first voyage, and still more during the years which have intervened between that and the present one, that I cannot but believe that all who interest themselves in this question, must be as fully informed respecting it as they could desire; while perhaps every reader of this journal is sufficiently acquainted with the subject, either from the intermediate voyages, the public journals and reviews, or that work of Barrow which has long been in circulation, to render such a sketch superfluous; as it could also be nothing {ii} more than an abridged compilation, prolonging a work which has already extended to a much greater length than I at first foresaw.

I have thought it best, therefore, to refer to Purchas, Harris, Churchill, Barrington, to works in many hands, and always easy of access, but above all to Barrow's Chronological History, published in 1818, for such fuller information as I might have extracted from those writers, had I thought it expedient. Yet not willing to leave entirely in the dark on this subject, those to whom such reading may be neither familiar nor accessible, I will here give a condensed list sufficient for such a general purpose, from the writers above named. It will thus be the easier for those who are desirous of extending their knowledge of this question, to refer to any author or any voyage which they may fancy; though I imagine that Barrow's sketch will be sufficient to satisfy most readers.

It was in the ninth century that this problem seems to have been first proposed: and the first northern expedition by sea, of which we know, was that of Othervie, who sailed from Drontheim to the White Sea. Iceland was also discovered about the same period, and subsequently, Greenland, by means of a voyage from that island in the year 970.

1496 John Cabot, sailed, and made an unsuccessful voyage in the same quarter; and in
1498 Sebastian Cabot went to the west coast of Greenland, and reached the latitude of 56°, but without effecting the particular object in view.
1500-1502 Gaspar and Michael Cotreal made two voyages to Greenland, and affirm that they reached the sixtieth degree of latitude. They discovered the straits of Gaspar and several islands, together with the strait which was called Anian, by them.
1508-1535 Jacque and Aubert Cartier made several voyages for the purpose of exploring a new passage to the countries from which Spain derived her treasure, and they discovered the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
1524 Estevan Gomez was employed by Spain for the same purpose, but was unsuccessful; having only reached Labrador.
1542 Mendoza Coronada tried to find the supposed strait of Anian, but saw nothing to satisfy him respecting its existence.
1527 Robert Thorne, of Bristol, is said, in Hakluyt's Collection, to have sailed for the discovery of the North Pole; but there is no account of his voyage.
{iii}1553 Sir Hugh Willoughby sailed from England, and is said to have discovered Nova Zembla; but, on his return, he was frozen to death in Lapland, with all his crew.
1555-1557 Steven Burough and Richard Chancelor made two voyages, in which they reached the Island of Weigatts, and Nova Zembla, but without effecting a north-east passage, which was the object these navigators had in view.
1576 Martin Frobisher made his first voyage, discovering the strait which bears his name, which was at one time supposed to have divided or cut off a portion of old Greenland: but this expectation was afterwards proved to be fallacious, while it is now concluded that this imaginary passage is probably nothing more than one of the openings on the west coast of Davis's strait.
1577 The same navigator made a second voyage, and named Mount Warwick, to the southward of what has since been called Frobisher strait; but it does not appear that he made any advance towards the discovery of a passage.
1578 In this year he made a third voyage, which was unsuccessful. After this, two brothers of the same name sailed to discover a north-west passage, but they never returned, nor is there any conjecture respecting their fate.
1579 Edward Fenton sailed to discover a north-west passage, by the way of the Pacific; but he returned, without having even proceeded towards the object which he had in view, in consequence of his fear of the Spaniards, by whom he expected to be taken or intercepted.
1580 Mercator, Pet, and Jackman tried, without success, to penetrate through Weigatz strait, and returned with much difficulty.
1583 Sir Humphrey Gilbert, intending to discover the north-west passage, sailed to Newfoundland.
1585 John Davis made his first voyage, and discovered the strait which bears his name. On the eastern side of this wide sea, so improperly termed a strait, he discovered and named what has retained his appellative of Cape Desolation, and, on the western shore, Mount Raleigh, Cape Walsingham, Exeter Sound, and some other places still bear the names which he gave them.
1586 In his second voyage, this enterprising and persevering seaman examined the coast on the west side of the strait between Cumberland island and the latitude of 66.5° north.
1587 Not discouraged, however, by his want of success, this navigator made a third {iv} voyage, and affirms that he reached the 73d degree of latitude. In this he examined the coast which he had seen before, giving names to some other places, but made no advance towards the solution of the problem which he had in view. The discoveries, however, which he made in the course of his three voyages proved of great commercial importance: since, to him more than any preceding or subsequent navigator, has the whale fishery been indebted. Let not his name be slightly passed over. In talent he has not had many rivals: and it is ignorance, probably, rather than ingratitude, which fails to thank him for the debts owed him by British commerce.
1588 The voyage of Maldonado has been so strictly canvassed, and so utterly discredited in consequence, that if I name him in this chronological list, it is but for the sake of those who may have heard of his voyage but not of the criticisms which it has justly received. He did not make the north-west passage to which he pretends; beyond this I need not say what it was that he asserted himself to have done.
1592 Juan de Fuca was sent to discover the supposed strait of Anian. By his own account he followed the coast until he discovered an opening, up which he sailed in various directions during twenty days, after which he entered into the North Sea; when finding it to be so wide for 30 or 40 leagues within the strait as to make him suppose that it really would afford that passage of which he was in search, he conceived that he had discharged his duty, and therefore returned.
1594-1596 William Barentz, in company with three others, made three voyages; in the last of which he and half his crew perished: but these voyages were all directed to the north-east passage, and he advanced no further than Weigatz strait, and the north-west end of Nova Zembla.
1602 George Weymouth sailed from England, but he reached no latitude higher than 64°, and therefore made no discoveries.
1605 James Hall sailed to Greenland with two ships, and coasted the land up to 63°, but made no discovery.
1606-1607 In these years he made two more voyages to the same coast, but he only reached 66°, and returned without success.
1606 John Knight sailed to discover that same north-west passage which seems to have occupied the dreams of half the navigating and commercial portion of mankind {v} at this time, and during so many previous and subsequent years: but he only reached the coast of Labrador, and returned, abandoning the enterprise.
1607 Henry Hudson's first voyage was to the east coast of Greenland, and he returned by the way of Spitzbergen and Cherry island.
1608-1610 In these years, this commander, whose name has had the good fortune of being perpetuated in no common manner, by the results which gave rise to the incorporation of so opulent a mercantile company as that which bears his name, and by the enormous territory which has fallen under their sway, made two other voyages. He then discovered the bay which bears his name, but made no other discovery.
1611 In his fourth voyage his men mutinied, and he lost his life, after he had penetrated to 73° north.
1609-1611 James Poole made two voyages, and reached the 73d degree of latitude in Davis's straits, which was the nearest approach to the Pole that had been made down to that period.
1611 Sir Thomas Button made a voyage for the discovery of a north-west passage, but it was without the expected success: his voyage was never published.
1612 James Hall sailed on a fourth voyage for the discovery of a north-west passage. He reached Ramelsford, in Greenland, in 67°, and was there killed by a savage. The new master decided on returning, without making any further effort.
1614 Captain Gibbons sailed to discover a passage, but having been entangled in the ice, he took shelter in a creek about the latitude of 57°, where he remained five months; after which, contriving to escape, yet not without considerable damage, he returned to England.
1615 In this voyage Robert Bylot was master, and Wm. Baffin acted as the mate and pilot. Their success was not great, since they only reached as far as 65° north, examining the coast of Davis's strait, and tracing the coast thence to Resolution island, where they abandoned their pursuits, returning to England in September.
1616 Bylot and Baffin again sailed, and circumnavigated the bay which now bears the name of the latter, until they came to a sound which was named Sir James Lancaster's sound, in lat. 74° 20'. The narration of this voyage is very imperfect, while there is a reference to a chart which is not given by Purchas, and as far as I now know, is not to be found at present. There are charts, however, which {vi} probably give these discoveries in the exact manner in which they were laid down by Baffin: but as I have had occasion to remark at some length at the end of this Introduction, it is exceedingly incorrect in the longitudes, though sufficiently true in the latitudes, while the consequences of the former error are of such importance as to have led me into a detailed criticism on the question of this geography.
1614-1616 Fotherby made a voyage for the discovery of a north-west passage, but without success.
1619 Jans Munk, entered Hudson's bay, in this year, and visited Thorfield inlet, returning without success.
1630-1631 Luke Fox (commonly called north-west Fox), made an attempt to penetrate by Hudson's bay, but he added nothing to former discoverers, and returned unsuccessful.
1601 James sailed from Bristol, and asserted that he discovered that now well-known island to which he gave his name. Since my own voyage, in 1818, there have been doubts respecting this "James's island;" and the subject is so remarkable, not less than complicated, that I must refer it to the end of this Introduction, where I have attempted to elucidate this somewhat troublesome piece of geography, and, as I trust, with some success.
1633 Seven Russian sailors, who appear to have been shipwrecked at Spitzbergen, remained there one year.
1636 The Russians discovered the Lena and other rivers in the north of Europe and Asia, the account of which will be found in Churchill's collection of voyages.
1640 Bernarda, a Spaniard, affirms that by a coasting voyage he sailed from the Pacific through a strait, and reached an isthmus which divides the west from the east sea at Baffin's bay, where he could see the sea on each side from the high land, which he ascended.
1646 Forty-two persons were wrecked at Spitzbergen, and remained there a year.
1719-1722 There are voyages recorded to have been performed between these years, by Knight, Barlow, Vaughan, and Scroggs; but very little is known of these navigators, except that they sailed to discover a north-west passage. As no account of them was ever received, it must be presumed that they were lost.
1719 John Munk sailed on a voyage of discovery to the north, but his men all died {vii} excepting two, and he was unsuccessful, as far as any record of him has arrived to our days.
1722 Behring's strait was discovered by the navigator of that name: he was afterwards wrecked on Behring's island, which he had discovered, and there he died.
1741 Christopher Middleton sailed to Hudson's bay in the Furnace, for the discovery of a northwest passage; his failure led to a controversy between him and Dobbs, and also with the Admiralty, on which I need not here enter.
1743 Six Russian sailors were left at Spitzbergen, and remained there six years.
1740-1746 The Russian government employed several officers, and traced, by land, nearly the whole coast of Europe and Asia, between Nova Zembla and Behring's strait.
1746 William Moor and Francis Smith made an unsuccessful attempt in this wearisome pursuit by the way of Repulse bay; this being one of the speculations, the execution of which has since been repeated in our own times, and, as all know, without success.
1769-1772 Hearne discovered Hearne river, by means of a journey by land, which has been so often quoted as to be familiar to every one.
1773 Phipps (afterwards Lord Mulgrave) made an unsuccessful attempt to reach the Pole; this voyage is equally familiar, and is often quoted, the more so, perhaps, on account of its style, and of the honours conferred on his name.
1776 The justly celebrated Captain Cook (accompanied by Captain James Clerke), who had already performed two voyages round the world, attempted to discover the northwest passage, by Behring's strait, which he entered in August, 1779, and penetrated to a point which he named Icy Cape, in latitude 70° 29' N. and in longitude 198° 20' W. where he found the ice impenetrable, being a solid mass ten feet thick and extending across to the coast of Asia, aground in twenty-seven fathoms. He returned to the Sandwich islands, and there, as is well known, he lost his life in a contest with the natives.
1780 Captains Clerke and King made another unsuccessful attempt in the same quarter; but the furthest point to which they proceeded was lat. 70° 33' N, in 194° west longitude.
1776 Lieutenant Pickersgill was sent out in the Lion brig to meet Captain Cook, by Baffin's bay: he reached the latitude of 68° 10', and bore up for Labrador, returning unsuccessful.
{viii} 1777 Lieutenant Young, in the same ship, was sent for the same purpose: he reached 72° 4O' (Woman's islands), and returned without making any further progress.
1786-1787 The Danish Admiral Lowenorn, sailed to "re-discover" (as the phrase is), East Greenland, but his vessels being damaged by the ice, he returned to Denmark unsuccessful.
1789 Alexander Mackenzie, afterwards knighted, discovered the Mackenzie river by a land journey, and traced it to the Frozen Sea. His tediously-written journey has been read by every one conversant with voyages and travels.
1790 Mr. Duncan examined Chesterfield inlet: his men mutinied, and he returned, in consequence, without success.
1815-1818 Lieutenant Kotzebue, in a vessel named the Rurik, fitted out for discovery at the expense of the Russian Count Romanzoff, proceeded round Cape Horn, and attempted the discovery of the north-west passage, by the way of Behring's strait. This he passed, and entered on the sea which washes the northern shore of the American continent; discovering also the sound which bears his name, and which had been passed unobserved by Captain Cook. He returned unsuccessful, as far as even the slightest attempt at a passage is concerned, since he did not succeed in reaching Icy Cape.
1818 In this year I circumnavigated Baffin's bay, and by this means restored to our charts, whence they had been expunged, the valuable discoveries of that great navigator, whose name it bears: correcting them only where the imperfection, of his means, and other circumstances, had left errors, of small importance compared to what he had effected. I need not name here, what else in its consequences to commerce, was the result of this my first voyage.
1818 Buchan made a fruitless attempt to reach the Pole; having failed, from circumstances beyond his control, he returned in consequence of the damage sustained by his ship.
1819-1820 Parry in his first voyage, between latitude 74°N, and 113° W, discovered Melville island, North Georgian, now called Parry's islands, and Prince Regentís inlet, and was the first to winter in these regions.
1820-1821 Franklin, in his first journey from Hudson's bay, by land, for this purpose, traced the coast of America between Hearne river and Point Turnagain.
1821-1822 Parry, in his second voyage, discovered the land which he has termed Melville peninsula, together with the strait which he has named after his ships, the Fury and Hecla.
{ix} 1822-1823 Franklin, in his second journey, traced the coast of America between Mackenzie river and Cape Back; while Dr. Richardson, separating from him for this purpose, surveyed the coast between Hearne and Mackenzie rivers.
1822-1825 Parry, in his third voyage, penetrated down Prince Regent's inlet as far as latitude 72° 30' in longitude 91° W. In this voyage the Fury was lost, and he, in consequence, returned unsuccessful.
1823-1826 Beechy, in a voyage which occupied the period denoted in these dates, passed through Behring's strait, and attempted to penetrate to the eastward; he reached the 71° 23 1/2' latitude and the 156° 21 1/2' west longitude, leaving about 150 miles unexplored between his own and Franklin's discoveries.
1827 Parry, in this year, made an unsuccessful attempt to reach the North Pole; it having been imagined that a free passage to the equator might possibly be made in that direction.

The results of all these voyages show that the discovery and survey of the land between Greenland and Asia had gradually advanced: so that when my voyage was undertaken in 1829, there were only 150 miles on the west side, near Behring's strait, and 500 miles on the east side, between Cape Garry and Cape Turnagain, unexplored, [sic] Davis may be said to have made the first important advance towards a passage, and Baffin the second. The latter was found to be correct in his latitudes, but his longitudes were proved to be the reverse. The last of these statements on his part seems to have led to the unjust supposition that he was equally incorrect in every thing; whence it happened, under some criticisms which I have now no intention to examine, that all which he had done was asserted to be incorrect and false. Hence was James's island expunged from our charts, as I have remarked in a former note on his voyage; but far more uncharitably as well as improperly, the bay which had so long and so justly borne his name, was equally obliterated: as if this great navigator had seen nothing and done nothing. It is not thus that men will be tempted to sacrifice their time, their comforts, their fortunes, and their lives, in the service of mankind: but if fame must hereafter be allotted or withheld by any one who may assume the office of a judge, then let the men of ability and enterprise withdraw, unless they are of that better spirit which finds its reward in an approving conscience.

If the name of Baffin was restored to its exalted place, as I trust it was by my voyage in 1818, I may now proceed to remark, that the results of my late expedition {x} consist in the Discovery of King William's land; the isthmus and peninsula of Boothia Felix; the gulf of Boothia: the western sea of King William, and the true position of a northern magnetic pole; and in regard to the question of a north-west passage, it is fully established that there is none through Prince Regent's inlet, or to the southward of the latitude of 74° north. Besides this, many important and interesting facts regarding Magnetism and other branches of science and natural knowledge in the conclusion of the voyage. The banks of the Isabella and Alexander were restored to their former position in the chart, and the line of coast fully verified; and several harbours surveyed and discovered.

There remains, therefore, still the 150 miles to the westward, and to the eastward the space between Cape Turnagain and the coast seen by Sir Edward Parry, which may be estimated at 400 miles.

It is not generally known that the question of "a north-west passage," which had been lying dormant since the voyage of Captain Phipps, was, in 1817, revived by Mr. William Scoresby, a highly gifted and talented navigator, who then commanded a ship on the Greenland fishery, but now a respectable and useful member of the Church of England, at Exeter. This gentleman, in a well penned letter to Sir Joseph Banks, represented that so great a change had taken place in the seasons and the position of the ice in the Arctic Regions; that the time had probably arrived when the long-agitated problem might be solved.

His object was, no doubt, employment on this arduous service, that as he had been the proposer he might share in the glory of the enterprise. Why his services were rejected does not appear, but I have his own authority for saying that he would have accepted "any situation in the expedition which a gentleman could hold." He cannot, however, be deprived of the merit of being the promoter of all the attempts which have been made since that time. Sir Joseph Banks's high recommendation of his proposal to the Government was attended to, and a circular was written to discover what officer of the navy had served most among ice. In the mean time ships were purchased, and were not only in a great state of forwardness before I was selected to command them, but all the junior officers were appointed. The purser and my nephew, then only seventeen years of age, being the only individuals of my own selection.

I believe there is no instance on record where an officer was appointed to command such an enterprise without his having been consulted as to the qualities of the ships he {xi} was to conduct; but with me it was not the case, and when I arrived in London I was concerned to discover that the ships (by that time half finished), were totally unfit for such a service; but my remonstrances were too late, and I was told that if I did not choose to accept the command some one else would; and as I had left the Driver, it was the only chance I had for promotion. I must here remark, however, that I throw no blame on the late Admiralty on this account; their lordships consulted, before I was selected, people well qualified to give them information; but these people had ships to sell or strengthen, and the temptation of gaining 6 or 7000£, was sufficient to turn the scale; and I alone, who had the whole responsibility, was doomed to be the sufferer. The truth of my assertion is fully demonstrated in the narrative of my first voyage, and in the employment, subsequently, of ships of a totally different class. The officers were all, certainly, as seamen and navigators, well qualified, but none had ever wintered, or had any considerable experience among ice; the service was entirely new to them, and for this reason ice masters and mates were appointed, whose opinions of course had much the more weight, but if I had had officers of my own selection, I could have found those who combined those qualities with experience among ice, even more than my own; and I would certainly have employed Mr. Scoresby. As the results of my first expedition have been long before the public, and as it has been alluded to in the course of this narrative, I need only remark that it, as well as the subsequent voyages which precede my last, proves how much, or rather how entirely our humble endeavours depend on Divine Providence, which has wisely put less within our power than in any other kind of navigation. Added to the disadvantages which I have mentioned, there were others which were beyond our control, which seemed to combine against the success of the enterprise, and the disappointment created a feeling towards the commander, against which nothing but a consciousness that he had always done his duty, could have supported him; and which he now confesses made him anxious to prove that he could treat with a far different feeling all the abuse which has been so unsparingly, and he must add unjustly attached to his name. The expeditions subsequent to my first were closely watched by myself, with the view of correcting errors from whatever cause they might arise, and I soon discovered that the ships which had been employed since 1817, had been far too large; for while they carried provisions only in the same proportions to their crews, as a vessel half the size does to her crew, they drew such an increased depth of water, viz., eighteen feet instead of eight, {xii} as to render navigation in them much more unsafe, as in the instance of the Fury, which ship was damaged because her depth was greater than that of the ice, and when damaged had to be unloaded and hove down, and during this process that occupied several days, she was wrecked; whereas the Victory was actually laid on the ground, with all her stores, and when the tide fell she was dry (for she drew only seven feet), and her leak was stopped. Like the Fury, she carried two and a half years' provisions, besides coals for 1000 hours; and had the boiler and other parts of the machinery not given way, there can be no doubt but the services might have been performed, as far as the navigation was concerned, in fifteen months instead of four years and a half. Baffin's ship, though only thirty tons, was far more fit than either the Isabella, Fury, or Hecla. Sir Edward Parry's two voyages in that direction, and Sir John Franklin's journeys to the Polar Sea, had directed the eyes of the scientific world to Prince Regent's inlet, and with the exception of the late Major Rennet, there was no one that I conversed with on the subject, who did not say, that if no passage was found between Cape Garry and Point Turnagain there could be none at all. The Major was indeed of opinion that there was none there, and his reasons for it were well founded. It was, however, obvious that it became my duty, in undertaking this enterprise, to decide that question in the first place, and then turn my attention to the next opening further north, and it was an extraordinary fact that the first discovery we made was, that Cresswell bay was at least thirty miles deeper than where the land had been laid down on the preceding voyage, even after it had been seen from both the ship and the shore for several days, and it was not until we actually walked round it that we were certain that no passage existed in that direction; proving how very deceiving the appearance of ice in a bay or passage is, by its having deceived all the officers of both Hecla and Fury, after, too, an experience of eight years, just as it had myself and the pilots of the Isabella, in 1818. Nevertheless I determined to follow my first plan, which was also that approved of by Commander Ross, and Mr. Thom, the second and third in the direction. I shall leave the remainder of my proceedings for the reader of my narrative, which is carried on in the shape of a journal, which was written by myself daily. The ship was fitted out in a manner far superior to any other, as she combined every improvement which had previously been made, and the provisions were of the very best quality; and although the feeling was against her qualities, in consequence of the lamentable failure of the machinery, she proved {xiii} to be the very best vessel that was ever employed on such a service. The instruments were chiefly my own; the transit was 36 inches, and the theodolite 9 inches, both by Jones; and several instruments were lent by the Admiralty and Colonial Secretary, all of which were lost, excepting a dipping needle, now in the possession of Captain J. C. Ross, belonging to the Admiralty; two of the chronometers were my own, one the property of Messrs. Parkinson and Frodsham, and three belonged to Mr. Murray: all of these performed well, but four of them were lost with the ship. Commander, now Captain J. C. Ross, who was second in command, had during the whole time the charge of the transit, and to him belong all the observations made with it, and with a sixty-six inch telescope of 3.5 object glass, belonging to me; but these observations must, with the Natural History, also by him, form a part of an appendix, which will be published separate from the narrative, in which are only the abstracts, which would concern the general reader. The sketches from which the drawings were made were taken by Mr. Ronald's invaluable perspective instrument, and therefore must be true delineations: these, although they have been partly redrawn by Harding and Rowbotham, and engraved on steel by the first engravers, whose names will be found on the plates, were originally my own sketches, but they are only offered to the public as faithful illustrations of the work, being well aware that I do not possess such talents in that art as could embellish it, were the scenery even more favourable. The Meteorological Table, which is given in abstract, will be in full in the Appendix, as well as the Diurnal Variation, and a new theory of the Aurora Borealis: indeed, the length of the narrative has so much exceeded what I expected, that I have not been able to give any of the scientific observations at full length; as I have preferred giving Commander Ross's journeys, in which will be found the most remote and extended part of our discovery; and also that of the present position of the Magnetic Pole. The methods which necessity pointed out for the preservation of the health and discipline of the crew will be found in full; and at the end will be found an Addenda, comprehending the conclusion of our proceedings after our happy return.

In short, our whole voyage, from its commencement until its conclusion, will be found a wonderful chain of providential circumstances, affording an evident proof that those who "go down into the sea in ships," &c., are, of all others, the most dependent on the Divine aid, and the most short-sighted of mortals; while it must be no less manifest, that if men trusting in "Him who cannot err," will only make {xiv} use of the means mercifully put within their power, there are no difficulties which cannot be overcome, and no case too desperate!

It is not necessary that I should, in this Introduction, enter into a formal discussion respecting the probability that yet remains of finding a "North-west Passage," to the northward of the 74th degree of latitude. Such remarks as I have had occasion to make on this subject, will be found in the course of the following narrative, wherever occasion for them chanced to arise: while, even had I aught more to say on this great question than I have done, any such dissertation has been long superseded by that of Sir Edward Parry, to which I gladly refer.

Let no one suppose that I do not estimate the merits of that officer, both as a writer and a navigator, as highly as the public has agreed to do. We were once partners in the same pursuit, and have together undergone the same dangers and the same anxieties; we have since, if separately, carried on the same warfare with ocean and ice, with storms and toils; each still pursuing one object and endeavouring after one fame. If we have thus been as rivals, it has been a rivalry in which neither jealousy nor dislike could ever have intermingled: as well might it be supposed that La Perouse should hate the memory of Cook, or that this great man, had he then lived, should have sickened at the success of the bold and intelligent French navigator. Brothers in the Service, we have been such also in one track of discovery. If there are men who please themselves with imagining or exciting jealousies and dislikes among those who pursue a common object, their just punishment will be to know that they have failed.

But although I do not think it needful to discuss the question of this passage, I may here make a few remarks on the subject which might not very readily occur to my readers, or, not at least, to those who have not familiarized themselves with this great point in geography, by previous reading.

Before I left England on the present expedition, various hypotheses were afloat respecting the probable place of the expected passage. All these were justifiable, in some manner or other, or in a greater or less degree; as hypotheses must ever be when they pretend to no more, or when, at least, the evidences on which they rest, fall short of proof On the asserted, or imaginary, indications of such a passage, in one direction or in another, I had never, myself, laid any stress; though willing to listen to all, and desirous, rather than otherwise, to leave every one to the indulgence of his own speculations or fancies.

{xv}If also I had then no hypothesis of my own, I think I may now safely say that I have not gained any knowledge by this voyage which would justify me in forming one; assuredly at least, not in proposing a new scheme for the discovery of a north-west passage. Of the imagined, or hoped for, or possible, passage through Lancaster strait and by the way of Melville islands, I know nothing more than was known before; nor have I any conjectures, nor any hopes or doubts, to offer respecting it, which I could add to what has already been amply discussed. It was a portion of this region to which we never gained any access, inasmuch as the scheme which I had determined to follow was a different one, leading me in another direction, and because we could never afterwards extricate ourselves from the place where we had been imprisoned, from the very day, I almost say, when we first trusted ourselves to this barbarous shore.

Thus also, whether the impossibility of passing northward by the way of the Pole, is now fully admitted, or not, since the failure of Parry's bold attempt, this too is a question respecting which the Course of my own navigation did not allow me to form any additional conjectures.

If now, the attempt which I carried on, of which, as far as a passage is concerned, the failure is now before the public, has given me no new hypothesis to offer, nor any fresh scheme to propose, and if all, therefore, of a positive nature, as hope is concerned, remains as it was, the negative result is of much value on this question, independently of all the other knowledge in geography or whatever else, which has been gained by this laborious voyage, under the hard-earned honours which may be assigned to it, or, possibly, refused.

That point on which our own attempt was made, had formed one of the places of hope: I may call it one of the hypotheses, or rather a basis for one of those to which I have just alluded. In this direction, and with a vague, but justifiable and natural hope of succeeding, was the last effort of Parry made, as the preceding one had been, though under a different plan, and by taking a very different course from mine. How he failed in both, from causes beyond human prudence to avert or control, is well known; and that hope, or that possibility, still therefore remained.

This hope is now extinguished; and if it be, on all occasions of life as in this, a gain to demolish those hopes which only tend to delusion, the merit of this result at least belongs to our present voyage. We navigated, or examined by travelling on shores the {xvi} only part of these lands where the possible passage in question might have existed: and by means of our journeys the examination was made complete.

How complete it was, the journal, but, still more clearly, the appended chart will show: yet the result, though it was but to fail in finding this problematical opening, is highly interesting; while it was very tantalizing to us, and, as I really may say, without more temper than the event justifies, proved in the end mortifying. It is mortifying to labour hard and suffer much, under hopes so often held out, to be ever on some anticipated brink of the discovery which should indemnify us for all those toils, and place the crown of success on our labours, and then at length to find that we have not missed that reward by having indulged in absurd or groundless expectations, have not been striving against those obstacles, the utterly insurmountable nature of which may console us for the disappointment, but have been, in reality, nearly within reach of the expected object, yet as far from attaining it, for ever, as if mountains had intervened.

It will be seen, on examining those documents, that the tract of land which separates Prince Regent's inlet from the northern sea of America westward, at the place of our investigations, is not only very narrow, but is largely occupied by lakes, by which the length of the land itself which separates the two seas, is reduced to three miles. How little, therefore, nature has here done towards preventing such a passage between the eastern and western sea, or otherwise, how nearly she has approached towards permitting it, is apparent; while no one can be surprised if we had often indulged in hopes that it actually existed.

Thus has it proved that there was some justification of the beliefs or hypotheses of those who had expected a passage somewhere in this quarter, though they had no grounds on which to point out its probable place. Yet I must not be supposed to say, that even had we found an opening through this low and narrow tract, it ever could have been a "north-west passage" in the actual sense of that phrase, or ever could have been turned to purposes of communication or commerce. The state of the inlets by which we reached it, and not less the nature and condition of those seas or openings through which Sir Edward Parry might have reached it had he been more favoured by fortune, is such, as he and I have shown, that all utility of this kind would be a wild hope, not only at any given period, but for ever.

It remains, therefore, to say, since I need not longer dwell on this subject, that {xvii} while my voyage and its results have demolished all hypotheses and hopes but those which may still be entertained respecting Lancaster strait, and the Pole, if, indeed, the latter has still an advocate remaining, there are now fewer temptations than ever to make any fresh attempt for solving this problem.

This at least is true, as far as an actual or practical communication round the north coast of America is concerned: yet how is it more true now, than when the problem was first proposed (I will not say by the early navigators), but by those who again brought forward this scheme before my first voyage, in 1818, and caused it to be put into action during so many successive seasons, under a course of expenditure so heavy?

It did not require more than my first voyage, it scarcely required that to show, that no commerce could ever be attempted in this direction, even had some singular good fortune proved that the American continent did not extend further north than Hecla and Fury strait, or had terminated much short of this: even, I may say, had the actual passage been effected by some lucky ship. Merchants risk much on commerce, it is true, but they are not given to hazard every thing, in opposition to the dictates of common sense, or in equal defiance of experience and probability. They have a test, also, by which their united body judges of every thing in cases of this nature; and that barometer is stationed at Lloyd's Coffee-house, to be consulted by all. On what terms could such an insurance be effected; on what premium, even under the favourable circumstances which I have thus supposed? Where the sum, and therefore the hazard for each man is small, men will go very far, under very slight hopes; but it is to be doubted if a premium, even to the value of the entire ship and cargo, would have filled the list handed to those who, bold and liberal as they are, or hopeful as they may be, are men of acute understandings, and of more information than is sometimes suspected. Commanders there are, it is certain, who would have tried, and tried any thing; for in such men, thank heaven, England has never been deficient, and, I hope, never will. As to our seamen, there is nothing which they will not undertake: or at least, in my younger days, there is nothing which they would not have undertaken, throwing all their cares, as they ever do, on him by whom they are conducted. May it so continue under this new era of rising light and spreading knowledge! But more than this would have been wanted; and that, I verily believe, would never have been obtained.

{xviii} With respect to any future attempt of this nature, my opinion, I presume, may be easily extracted from the general tenour of the following journal, and from various remarks made as occasion gave rise to them, as well as from what I hare just said; since the conclusions from this are almost too obvious to require a distinct statement.

If there are now no hopes of a useful passage, as these ought to have ceased long ago, I am aware that it would be a matter of just boast to Britain, could its navigators, who have already effected so much for geography, complete the navigation and survey of the northern shores of America. Still more may this be a justifiable, as a desired object, when it is to their spirit of enterprise and ability that the world owes nearly all that is yet known respecting this long obscure and difficult piece of geography. Surely also it is right, that this bold spirit should not flag for want of the means of exertion, nor these abilities and experience and science lie dormant, or cease to be cultivated for want of objects capable of rousing ambition, and of occupations which may tempt men to make or maintain themselves what men can be, when inducements are held out to them.

Where economy is put into the balance against all this, it is a contemptible economy indeed; too much as such false economy has become the rule of an age which has rendered our once liberal, and splendidly liberal country, a far other Britain than it once was. Alas, that men cannot see how miserable is the spirit of money making and money saving, how wretchedly debased man becomes when this forms his sole pursuit, when all his notions of moral conduct are confined within the base code of Franklin's "Poor Richard;" to produce the effects which it has done in the country to which he preached his -- "religion," I may call it, not merely its morality. Not such is the spirit of my noble-minded friend, to whom the world is now indebted for the products of the present voyage: may this example teach Englishmen what they may be again; for such as he is, have Englishmen been.

Let me be excused a remark into which gratitude and justice, not less than pure and disinterested admiration have led me: while I must conclude these observations with a repetition of the suggestions which I have offered in the commencement of my journal. If I was unfortunate in my own steam vessel, this was not the misfortune of the plan, but of the vessel itself: yet no, not of the ship, its size or construction, but of its wretched and discreditable machinery. My opinion remains unaltered: a vessel intended for discoveries in these regions ought not to draw more than ten feet of water; she ought to be strong, as our own was, and handy also in point of rigging: and she ought further to have a steam engine, for occasional services, the reasons for which I have assigned in the beginning of the following narrative.

I have not, in these miscellaneous remarks on the question of a "north-west passage," given such sketches of my geographical discoveries as I ought perhaps to condense, in some form, in this Introduction, since no opportunity for it has offered in the journal, and since a connected view of the facts might not, possibly, be easily extracted from it, by readers not previously acquainted with the subject, and above all with the preceding discoveries, made by myself and my successors.

It is impossible, indeed, to do this in words alone, and without reference to a chart, to a picture of facts which saves many words, and also presents to the eye what no length or detail of language ever can do. Let the reader at least turn to that chart, as it is here given, and, with its aid, a few words will effect all that is necessary.

It will thence be seen that the last point in Prince Regent's inlet which Sir Edward Parry had been able to attain was Cape Garry; and hence my own discoveries may be marked as commencing at this place. If not very extensive in point of space, they are minute and accurate: under our extraordinary detention for so long a time, in so narrow a tract, they could not indeed have been enlarged, over a country where travelling by land was so completely restricted by its mountainous, or rather hilly form, and far more by the ice and snow with which it was almost eternally covered, as not less by the very short season of a few weeks when alone any travelling was possible. The minuteness and that accuracy are indeed far greater than the subject required; so that it may be but a worthless boast to say, that they exceed in this respect any thing ever yet done by navigators. In New South Wales, such work would have had a value which it never can possess here; but we had little else to do, and no harm at least was produced by this superfluous care.

The chart will show that from the point which I have named, our survey of this shore extended to the 69th degree of latitude, and between the longitudes of 89 and 99, terminating at the place to which I have given the name of Point Franklin. Hence it {xx} extended through this portion of the Northern American continent, so as to give a correct draught of the interior land, with its multifarious lakes and rivers, over a space for which the chart must be consulted, since it cannot be defined by words. Thus, further reaching to the western shore of that isthmus to which I have given the name Boothia, it has defined that portion of the coast between the latitudes 72° 30', and 69°, and under longitudes lying between 89° and 99° west.

What it has thus effected for the geography of this part of the continent of America is therefore obvious; but I must further note in what manner these discoveries conduce to that general problem, to which an interest, next at least to that of a "north-west passage" has been attached; namely, the completion of the coast line of the Northern American continent, from Behring's strait to Baffin's bay, as it had been determined by the several navigators employed on this inquiry, under the more recent as more remote voyages.

If, in the catalogue with which I have commenced this introduction, I have mentioned the several distant and unconnected points which had been noted, or the coasts which had been more extensively examined, by Hearne and Mackenzie, by those who had preceded them in coming from the eastward through Behring's strait, and by the navigators and travellers who were employed on these services after my first voyage, namely, Parry, Franklin, and Beechy, so may I now say that the line of the American northern shore which has thus been traced by their joint labours, is the following. The chart indeed shows it; but for those to whom the examination and measuring of charts is a matter of some effort, and for whom especially it is difficult to trace an extent in miles, under the ratio which these bear to degrees of longitude in those northern latitudes, the following verbal explanations will be of use.

Commencing at Behring's strait and from the Cape Barrow of Beechy, the coast has now been marked, by means however of nautical surveys only, and those of course far from minute, while also not always boasting of much accuracy, thence to Point Back of Franklin. Here, and as far as the mouth of Mackenzie river, being the only discovery of that traveller, it is again laid down by Richardson to the exit of the Copper-mine river, being Hearne's sole discovery on the coast. Thence to Point Turnagain, lie the discoveries of Franklin; after which, in the progress eastward as far as Point Jane Franklin, there is a blank of 222 miles, which we hope will be filled up by Captain Back. Should this expectation be gratified, the discoveries which I have thus traced {xxi} will be united to our own; when all that will be wanted to complete our knowledge of the northern coast of America will be the space between the Banks's land of Parry, and Boothia Felix. Thus the progress and connexion of these several discoveries brings us to Cape Turnagain, being the nearest point toward which we had protracted our own investigations: and hence it appears that the blank which now remains on the chart between that point and the westernmost land which we had either touched, or inferred by the usual modes of observation, amounts, in English miles, to 500. I have elsewhere said, how much I regretted that Commander Ross was prevented from extending the journeys which he undertook toward the west, so far as to have completed this connexion, which would thus have left nothing for future examination between this point and Behring's strait, but the other spaces already mentioned. I must, however, admit his plea, grounded on the difficulty of carrying or procuring provisions, rather than on any impediments offered by the country or the climate; unavoidably regretting, nevertheless, that we could not command the means of completing this very short portion of the coast, and of thus drawing on our chart that line, of which perhaps the only satisfaction that can ever be derived would be, that there is, on a piece of paper, a black line instead of a blank. But of such imaginary joys does human happiness full often consist: and what matter, if even less than this, the anatomy of a fly's toe, or whatever else, will serve to make men happy, and proud of themselves?

On what else remains unknown of the American coast, from the northernmost point on this western shore which our voyage had ascertained, I need say nothing, since I have not undertaken to analyze or describe the whole of this yet unsettled line. The chart itself can be consulted for what remains hence to Lancaster strait; of the continuity of which coast I presume there can be no doubt, since this may be inferred from that of the eastern shores examined by Sir Edward Parry and myself. Of the exceedingly uncertain and obscure nature of that land termed Melville islands, I have not the smallest right to speak: and although I circumnavigated Baffin's bay in my first voyage, thus restoring to that able and extraordinary man the honours of which it had been attempted to rob him, I will not say that there may not be in it an opening to the northward, and possibly at more points than one, and will therefore not offer any conjectures respecting the nature of all this tract from Melville islands even to Greenland, its insularity, or rather insularities, or on what the extent, nature, and connexions of these islands may be, if, as is presumed, they form a group of this kind, so defined {xxii} and restricted too, as to leave a wide and clear ocean about the northern pole of the earth; if not a "polar basin" in the sense of one of the well-known speculations on this subject.

But the results of the present voyage, and a comparison of that of Baffin with my original ones which I could not have made at that time with the same confidence as I now do, added to some further investigations into this subject which I could not then have ventured on, and might probably not have had the confidence to propose without the new grounds of judgment which I have now acquired, have led to some conclusions which I must now state. To myself, they seem of considerable moment, not merely as they concern the accuracy, or otherwise, of the ancient navigators of the seas in question, but as they relate to the true geography of those regions, so long obscure, and so long the source of error and obscurity to more modern voyagers, as to geographers and their labours; with the consequence of producing confusion and doubt in all that relates to the charts of these seas, and to the true forms and relations of the land in this part of the world. If, in any manner, the examination and analysis in question may seem, to the ignorant, to attack the reputation of any of our modern discoverers, let me assure them that there are no such thoughts in my mind; as it is not my own opinion, that any thing on which I can defend the discoveries of the ancient navigators, ought, in the slightest manner, to interfere with the claims or diminish the merits of those who have recently followed in the same career.

No one, of those at least who are acquainted with the theory of navigation, or with the sciences on which it depends, can be ignorant of the difficulty which the ancient navigators found in determining their longitudes. I need scarcely say how little was then known even of practical magnetism, of such simple facts as the variation and the dip of the needle; and still less need I here notice how uncertain were the means of determining "the longitude."

That Baffin should but have shared in this general difficulty, is no cause for surprise; and thence it is that I have traced those errors of his which I am about to note, not to such observations as he might have made during a run of a few days across the head of the bay bearing his name, but to the distance and length of time which was passed over and occupied during his voyage thither from England; the latter amounting to some months, and the former being only a few days.

{xxiii} In consequence of this more than suspicion, since it was the unquestionable source of all his subsequent errors, I have commenced by laying down the true longitude of the east coast of this bay, as determined by those modern methods which leave but the slightest error; thence assuming this as the basis, or "point of departure," for all the subsequent determinations which he has made, and which I have here undertaken to correct.

Having first determined this, and thence assuming that the distance estimated by him in his short passage across the bay is correct, since I do not see how he could here have committed an error of any possible moment, it must follow that he had seen all that land to the east of Melville islands and the north of Fury strait, which we have supposed to have been first discovered by our recent navigators.

The consequence of this becomes very remarkable on an inspection of our present and new charts. The strait of the Hecla and Fury, as laid down by Parry, thus proves to be the Baffin's strait of this navigator; while the land now laid down by us as lying to the eastward of Prince Regent's inlet, will turn out to be James's island, as named by James. Further, that land to the southward of this island, of which we have traced the eastern coast, but of which we have not examined the inlets, should be the "three islands" of Baffin and his Cumberland island: while it is to be hoped that future examination will verify his assertions. On the same grounds, our Barrow's strait will be the Lancaster sound of Baffin, as our coast of North Somerset, thus named by Parry, will prove to be that which Baffin termed Prince William's land. The opposed shore, therefore, which has been called North Devon, will equally be the west side of James's island.

Let it now be supposed that these views are incorrect, and we will then see the consequences which will follow; as these, if I mistake not, will confirm the criticisms which I am here making. Though Baffin's longitude is incorrect on the east side of his bay, which he has placed nearly four degrees too far to the eastward, it has been found, on the west side, to be so coincident with the observations of modern navigators at that place which I formerly considered the entrance of Lancaster sound, and have thus named in my chart of 1818, that the result would be to exterminate James's island altogether which cannot be, without considering James's account to be false.

Having thus passed such geographical criticism on this subject, as my voyages and the deductions I have since made from them seem amply to justify, I must now turn to {xxiv} the western portion of these northern shores, that I may compare the really puzzling and obscure account of Bernarda and Juan de Fuca with the recent examinations, or discoveries, as they have not unnaturally been termed, which my followers and coadjutors have made on this part of the northern coast of America: still, however, disclaiming all intention to deprive them of their well-merited and hard-earned honours.

I think I have good reasons to suppose that these very early navigators effected their voyages by pure coasting, as was the practice in the far more remote times of the ancients, and, for the most part, of our Scandinavian ancestors, without any regard to observations, for which they did not much care, as they had little means of making those. Thus do I believe it possible that they passed through Behring's strait, and held on their course even as far as that part of this coast which I have termed the isthmus of Boothia; while I find, in their accounts, a sufficient congruity with those of our modern discoverers to justify this belief. This is especially remarkable in the fact which I noted in a former part of this Introduction, namely, that Bernarda had sailed towards the east, to a certain longitude, and had there ascended a land, not far from Davis's strait or Baffin's bay, which I have concluded, on good grounds, as it seems to me, to have been the isthmus of Boothia. Supposing now that my views of the voyages of these two navigators are correct, it is plain that they had long ago effected, in some manner at least, what has since been performed by Kotzebue, Beechy, Hearne, Mackenzie and Franklin; doing even more, since the last point to the eastward which they reached was that isthmus which I have just named.

This subject, however, is so obscure in itself, while the novelty of this criticism, added to that obscurity, is such as to render all verbal explanations insufficient, that I have constructed a chart, here appended, for the purpose of rendering it more intelligible. It will require some attention, even to consult and understand that chart; but the following explanation will, I hope, render it intelligible to every reader, and at the same time adequate to the appreciation of this piece of geographical criticism. It will be seen that it also serves to illustrate those remarks on Baffin which I have just made; while having nothing of the same nature to discuss respecting Bernarda and De Fuca, I must entirely trust to this chart, and the following explanations of it.