Parry's Voyages for the Discovery of the North-West Passage
Having run due west nearly out of sight of the Griper, the Hecla hove to for her to come up in longitude 83 degrees 12 minutes west from Greenwich, there being not the slightest appearance of land to the westward. The only ice met consisted of a few large bergs, much worn by the washing of the sea. Whales were seen, and the wind increased so that the top-gallant-yards were taken in. On the 4th, Lieutenant Beechy discovered, from the crow's nest, breakers to the northward. They sounded, and found bottom with forty-five fathoms of line. The Griper coming up, the vessels bore away to the westward. The sea was here so clear of ice, that they began to flatter themselves, that they had indeed entered the Polar Sea. Their vexation was therefore extreme, when, towards evening, land was seen ahead. At eight P. M., they came to a stream of ice extending several miles in a direction parallel to their course; and after sailing for two hours along the edge of the ice, they found it proceeded from a compact body of floes, which completely cut off their passage. The weather here was calm and foggy, and the men amused themselves in pursuing white whales, which were swimming about the ships in great numbers. But these animals were so wary, that they seldom suffered the boats to approach within thirty or forty yards of them, without diving. They also saw for the first time, one or two shoals of nar-whales, called by the sailors sea-unicorns. Finding that the sound or strait was closed, excepting in one place to the southward, to this opening they directed their course. They had sailed but a few hours, however, when it fell calm; and the Griper, having spread both her top-masts, advantage was taken of the calm weather to shift them. The Hecla's boats were at the same time employed in bringing aboard ice to be used as water. Berge-ice is preferred for this purpose, but that of floes which is in fact the ice of sea water, is also used. One of the boats was upset by the fall of a mass of ice, but fortunately no injury was sustained. A breeze springing up from the north-north-west, they made sail and stood to the southward. After sailing a short time, they discovered that they were entering a large inlet about ten leagues wide at its mouth, and in the centre of which no land could be distinguished. The western shore was so encumbered with ice that it was impossible to sail near it. They there fore ran along between the ice and the eastern shore, where there was a broad channel, with the intention of seeking a lower latitude or a clearer passage to the westward. Since they had first entered Lancaster's Sound, the sluggishness of the compasses, and the irregularity produced by the attraction of the ship's iron, had been found to increase rapidly as they proceeded to the westward. The irregularity increased as they advanced to the southward, which rendered it not improbable that they were approaching the magnetic pole. The compasses therefore were no longer fit for the purposes of navigation, and the binnacles were removed as useless lumber into the carpenter's store-room, where they remained during the rest of the season. Being desirous of obtaining all the magnetic observations they were able, on a spot which appeared so full of interest in this department of science, two boats were dispatched from each ship to the nearest eastern shore, under the command of Lieutenant Beechy and Hoppner, who, together with Captain Sabine, were directed to make the necessary observations. As soon as the boats returned, the ships hove to the southward, along the edge of the ice, and by midnight the channel was narrowed to about five miles. They could find no soundings the weather was serene, and the sun for the second time that season just dipped below the northern horizon, and reappeared a few moments after. They had hoped to find a passage to the south of the ice, especially as the inlet widened considerably as they advanced in that direction but on the morning of the 8th, they perceived that the ice ran close in with a point of land, which seemed to form the southern extremity of the eastern shore. The prospect from the crow's nest began to assume a very unpromising appearance. The whole western horizon from north round to south by east, being completely covered with ice, beyond which no indication of water was visible. Captain Parry therefore determined, as the season was fast advancing, to return immediately to the northward, in the hope of finding the channel between Prince Leopold's Isles and Maxwell Bay more open than when they left it, in which there could be little doubt of effecting a passage to the westward. They had sailed to the southward in this inlet about one hundred and twenty miles, Cape Kater being by the observations in latitude 71 deg. 53 min. 30 sec., longitude 90 deg. 03 min. 45 seconds. They returned to the northward with a light but favorable breeze. On the 10th, the weather was thick with snow, which was succeeded by rain and fog. The ships moored to a floe, but when the weather cleared, they found themselves drifting with the floe upon another body of ice to leeward. They therefore cast off and beat to the northward, which was very difficult to do, on account of the drift ice with which the whole inlet was now covered. Although several days were thus passed in contending with fogs, head winds, and all the difficulties of arctic navigation, yet neither officers nor crews lost health or spirits. They repined not at the dangers and difficulties of their situation, but because the accomplishment of their hopes was delayed.