Parry's Voyages for the Discovery of the North-West Passage
The packed ice remained immovable, and the young ice' rapidly forming, farther progress was considered impracticable that season. Captain Parry thought it best to run back to the bay of Hecla and Griper and to pass the winter there. The signal for weighing anchor was given on the 22d, but the cables had become so stiff with frost, that it was five P. M. before the anchors were brought on board; and they did not reach the anchorage till the evening of the next day. A proper place being found, the ships dropped anchor on the edge of the bay of ice, in the evening of the 24th; and on the next day, they commenced cutting a canal. Two parallel lines were marked out a little more than the breadth of the ships apart; along these lines, a cut was then made with an ice saw, and others again at right-angles with them, at intervals of from ten to twenty feet.
The pieces thus cut, were again divided diagonally, in order to give room for their being floated out of the canal. The seamen, who are fond of doing things in their own way, took advantage of a fresh northerly breeze, by setting some boat's sails on the pieces of ice, a contrivance which saved both time and labor.
At half past seven P. M., they weighed anchor, and began to warp up the canal; but the wind blew so fresh, and the people were so much fatigued, that it was midnight before they reached the termination of their first day's labor. All hands were again set to work on the morning of the 25th, when it was proposed to sink the pieces of ice under the floe instead of floating them out. To effect this it was necessary for some to stand on the end of the piece of ice, which it was intended to sink, while others hauling upon ropes attached to the opposite end, dragged the block under that part of the floe, on which the people stood. The officers took the lead in this employ, and were frequently up to their knees in water during the day, with the thermometer generally at 12 deg. and never higher than 16 deg. At six P. M. the Griper was made fast astern of the Hecla, and the two ships' companies, being divided on each bank of the canal, soon drew the ships to the end of their second day's work. The next day at noon, the whole canal was completed, a length of four thousand and eightytwo yards through ice seven inches thick. The wintering ground was called winter harbor, and the group of which the island formed a part, was denominated Georgian Islands, in honor of the reigning sovereign of Great Britain.
Having reached the place where they were probably to pass nine months, and three of them in the absence of the sun, Captain Parry was called upon to act in circumstances in which no British naval officer had before been placed. The security of the ships, the preservation of the stores, a regular system for the maintenance of good order, cleanliness, and consequently good health; amusement and employment for the men, were all to be attended to. Scientific observations were also to be made, and Captain Sabine employed himself immediately in selecting a place for an observatory, which was erected in a convenient spot, about seven hundred yards to the westward of the ships. The whole of the masts were dismantled, except the lower ones and the Hecla's main-top-mast; the lower yards were lashed fore and aft amidships, to support the planks of the housing intended to be erected over the ships; and the whole of this frame work was afterwards roofed over with a cloth. This done, Captain Parry's whole attention was directed to the health and comfort of the officers and men. The surgeon reported that not the slightest disposition to scurvy had shown itself in either ship. In order to preserve this healthy state of the crew, arrangements were made for the warmth and dryness of the berths and bedplaces; and finding that when the temperature had fallen considerably below zero, the steam from the coppers began to condense into drops on the beams and sides, they were obliged to adopt such means for producing a sufficient warmth, combined with due ventilation, as might carry off the vapor and thus prevent its settling on any part of the ship. For this purpose, a large stone oven, cased with cast iron, in which all their bread was baked in the winter, was placed on the main-hatch-way, and the stove pipe led fore and aft on one side of the lower deck, the smoke being thus carried up the fore hatch-way. On the opposite side of the deck, an apparatus had been attached to the galley-range for conveying a current of heated air between decks. For the preservation of health, a few alterations were made in the quantity and quality of the provisions issued. The allowance of bread was reduced to two-thirds. A pound of preserved meat, together with a pint of vegetable or concentrated soup per man was substituted for one pound of salt beef weekly; and a small quantity of sour krout and pickles, with as much vinegar as could be used, was issued at regular intervals. They were obliged to institute the most rigid economy, with regard to their coals, as they were unable to find any on the island, excepting a few lumps; and the moss which grew in abundance was found totally unfit for the purposes of fuel.
Great attention was paid to the clothing of the men, and one day in the week was appointed for the examination of the men's shins and gums by the medical gentlemen, in order that any slight appearance of the scurvy might be at once detected and checked by timely and adequate means.