Parry's Voyages for the Discovery of the North-West Passage
On the 15th, Lieutenant Liddon was enabled to sail, in the execution of his orders. Captain Parry, however, observing that the Griper made little or no way, hoisted the signal of recall, with the intention of making one more attempt to penetrate westward. The ice had so far separated as to allow him to sail a mile and a half along shore, when he was again stopped. He was fortunate in finding a tolerably secure situation for the Hecla within the grounded ice; but the Griper was left by the wind in a place where, should the ice press upon her, there could be no hope of safety. For fear of the worst, Captain Parry made preparations to send. parties to assist the Griper's company, if the wreck should become unavoidable; but they were shortly after relieved from all anxiety on this account, by the recession of the ice from the shore, whereby the Griper was enabled to gain a station near the Hecla.
The ice to the west and southwest, as seen from their present station, gave them no reason to expect a speedy opening in the desired direction. It appeared as solid and compact as so much land; to which the inequalities of the surface gave it no small resemblance. Captain Parry, there fore, determined to defer the attempt to try a more southern latitude no longer.
The point at which the ships were now lying, and which is the westernmost to which Arctic navigation has ever been carried, is in latitude 74 deg. 26 min. 25 sec. and longitude 113 deg. 64 min. 43 sec. Cape Dundas seen yet farther west, is in longitude 113 deg. 57 min. 35 sec., by which the length of Melville island appears to be about a hundred and thirty-five miles, and its breadth, at the meridian of Winter Harbor, from forty to fifty miles.
At nine P. M., they were abreast of the place where they had landed on the 5th, and here perceived that the ice closed with the land a little to the eastward. There was no safety for the ships, unless they could get past one of the small points at the embouchure of a revine, against which a floe was setting the smaller pieces of ice and had blocked up the pass age before they arrived. After heaving two hours at the halsers, they succeeded in getting through, and moored the ships to some very heavy grounded ice near the beach. Hares were observed here, feeding on the sides of the cliffs, and a few ptarmigans were seen. The place where the Hecla was now secured, being the only one of the kind which could be found, was a little harbor, formed, as usual, by the grounded ice, some of which was fixed to the bottom in ten or twelve fathoms. One side of the entrance to this harbor consisted of masses of floes, very regular in their shape, placed quite horizontally, and broken off so exactly perpendicular, as to resemble a handsome, well-built wharf. On the opposite side, however, the masses to which they looked for , security were themselves rather terrific objects, as they leaned over so much towards the ship, as to give the appearance of their being in the act of falling upon her deck; and as a very trifling concussion often produces the fall of much heavier masses of ice, when in appearance very firmly fixed to the ground, Captain Parry gave orders that no guns should be fired near the ship during her continuance in this situation. The Griper was of necessity made fast near the beach, in rather an exposed situation, and her rudder unshipped, in readiness for the ice coming in; it remained quiet, however, though quite close, during the day, the weather being calm and fine.
In the evening of the 18th, some heavy pieces of grounded ice to which the bow halser of the Hecla was fastened, fell off into the water, snapping the rope without injuring the ship. Nevertheless, as every alteration of this kind must materially change the centre of gravity of the whole mass, it was thought prudent to move the Hecla out of her harbor to the place where the Griper was lying, lest some of the bergs should fall upon her deck and crush or sink her.
On the 20th and 21st, the young ice formed to such a degree, as to cement together all the loose ice about the ships; nor did it thaw on either of those days, though the sun shone clearly upon it for several hours. The main body remained close and firm in every direction. The same state of things obtained on the 22d, and in the morning of the 23d, the young ice was an inch and a half thick. A breeze springing up from the westward put it in motion, so that by noon the ships were able to warp out and proceed eastward. In a short time, however, the ice closed so firmly around them that they became wholly unmanageable, and received many blows, more severe than any they had received before. After having drifted with the ice six miles, they were made fast to some grounded ice.