Voyage of Captain James, for the Discovery of a North-West Passage
A few days subsequently to this, whilst the ship was under sail, she struck upon some rocks that were concealed by the water, and received three such terrible blows, that the captain was fearful her masts would have been shivered to pieces, and he had no doubt that a hole had been beaten through her sides. But such was the strength of her timbers that she received little injury, and in a short time, was again out of danger.
On the twentieth of August, and in latitude 57 deg. north, they came within sight of land, part of the continent of North America, which the captain named New South Wales, in honor of Charles, Prince of Wales, afterwards King Charles the second: and on the third of September they passed a cape, to which he gave the name of Cape Henrietta Maria, after the Queen. In the ensuing evening, they encountered such a tempest of thunder, snow, rain, and wind, as none of the crew had ever before been exposed to. The sea washed completely over the decks, and the vessel rolled so tremendously, that it was not without great difficulty all things could be kept fast in the hold, and betwixt the decks.
As the winter was now approaching, Captain James began to look out for some harbor, where he and his companions could pass that cheerless season, with as little discomfort, and in as much security, as possible. Landing, on the third of October, upon an island, in the bay that has since been called James' Bay, he found the tracks of deer, and saw some wild fowl; but not being able to discover a safe anchorage, he proceeded onward with the vessel, and two days afterwards moored the ship, in a place of tolerable security near the same island. It now snowed without intermission, and was so cold that the sails were frozen quite hard, and the cable was as thick with ice as a man's body.
Several men were sent ashore to cut wood for fuel, and they collected as much as, it was estimated, would last two or three months. It was found inconvenient, particularly for some of the crew who were sick, to continue entirely in the vessel; a kind of house was, therefore, erected on shore, under the direction of the carpenter. In the meantime the captain. and some of the men went into the woods to see whether they could discover any traces of human beings, that, in case they found such, they might be on their guard against attack. None were found. The topsails were now taken down from the vessel, thawed, and dried by great fires, and then folded up and secured from wet between the decks. The main-sail was carried on shore, to be used as a covering for the house. In about four days, the house was ready, and a portion of the crew slept in it every night, armed with muskets to defend themselves in case of attack, and guarded by two buck-hounds, which had been brought from England, for the hunting of deer. Such of the other rigging of the vessel as could be taken down, was now removed, and placed under the decks.
On the fourteenth of October, six of the men set out with the dogs, in the hope of killing some deer, the tracks of which they had previously seen. They wandered more than twenty miles over the snow, and returned the next day with one small and lean animal; having passed a cold and miserable night in the woods. Others went out a few days afterwards, and to a still greater distance; these were not only unsuccessful, but they lost one of their companions, who, on attempting to cross a small frozen lake, fell in and was drowned. The captain consequently gave directions that hunting to such distances should be no more attempted.
The crew at first brought beer ashore from the ship; but this, even in their house, and close by the fire, was frozen and spoiled in one night. After this they drank water, which they obtained from a well that they sunk near the house. Their time was chiefly passed in setting traps and hunting for foxes and other animals, and in such occupations as were requisite for their own preservation.
The winter was now so far advanced, that the ship appeared, from the shore, like a piece of ice in the form of a ship. The snow was frozen on every part, and her decks and sides were covered with ice. The captain began to despair of ever again getting her off. Every day the men were employed in beating the ice from the cables, and digging it out of the hawsers with a calking iron; and in these operations the water would freeze on their clothes and hands, so as very soon to render them unequal to almost any exertion.