THE NORTH POLE
Another large island, that of Melville, soon came in sight, and in spite of the fogs and ice the expedition succeeded in passing W. long. 110°, thus earning the reward of 100l. sterling promised by the English Government. A promontory near Melville Island was named Cape Munificence, whilst a good harbour close by was called Hecla and Griper Bay. It was in Winter Harbour at the end of this bay that the vessels passed the winter. "Dismantled for the most part," says Parry, "the yards however being laid for walls and roofed in with thick wadding tilts, they were sheltered from the snow, whilst stoves and ovens were fixed inside." Hunting was useless, and resulted in nothing but the frost-biting of the limbs of some of the hunters, as Melville Island was deserted at the end of October by all animals except wolves and foxes. To get through the long winter without dying of ennui was no easy matter, but the officers hit upon the plan of setting up a theatre, the first representation in which was given on the 6th November, the day of the disappearance of the sun for three months. A special piece was given on Christmas day, in which allusion was made to the situation of the vessels, and a weekly paper was started called the North Georgia Gazette and Winter Chronicle, which with Sabine, as editor, run into twenty-one numbers, all printed on the return to Europe of the expedition.
In January scrofula broke out, and with such virulence as to cause considerable alarm, but the evil was soon checked by skilful treatment and the daily distribution of mustard and cress, which Parry had managed to grow in boxes round his stove.
On the 7th February the sun reappeared, and although many months must elapse before it would be possible to leave Melville Island, preparations for a start were at once begun. On the 30th April the thermometer rose to zero, and the sailors taking this low temperature for summer wanted to leave off their winter clothes. The first ptarmigan appeared on the 12th May, and on the following day were seen traces of reindeer and of musk goats on their way to the north; but what caused the greatest delight and surprise to the crews was the fall of rain on the 24th May.
"We had been so unaccustomed to see water naturally in a fluid state at all, and much less to see it fall from the heavens, that such an occurrence became a matter of considerable curiosity, and I believe every person on board hastened on deck to witness so interesting as well as novel a phenomenon."
|Rain as a novel phenomenon.|
During the first fortnight in June, Parry, accompanied by some of his officers, made an excursion to the most northerly part of Melville Island. On his return, vegetation was everywhere to be seen, the ice was beginning to melt, and it was evident that a start could soon be made. The vessels began to move on the 1st August, but the ice had not yet broken up in the offing, and they got no further than the eastern extremity of Melville Island, of which the furthest point reached by Parry was in N. lat. 113° 46' 13" and W. long. 113° 46' 43". The voyage back was unmarked by any special incident, and the expedition got back to England towards the middle of November.
The results of this voyage were numerous and important. Not only had a vast extent of the Arctic regions been surveyed; but physical and magnetic observations had been taken, and many new details collected on their climate and animal and vegetable life. In fact in a single trip Parry did more than was accomplished in thirty years by all who followed in his steps.
Satisfied with the important results obtained by him, the Admiralty appointed Parry to the command in 1821 of the Hecla and the Fury, the latter built on the model of the former. On this new trip the explorer surveyed with the greatest care the shores of Hudson's Bay and the coast of the peninsula of Melville, not to be confounded with the island of the same name. The winter was passed on Winter Island on the eastern coast of this peninsula, and the same amusements were resorted to which had succeeded so well on the previous expedition, supplemented most effectively by the arrival on the 1st February of a party of Esquimaux from across the ice. Their huts, which had not been discovered by the English, were built on the beach; and numerous visits paid to them during the eighteen months passed on Winter Island gave a better notion than had ever before been obtained of the manners, customs, character, &c., of this singular people.
The thorough survey of the Straits of Fury and Hecla, separating the peninsula of Melville from Cockburn Island, involved the passing of a second winter in the Arctic regions, and though the quarters were now more comfortable, time dragged heavily, for the officers and men were dreadfully disappointed at having to turn back just as they had thought to start for Behring's Strait. On the 12th August the ice broke up, and Parry wanted to send his men to Europe, and himself complete by land the exploration of the districts he had discovered, but Captain Lyon dissuaded him from a plan so desperate. The vessels therefore returned to England with all hands after an absence of twenty-seven months, having lost but five men, although two consecutive winters had been spent in the Arctic regions.