THE NORTH POLE

Although the results of the second voyage were not equal to those of the first, some of them were beyond price. It was now known that the American coast did not extend beyond the 70° N. lat., and that the Atlantic was connected with the Arctic Ocean by an immense number of straits and channels, most of them—the Fury, Hecla, and Fox, for instance—obstructed with ice brought down by the currents. Whilst the ice barrier on the south-east of Melville Peninsula appeared permanent, that at Regent's Inlet was evidently the reverse. It might, therefore, be possible to penetrate through it to the Polar basin, and it was with this end in view that the Fury andHecla were once more equipped, and placed under the orders of Parry.

This voyage was the least fortunate of any undertaken by this skilful seaman, not on account of any falling off in his work, but because he was the victim of unlucky accidents and unfavourable circumstances. Meeting, for instance, with an unusual quantity of ice in Baffin's Bay, he had the greatest trouble to reach Prince Regent's inlet. Had he arrived three weeks earlier he would probably have been able to land on the American coast, but as it was he was obliged to make immediate preparations for going into winter-quarters.

It was no very formidable matter to this experienced officer to spend a winter under the Polar circle. He knew what precautions to take to preserve the health of his crews, to keep himself well, and what occupations and amusements would best relieve the tedium of a three months' night. Races between the officers, masquerades and theatrical entertainments, with the temperature maintained at 50° Fahrenheit kept all the men healthy and happy until the thaw, which set in on the 20th July, 1825, enabled Parry to resume exploring operations.

He now skirted along the eastern coast of Prince Regent's Inlet, but the floating ice gathered about the vessels and drove them on shore. The Fury was so much damaged that though four pumps were constantly at work she could hardly be kept afloat, and Parry was trying to get her repaired under shelter of a huge block of ice when a tempest came on, broke in pieces the extemporary dock and flung the vessel again upon the shore, where she had to be abandoned. Her crew were received on the Hecla, which, after such an accident as this, was of course obliged to return to England.

Parry's tempered spirit was not broken even by this last disaster. If the Arctic Ocean could not be reached from Baffin's Bay, were there not other routes still to be attempted? The vast tract of ocean between Greenland and Spitsbergen, for instance, might turn out less dangerous, freer as it of necessity would be from the huge icebergs which gather about the Arctic coasts. The earliest expeditions in these latitudes of which we have any record are those of Scoresby, who long cruised about them in search of whales. In 1806 he penetrated in E. long. 16° (reckoning from Paris), beyond Spitzbergen, i.e. to N. lat. 81° 30', where he saw ice stretching away in the E.N.E., whilst between that and the S.E. the sea was open for a distance of thirty miles. There was no land within 100 miles. It seems a matter of regret that the whaler did not take advantage of the favourable state of the sea to have advanced yet further north, when he might have made some important discovery, perhaps even have reached the Pole itself.

Parry now resolved to do what the exigencies of his profession had rendered impossible to Scoresby, and leaving London on the Hecla on the 27th March, 1827, he reached Lapland in safety, and having at Hammerfest embarked dogs, reindeer, and canoes, he proceeded on his way to Spitzbergen. Port Snweerenburg, where he wished to touch, was still shut in with ice; and against this barrier the Hecla struggled until the 24th May, when Parry left her in Hinlopen Strait, and advanced northwards with Ross, Crozier, a dozen men, and provisions for seventy-two days in a couple of canoes. After leaving a depôt of provisions at Seven Islands he packed his food and boats on sledges specially constructed for the occasion, hoping to cross in them the barrier of solid ice, and to find beyond a navigable if not an entirely open sea. The ice did not, however, as Parry expected, turn out to form a homogeneous mass. There were here and there vast gaps to be forded or steep hills to be climbed, and in four days the explorers only advanced about eight miles in a northerly direction. On the 2nd July, in a dense fog, the thermometer marked 1° 9' above zero in the shade, and 8° 3' in the sun; and as may be imagined the march across the broken surface, gaping everywhere with fissures, was terribly arduous, whilst the difficulties were aggravated by the continual glare from the snow and ice. In spite, however, of all obstacles the party pressed bravely on, and on the 20th July found they had got no further than N. lat. 82° 37', i.e. only about five miles beyond the point reached three days previously. Now, as they had undoubtedly made at least about fourteen miles in the interval, it was evident that the ice on which they were was being drifted southwards by a strong current.