THE NORTH POLE

Parry at first concealed this most discouraging fact from his men; but it soon became evident to every one that no progress was being made, but the slight difference between their own speed as they struggled over the many obstacles in their path and that of the current bearing the ice-field in the opposite direction. Moreover, the expedition now came to a place where the half-broken ice was not fit to bear the weight of the men or of the sledges. It was in fact nothing more than an immense accumulation of blocks of ice, which, tossed about by the waves, made a deafening noise as they crashed against each other; provisions too were running short, the men were discouraged, Ross was hurt, Parry was suffering from inflammation of the eyes, and the wind had veered into a contrary direction, driving the explorers southwards. There was nothing for it but to turn back.

This venturesome trip, throughout which the thermometer had not sunk beneath 2° 2, might have succeeded had it been undertaken a little earlier in the season, for then the explorers could have penetrated beyond 82° 4'. In any case they would certainly not have had to turn back on account of rain, snow, and damp, all signs of the summer thaw.

When Parry got back to the Hecla, he found that she had been in the greatest danger. Driven before a violent gale, her chains had been broken by the ice, and she had been flung upon the beach, and run aground. When got off, she had been taken to Waygat Strait. All dangers past, however, the explorers got back safely in the rescued vessel to the Orkneys, where they landed, and whence they returned to London, arriving there on the 30th September.

Whilst Parry was seeking a passage to the Pacific, by way of Baffin's or Hudson's Bay, several expeditions were organized to complete the discoveries of Mackenzie, and survey the North American coast. These expeditions were not fraught with any great danger, and the results might be of the most vital importance alike to geographical and nautical science. The command of the first was entrusted to Franklin afterwards so justly celebrated, with whom were associated Dr. Richardson, George Back, then a midshipman in the royal navy, and two common seamen.

The explorers arrived on the 30th August at York Factory on the shores of Hudson's Bay, and having obtained from the fur-hunters all the information necessary to their success, they started again on the 9th September, reaching Cumberland House, 690 miles further, on the 22nd October. The season was now nearly at an end, but Franklin and Back nevertheless succeeded in penetrating to Fort Chippeway on the western side of Lake Athabasca, where they proposed making preparations for the expedition of the ensuing summer. This trip of 857 miles was accomplished in the depth of winter with the thermometer at between 40° and 50° below zero.

Early in spring, Dr. Richardson joined the rest of the party at Fort Chippeway, and all started together on the 18th July, 1820, in the hope of reaching comfortable quarters at the mouth of the Coppermine before the bad season set in; Franklin and his people did not, however, make sufficient allowance for the difficulties of the route or for the obstacles resulting from the severity of the weather, and it took them till the 20th August to cross the waterfalls, shallows, lakes, rivers, and portages which impeded their progress. Game too was scarce. At the first appearance of ice on the ponds the Canadian guides began to complain; and when flocks of wild geese were seen flying southwards they refused to go any further. Annoyed as he was at this absence of good will in the people in his service, Franklin was compelled to give up his schemes, and when 550 miles from Fort Chippeway, in N. lat. 64° 28', W. long. 118° 6', he built on the banks of Winter River a wooden house, which he called Fort Enterprise.

Here the explorers collected as much food as they could, manufacturing with reindeer flesh what is known throughout North America as pemmican. At first the number of reindeer seen was considerable; no less than 2000 were once sighted in a single day, but this was only a proof that they were migrating to more clement latitudes. Thepemmican prepared from eighty reindeer and the fish obtained in Winter River both run short before the expedition was able to proceed. Whole tribes of Indians, on hearing of the arrival of the whites, collected about the camp, greatly harassing the explorers by their begging, and soon exhausted the supply of blankets, tobacco, &c., which had been brought as means of barter.

Disappointed at the non-arrival of reinforcements with provisions, Franklin sent Back with an escort of Canadians to Fort Chippeway on the 18th October.

"I had the pleasure," says Back, writing after his return, "of meeting my friends all in good health, after an absence of nearly five months, during which I travelled 1104 miles in snow-shoes, and had no other covering at night in the woods than a blanket and deerskin, with the thermometer frequently at 40°, and once at 57° below zero, and sometimes passing two or three days without tasting food."

Those who remained at the fort also suffered terribly from cold, the thermometer sinking three degrees lower than it had done when Parry was at Melville Island, nine degrees nearer the pole. Not only did the men suffer from the extreme severity of the cold, but the trees were frozen to the pith, and axes broke against them without making so much as a notch.