THE NORTH POLE

Two interpreters from Hudson's Bay had accompanied Back to Fort Enterprise, one of whom had a daughter said to be the loveliest creature ever seen, and who, though only sixteen, had already been married twice. One of the English officers took her portrait, to the terrible distress of her mother, who feared that if the "great chief of England" saw the inanimate representation he would fall in love with the original.

On the 14th June the Coppermine River was sufficiently free from ice to be navigable, and although their provisions were all but exhausted, the explorers embarked upon it. As it fortunately turned out, however, game was very plentiful on the green banks of the river, and enough musk oxen were killed to feed the whole party.

The mouth of the Coppermine was reached on the 18th July, when the Indians, afraid of meeting their enemies, the Esquimaux, at once returned to Fort Enterprise, whilst the Canadians scarcely dared to launch their frail boats on the angry sea. Franklin at last succeeded in persuading them to run the risk; but he could not get them to go further than Cape Turn-again in N. lat. 68° 30', a promontory at the opening of a deep gulf dotted with islands, to which the leader of the expedition gave the name of Coronation, in memory of the accession of George IV.

Franklin had begun to ascend Hood River, when he was stopped by a cataract 250 feet high, compelling him to make his way overland across a barren, unknown district, and through snow more than two feet deep. The fatigue and suffering involved in this return journey can be more easily imagined than described; suffice it to say that the party arrived on the 11th October in a state of complete exhaustion—having eaten nothing for five days—at Fort Enterprise, which they found utterly deserted. Ill and without food, there seemed to be nothing left for Franklin to do but to die. The next day, however, he set to work to look for the Indians, and those of his party who had started before him, but the snow was so thick he had to return without accomplishing anything. For the next eighteen days life was supported by a kind of bouilli made from the bones and the skin of the game killed the previous year, and at last, on the 29th October, Dr. Richardson arrived with John Hepburn, only looking thin and worn, and scarcely able to speak above a whisper. It seemed as if they were doomed! We quote the following from Desborough Cooley:—

"Dr. Richardson had now a melancholy tale to relate. For the first two days his party had nothing whatever to eat. On the third day, Michel arrived with a hare and partridge, which afforded each a small morsel. Then another day passed without food. On the 11th, Michel offered them some flesh, which he said was part of a wolf; but they afterwards became convinced that it was the flesh of one of the unfortunate men who had left Captain Franklin's party to return to Dr. Richardson. Michel was daily growing more insolent and shy, and it was strongly suspected that he had a hidden supply of meat for his own use. On the 20th, while Hepburn was cutting wood near the tent, he heard the report of a gun, and looking towards the spot saw Michel dart into the tent. Mr. Hood was found dead; a ball had entered the back part of his head, and there could be no doubt but that Michel was the murderer. He now became more mistrustful and outrageous than before; and as his strength was superior to that of the English who survived, and he was well armed, they became satisfied that there was no safety for them but in his death. 'I determined,' says Dr. Richardson, 'as I was thoroughly convinced of the necessity of such a dreadful act, to take the whole responsibility upon myself; and, upon Michel coming up, I put an end to his life by shooting him through the head!'"

Many of the Indians who had accompanied Richardson and Hepburn had died of hunger, and the two leaders were on the brink of the grave when, on the 7th November, three Indians, sent by Back, brought them help. As soon as they felt a little stronger, the two Englishmen made for the Company's settlement, where they found Back, to whom they had twice owed their lives on this one expedition.

The results of this journey, in which 5500 miles had been traversed, were of the greatest importance to geographical, magnetic, and meteorological science, and the coast of America had been surveyed as far as Cape Turn-again.

In spite of all the fatigue and suffering so bravely borne, the explorers were quite ready to make yet another attempt to reach the shores of the Polar Sea, and at the end of 1823 Franklin received instructions to survey the coast west of Mackenzie River, all the agents of the Company being ordered to supply his party with provisions, boats, guides, and everything else they might require.

After a hearty reception at New York, Franklin went to Albany, by way of the Hudson, ascended the Niagara from Lewiston to the famous Falls, made his way thence to Fort St. George on the Ontario, crossed the lake, landed at York, the capital of Upper Canada (sic), passed Lakes Siamese, Huron, and Superior, where he was joined by twenty-four Canadians, and on the 29th June, 1825, came to Lake Methye, then alive with boats.

Whilst Dr. Richardson was surveying the eastern coast of Great Bear Lake, and Back was superintending the preparations for the winter, Franklin reached the mouth of the Mackenzie, the navigation of which was very easy, no obstacles being met with, except in the Delta. The sea was free from ice, and black and white whales and seals were playing about at the top of the water. Franklin landed on the small island of Garry, the position of which he determined as N. lat. 69° 2', W. long. 135° 41', a valuable fact, proving as it did, how much confidence was to be placed in the observations of Mackenzie.