Web Text-ures Logo
Web and Book design,
Copyright, Kellscraft Studio

(Return to Web Text-ures)
Click Here to return to
Discovery of the North Pole
Content Page

 Return to the Previous Chapter
Kellscraft Studio Logo



One of the most famous of the polar trips of the last hundred years was that of Sir John Franklin. It is famous for what he discovered and because of the terrible ending of a promising enterprise. Of all the stories of dreadful want and agony that have been preserved from the records of Arctic travelers, none surpasses that concerning these Englishmen whose fate remained a mystery for years.

Franklin was a bold English seafarer, one of those born adventurers to whom even war seems to be too commonplace. His eyes were ever toward the unknown parts of the globe. He was truly of the mold of those to whom privation and a struggle with the terrible and mysterious is more alluring than domestic comfort.

He made several exploratory trips in his early years which were, in a way, a preparation for the climax of his career. He was about sixty years old when, in 1845, he started on his journey which was to be his last.

"The Erebus and Terror, which formed the fleet, had already proved their capacity for withstanding the strain and pressure of the ice floes. They each carried a crew numbering 67 officers and men, and while Franklin took charge of the Erebus with Captain Fitz-James, the Terror was commanded by Captain Crozier. The ships were provisioned for three years, and the task set them was to discover and sail through the passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific Oceans. The intention of the Government was to ascertain whether or not this passage existed and Franklin was instructed to go by Lancaster Sound to Cape Walker (lat. 74 degrees N.; long. 98 degrees W.) and thence south and west to push through Behring's Straits to the other ocean.

"Franklin was full of enthusiasm as to the outcome of the expedition. That it would prove the existence of the passage he had no doubt, and subsequent events justified him. But he had bigger notions then merely proving the passage. 'I believe it is possible to reach the pole over the ice by wintering at Spitzbergen and going in the spring before the ice breaks up/ he said before starting, and no one would have been surprised had he returned in the three years with a record of the journey. Public interest was thoroughly aroused in the enterprise, and when the two vessels set sail from Greenhithe on May 19, 1845, they had a brilliant send-off. On June i they arrived at Stromness in the Orkney Islands, and on July 4 at Whale Fish Island, off the coast of Greenland, where the dispatch boat Barreto Junior parted company with them to bring home Franklin's dispatches to the Admiralty, reporting 'All Well.' Later on came the news that Captain Dannett, of the whaler Prince of Wales, had spoken them in Melville Bay."

This was the last direct news from Franklin's ships for many years, in fact, the last ever seen of the voyagers by any eye save that of Eskimos. From what was learned later, however, it appears that the ships managed to reach Beechy Island at the entrance of Wellington Channel, and then proceeded to Barrows' Strait, nearly 100 miles west of the channel entrance. At this point the ships made anchorage, and the men faced the first winter with plenty of supplies, with the best of health, and without fear of the future.

"The first Christmas festival of the voyage was kept up with high revel. If fresh beef was not available, venison was, and there was plenty of material for the manufacture of the time-honoured 'duff.' The officers and men, clad in their thick, heavy fur garments, clustered together as the simple religious service was read, and over the silent white covering of sea and land the sound of their voices rolled as they sang the hymns and carols which were being sung in their native land. Then came the merry-making and the feasting in cabins decked with bunting, for no green stuff was available for decorating.

"The first New Year's Day was saddened by the death of one of their comrades, and the silent ice fields witnessed another impressive sight when the crews of both vessels slowly marched ashore to the grave dug in the frozen soil of Beechy Island. The body, wrapped in a Union Jack, was borne by the deceased man's messmates, the members of his watch headed by their officers following, and after them the remainder of the officers and crew. The bells of each ship tolled as the cortege passed over the ice, the crunching of the crisp snow under foot being the only other sound till the grave was reached. There the solemn and impressive service of a sailor's funeral was said, the mingled voices as they repeated the responses passing as a great hum through the still cold air. A momentary silence followed as the flag-swathed figure was lowered into the grave, and then a quick rattle of fire-arms as the last salute was paid echoed far and wide among the ice-bergs.

"Twice more was that scene repeated before the ships cleared from the ice, and one of the first signs discovered by the searchers after Franklin were the three headstones raised on that lonely isle to the memory of W. Braine, John Hartwell, and John Torrington, who died while the ships were wintering in the cold season of 1845-6."

During this dark season some progress was made in the journey, for whenever the ice broke up for a spell, the ships were forced onward. By the end of the winter the expedition had reached within two hundred and fifty miles of the western end of the passage, and in July the voyage was resumed in earnest. Little by little they worked west, how little is seen by the fact that they made but one hundred and fifty miles in two months. At the end of this period, in September, 1846, the ships became frozen in the ice for the last time. They were off the north end of King Williams' Land.

And now the explorers, first began to realize that all might not be well with them. They had provisions for three years when they started; and when the winter they were facing was over, they would have been in the Arctic two years. There was no help at hand, however, and another winter passed without light breaking on their problem.

Then, in the spring, it was seen something must be done. They could not go back; they must go forward. One hundred and thirty men looked to Franklin for their lives. He decided, in the emergency, to send a party ahead in the effort to discover the end of the passage and find open, sea by which the ships could return home. Lieut. Gore was the man selected for this mission. He and his followers started overland, and after a terrific journey, at last reached an elevation from which they could discern the glorious open sea. The northeast passage had been found.

"To commemorate the fact the little party built a cairn upon the summit of the point, which they named Point Victory, and enclosed in a tin canister they deposited, under the cairn, a record of their trip and its results. Twelve years later this record was found, and by it the honour due to Franklin for the discovery of the passage was confirmed.

"Elated with the success of their efforts, Lieutenant Gore and his companions retraced their way back to the ships, for with the end of their journey near at hand, all fears of the provisions running short were at an end. As soon as the ice broke up they would be away into the sea they had seen from Point Victory, and sailing home with their mission accomplished, their task completed, and nothing but honour and glory waiting them at home. As soon as they came within sight of the two ships, perched up among the ice ridges, they shouted out to their comrades to let them know of the success achieved. Round about the ships they saw men standing in groups, but instead of answering cheers, the men only looked in their direction. Unable to understand why so much indifference was displayed, Lieutenant Gore and his companions hurried forward, and, as they came nearer, some of the men separated themselves from the groups and came to meet them with slow steps.

"Soon the cause of their depression was made known to the returned explorers. The leader of the expedition lay dying in his cabin on board the Erebus."

No more tragic picture lives in all history than that of the white-haired British naval officer, lying in torment in his dark cabin, while the haggard men he had sent to spy out the land told him brokenly of their success. He knew that he had done what no other man had done; but he also knew he must die without receiving the plaudits of the multitudes at home. And so he died, June 11, 1847, amid the sobs of his officers.

When the leader of a desperate hope perishes, the fate of his followers hangs by a thread. So it was with the Franklin party. Capt. Crozier was named the leader, and he took up the burden as soon as Franklin was buried, there in the Arctic ice. Hopeless indeed seemed the situation. The ships could go neither forward nor backward; the food supply was dwindling. The men were beginning to show the effect of the long imprisonment. Yet all the time they were moving nearer the goal, for the mass of ice which held the ships was carrying them on.

Winter again. Now the scurvy invaded the crew. Men's minds began to fail. Some could not walk. Many lay helpless in their bunks. By April, 1848, twenty were dead.

It was agreed at last to take the desperate measure of abandoning the ships, and dashing for the spot Gore had discovered, the brave Gore, who had by now succumbed with others. On April 22, a march was begun over the mainland, in an effort to reach the Great Fish river, where Eskimo camps might be found. But soon it was plain that not all of the men could reach the goal alive.

"A council was held, and it was decided that the strongest should take enough supplies to last them for a time and push forward as rapidly as possible, while the remainder should follow at a slower rate and by shorter stages. The majority were in the latter division, and only a few days elapsed after the smaller band, numbering about thirty, had left, before the ravages of scurvy and semi-starvation made it possible for even less than five miles a day being covered. So debilitated were all the members that further advance was abandoned until they had, by another long rest, tried to recuperate their energies. But the terrible bleakness of the place where they were wrought havoc among them, and every day men fell down never to rise again, until the only hope for the survivors lay in returning to the ships, where, at least, they would have shelter,

"Wearily they staggered over the rugged ice ridges, each man expending his remaining energies in striving to carry provisions, without which only death awaited them. Men fell as they walked, unnoticed by their companions, whose only aim was to get back to the ships, and whose faculties were too dimmed to understand anything else. Blindly, but doggedly, they stumbled onward, silent in their agony, brave to the last when worn-out nature gave way and they sank down, one after the other, till none was left alive and only the still figures, lying face downwards on the frozen snow, bore mute witness of how they had neither faltered nor wavered in their duty, but had died, as Britons always should die, true to the end."

Thirty of the men traveled less than five miles; others pushed ahead, and at last reached the cairn established by Gore. They placed within it another record, this time a record of death and disaster, telling the story of Franklin's end, and giving the names of the few survivors.

It was a case of men about to die performing a service for the dead. None of those who reached the cairn ever got more than a few miles from that point. For a little distance they proceeded, dragging on a sledge a heavy boat, their only hope if they should reach open water. Then came the crowning stroke when owing to a break-up of the ice, the boat floated away, and to save it they were forced to leave their food supplies behind. Then all was over. The few strongest who had gone on ahead turned back to the comrades they had left behind. Together, then, they died, and the Arctic snows of many a winter drifted over their bones.

During these years public sentiment had passed from pride in the daring of the expedition to anxiety over its fate, and finally into a great clamor that something should be done in their relief. Many enterprises of succor were planned; many met with failure. It was years before any definite evidence of the fate of Franklin and his men was gleaned from the great frozen mystery.

In 1849 as many as eight expeditions, some sent by England, some by the United States, went in search of Franklin. The first to find traces of the dead was that of Capt. Shepherd Osborne, sent by the Hudson Bay Company. On the 23rd of August, 1850, when exploring Beechy Island, he found relics scattered over an area of several miles. They consisted of empty tin cans, the embankment of a house, and, finally, the graves of three men who had been members of the crews of the Erebus and the Terror.

Aroused by these discoveries five more parties went north in 1852, and as many more in 1853. The results of these were conclusive. In 1854 Dr. Rae met a band of Eskimos who had articles of silverware that had come from the missing ships. By trading with the Eskimos Dr. Rae got possession of a number of these relics. In the meantime a British expedition headed by Capt. McClure, in the Investigator, had been cruising in search during four years and when McClure was rescued from the plight in which his expedition had became caught, it was learned that he had found an Eskimo wearing in his ear a brass button cut from the clothing of one of Franklin's sailors. This led to the belief that the man had been murdered by the natives; but no proof of it was ever forthcoming.

Very important were the discoveries made by Sir L. F. McClintock, who went north in 1857 at the head of a party organized by the widow of Franklin. McClintock went direct to King Williams' Land, and found confirmatory evidence of the death of the Franklin party.

"On May 25, 1859, McClintock, while walking along a sandy ridge from whence the snow had disappeared, he noticed something white shining through the sand. He stooped to examine it, thinking it to be a round white stone, but closer inspection showed it to be the back of a skull. Upon the sand being removed, the entire skeleton was found, lying face downwards, with fragments of blue cloth still adhering to its bleached bones. The man had evidently been young, lightly built, and of the average height. Near by were found a small pocket brush and comb, and a pocket-book containing two coins and some scraps of writing. He had evidently fallen forward as he was walking, and never risen. As an old Eskimo woman told Dr. Rae, 'they fell down and died as they walked along,' overcome with cold, hunger and sickness.

"The explorers were now in the region where all their finds were to be made. Five days later McClintock came upon a boat which he found, from a note attached to it, that Hobson had already examined. It had evidently escaped the notice of the Eskimo, and, until the white men found it, had probably not been touched by human hands from the moment its occupants had died. It was mounted on a sledge, as though it had been hauled over the ice; but from the fact that its bows pointed towards the spot where the ships had been, it was surmised that the men were dragging it back to the vessels when they were overcome.

"Inside were two bodies, one lying on its side under a pile of clothing towards the stern, and the other in the bows, in such a position as to suggest that the man had crawled forward, had laboriously pulled himself up to look over the gunwale, and had then slipped down and died where he fell. Beside him were two guns, loaded and ready cocked, as though the man had been apprehensive of attack. There was also as many as five watches, several books (mostly with the name of Graham Gore or initials G. G in them), abundance of clothes and other articles such as knives, pieces of sheet lead, files, sounding leads and lines, spoons and forks, oars, a sail, and two chronometers, but of food only some tea and chocolate.

"The story mutely told by these relics was only too plain. Weary with hauling it, the majority of the men had left the boat in order to get back to the ships and obtain a fresh supply of provisions, leaving two, who were too weak to struggle on, in the boat as comfortable as they could be made until some of the others could get back to help them. Then the days had passed until the store of provisions had been consumed and the two sufferers had grown weary with waiting, so weary that one had slept and died under his wraps, and the other, with his remaining vestige of strength, had crawled forward to peep out once more for the help that was so long in coming. But only ice had met his gaze, and, sinking down, he had also passed into that overwhelming sleep, and had lain undisturbed for twelve years under the covering of the Arctic snows."

Others who helped prove Franklin's fate were Grinnell, an American; Peabody, an Englishman, and Sir John Ross, also a Briton, and Capt. Charles Francis Hall, of New London, Conn. While prosecuting their search they explored much territory and made discoveries of great value to science.

Most noted of all the explorers who thus turned the Franklin tragedy into great account for the advancement of learning was Elisha Kent Kane, an American physician. Dr. Kane's book, "Arctic Explorations," is one of the most interesting and authoritative of all written in that period. Moreover, it was this volume, full of the romance of the mysterious north, that first fired Peary, the pole discoverer, with zeal to visit the Arctic region. The following chapter is given to Dr. Kane's work.

Thrilling in the extreme were the experiences of McClintock, McClure, Rae, and others. Not the least dramatic were the discovery of records of earlier expeditions.

McClintock, in 1850, tells of finding the place where Parry camped thirty years before. This was in a cove on Melville Island.

"On reaching the ravine leading into the cove," he says, "we spread across, and walked up, and easily found the encampment, although the pole had fallen down. The very accurate report published of his journey saved us much labor in finding the tin cylinder and ammunition. The crevices between the stones piled over them were filled with ice and snow; the powder completely destroyed, and cylinder eaten through with rust, and filled with ice. From the extreme difficulty of descending into such a ravine with any vehicle, I supposed that the most direct route, where all seemed equally bad, was selected; therefore sent the men directly up the northern bank, in search of the wheels which were left where the cart broke down. They fortunately found them at once; erected a cairn about the remains of the wall built to shelter the tent; placed a record on it, in one tin case within another. We then collected a few relics of our predecessors, and returned with the remains of the cart to our encampment. An excellent fire had been made with willow stems; and upon this a kettle, containing Parry's cylinder, was placed. As soon as the ice was thawed out of it, the record it contained was carefully taken out. I could only just distinguish the date. Had it been in a better state of preservation, I would have restored it to its lonely position."

Capt. Inglefield, in the Isabel, a steamer fitted out by Lady Franklin in 1852, tells of a gale during which he attempted to land on the coast of Smith's Sound in latitude 78:28. After describing the impossibility of landing Inglefield says:

"The rest of the 27th and the following day were spent in reaching, under snug sail, on either tack, whilst the pitiless northerly gale drove the sleet and snow into our faces, and rendered it painful work to watch for the icebergs, that we were continually passing. On this account, I could not heave the ship to, as the difficulty of discerning objects rendered it imperative that she should be kept continually under full command of the helm. The temperature, 25, and the continual freezing of the spray, as it broke over the vessel, combined with the slippery state of the decks from the sleet that fell and the ice which formed from the salt water, made all working of ropes and sails not only disagreeable, but almost impracticable; so that I was not sorry when the wind moderated.

"By 4 a. m., of the 29th, it fell almost to a calm; but a heavy swell, the thick fog and mist remaining, precluded our seeing any distance before us; and thus we imperceptibly drew too near the land-pack off the western shore, so that, a little after Mr. Abernethy had come on deck, in the morning watch, I was called up, as he said that the ship was drifting rapidly into the ice. Soon on deck, I found that there was no question on that score; for even now the loose pieces were all round us, and the swell was rapidly lifting the ship further into the pack, whilst the roar of waters, surging on the vast floe-pieces, gave us no very pleasant idea of what would be our fate if we were fairly entrapped in this frightful chaos. The whale-boat was lowered, and a feeble effort made to get her head off shore; but still in we went, plunging and surging amongst the crushing masses.

"While I was anxiously watching the screw, upon which all our hopes were now centered, I ordered the boiler, which had been under repair, and was partly disconnected, to be rapidly secured, the fires to be lighted, and to get up the steam; in the meantime the tackles were got up for hoisting out our long-boat, and every preparation was made for the worst. Each man on board knew he was working for his life, and each toiled with his utmost might; ice-anchors were laid out, and hawsers got upon either bow and quarter, to keep the ship from driving further in; but two hours must elapse before we could expect the use of the engine. Eager were the inquiries when will the steam be up? and wood and blubber were heaped in the furnace to get up the greatest heat we could command.

"At last the engineer reported all was ready; and then, warping the ship's head round to seaward, we screwed ahead with great caution; and at last found ourselves, through God's providence and mercy, relieved from our difficulties. It was a time of the deepest suspense to me; the lives of my men and the success of our expedition depended entirely on the safety of the screw; and thus I watched, with intense anxiety, the pieces of ice, as we drifted slowly past them; and, passing the word to the engineer, 'East her,' 'Stop her,' till the huge masses dropped into the wake, we succeeded, with much difficulty, in saving the screw from any serious damage, though the edges of the fan were burnished bright from abrasion against the ice."

McClure describes some experiences of the breaking up of the ice July 24, 1851, off Point Armstrong.

"The wind, veering to the westward during the night," says he, "set large bodies of ice into the water we occupied, which was rapidly filling. To prevent being forced on shore, we were obliged, at 8 a. m. of the 25th, to run into the pack, where we drifted, according to the tide, about a mile and a half from the beach; but, during the twenty-four hours, made about two miles and a half to the northeast, from which, when taken with the quantity of drift-wood that is thickly strewed along the beach, I am of opinion that on this side of the strait there is a slight current to the northeast, while upon the opposite one it sets to the southward, upon which there is scarcely any wood, and our progress, while similarly situated, was in a southerly direction. We continued drifting in the pack, without meeting any obstruction, until 10 a. m. of the 1st of August, when a sudden and most unexpected motion of the ice swept us with much velocity to the northeast, toward a low point, off which were several shoals, having many heavy pieces of grounded ice upon them, toward which we were directly setting, decreasing the soundings from twenty-four to nine and a half fathoms. Destruction was apparently not far distant, when, most opportunely, the ice eased a little, and, a fresh wind coming from the land, sail was immediately made, which, assisted by warps, enabled the ship to be forced ahead about two hundred yards, which shot us clear of the ice and the point into sixteen and a half fathoms, in which water we rounded the shoals; the ice then again closed, and the ship became fixed until the 14th of August, when the fog, which since the previous day had been very dense, cleared, and disclosed open water about half a mile from the vessel, with the ice loose about her."

The difficulty of clearing away large masses of ice was, to some extent, obviated by blasting. "Previously to quitting the floe," says McClure, "I was desirous of trying what effect blasting would have upon such a mass. A jar containing thirty-six pounds of powder was let down twelve feet into the water near the center; the average thickness was eleven feet, and its diameter four hundred yards. The result was most satisfactory, rending it in every direction, so that with ease we could effect a passage through any part of it."

McClure also tells of one of those dramatic meetings in the ice-fields that often occur. Says he:

"While walking near the ship, in conversation with the first lieutenant upon the subject of digging a grave for a man who had just died, and discussing how we could cut a grave in the ground whilst it was so hardly frozen (a subject naturally sad and depressing), we perceived a figure walking rapidly towards us from the rough ice at the entrance of the bay. From his pace and gestures we both naturally supposed, at first, that he was some one of our party pursued by a bear; but, as we approached him, doubts arose as to who it could be. He was certainly unlike any of our men; but, recollecting that it was possible some one might be trying a new travelling-dress preparatory to the departure of our sledges, and certain that no one else was near, we continued to advance.

"When within about two hundred yards of us, the strange figure threw up his arms, and made gesticulations resembling those used by Esquimaux, besides shouting at the top of his voice words which, from the wind and intense excitement of the moment, sounded like a wild screech: and this brought us both fairly to a standstill. The stranger came quietly on, and we saw that his face was as black as ebony (made black by the lamp smoke in his tent); and really, at the moment, we might be pardoned for wondering whether he was a denizen of this or the other world; as it was, we gallantly stood our ground, and, had the skies fallen upon us, we could hardly have been more astonished than when the dark-faced stranger called out, 'I'm Lieutenant Pim, late of the Herald, and now in the Resolute. Captain Kellett is in her, at Dealy Island.'

"To rush at and seize him by the hand was the first impulse, for the heart was too full for the tongue to speak. The announcement of relief being close at hand, when none was supposed to be even within the Arctic Circle, was too sudden, unexpected, and joyous, for our minds to comprehend it at once. The news flew with lightning rapidity; the ship was all in commotion; the sick, forgetful of their maladies, leaped from their hammocks; the artificers dropped their tools, and the lower deck was cleared of .men; for they all rushed for the hatchway, to be assured that a stranger was actually among them, and that his tale was true. Despondency fled the ship, and Lieut. Pim received a welcome pure, hearty, and grateful that he will surely remember and cherish to the end of his day."

Dr. Rae's journal gives details of the finding of Franklin's relics, heretofore described. Under date of March 20, 1854, he wrote:

"We were met by a very intelligent Esquimo, driving a dog-sledge laden with musk-ox beef. This man at once consented to accompany us two days' journey, and in a few minutes had deposited his load on the snow, and was ready to join us. Having explained to him my object, he said that the road by which he had come was the best for us; and, having lightened the men's sledges, we travelled with more facility. We were now joined by another of the natives, who had been absent seal-hunting yesterday, but, being anxious to see us, had visited our snow-house early this morning, and then followed, up our track. This man was very communicative, and, on putting to him the usual questions as to his having seen 'white man' before, or any ships or boats, he replied in the negative; but said that a party of 'Kabloomans' had died of starvation a long distance to the west of where we then were, and beyond a large river. He stated that he did not know the exact place, that he never had been there, and that he could not accompany us so far. The substance of the information then and subsequently obtained from various sources was to the following effect:

"In the spring, four winters past (1850), while some Esquimo families were killing seals near the north shore of a large island, named in Arrowsmith's charts King William's Land, about forty white men were seen travelling in company southward over the ice, and dragging a boat and sledges with them. They were passing along the west shore of the above-named island. None of the party could speak the Esquimo language so well as to be understood, but by signs the natives were led to believe that the ship or ships had been crushed by ice, and that they were now going to where they expected to find deer to shoot. From the appearance of the men all of whom, with the exception of an officer, were hauling on the drag-ropes of the sledge, and looked thin they were then supposed to be getting short of provisions; and they purchased a small seal, or piece of seal, from the natives. The officer was described as being a tall, stout, middle-aged man. When their day's journey terminated, they pitched tents to rest in.

"At a later date the same season, but previous to the disruption of the ice, the corpses of some thirty persons and some graves were discovered on the continent.

The following is a list of the articles obtained from the Esquimos by Dr. Rae:

One silver table-fork crest, an animal's head with wings extended above; three silver table-forks crest, a bird with wings extended; one silver tablespoon crest, with initials "F. R. M. C." (Captain Crozier, Terror); one silver table-spoon and one fork crest, bird with laurel-branch in mouth, motto, "Spero meliora;" one silver table-spoon, one tea-spoon, and one dessert-fork crest, a fish's head looking upwards, with laurel-branches on each side; one silver table-fork initials, "H. D. S. G." (Harry D. S. Goodsir, assistant-surgeon, Erebus); one silver table-fork initials, "A. M'D." (Alexander M'Donald, assistant-surgeon, Terror); one silver table-fork initials, "G. A. M." (Gillies A. Macbean, second master, Terror); one silver table-fork initials, "J. T. ;" one silver dessert-spoon initials, "J. S. P." (John S. Peddie, surgeon, Erebus); a round silver plate, engraved, "Sir John Franklin, K. C. B. ;" a star or order, with motto, "Nec aspera terrent, G. R. III. MDCCCXV."

One of the most pathetic stories of the Arctic belongs to this period. It is the death of Lieut. Bellot, a young Frenchman attached to the Prince Albert, one of the Franklin relief ships, under Capt. Kennedy. He was attempting to lead a party to join Sir Edward Belcher's squadron, near Cape Beecher.

Bellot left Beechey Island Aug. 12, 1853, with a party. They encountered a belt of water before reaching the mainland, and Bellot sought to cross it alone in a boat. But the ice separated him from his companions and he perished. One of his comrades, named Johnson, tells of building an ice-house, and continues:

"Mr. Bellot sat for half an hour in conversation with us, talking on the danger of our position. I told him I was not afraid, and that the American expedition was driven up and down this channel by the ice. He replied, I know they were; and when the Lord protects us, not a hair of our heads shall be touched.'

"I then asked Mr. Bellot what time it was. He said, 'About quarter past eight a. m.' (Thursday, the 18th), and then lashed up his books, and said he would go and see how the ice was driving. He had only been gone about four minutes, when I went round the same hummock under which we were sheltered to look at him, but could not see him; and, on returning to our shelter, saw his stick on the opposite side of a crack, about five fathoms wide, and the ice all breaking up. I then called out 'Mr. Bellot!' but no answer (at this time blowing very heavy). After this, I again searched round, but could see nothing of him.

"I believe that when he got from the shelter the wind blew him into the crack, and, his south-wester being tied down, he could not rise. Finding there was no hope of again seeing Lieut. Bellot, I said to Hook, 'I'm not afraid: I know the Lord will always sustain us.' We commenced travelling, to try to get to Cape De Haven, or Port Phillips; and, when we got within two miles of Cape De Haven, could not get on shore; and returned for this side, endeavoring to get to the southward, as the ice was driving to the northward. We were that night and the following day in coming across, and came into the land on the eastern shore a long way to the northward of the place where we were driven off. We got into the land at what Lieut. Bellot told us was Point Hogarth.

"In drifting up the straits towards the Polar Sea, we saw an iceberg lying close to the shore, and found it on the ground. We succeeded in getting on it, and remained for six hours. I said to David Hook, 'Don't be afraid; we must make a boat of a piece of ice.' Accordingly, we got on to a piece passing, and I had a paddle belonging to the India-rubber boat. By this piece of drift-ice we managed to reach the shore, and then proceeded to where the accident happened. Reached it on Friday. Could not find our shipmates, or any provisions. Went on for Cape Bowden, and reached it on Friday night."

When the Esquimos heard of Bellot's death, they shed tears, and cried "Poor Bellot! poor Bellot!" Two years before, he had seen an Esquimo dragging himself over the ice, with a broken leg. He called the carpenter and gave him directions to make a wooden leg for the poor fellow, and to teach him to walk with it.

Book Chapter Logo Click the book image to turn to the next Chapter.