Sunday, February 27, 2011

William Edward Parry - Winter Harbor - within a few hundred miles of completing the Northwest Passage in 1822

Journal of a Second Voyage for the Discovery of a North-West Passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific; Performed in the Years 1821-22-23 in His Majesty’s Ships Fury and Hecla, under the Orders of Captain William Edward Parry, R. N., F. R. S. and Commander of the Expedition.

Parry, William Edward

London: John Murray, 1824. First edition (pp. xxx, 571, errata). Quarto (29.5cm), in modern three-quarter morocco over complimentary marbled boards, gilt titles to spine, red and black morocco labels, five raised bands; illustrated by 26 plates engraved from excellent drawings by George Lyon, commander of the Hecla; 5 ‘Eskimaux’ charts, 4 naval charts, and 4 horizon views, folded, in map pocket inside back cover as called for, also various tables, journals, and lunar observations, crew lists, Admiralty orders, etc.  This is the journal of Parry’s second expedition in search of a Northwest Passage. He barely had time to organize his affairs before setting out again on this, his longest, venture into the Arctic. In early May, 1821, he sailed for the eastern Arctic in the refitted vessels Fury and Hecla, accompanied by the supply ship Nautilus. The OED says, in part, “Passing through Hudson Strait and Foxe Channel., he examined Repulse Bay, proved the accuracy of the observations made by Christopher Middleton, passed one winter at Winter Island and another at Igloolik (enlivened by the presence of the local Inuit), and traced Fury and Hecla Strait to its western end. Through the summers of 1822 and 1823 this strait was blocked by ice, and, as symptoms of scurvy were beginning to appear, Parry judged it inadvisable to attempt a third winter in the ice. The ships returned to Britain and were paid off at Deptford on 14 November 1823. Parry had meantime been advanced to the rank of post captain (8 November 1821) and was now appointed acting hydrographer (1 December 1823).” Parry’s expeditions, and his reports on their findings, are remarkable for several reasons. His meticulous and far-sighted preparations. For example, he saw to it that his two vessels were for all practical purposes identical with interchangeable rigging, equipment, etc., rather than sailing with one large craft supported by a small sloop or similar small vessel; secured a supply of fresh water from snow by constructing a steel jacket around the ships’ stovepipes, a sort of kelly kettle, which produced, he says, over sixty gallons of fresh water at a time. The good care he took of the men in his command. He organized meaningful recreation for his crews, not one of whom, he says, returned from the expedition ‘unable to read his Bible’, and he redesigned their sleeping quarters to increase ventilation and prevent damp. His crew lists were over-subscribed, and many men served on both of these two expeditions. The interest he took in the Inuit. Sizeable parties were encountered and invited on board sometimes with comic results (Hosts and guests did not interpret table manners in quite the same way). Lyon’s drawings show details of native clothing and hunting methods, and include several especially good portraits of individuals and families-- the best is of a sled full of children having a grand time careering around behind a rather ill-disciplined dog-team (an arctic Krieghoff).


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