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Bristol urged it upon the notice of Henry VIII. ; and he declared that if he had facultie to his will, the first thing he would understande was if our seas northwarde be navigable to the Pole or no.' But the first explorer who actually sailed along the edge of the Polar barrier was that gallant Dutch seaman, William Barentz. On June 19, 1596, he discovered the western side of Spitzbergen, and went north along it until he was stopped by the ice. Drs. Beke and Petermann have stated that Barentz circumnavigated the Spitzbergen group; but there is nothing in the journal of his mate, Gerrit de Veer, to show that he did more than examine the western and part of the northern coast; and the map of Hondius, published at Amsterdam, in 1611, shows the track of Barentz along the western coast only. No vessel has ever sailed
up the ice-encumbered eastern side, so as to round the north-east point. In his first and third voyages, Barentz discovered the west and north coasts of Nova Zembla, and persevered in forcing his way through the ice with a brave resolve, which must fill every reader with admiration. Some of our most valuable information respecting the Polar ice near Nova Zembla is derived from the labours of Barentz; and it is certainly fortunate that perfect reliance can be placed in the observations of this able leader of the first true Polar voyage.
But the most important voyages that have ever yet been undertaken in the direction of the unknown Polar region are perhaps those of Henry Hudson ; for that resolute seaman examined the whole extent of the ocean which leads to it, searching for an entrance along the pack edge from Greenland to Nova Zembla. Never was a more audacious attempt made. With a crew of twelve men and a boy, a craft about the size of one of the smallest of modern collier-brigs, and in build more like an old-fashioned Surat vessel than anything else that now sails the scas, we find him coolly talking of sailing across the Pole to Japan, and actually making as careful and judicious a trial of the possibility of doing so as has ever been effected by the best equipped modern expeditions. He examined the edge of the ice between Green land and Spitzbergen twice, in June and in the end of July, constantly attempting to make a passage to the north ward; and he reached a latitude by observation of 80° 23' N. This was in 1607. In the following year he made an attempt to force his way through the ice between Spitzbergen and Nova Zembla. Hoping to bore through the pack, he stood into it for several leagues, but found the ice ahead to be firm and thick, and he was obliged to give up the attempt. He then sailed along the pack edge to the eastwards, always keeping the ice in sight, and watching for an opening, until he reached the coast of Nova
Zembla. He had thus ascertained that the barrier of ice between Greenland and Nova Zembla was impenetrable. It was quite clear that for Search-thrifts,' . Hopewells,' and such like craft, the portals of the unknown region were firmly closed. Stout Henry Hudson had failed, and his additional laurels were to be won elsewhere; but he had done all that the boldest mariner could do, with nothing but a little • Hopewell'under his feet, and no explorer had done as much in the same direction since that 25th of June, 1608, when he sighted Nova Zembla, and turned his vessel's head to the south.
The voyages of Hudson led the way to a great and flourishing whaling trade, in which many nations competed for pre-eminence, and it opened one of the most interesting chapters in the history of Dutch and English commercial enterprise. Henceforth, for more than two centuries, that part of the frontier of the unknown region which extends from Greenland to Nova Zembla was frequented by fleets of Dutch and English whalers. Captain Jansen has made a careful investigation of the old Dutch records, and he finds that no vessel ever went north of 83° on the Spitzbergen meridian. The usual course of the whalers, after the whales had been driven from the bays and harbours which they originally frequented, was to sail up the open lane of water on the west coast of Spitzbergen till they reached 79° or 79° 30' N., and thence to steer west into the ice bearing Polar current. On reaching the ice-fields, they made fast and drifted south with them in search of whales, going over two degrees of latitude in eighteen days. If they had a full cargo they then went home, but if not, they returned to the 79th parallel, and made the same circuit again. They thus discovered that there was a continuity of the ice-fields; that, from the quantity which drifted down in the summer, they must have extended at least as far as the Pole ; and that no land of any extent can intervene to check or divert their course.
During the flourishing period of the Dutch fishery some of the whalers often went in the direction of Nova Zembla, so that the ice in that quarter was also thoroughly examined. No opening was ever found in the Polar pack between Spitzbergen and Nova Zembla, excepting close in shore, and the edge of the barrier of ice was generally met with in latitude 75'. A carefully-drawn Dutch chart is extant, dated 1676, on which the pack edge is delineated in this position, with all the bays and indentations, extending from a little south of Disco, on Spitzbergen, to Nova Zembla. In the same year Captain Wood, who has been most unjustly treated by modern compilers, sailed from England, to discover a passage between Spitzbergen and Nova Zembla. He came to the edge of the ice in 75° 59' N., and
steered close along it, sailing into every opening, but could find no passage through, neither could he see over the ice from the topmast-head. The ice was 78 feet under the water.' Grenville Collins, the hydrographer, who was in this expedition, said, in a letter to the learned Witsen, «The proceedings of the voyage gave me full satisfaction that there was no passage between Spitzbergen and Nova Zembla.'
All the speculations of early navigators on the possibility of reaching the Pole were founded on the erroneous idea that ice was only formed in the neighbourhood of land, and never in the open sea. It was Scoresby who first showed that ice was formed in the Spitzbergen seas during nine months of the year, and that neither calm weather nor the proximity of land was essential to its formation. The land does not afford any assistance, or even shelter, that cannot be dispensed with during the operation of freezing; and Scoresby often saw ice grow to a consistence capable of stopping the progress of a ship with a brisk wind, even when exposed to the waves of the Atlantic. Dr. Walker, of the · Fox,' gives the temperature at which the surface freezes in Baffin's Bay at 28° Fahr. ; Dr. Kane found it to be 29° in Smith Sound.
The period for exploration in the Polar pack is therefore confined to the three short summer months, during which the ice does not form. It was not a hopeful prospect, yet five Government expeditions have examined the pack edge between Greenland and Nova Zembla within the century; three sent by England, and two by Russia. The Russians took the lead, and in 1764 and 1765 sent Captain Vassili Tchitschagoff to seek a passage through the pack on the Spitzbergen meridian, and he reached 80° 26' N. in the first year, and 80° 30' N. in the second. In England the idea of Polar discovery was first revived by Mr. Daines Barrington in 1772, who assiduously collected every scrap of information from Dutch and English whalers, and read a series of papers before the Royal Society. This agitation of the subject resulted in the despatch of Captain Phipps's expedition, which sailed from the Nore in June, 1773. The ships were stopped by the ice, as usual, a little north of Hakluyt Headland ; and Captain Phipps stood into every opening he could find, and forced the ships as far as possible through the loose pack by press of sail. The ice at the pack edge was 24 feet thick when they attained their highest latitude in 80° 48' N., and they examined the ice from longitude 2o to 20° E. From the seven islands a continuous plain of smooth unbroken ice was seen, bounded only by the horizon, which closed round in heavy fields and floe pieces until it rested upon
the north-east island of Spitzbergen. The Expedition returned to England in September, after having made a very careful and persevering examination of the ice north of Spitzbergen, and having attempted to bore through it at every point that offered the remotest chance of success.
It was generally supposed, however, that Captain Phipps went out in a peculiarly unfavourable season, and in 1817 it was resolved that another attempt should be made. Captain Buchan was selected as the commander of this new assault
the hitherto impenetrable ice-barrier, and the gallant Franklin, the late Admiral Beechey, and our veteran Arctic explorer Sir George Back, served under him. The two old whalers which formed the expedition sailed from the Thames in April, 1818, and were stopped in the very position north of Spitzbergen in which all other expeditions from the time of Hudson had been brought up
On examining the edge of the ice in July, a channel was found which both vessels entered under full sail; but it soon came to an end, and they were beset in a close pack. Desperate efforts were made to bore through the ice; the men dragged the vessels along whenever the slightest opening occurred, all sail was set, and in this way they at last reached their highest latitude in 80° 34' N. But the whole body of ice was drifting south, and after strenuous exertions by warping and dragging, they found they had actually lost twelve miles of northing at the end of a single day. During this time both vessels experienced some very severe nips; the ice was 15 feet thick, and was often piled up above the bulwarks. They penetrated for thirty miles within the pack, and it took them ten days to get back to the open water to the southward, thoroughly convinced that nothing more could be done on the Spitzbergen meridian. Captain Buchan then determined to examine the pack edge in the direction of Greenland, and he searched for an opening from 10° E. to 10° W. without success. In 1823 Captain Clavering, in the 'Griper,' sailed due north from Cloven Cliff for twentyfive miles on July 5th, and found the pack edge extending east and west as far as the eye could reach in 80° 20' N. He then examined the ice to the westward for sixty miles, as far as 11° W., but found it closely packed, with no opening in any direction.
Meanwhile the Russian Government was prosecuting similar researches between Spitzbergen and Nova Zembla. Admiral Lutke was employed on this service from 1821 to 1824. He found the ice accumulated to such an extent on the Nova Zembla coast that he was never able to get beyond Cape Nassau. In 1824 he sailed with orders to attain as high a latitude as possible
at a distance from the coast. He arrived at the edge of the Polar pack in 75° 30' N., and examined it for a considerable distance towards Spitzbergen, without finding any navigable opening.
Thus, while Hudson, Poole, Fotherby, Tchitschakoff, Phipps, Scoresby, Buchan, Clavering, Parry, and many hundreds of whalers, had carefully examined the outer edge of the mighty Polar pack north of Spitzbergen, the voyages of Barentz, Hudson, Theunis-Ys, Vlamingh, Wood, Lutke, and many Dutch navigators, effected the same object between Spitzbergen and Nova Zembla. The whole of these seamen were unanimous in their report that the icy barrier was impenetrable for sailingships. Hudson and Buchan made most gallant attempts to bore their way through the close pack of stupendous floes and fields of ice.
This great mass of evidence sufficiently proved the impracticability of sailing to the North Pole ; and Arctic authorities became convinced that the true way of effecting this important and interesting exploration was by means of travelling with sledges over the ice.
In later times, and especially during the period of the Franklin search, a theory was prevalent of the existence of what was called the · Polar Basin.' It was maintained that the Gulf Stream gave rise to a great navigable ocean round the North Pole free of ice during the greater part of the year, and that the ice merely formed a narrow belt round its outer edge, which might easily be penetrated. This theory is directly opposed to the carefully registered facts which have been accumulated by Scoresby and numerous other ice navigators; and it is founded the
appearance of lanes and pools of open water off some of the Arctic coasts, Never was so grand a superstructure of theory based upon so slight a foundation of fact.
When Barentz wintered at the north-eastern extremity of Nova Zembla, his people saw open water in March and April, and once even in February. If there was a south-west wind the ice was always driven away from the coast, leaving a space of open water, and, as soon as the wind came from the opposite quarter, the ice returned, and ground noisily on the beach. There must of course have been an open space into which the ice drifted, and now for the first time we hear of those water-holes along the Siberian coast, since met with in the months of March and April by Russian explorers. Hedenstrom and Anjou, in 1809 and 1821, reported that there was open water, with little drift-ice, to the northward of the islands of New Siberia, in March ; and Anjou was stopped at short distances from the land by weak ice. Wrangell, in the end of March 1821, met with thin ice at