The British Search for the Northwest Passage in the Eighteenth Century

An excellent account of the major British voyages of the 18th-century, the intrigues behind them, the delusional nature of some attempts, and some minor successes.

p. 185: Baffin Bay expedition of Richard Pickersgill on the Lyon in 1776: Pickersgill was supplied with maps by Bellin, Green and Van Keulen of the region he was to explore; accounts of the voyages of Baffin, Frobisher and Davis; Crantz’s History of Greenland; and a vocabulary of Eskimo language from Palliser. The three maps were of little assistance, because only Baffin had explored the bay which bore his name, and no copy of his map existed. [describes inadequacies of other maps]…. In short, Pickersgill had virtually no reliable information to guide him apart from Baffin’s brief account.

p. 191, after Pickersgill failed and was eventually dismissed from the navy, a Walter Young was appointed to the Lyon for another expedition to search the western coast of Baffin Bay for the NW passage and to meet Cook coming east: Young was given a summary of Cook’s instructions, and told it was his task to find a passage from the Atlantic side along the west coast of Baffin Bay, even if it meant that he had to winter in the north. He was given copies of Hearne’s journals and maps, and instructed ‘to discover whether the Sea mentioned by the said Mr. Hearne doth communicate with Baffin’s Bay and whether the Natives you may meet with about that Latitude have any Copper in use amongst them.’