Voyages of Discovery and Research within the Arctic Regions, from the Year 1818 to the Present Time….

A volume of summaries of and lengthy quotations from other accounts of major voyages up to the Franklin departure in 1845.

p. vii, Barrow’s objective is to describe: …their several characters and conduct, so uniformly displayed in their unflinching perseverance in difficulties of no ordinary description—their patient endurance of extreme suffering, borne without murmuring, and with an equanimity and fortitude of mind under the most appalling distress, rarely if ever equaled, and such as could only be supported by a superior degree of moral courage and resignation to the Divine will—of displaying virtues like these of no ordinary cast, and such as will not fail to excite the sympathy and challenge the admiration of every right-feeling reader—has been the pleasing yet anxious object of the present volume.

p. 96, from Parry’s first voyage: In order still further to promote good humour among ourselves, as well as to furnish amusing occupation, during the hours of constant darkness, we set on foot a weekly newspaper, which was to be called the North Georgia Gazette and Winter Chronicle, and of which Captain Sabine undertook to be the editor, under the promise that it was to be supported by original contributions from the officers of the two ships: and though some objection may, perhaps be raised against a paper of this kind being generally resorted to in ships of war, I was too well acquainted with the discretion as well as the excellent disposition of my officers, to apprehend any unpleasant consequences from a measure of this kind: instead of which I can safely say that the weekly contributions had the happy effect of employing the leisure hours of those who furnished them, and of diverting the mind from the gloomy prospect which would sometimes obtrude itself on the Stoutest heart. (See Edward Parry, Journal of a Voyage, p. 106-07).

p. 103-04, about Parry again: Nothing could be more judicious than the arrangements made for the employment of the men each day in the week; and on Sundays divine services was invariably performed, and a sermon read, on board both ships. ‘The attention,’ says Parry, ‘paid by the men to the observance of their religious duties was such as to reflect upon them the highest credit, and it tended in no small degree to the preservation of that regularity and good conduct for which, with very few exceptions, they were invariably distinguished.’ The minor arrangements made by Parry to find employment and to vary the occupations of both men and officers, during the long unbroken night of three months, appear to have been very judicious. The former [seamen], after attending divisions morning and evening, cleared up the decks, attended the officers round the ships, examined their berths and bed-places, and in the evening went to their supper, while the officers took their tea. After this the men were permitted to amuse themselves as they pleased, and games of various kinds, as well as dancing and singing, occasionally went on upon the lower deck till nine o’clock, when they retired to rest, and their lights were extinguished. ‘It is scarcely necessary to add,’ Parry observes, ‘that the evening occupations of the officers were of a more rational kind, than those which engaged the attention of the men. Of the former, reading and writing were the principal employments, to which were occasionally added a game of chess, or a tune on the flute or violin, till half past ten, about which time we all retired to rest.’

Barrow’s Parry chapter constitutes virtual hagiography of British seamen and officers, all obedience and dedication. I suspect that Barrow’s florid praise reflects partly his devotion to the Royal Navy’s system of rigid discipline, but more significantly his attempt to draw a damning contrast with John Ross to whom he became a sworn enemy after Ross’s first voyage in search of the Northwest Passage. Beyond that one has to wonder whether Barrow’s men (if not officers) could they have been so compliant (cf. the mutinies of 1790s?).

p. 161, re theatricals during Parry’s second voyage aboardHecla: As a source, therefore, of rational amusement to the men, I proposed to Commander Lyon and the officers of both ships once more to set on foot a series of theatrical entertainments, from which so much benefit in this way had on a former occasion been derived. This proposal was immediately and unanimously acquiesced in. (Parry, p. 122-3)

p. 162-63, again quoting Parry: To furnish rational and useful occupation to the men, on the other evenings, a school was also established…, for the instruction of such of the men as were willing to take advantage of this opportunity of learning to read and write, or of improving in those acquirements…. And thus were about twenty individuals belonging to each ship occupied every evening, from six to eight o’clock. I made a point of visiting the school occasionally during the winter, by way of encouraging the men in this praiseworthy occupation; and I can safely say, that I have seldom experienced feelings of higher gratification than on this rare and interesting sight.” (Parry p. 123-24)

p. 163, on Parry’s efforts to take advantage of the polar night for instruction in elementary education: for the instruction of such of the men who were willing to take advantage of this opportunity of learning to read and write, or of improving in those acquirements: The same plan was adopted on board the Hecla: Benjamin White, one of the seamen who had been educated at Christ-church school, volunteering to officiate as schoolmaster…. I made a point of visiting the school occasionally during the winter, by way of encouraging the men in this praiseworthy occupation; and I can safely say, that I have seldom experienced feelings of higher gratification than on this rare and interesting sight. And well might he be gratified; for we are assured by him, on the return of the ships to England, that ‘every man on board could read his Bible .’ Nor were the interests of science neglected while these domestic arrangements were in progress. A portable observatory was erected for magnetical observations, and a house built for the reception of the requisite instruments for astronomical observations, and for various experiments recommended by a committee of the Royal Society.

p. 248, Barrow returns to the school theme for Parry’s third voyage with further quotes of Parry’s latest account: By the judicious zeal of Mr. Hooper, the Hecla’s school was made subservient, not merely to the improvement of the men in reading and writing (in which, however, their progress was surprisingly great), but also to the cultivation of that religious feeling which so essentially improves the character of a seamen, by furnishing the highest motives for increased attention to every other duty. Nor was the benefit confined to the eighteen or twenty individuals whose want of scholarship brought them to the school-table, but extended itself to the rest of the ship’s company, making the whole lower deck such a scene of quiet rational occupation as I never before witnessed on board a ship…. (Parry, 3d voyage, p. 50-51).

p. 363, on Franklin’s first land journey with winter at Fort Enterprise: The reading of newspapers, magazines, and letters from England, was a source of occupation.

p. 364, quoting from Franklin on winter routines: The Sabbath was always a day of rest with us; the woodmen were required to provide for the exigencies of that day on Saturday, and the party were dressed in their best attire. Divine service was regularly performed, and the Canadians attended, and behaved with great decorum, although they were all Roman Catholics, and but little acquainted with the language in which the prayers were read. I regretted much that we had not a French Prayer-Book, but the Lord’s Prayer and Creed were always read to them in their own language. (Franklin, p. 258).

{Much of this florid prose seems hardly credible, the yes men telling the chief what he wanted to hear and then embellishing the exaggerations.]

p. 394: Piety and resignation under calamity are characteristics of the naval profession; and on the present occasion of distress we are told, “the Doctor having brought with him his Prayer-Book and Testament, some prayers and psalms, and portions of Scripture appropriate to our situation, were read, and we retired to bed.”

p. 395, a well-known quotation from Dr. Richardson from his overland journey with Franklin: Through the extreme kindness and forethought of a lady, the party, previous to leaving London, had been furnished with a small collection of reli gious books, of which we still retained two or three of the most portable, and they proved of incalculable benefit to us. We read portions of them to each other as we lay in bed, in addition to the morning and evening service, and found that they inspired us on each perusal with so strong a sense of the omnipresence of a beneficent God, that our situation, even in these wilds, appeared no longer destitute; and we conversed, not only with calmness, but with cheerfulness, detailing with unrestrained confidence the past events of our lives, and dwelling with hope on our future prospects. Had my poor friend been spared to revisit his native land, I should look back to this period with unalloyed delight.—p. 449.

p. 452-54, apropos the death of the Eskimo artist Sackhouse: Brought to Leith in a whaling-ship, the owners, pleased with his manners, paid him every attention, had taught him a little English, and sent him back the following season, to remain or not, according to his own desire. [He did return, but] In pursuit of his studies, and in the midst of happiness, he was seized with an inflammatory complain, which carried him off in a few days….

The writer says he was unaffectedly pious, and when death was approaching he held in his hand an Icelandic Catechism till his strength and sight failed him, when the book dropped from his grasp, and he shortly afterwards expired. [Back goes on to praise the superiority and intelligence of “the people we are pleased to call savages”….]