Letters Written during the Late Voyage of Discovery in the Western Arctic Sea.

The letters are ostensibly addressed to a Brother of the officer-author named Thomas, giving in the first paragraph the conclusion “that a practical communication by sea, round the northern coasts of North America, is not to be attained. The letters recount an officer’s view of the second Parry voyage of 1819, which wintered in Winter Harbour, produced work of the Royal Arctic Theatre, and started a ship’s newspaper. This account gives ample evidence of Parry’s benevolent rule over the men and his religious dedication. Possible authors of these letters were officers Matthew Liddon, Edward Sabine, Henry Hoppner, and Frederick Beechey. [Find the author??]

p. 6: Saturday [May] 22d [1819].—You have occasionally read in the newspapers of sealed bottles being met with at sea, or driven ashore in several parts, containing notes of the time and place of their being thrown into the sea. One was thrown overboard to-day from the Hecla, in which was a paper, containing a request, in various languages, that whoever should find it would transmit it to the Admiralty, in London, mentioning where and when it was found. This is done every day that the ships are under weigh. … by comparing the times and places of the throwing out and the picking up of the bottles, if found at sea, or immediately after they are driven ashore, a calculation may be made of the direction and motion of the currents of the water by which the bottles have been conveyed along. A bottle of this kind, I am informed, was found on the north-west coast of Ireland, which had been thrown overboard in the former voyage to Baffin’s Bay. It had been ten months in the sea, and must have been carried by the currents upwards of a thousand miles at that time.

p. 51, winter routines: In the afternoon the men are employed below in various ways, preparing articles necessary for the ship. At six P. M. they are again inspected and go to supper, after which they amuse themselves in any way they choose, at various games, dancing, singing on the lower deck till nine, when they go to bed, and their lights are extinguished. The officers have tea while the men are at supper, and in reading or writing, conversation, a game at chess, a tune on the violin or the flute, pass the time till half-past ten, when all not on duty retire to rest. [Note the punitive disparity of lights-out for the men at 9 P. M. and the officer’s retirement at half-past ten, when presumably light could still be used.]

To guard against the danger from fire, proper officers visit the lower deck every half hour; and large holes are opened twice a day, close by the ship’s sides, to obtain water. On Sundays divine service is performed in both ships, and a sermon read; and you can not conceive with what propriety and decorum it is attended by every man of the crew.

p. 60: Idleness is equally injurious to the mind and the body; and in our position, could not fail to induce, or at least to dispose for disease. Two schemes were therefore proposed, and unanimously adopted. The one, to fit up a sort of theatre, on which to represent such little pieces as might interest and amuse the men: the other, to establish a sort of weekly newspaper, to be supported by the voluntary contributions (literary that is to say) of the officers of both ships. Of this work, Captain Sabine, of the Royal Artillery, the astronomer of the expedition, was to be the conductor r editor. The theatricals were placed under the superintendance of Lieutenant Beechey, as stage-manager; the commander himself, Captain Parry (for so I designate him, although he has only the rank of Lieutenant in the Navy), took his share in the common effort to excite and maintain cheerfulness and good-humour, excellent preservatives of health, spirits, contentment, and comfort, among the men.