Arctic Discovery.


(From the Inverness Courier.)

We have been favoured with the following private letter addressed by Mr. Thomas Simpson, one of the leaders of the expedition for the discovery of the north-west passage, by a friend in this neighbourhood. Our distinguished young countryman writes in high spirits, and with that enthusiasm and devotion to his cause, without which no great enterprise was ever accomplished:—

“Fort Confidence, 19th December, 1838.

“Our old enemy the ice has stepped cruelly in between us and the fulfilment of our hopes. I had a party of five men and two Indians on foot, and set out from this place on the 7th June. We successfully crossed the height of land with our boats, a portion of our undertaking long deemed particularly difficult and doubtful. But my repeated and fatiguing journeys of last winter had so thoroughly explored every route, that we were quite prepared for each obstacle that occurred. On the 30th we reached the Copper Mine, and found it still fast! It gave way a few days afterwards, and we descended all its terrific rapids, then swollen to their utmost height, along with the driving ice; grand but perilous running, I assure you. Often had we to pull for life or death, to avoid the suction of the precipitous cliffs, along whose base the waters raged with overwhelming fury. The descent of Escape Rapid was the finest thing of the kind I ever witnessed. Below, the breakers made a clean breach over our little vessels; while above we were involved in a cloud of spray that dashed from an overhanging rock a hundred and fifty feet in height, and formed a magnificent rainbow around us in the bright sunshine. It was a gorgeous shower bath, however, that few would relish. On the 1st of July we encamped at the Northern Sea, which still glistened with ice as firm and impenetrable as adamant. It kept us imprisoned in the mouth of the Copper-mine till the 17th, and our subsequent progress to Franklin’s Point Turnagain (which was attained on the 9th of August) was one of incessant struggle with the same relentless foe, in which our poor boats got several planks more than half cut through. At Point Turnagain they were finally arrested, and remained beset for twenty-two days, so different was the season of 1838 from that of 1824, when Franklin found a pefectly clear sea on the 16th of August. The mild weather we experienced in July though very agreeable at the time, was in fact our bane; the gales which there would have cleared the ocean for us, reserved themselves till the following month, and brought down the ice from far and near upon the very part of the coast were we were so unfortunately confined. It was during ten days of that tedious interval (from the 20th to the 29th August) that I performed the pedestrian journey to the eastward ; its results are the tracing of a 100 miles of the coast, the surveying 30 miles further, the discovery of an extensive snow-covered land to the north (distant about 30 miles from the main) which I have had the honour of naming “Victoria Land,” besides many islands, and of an open sea to the eastward. At my furthest point we erected a lofty stone pillar, with a letter for the information of “whoever might find it.” The march altogether was a most fatiguing one, and the weather, on our return to the boats, very inclement. Five days carried us to the “Bloody Fall” of Hearne, as it is called; five more up the Coppermine to our boat deposit; and in a third space of five days we crossed the mountains on foot to this place, where we found every thing in good order on the 14th instant. Some dry venison was stored up during our absence. We have now two dozen of nets set in the lake, and want no longer stares us in the face, as it did for several months after our arrival here last year. Luxuries we have none, our only beverage being an infusion of the arctic tea plant (a rather bitter but wholsome herb), without sugar.

“My hopes of final success, instead of being depressed, are elevated by the check this year received, and the knowledge thus painfully acquired. The existence of an open sea to the eastward is no more doubtful, and should the main shore be again encircled by ice in August the southern coast of the great northern land before alluded to will afford an earlier passage into that eastern sea. Besides, I now regard September as the best month of the year for arctic navigation, and from the mouth of the coppermine to this place is merely a hop, step, and a jump; an eight days’ journey on foot. I traversed that ground over and over last winter, and again this autumn. By the way, that is the country for princely hunting; not a day but I had several chases after the rain-deer. A full grown buck, with his towering antlers, is a noble animal; in fact I now despise all meaner game. I have three tamed white wolves, too of my own taking.”

The account of the expedition of Messrs. Dease and Simpson is now published in vol. 9th, part 2nd of Royal Geographical Society’s Journal, in which also will be found the President’s address on presenting to Mr. Simpson (through Mr. Harrison of the Hudson’s Bay Company) the medal which has been so deservedly awarded to him by that Society.—Ed. N.M.