The Vessels Left in the Ice.
Our readers are aware that several of our whaling ships were left in the ice in Baffin’s Bay last season, and the following memorial has been transmitted from Hull on the occasion:—
To the Right Hon. the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty,
The Memorial of the undersigned managing and other owners of ships employed in the Davis’ Straits Whale-fishery from the port of Hull—
Sheweth,—That the following six ships, Abram, Dordon, Duncombe, Harmony, Jane, William Torr,—all of the port of Hull; together with the ships Lady Jane, and Grenville Bay, of Newcastle; Norfolk, of Berwick; Viewforth, of Kirkcaldy; and Middleton, of Aberdeen; making in all eleven sail, were left on the 11th day of October, 1835, by the ship Alfred, of Hull, (since arrived,) closely beset in the ice, in lat. 69° to 70°, and long. 60° to 65°, with little prospect of their being speedily liberated; and, as the frost had then set in severely, and as nothing has since been heard of these ships, your memorialists are very apprehensive that they may be compelled to remain in that perilous situation, until the return of spring shall have broken up the ice, so as to allow of their escape.
That, although the ships belonging to your memorialists (and they have no doubt all the others) were, when they left the port of Hull, abundantly supplied with provisions, and every thing necessary for the comfortable subsistence of the crews considerably beyond the expected duration of the voyage, yet they are not sufficiently provided with the means of supporting life through the severities of an Arctic winter, particularly as the crews of two wrecked vessels are added to their original number; and your memorialists greatly fear that the crews, amounting altogether to upwards of 600 souls, will be exposed to dreadful sufferings in that inclement region, unless it should be found practicable to supply them with food, clothing, and fuel; and this, it is presumed, might be effected if a ship furnished with such necessaries could open a communication with them over the ice.
Your memorialists are informed that your Lordships have on various occasions supplied the wants of vessels falling short of provisions, &c., in consequence of being prevented reaching their port by adverse winds; and, as the present unhappy situation of their ships has not been occasioned by any deficiency in their original equipment, nor by imprudently venturing into places whither they had not been used to resort, but solely by the unprecedented accumulations of ice, owing to the extreme severity of the season, your memorialists cannot but view this as a case worthy of your Lordships’ interference.
Your memorialists therefore pray that your Lordships will be pleased to take into your immediate and most serious consideration the case of these unfrotunate men, and adopt such measures as to your wisdom may seem fit and proper for granting them effectual relief, to enable them to stay by their ships, and either prosecute the fishery in the ensuing season, or return home in safety, whichever may appear most expedient, so that the anxiety unavoidably felt by the families of these poor sufferers may be abated, and that the losses already sustained by your memorialists through the total failure of the fishery, may not be aggravated by the destruction of such a number of their fellow-creatures, and the valuable property entrusted to their charge.
And your memorialists will ever pray, &c,
Hull, 4th December, 1835.
|Thomas Bell |
Joseph S. Egginton
S. H. Egginton
John C. Cankrien
Benjamin Stocks, jun.
S. T. Hassell
|Robert Lee |
W. S. Cooper Tidd,
|Henry Preston |
To the foregoing Memorial the following reply was sent:—
Admiralty, 7th December, 1835.
Gentlemen,—Having laid before my Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty your letter of the 5th instant, transmitting a memorial from the Greenland Ship-owners at Hull, praying for assistance and relief to be sent to the ships which have been detained in the ice at Davis’ Straits, I am commanded to acquaint you, that, much as my Lords regret the unfortunate situation of the crews of these ships, they do not think that it is possible, from the advanced period of the season, to afford them the assistance required.
I am, Gentlemen, your most obedient servant,
To Messrs. Lightfoot and Earnshaw, Hull.
In consequence of Mr. Wood’s letter, the Memorial, of which the following is a copy, was transmitted immediately to the Board of Admiralty:—
“To the Right Honourable the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty.—The memorial of the undersigned owners of ships employed in the Davis’ Straits whalefishery from the port of Hull,
“Sheweth—That when you memorialists had the honour of addressing your lordships on the subject of the ships detained in the ice in Davis’ Straits, praying for assistance to the crews, they did not presume to specify any time as being in their opinion the most proper for affording that assistance, but left both the time and the means entirely to the wisdom of your lordships; feeling well assured, not only that your lordships would be disposed to grant the aid required, but also that your lordships possessed means of information on all matters of detail far superior to any which your memorialists could pretend to offer.
“That your memorialists feel grateful for the answer your lordships have sopromptly condescended to return to their application, perceiving therein thereadiness of your lordships to afford relief to those unfortunate men, did not thelateness of the present season seem to preclude the possibility of reaching them at present. Your memorialists therefore venture to suggest to your lordships, as being the opinion of the oldest and most experienced masters of ships in the whalefishery belonging to this port, that if a ship or ships were to leave this country about the middle of the ensuing month (January) they would probably reach the edge of the ice, about the time when some of those unfortunate vessels might be getting free, and when their crews (if then existing) must be in a state of extreme destitution, and when, consequently, a supply of provisions and other necessaries would be most timely, and might prove the means of saving them from utter destruction.
“Your memorialists have been informed that in the years 1826 and 1827 the ship Dundee, of London, passed the winter in Davis’s Straits, being beset in lat. 73 or 74; that she drifted slowly down with the ice to about 62 or 63, until in February the ice opened and she escaped. The sufferings of the Dundee’s crew were much alleviated by the wreck of a Dutch whaler (aban- doned by her crew) being in their vicinity, from this wreck they procured pro- visions and fuel sufficient to eke out their own scanty means, and enable them to support their privations. But the crews of your memorialists’ ships have no such resource to fly to, and must therefore be in a most deplorable condition whenever they shall regain their liberty.
“Your memorialists are the more urgent in their representaions from a conviction that if your lordships decline to interfere, any attempt at assistance which in that case your memorialists would see it their duty to make, would be greatly wanting in efficiency, they not having the ample stores which are at your lordships’ command to resort to, nor (and which is perhaps of greater importance) would the officers of a private ship have sufficient authority to restrain excesses, and a spirit of insubordination, too likely to be found amongst such a number of men confined under severe privations, and suddenly restored to plenty and a sense of freedom, and whose anxiety to revisit their homes might induce the crews of the beset ships first relieved, to combine together, possess themselves of any private vessels sent out to them, and return home, thereby leaving their own ships and their less fortunate comrades to certain destruction.
“Your memorialists therefore earnestly beseech your lordships that you will be pleased to assure your memorialists, that this sad case shall remain under your lordships’ favourable notice, and that you will order adequate relief to be forwarded to the poor sufferers so soon as the season will allow of the attempt being made with safety to those who shall be employed in that service.
“And your memorialists will ever pray, &c.
John C. Cankrien
S. T. Hassell
Benj. Stocks, jun.
Thomas William Torr
W. S. Cooper
Hull, 10th December, 1835.
We must now refer our readers to the little polar-map which will be found in our third volume (p. 267) with which we shall be enabled to tell the precise situation of the frozen-up ships.
The following lie in Home Bay, on the western side of Baffin’s Bay, (CapeKater forms its northern point,) and they are close in shore: viz. The WilliamTorr, and Jane, of Hull; the Viewforth, of Kirkcaldy; and the Middleton, ofAberdeen.
Due east of Cape Kater, nearly midway between the two shores, lie the Abram, Dordon, Harmony, and Duncombe, of Hull; the Lady Jane and Grenville, of Newcastle, and the Norfolk, of Berwick, surrounded by the ice. The line of the ice, when it was last seen, extended from Women’s Island towards Cape Walsingham, leaving a channel of water from those islands and Queen Anne Cape, varying from 50 to 120 miles wide.
There are eleven ships beset, each of which we may calculate to be manned by 48 seamen, making together 528 men. Then portions of the crews of the Mary Francis, the Lee, and the Isabella, which were lost, who are dispersed on board the different vessels, may be calculated at 60 or 70 men more, so that nearly 600 men are left on the ice.
If the men attempt to escape to the settlement of Wileyford, in lat. 67½, of to Leifde, which is situate in about 68½°, in their boats, it is to be feared, and there is every reason to believe, they will perish in the attempt.
The ships know nothing of their respective situations, so that there is no reason to believe that they will communicate with each other.
The nearest Moravian settlement is New Hernhut, situated in lat. 74; there is also another called Lichtenfeld, more to the south, in 62½°.
There is no possibility of assistance reaching the vessels till they get out of the ice themselves, which may be in March or April; but the ice takes such different turns, they may get out before that.
To the foregoing we shall add an extract from the reply of Captain Humphreys to a letter from Captain Ross, as the opinion of that gentleman, from his great experience in the polar seas, may be looked on as of the highest importance.
“I cannot state the exact number of the respective crews, but as near as I can calculate I think you will find the following statement nearly correct:—Duncombe, 48 men—Abram, 48—Harmony, 48—Jane, 49—William Torr, 48—Dordon, 48—Mary Frances, lost, crew left, 41—Isabella, lost, crew left, 3—Lee, lost, crew left, 16.—Belonging to Hull …… 349
Viewforth, of Kirkcaldy, 47—Middleton, of Aberdeen, 48—Lady Jane, of Newcastle, 59—Grenville Bay, of Newcastle, 50—Norfolk, of Berwick, 50.—Belonging to various other ports …… 254
Total men left with the ships …… 594
“To state the exact quantity of provisions of each ship is impossible; but the average is about eight months full allowance. Some have only seven months, for the Harmony and Norfolk have had to borrow of the Grenville Bay and Lady Jane; but as to the quantity I cannot speak with accuracy. It would, however, be exceedingly erroneous to calculate upon the probable excess of provisions; for having got beset so late, they have been no doubt on full allowance up to the time, and hence the scantiness of the provisions left must necessarily be very considerable. If this be true, (and I think a careful examination of the question will show it to be so, it proves the imperative call upon the British government to adopt immediate and decisive measures for the relief of our suffering countrymen. When last seen, the Jane, Viewforth, and Middleton were five miles off the west land, near Cape Hooper; and the William Torr, south of the low land, close in-shore, in latitude 68°. The Duncombe was the easternmost ship when left by the Alfred, distant from the island of Disco 130 or 140 miles. The other six were left in a group, bearing from the Duncombe N.W. distant about fifteen or twenty miles. Young ice was then making rapidly, and a large body of ice was drifting from the northward, which would consequently render the effort more difficult to extricate themselves from their position. The latitude of the seven easternmost ships was 68° 57’, by Captain Brass’s account.
“As you have freely made these inquiries of me, I trust you will not deem it presumption if I give you my opinion, as to the best manner of affording relief. By all means I should recommend the government to undertake the task. I should advise that two ships, of from 300 to 400 tons, or such size as may be thought most convenient, be fitted up, with doubling from the bends as for down as may be thought fit, fortified with ice-knees on the outside of the bows, and also a strong fortification within, as far aft as the after part of the fore-channels, with adequate provisions, clothing, coals, &c. as the case requires; with efficient officers and crew. I should by all means recommend that an ice-master and mate accompany each ship.
“The ships must be sent out without delay, and proceed immediately to the ice; after having passed cape Farewell, in long. 50 W., the ships should separate, one making the ice, in lat. 57 N. and the other in 60 N. and commence plying along the edge, and examining most strictly every bight; a strict look-out should be kept, as it is more than probable that the seven ships, left in the middle of the straits, may be separated by a variety of causes, known only to the men of great experience in those regions. After having, I hope, fallen in with and relieved the seven ships, the expedition will be at liberty to devote their united attention to render relief to the four which are in-shore.
“The plan to be adopted, on this occasion, is simple. As soon as the ice will allow, they must proceed either to the Holsteinburg or Leively, the Danish settlements. On their making known the object of the expedition, assistance will be given, and dogs and sledges in sufficient numbers must be taken on board, for conveying provisions, clothing, &c. over the ice to the four ships. Other arrangements may easily be made. I should have stated that the four ships will not be able to get out until the breaking up of the land-ice, which will not be until August.
“If the government undertake the expedition, it will be rendered more efficient, and better discipline will ensure greater certainty of success.
“I think, sir, that the present time cannot be deemed unsuitable; for before the expedition can be fitted out considerable time will have elapsed, and by the time it arrives at the ice, the seven ships will either be lost, or out of the ice waiting for succour, as they will not dare to attempt to cross the Atlantic in their enfeebled state. This is no time to stand with folded arms; the cries of suffering humanity—the distress which visits our doors, and the tears of wives— and, if decisive measures be not adopted, of orphans too—call loudly upon the philanthropy of the British nation to action. England, that is renowned among the nations of the earth for the exercise of Christian love and disinterested benevolence, is now summoned, by every motive which can sanctify her sympathy, to disregard at once the fears of probability, and at least make the effort to rescue her sons from the inhospitable climes of the North.
“R. W. HUMPHREY.”
The following Resolutions have been passed by the Trinity House of Hull: That this Corporation do subscribe the sum of One Thousand Pounds, to be placed at the disposal of the committee of ship-owners, who have undertaken the care and management of providing and fitting out a ship or ships, for the above purpose.—And in order to alleviate as much as possible, at the present inclement season of the year, the distress to which many of the wives and children of such of the seamen now detained on board the said several shipsand vessels, as belong to this port, will be subjected;—
It was also resolved unanimously, That an investigation be instituted into the circumstances of the families of such seamen, with a view to affording relief to such as may appear to require it.
In consequence of these representations, we are glad to find that the government has determined on sending out an expedition, and has accepted the proffered services of Capt.Ross, to rescue the unfortunate crews of the ships, if possible.
The plan of proceeding will be as follows:—A ship adapted for the navigation of the Arctic seas is to be immediately fitted out, and despatched to the nearest point attainable, to the frozen-up vessels; she is to be commanded by the gallant Captain James Ross, the nephew of Sir John Ross, and his companion in the celebrated expedition to the northern pole. She is to be manned by a hardy crew of volunteers, men inured to the difficulties and the dangers attendant on the navigation of the northern seas, in the whaling ships. The vessel selected for this arduous service is the Cove, one well suited for it, possessing all the capabilities requisite, and the property of Messrs. Spyvee and Coopers, of Hull. She is now fitting out under the direction of Mr. Humphrey, late of the Isabella, the gentleman by whom the two Captains Ross, and their brave crew, were rescued from their dreary abode, and brought to this country in 1833. Numbers of volunteers have already offered their services to man the Cove, and aid in rescuing their brother mariners.
The primary object of Captain Ross will be to proceed, at once, in H.M.S. Cove, the vessel which, in pursuance of the above resolution, has been supplied to government for the immediate service; and endeavour to relieve those ships which may drift out of the middle ice, and the crews of which are supposed, even if the vessels are free, to be now suffering not only from hunger and fatigue but also from disease.
Two bombs, the Terror and Erebus, are, it is understood, to follow the Cove, being properly fortified to enter the ice, and it is to be hoped, by bodily exertion on sledges, drawn by dogs or deer, to effect the liberation of our unfortunate countrymen, should they be unable to extricate the vessels themselves.
The Terror and Erebus will not, in all probability, sail before the middle ofFebruary, as they will require peculiar strengthening similar to the Arcticships, in the event of accident compelling them to winter; and further, theycannot well attempt to take the ice before the middle of March.
The officers and crews of those vessels will, of course, be volunteers, and will be on nearly a similar establishment to our Arctic expeditions.
Since the foregoing was written, one of the ships from the middle of the Strait has arrived at Hull, and reports that the six others have got clear of the ice. Until we have further authentic record of these six, the bombs will certainly be advanced. But should they have escaped, it is possible that only one will join Capt. Ross. In either case, this second expedition will be fitted out, and conducted to the ice, with all possible despatch, under the command of that distinguished scientific officer, Commander Belcher; to whom, on the departure of the Cove from Hull, on the 3d of January next, will devolve the sole charge of equipping and conducting this expedition.
Lieut. R. M. Crozier, late of the Stag, will be first Lieutenant of the Cove, and Mr. Hallett will be clerk in charge, and we are happy to find that that experienced seaman, Mr. R. W. Humphrey, who volunteered for the expedition at the meeting at Hull, and who lately commanded the Isabella when she saved Captain Ross, is appointed acting-master and ice-master of the Cove.
 The same individual who commanded the Isabella, which saved Sir John Ross, and has since been lost. See No. 210 of our wrecks in last volume.
 The reader will find a plate in our second volume, p. 260 describing the manner in which
the Isabella was fitted for this purpose.