Popular Science Monthly/Volume 7/August 1875/Arctic Ice-Travels
FORMERLY exploration in the arctic regions was entirely performed by ships. On one or two occasions only were sledge-parties dispatched for the purpose of discovery, and then on a very reduced scale. During the search expeditions, however, after Sir John Franklin and his gallant companions, the system of sledge-traveling was matured, and has now, owing to the genius of McClintock, Mecham, Hamilton, Osborn, and Richards, reached a high state of perfection. In fact, in these days the sledge must be regarded as the principal means of arctic exploration, and the ship only as the auxiliary. It is to Sir Edward Parry that the introduction of sledge-traveling is due, but the very primitive and cumbrous machines used by him, during his many successful voyages to the arctic regions, are no more to be compared with the light and useful sledges which are being constructed from the designs of Sir L. McClintock for the expedition of 1875 than is a brewer's dray to a light gig. We propose to institute a comparison between the modes of traveling past and present, and to describe the work that will fall to the lot of an exploring expedition during the space of twelve months. The best route for polar exploration is the one that has been so unanimously advocated by all arctic authorities both of our own and other countries, and the one that is to be adopted by the expedition about to leave our shores. There are many reasons why the route via Smith Sound is superior to and more advantageous for polar exploration than any other. We know that the United States exploring-ship Polaris succeeded by this route in reaching a very high northern latitude—in fact, the highest latitude that a ship has ever attained, and that in a remarkably short space of time and with perfect ease. The shores of this narrow sound are teeming with animal life. In Dr. Hayes's expedition upward of 200 reindeer were shot during the winter, walrus and seals were abundant, and there were quantities of ducks and little auks in the summer. Where the Polaris wintered herds of musk-oxen found pasture, rabbits abounded, and large flocks of birds came northward in the summer months. This in itself is of the utmost importance, as with well-organized hunting-parties, such as will be formed on board our exploring-ships, the crews will be supplied with fresh meat. The Smith Sound route is the best adapted for exploration by sledges, and in case of mishap or any unforeseen accident befalling the ships, it would simply be a matter of time for the ship's companies to travel south and reach the Danish settlements, or one of the Scotch whalers that annually frequent Baffin's Bay. The importance of reaching in the ships a high latitude lies in the consideration that every ten miles made good in the ship toward the north is two days' sledge-traveling saved. The ships ought to leave England in the month of May or June. In a fortnight Cape Farewell, the south extreme of Greenland, would be reached, off which the first ice is invariably met. This in a great measure consists of small, detached fragments, probably broken off the land-ice, with which Greenland at the early part of the year is surrounded, by the motion of the waves. Icebergs are also fallen in with in this locality. The scene on a fine clear day in Davis's Straits, to one visiting these regions for the first time, is indeed very grand. Huge icebergs sailing majestically along, in every conceivable shape and form, at times making the navigation so intricate as to call forth the utmost vigilance and watchfulness from those on board, their edges adorned with pendent fringes of icicles, while the bright blue and green tints reflected from these huge mountains of ice tend to render it a scene such as is hardly to be realized by those who have never witnessed it. The Danish settlement of Lievely, or Godhavn, at the southwest extreme of the island of Disco, and Upernavik, the most northern settlement, are reached, dogs are purchased and taken on board, Esquimaux dog-drivers engaged, and the necessary skins and dog-food procured.
Now commences the first really serious work of the exploring ships. One day's run from Upernavik and Cape Shackleton is reached, from which is sighted the dreaded floe-ice of Melville Bay, a spot which, until the introduction of steam, has proved fatal to many a gallant bark. To an inexperienced eye this ice seems of an impassable and impenetrable nature, but to those acquainted with ice-navigation a lead may appear through which the ship is steered. Much depends on the wind in making a passage through Melville Bay. If it is calm, or if the wind is from the north, the ice loosens, and ships must then make the best of their time and push on speedily; but if the wind is from the south it causes the loose ice-floes of Baffin's Bay to pack against the land or fixed ice, and woe betide the unfortunate vessel that should be nipped between the two! The only means of escaping destruction is by cutting a dock in the land-ice and warping the ship into it. Steam, however, has of late years produced such a revolution in ice-navigation, that the animated scene of 200 or 300 seamen landed on the floe, busily employed in the operation of cutting docks, is now seldom or never witnessed. The last English Government Expedition, that of Sir Edward Belcher, took no less than five weeks going through Melville Bay, although the expedition was accompanied by a couple of steam-tenders, commanded by experienced and energetic officers. When Commander Markham went through Melville Bay in 1873, in the steam-whaler Arctic, the time occupied was only sixty hours, and last year the whole of the whaling-fleet succeeded in making the passage in three days! Such is the advantage we have gained by the aid of steam. Detention in Melville Bay is, even with a steamer, probable, but seldom for a long duration. When such is the case, ice-anchors are got out, and the ship is moored to the floe, waiting an opportunity for the ice to ease off. Perhaps it is only a neck of ice that prevents the ship from proceeding; in which case, with a full head of steam, the objectionable barrier is rammed, and the ship is forced through, emerging into the open water beyond. Even during these detentions the time may be beguiled in shooting looms and rotges, which are capital eating, harpooning narwhals and stalking seals, or in the more exciting sport of bear-hunting. Sport, together with the strange and novel scenery, and the beauties of the midnight sun, makes life, even in Melville Bay, charming and enjoyable. In former days the monotony of the detention in this bay was indeed wearisome, and the laborious work of tracking the clumsy, unwieldy ship, or cutting docks in the floe, was fatiguing and irksome in the extreme.
In the latitude of Cape York the "North Water" is generally reached, and this, so far as we know, has always been navigable to the entrance of Smith's Sound, and to a much higher latitude.
We will now assume that the month of September has arrived, and that the expedition has succeeded in reaching, we will say by way of illustration, the latitude of 84°. We are, of course, anticipating an open season, and a most favorable and prosperous run. Bay or pancake ice, which is newly-formed ice, is now forming, and it is absolutely necessary to seek winter quarters. A snug harbor is, if possible, found, protected as much as possible from the prevailing northeasterly winds, and arrangements are at once commenced for securing and housing-in the ship. One part of the ship's company is told off for this latter duty, which consists in unbending the sails, unreeving running rigging, sending down upper spars, and housing the ship in with a covering made of tilt-cloth. This is spread on spars that are secured fore and aft between the masts about fifteen feet above the deck, sloping down to the bows and the stern, and ridge-ropes set up to the rigging, about seven feet above the bulwarks. One entry only is made as a gangway, on what would be the lee-side of the prevailing wind. An observatory is built, and an ice-wall made to inclose the ship, the space inside the wall being kept free and clear, to be used for exercise, and as a promenade during the winter months. In the mean time, the other part of the ship's company will be preparing the sledges, and making the necessary preparations for the autumn sledge-traveling, all of which will have been carefully organized beforehand.
We now come to the most important feature of arctic work, namely, the sledge-traveling, which was first introduced by the late Admiral Sir Edward Parry, but which is most indissolubly associated with the name of McClintock, whose perseverance and energy have brought this system of traveling to such a state of perfection that we rely chiefly on its aid to procure for the forthcoming expedition that success which all England heartily and eagerly desires, and hopefully anticipates. Before describing the arrangements for the autumn traveling, let us take a brief retrospect of the sledging undertaken by Parry fifty-five years ago.
Parrv at Melville Island, in 1820, did not commence traveling operations until June. He used a cart, in all probability formed of the field-piece carriage and limber supplied to the ship. He was away only fourteen days, having traversed a distance of about 180 miles, averaging 12' per diem. His party consisted of twelve, including himself, out of which five were officers. On account of the excessive glare caused by the sun on the snow and ice, the party traveled during the night, wlien the sun was low. By this arrangement they had the advantage also of sleeping during the comparative warmth of the day. The daily allowance of provisions per man was 1 lb. of biscuit, ⅔ lb. of preserved meat, 1 oz. of sugar, and ½ pint of spirits. The total weight carried on the cart was 800 lbs., consisting of two blanket-tents, wood lor fuel, three weeks' provisions, cooking-apparatus, three guns, and ammunition. In addition to this, each man had to carry a blanket-bag, a haversack with one pair of shoes, one pair of stockings, and a flannel shirt, weighing from 18 to 24 lbs. Their tents were made of blankets, with two boarding-pikes fixed across at each end, and a ridge-rope along the top, the lower parts of the blankets being kept down by placing stones on them.
In his attempt to reach the pole, in 1827, Parry started in the same month of June, with four officers and twenty-four men, with seventy-one days' provisions, in two flat-bottomed boats named the Enterprise and Endeavor, so constructed that they could be used as sledges, and drawn on the ice. They were 20 feet long, and 7 feet broad, with a bamboo mast 19 feet long, a tanned duck-sail, steer-oar, fourteen paddles, a sprit and boat-hook. Each boat, with stores, etc., complete, weighed 3,753 lbs., making the weight for each man to drag 268 lbs.! in addition to four light sledges, weighing 26 lbs. each. The boats were squarely built, without regard to shape or symmetry, their beam carried well forward and aft. In order to secure elasticity during the rough handling which they must needs encounter from frequent concussions with the ice, their frame was first covered with a water-proof coating, consisting of tarred canvas, then a thin fir planking, which latter was covered with felt, and outside a thin oak planking, the whole secured to the timbers of the boat by iron screws. On either side of the keel was a stout wooden runner, shod with metal, similar to that of a sledge, on which the boat would travel when being dragged over the ice. A spar, made of hide, was secured across the fore-end of the runners, to which the drag-ropes were attached. The daily allowance of provisions for each man was 10 ozs. of biscuit, 9 ozs. of pemmican, 1 oz. of cocoa-powder, and 1 gill of rum, besides 3 ozs. of tobacco per man per week. The fuel used was spirits of wine, of which 2 pints were used daily.
This was one of the most laborious and heart-breaking journeys that can be conceived, as, owing to the lateness of the season, the traveling was chiefly over loose pack, which on account of unusual heavy rain was broken and rotten; added to this, the hummocky nature of the firmer ice necessitated a constant packing and unpacking of their sledges, the same ground having to be traversed as many as three and sometimes four times. Parry nobly persevered, fighting against obstacles that would have daunted and appalled many a brave man, until it was known that the drift of the ice on which they were traveling was faster to the southward than the progress they were making to the north ward, and they were in consequence reluctantly compelled to abandon their project and return to their ship, which they succeeded in reaching after an absence of sixty-one days. Although before turning back the party had traveled over 202 miles of ground, their greatest distance from the ship was only 172 miles, so much had the set drifted them to the southward. Notwithstanding these obstacles, and the enormous weight which each man had to drag, the latitude attained by Parry on this occasion has never been reached by known man. The experience gained during this enterprise has shown us a great deal. It proved that the allowance of provisions for the amount of work required, and for the hardships endured, was insufficient; that the sledges were too cumbrous and heavy, and the weight that each man was required to drag was far in excess of his capabilities, and that the season was so far advanced as to cause not only the ice to be broken up, and thereby affected by the current, but the mild temperature had so rotted and thawed the surface of the floes on which they traveled, that the greater part of their journey was performed walking through sludge and water. As during his former sledge-journey in 1820, Parry preferred traveling by night, and resting during the glare and warmth of the mid-day sun.
The next authentic accounts of sledge-traveling we hear of are those parties organized by Sir James Ross in 1849 for the relief of Sir John Franklin, in which Sir Leopold McClintock, then a lieutenant, received his first initiation in that important branch of arctic work, which through his means has reached such an admirable state of perfection. But to what consequences did these pioneer expeditions lead? Experience had to be gained, and the privations and sufferings endured by those engaged in these early expeditions are now compensated by the lessons they have taught us. They started with two sledges, each drawn by six men, carrying with them their tent and thirty days' provisions. Other parties with more provisions followed on their route. They were away forty days, having accomplished a search over 500 miles of unknown country, but we are told that out of the twelve men that started, seven only returned in comparative health, the remaining five having quite broken down under fatigue. The party suffered severely from hunger, frost-bites, blistered feet, and rheumatic pains, caused by their continually walking through water on the ice and deep soft snow. Two of them, being unable to walk, were brought back on the sledges. Sir Leopold himself acknowledges that, after his return to the ship, he did not lose the sensation of constant hunger for a fortnight.
During the next expedition, that of Captain Austin, in 1851, from the experience which he had already gained in sledge-traveling. Sir Leopold McClintock, by adopting a system of fatigue-parties, was enabled to prolong his absence from the ship to eighty days, and to extend his journey to a distance of 900 miles. During this journey, partly traveling over the same ground as Sir Edward Parry, he discovered the encampment of his predecessor, and found the remains of his broken cart, and the records left by him thirty years before. Even the remains of Parry's last feast, "a sumptuous meal of ptarmigan," lay strewed about in the shape of bones, by no means decayed, but merely bleached from exposure. McClintock and his gallant party returned to their ship after this long absence, reduced a little in flesh, but not in health or spirits. They had already benefited from the experience of former expeditions.
During the expedition of 1852, the last dispatched by Government in search of our missing countrymen, we find Sir Leopold McClintock in command of the steam-tender Intrepid, acting under the orders of Captain Kellett. On this occasion. Sir Leopold had, through the assiduous and constant exercise of his inventive talent, so improved on his former knowledge of sledge-traveling, that he was enabled to remain away from his ship for a period of 105 days, during which time he traveled over no less than 1,400 statute miles, and this, too, under no very favorable circumstances, as the ice over which he had to journey was old and unusually rugged, snow lay very deep, and Melville Island had to be crossed and recrossed, in addition to which, owing to the few men from whom he had to select his party, he was obliged to portion out to each man a much heavier load than had ever been attempted before. They were most fortunate in obtaining plenty of game. Musk-oxen, deer, and ptarmigan, were seen in abundance, and many shot, the fresh meat from which materially assisted in the preservation of the health of the party.
The words of Sir Leopold McClintock are very true, and very significant, in epitomizing the results of arctic ice-travel. He says: "Truly may we arctic explorers exclaim, 'Knowledge is power!' It is now a comparatively easy matter to start with six or eight men, and a sledge laden with six or seven weeks' provisions, and to travel some 600 miles across desert wastes and frozen seas, from which no sustenance can be obtained. There is now no known position, however remote, that a well-equipped crew could not effect their escape from by their own unaided efforts. We felt this, and by our experience, gained in a cause more glorious than ever man embarked in, have secured to all future arctic explorers a plan by which they may rejoin their fellow-men."
Before detailing the operations connected with the autumn sledge-traveling, it will be necessary to explain the construction of the sledge, and the amount of provisions and stores that will be required for an extended journey. We propose, therefore, to give an account of an eight-man sledge, provisioned and stored for a period of eight weeks, copied from Sir Leopold McClintock's notes. The following particulars describe, with considerable exactness, the equipment which is now being prepared in Portsmouth Dock-yard for use in the forthcoming Arctic Expedition:
The sledges are made of American elm, and the runners are shod with steel. The cross-bars are lashed to the bearers with strips of hide, which are well soaked in hot water and put on while warm and wet, so that when cold they will shrink tightly into their places.
The drag-ropes should be of two-inch whale-line, or better still of hemp or manila rope, which is lighter, six fathoms in length, and these could also be used for tent-ropes. They should be middled and the bight toggled to the span on the fore-end of the sledge. The span should be of the same size and description of rope, fitted to go with an eye over the end of the horn at the after-end of the sledge, rove through one or more grummets on the cross-bars, through a hide-strop round the runner, and taken well down below the foremost horns, so as to keep it as near as possible to the best angle of traction, namely, 15°. The bight of the span should be about three feet in front of the sledge, having a toggle and eye in the middle for the purpose of connecting the drag-ropes. To keep the contents from falling down between the cross-bars, two fore-and-aft lines are clove-hitched round each and stretched taut along—over these is laced a width of stout canvas, on which rests the sledge trough or load, and is called the sledge-bottom. The sledge-trough, although not absolutely necessary, is extremely useful, as it enables the sledge to be loaded more speedily, and prevents small packages from tumbling out; it is also most useful in the event of much wet. It is simply a canvas body in which the stores are packed, and weighs, without being oiled, eight pounds.
The drag-belts are made of light loose girth, three inches wide, long enough to go over a man's shoulder, having a strong eyelet-hole worked in each end, into which is spliced a piece of one-inch rope, having a thimble on it. Round this thimble is spliced a small piece of rope, having at its other end a bung toggle, usually a circular piece of copper. This is attached to the drag-rope after the manner of a Blackwall hitch, the advantage being that the man can detach himself at any instant. Turk's-heads worked on the drag-ropes point out where the men are to attach themselves. The sledge-lashings consist of about twenty fathoms of one and one-quarter inch untarred rope, and are used for lashing the lading on the sledge.
Too much care cannot be taken in the stowage and lashing of the sledge. The greatest weight should be over the centre cross-bar, diminishing toward the end, so that the sledge will rise easily and gradually, and descend in the same manner, when traveling over rough or hummocky ice. A well-packed, that is, a well-trimmed, sledge is dragged with less exertion, and less jerking to the men's shoulders, when going over rough ice, than one that has been carelessly packed. The lashings should be passed so tight that, should the sledge be upset and roll over, its contents would remain intact. It will be found convenient to fit a light cross-bar across each end of the sledge, for the purpose of spreading a light netting, on which to stand the cooking-utensilsing-utensils, as they are usually the last things to go on the sledge and the first things to come off it.
Dog-sledges are of a smaller size, and the different fittings and gear are therefore proportionately small. The driver in a packed sledge usually walks behind, holding on to the back of the sledge with one hand while with the other he uses the whip, which latter has to be kept in constant use.
A most important auxiliary in sledge-traveling, and one which must not be omitted, is the sledge-sail; by its aid, with a fair wind, the men are greatly relieved in their laborious work of dragging. The mast is extemporized out of two tent-poles—which should, if possible, be of bamboo—used as sheers, the heads being connected by an iron band, on which is stropped the block through which the halyards are rove; the heels of the sheers are stepped into a thimble on each side of the sailing-thwart, which is placed across the sledge on top of every thing, immediately over the midship-upright, and is lashed down to the bearers. The object of having it so high is that a loftier sail may be spread. The tent-ropes are used as guys, and a hand lead-line as halyards. Each sledge should have what is called a "store-bag," made of light duck, and containing sail and sewing-needles, a palm, twine, thread, a ball of spun-yarn, two yards of green or blue crape, awls, waxed ends, lucifer matches, record-cases, tent-brush, clothes-brush, and spare wicks for cooking-lamps.
With an eight-man sledge detached for an extended journey of seven weeks the total weight of the laden sledge would be 1,646 pounds, being 235 pounds for each of the seven men to drag. If all the circumstances are favorable, Sir Leopold McClintock is of opinion that this is not too much; of course the men must be picked and well trained to sledge-work before setting out. Under no circumstances should this weight be exceeded, or even maintained for more than a very few days. When sledges are traveling in company, one gun each and much less ammunition will suffice. The sledges being prepared and every thing in readiness for a start, the men are assembled dressed in the following manner:
|1 Flannel or wove woolen frock.||spare.|
|1 Thick Guernsey frock.|
|1 Loose serge or cloth frock||1|
|1 Pair of good duffle (or box cloth lined with flannel) trousers.|
|1 Light close duck jumper and trousers as "overalls."|
|1 Pair of worsted stockings||1|
|1 Pair of wove woolen drawers||1|
|1 Pair of blanket feet-wrappers||2|
|1 Pair of wadmill boot-hose||1|
|1 Pair of moccasins||3|
|1 Pair of mitts||2|
|1 Welsh wig||1|
|1 Cap, veil, and face-cover.|
|1 Pair of colored spectacles.|
|1 Pair of canvas boots||2|
The clothing supplied by Government to the various search expeditions was made of the most superior material, and was found excellent. It is hardly necessary to describe the different articles. Particular care should be exercised in the selection of under-clothing, which should be of the best and warmest substance. Outside clothing should fit loosely. In place of the overall jumper and trousers, which are used merely as "snow-repellers" to keep out the light snow-drift, a suit made from the skin of the moose-deer well smoked would be found advantageous; the jumper should have a hood to pull up over one's cap in bad weather, and should have a large pocket in front to put one's mitts in when not in use. The moccasins should be made large, so as on no account to cramp the foot. They are only intended to be worn during extreme cold.
The daily allowance of provisions for those engaged in sledge-traveling is as follows: For each man, 1 lb. pemmican, ¼lb. boiled pork, 14 ozs. biscuit, 2 ozs. preserved potatoes, 1½ oz. prepared chocolate, ½oz. tea and sugar, 1 oz. concentrated rum; 4 ozs. fuel being used daily for each individual; also a weekly allowance per man of 1¾oz. salt, ¼ oz. pepper, 1 oz. curry or onion powder, and 3 ozs. tobacco, making a weekly allowance per man of 19 lbs. 3 ozs., which is a very liberal one, and well adapted to long journeys in the most severe weather. In fact, at first starting, the men are not able to consume the full amount allowed of pemmican, but after a few days' hard work and exposure this little difficulty is soon overcome. Fuel may consist of different materials. There is the camphorated spirits of wine, whose great charm consists in its being camphorated, and therefore cannot well be tampered with by the men. Methyllated spirits of wine has also been much used, and is cheaper than pure alcohol. Sir Leopold McClintock, in the Fox, used crude cocoa-nut oil, which he found very useful and very cheap. Its advantages over tallow are: 1. That it cooks much more rapidly; 2. It makes very little smoke (an important item); and, 3. There is nothing disagreeable in smell or taste about it.
Great care must be taken in the stowage of provisions, and, in fact, in all that relates to the equipment of a sledge, as it is most important that the greatest economy in the matter of weights should be arrived at. The officer conducting the sledge-party is, of course, responsible that the necessary instruments are taken that will be required for fixing astronomically different positions, and for delineating the coast-line. Every thing being in readiness for a start, the sledges, which we will say are six in number, with their distinguishing flags (to each of which there is usually a history attached) fluttering bravely in the breeze, are drawn up outside the ship, the men, cheerful and joyous, with their drag-ropes in hand, the officers with their rifles slung across their shoulders, receiving their parting instructions, all hopefully confident of success, and all eager to accomplish all that man can do. It is an animated scene, all are merry and glad, with the exception, perhaps, of those few that must of necessity remain behind, to look after the ship. The crews of each sledge consist of an officer and seven men, and by a system which has already been adopted with great success on previous occasions, one sledge could be advanced to at least fifty days' journey from the ship, or more correctly twenty-five days out, and depots placed for the return-journey. This is effected in the following manner: After traveling in company for a week, No. 6 sledge will complete the remainder to their full amount of fifty days' provisions and return, the remaining five proceeding on their way. When six more days have elapsed, No. 5 sledge will return to the ship, having filled up the remaining four to what they originally started with, and so on until No. 1 sledge is left to proceed by itself. In the mean time the sledges that have returned will immediately reprovision, and will lay out depots for the use of, and meet the returning sledges, ready to render any assistance they may require.
As an outline of the daily routine observed by sledge-parties during their arduous employment may be of interest, we will briefly refer to it. As it may be advisable some time to travel during the night, for the same reason that Parry did, we will not name any hour, but merely the time of rising and going to bed. We will begin with the commencement of the day's work. The first thing to be done is to awaken the cook of the day, who at once sets to work to prepare breakfast. The time occupied in preparing this meal is usually about an hour from the time he is called. When nearly ready, he brushes off the condensation that has taken place during the night, from off the coverlet, and from the inside of the tent, and then arouses the whole party. If the weather is very severe they sit up for breakfast in their bags, but if not, they roll them up, as also the tent-robes, put on their moccasins, etc., ready for the march, and then, sitting on their bags and knapsacks, discuss their morning meal. The sleeping-bag is, as its name designates, a large bag made of the Hudson's Bay three-point blanket or of duffle. It is about seven feet long, and is best fitted with the opening in the side instead of at the top, as in this way it is more convenient to get into and out of, and the more readily enables a man to sit up and keep it over his head while eating his meals or while writing.
When breakfast is finished, the biscuit and pork to be used for lunch should be measured out, and placed in the luncheon haversack; dilute the day's allowance of rum, and any water that may be remaining put into the men's water-bottles. Issue to the cook the day's allowance of stearine, and put the requisite amount of spirits of wine into the lamp. The cook trims both lamps, and is then relieved by the cook whose turn it is for the next twenty-four hours. In large parties it would be as well to have a cook's mate in addition, who would succeed the cook when his term of office had expired, a fresh hand being installed in the capacity of cook's mate. The whole of the tent-furniture must be well brushed, so as to get rid of any snow-drift, or condensation, and the tent itself should be well shaken before being stowed on the sledge, which is then packed, and the march begun. The officer takes his observations for time or variation, also the bearings of land, temperature, etc., at a regular time before starting.
After marching for about six hours, halt for twenty minutes for lunch. The spirit-lamp is used to dissolve snow, and the grog, pork, and biscuit, are issued. If the wind is fresh, turn the sledge at right angles to it, and with sledge-sail to form a lee, sit-down. If very severe weather, pitch the tent, and sit inside without any tent-gear, or stop only five minutes for grog and biscuit. When halted for the night, and the tent is pitched, one man, after brushing himself well, goes inside, and receives and places all the gear, robes, knapsacks, sleeping-bags, etc. The cook prepares supper without delay. When all the work is completed the men take off and hang up their moccasins or boots and blanket-wrappers, either upon the tent-ropes outside, or on the tent-line inside, according to the weather, brush themselves well, divest themselves of their overalls, and take up their respective places in the tent, the officer always at the head of the tent, the cook and cook's mate nearest the entrance, so that their rising does not disturb the rest. Supper consists of warm pemmican, the quantity in each pannikin always being carefully equalized before being served out, then a drink of tea or water, when pipes are lighted and the party compose themselves for their night's rest; songs and yarns, if not too cold and exhausted, bringing the day's proceedings to a close. The officer, as a rule, takes his observations while supper is being prepared, and before lying down winds up his chronometer and writes his journal. A very good rule is to give directions, for precaution's sake, that the tent-robe is never to be spread until the question has been asked, "Has the chronometer been wound up?" Before retiring, the cook sees every thing in readiness for the morrow's breakfast; the captain of the sledge serves out the breakfast allowance to him, and sees every thing connected with the sledge secure and safe.
The tent is made of light, close, unbleached duck, twelve square feet weighing a pound, lined with brown holland across the head, or end opposite the door, up to a height of three feet, and along the sides to a height of two feet. It is spread by means of tent-poles, two (crossed) at each end, and set up with tent-ropes or guys. A window, six inches square, is fitted at the upper end with a flap to trice up or haul down. There should also be a pocket at this end for the use of the officer, in which instruments, etc., might be placed. A cook's pocket at the opposite or door end of the tent is also convenient. In very severe weather the cooking has sometimes to be performed inside the doorway; it is, however, very objectionable, and should not be practised more than is absolutely necessary, as the steam condensing covers every thing near it with fine particles of frozen vapor, and the soot from the stearine-lamp blackens every thing. The furniture for a tent consists first of a water-proof floor-cloth, made of a light description of mackintosh; this should be used with care, and only over snow. The coverlet should be made of the Hudson's Bay three-point blanket or thick duffle, its upper side covered with glazed brown holland. Three stops should be sewn on one end of this coverlet, for tying it when rolled up, and when in use for tying it to the lower robe at the upper end or head of the tent. The knapsack forms the pillow.
The canvas floor-cloth, though not absolutely indispensable, is, however, very useful. It is made of very light unbleached duck, and is also used as the sledge-sail, which is only set when the wind is abaft the beam. It should be laid down over the water-proof floor-cloth, when the men are taking off their boots and taking their suppers. In severe weather, when the breath condenses in the tent and falls in minute frozen particles, the canvas floor-cloth is useful to spread "over all" after the men have laid down, as it catches all this fine snow, which would otherwise penetrate into the coverlet, where it would thaw by the heat from the men's bodies, and be frozen into them again when exposed to the air. "So rapidly," says Sir Leopold McClintock, "does frost accumulate, that in eighteen days of traveling during the month of October I have known the coverlet and the lower robe to become more than double their original weight."
The lower robe or blanket should be of the same material as the coverlet, namely, three-point Hudson's Bay blanket or thick duffle. It should have a covering of brown holland on its underneath side, having stops on its upper side to tie to similar stops on the coverlet when spread for the night: probable weight of the lower robe about seventeen pounds. This robe has sometimes been of fur, but it has its disadvantages, as in the first place it is more absorbent; a skin will when wet emit a disagreeable smell; the hairs come out, and they shrink very much; they are also more stiff and unmanageable when frozen. The above-mentioned woolen materials are on the whole preferable, as they are quite as warm as fur, when covered with the brown holland, in addition to which evaporation from the body will generally make its way through woolens, and escape into the air, but in the fur robe is arrested and condenses in it. The coverlet, lower robe, and sleeping-bag, answer well when the temperature is no lower than-30°, but should it fall lower, an additional coverlet should be supplied, as well as a small blanket bag to put into the sleeping-bag to keep the feet warm. Should the temperature continue to fall, snow huts should be used, they being very much better and warmer than tents. A party of four men can, after a little practice, hut themselves in about half an hour; one man cuts the blocks, another builds, and the other two carry the blocks and fill up chinks, etc.
Building a hut with a large party, however, is a different matter, the difficulty in constructing the dome greatly increasing as its diameter is enlarged. It then becomes a question whether it would not be more advisable to build two huts, and to divide the tent-robes etc. between them, or to build four walls inclosing a space of about six and a half feet wide, and long enough to accommodate the whole party (fourteen inches being the allotted space of each man). The tent is then used as a roof, by being laid over the walls, and snow thrown on it to prevent the wind blowing it off. The walls should incline inward slightly, and be about five feet high, and the floor excavated to a foot or so to give additional height inside. The advantages a snow hut has over a tent-roofed house is, that should the temperature become high, the moisture overhead runs down the walls in the former, whereas in the latter it drips, and makes the tent so wet that when it freezes again it is almost impossible to spread it. The snow hut which Englishmen should construct (that is, without the aid of the Esquimaux) is made of slabs of caked snow about two feet long, one wide, and six inches thick. The site (a circle) is first marked out on the snow, and beginning with a very narrow slab, inclining slightly inward, the building is commenced and continued spirally, until at a height of about five feet, when a single rounded slab is cut, closing up the centre of the dome. The entrance is as low as possible, and is cut the last thing by the man inside. When the temperature is low it will be found preferable to encamp on snow rather than on land, and still warmer upon ice when there is water underneath, which will materially add to the warmth and comfort of the encampment.
While dragging the sledges it is very necessary to keep continually changing the leading men on the drag-ropes, as on them rests the severe task of exerting their eyes in order to pick their road, and they are therefore more subject to snow-blindness than the others. The officer, when not engaged in dragging the sledge, should be very particular in selecting a good and easy line of country; this is of the utmost importance.
We will now suppose that the season for sledge-traveling has passed, the sun no longer sinks below the horizon, the object for which the sledge-parties have been striving has been gained, and they have all returned to their ship, which they left three months before frozen up in the solitude of their winter quarters. Some, which have returned early, after taking out depots for the extended parties, have since been actively engaged on regularly-organized shooting-excursions. But all are back by July. They return to a busy scene. Active preparations are being made to get the ship ready for sea. The housing is taken down and stowed away below, and it is to be hoped will not again be seen, as rumor whispers they are homeward bound; spars are swayed up and sails bent, and the ship is again "all a taunto," and all are anxious once more to feel the long roll of the ocean. The open water is seen to the southward from the crow's-nest, but it is some distance off, and the ship is held fast in the wintry grasp of the ice. The month of June has come and gone, July is nearly at an end; if they are not shortly released, they will perhaps be doomed to spend another winter in that inhospitable and inclement region. During the preceding months those on board have not been idle, as a long line of ashes, sand, and rubbish of all descriptions, thinly sprinkled from the ship's bows in a long straight line to the southward, will testify. This has been done with the object of penetrating and rotting the ice, the dark color attracting the heat of the sun, so as to make a passage for the ship to pass through. This device has failed, and others must be resorted to to effect their liberation.
Blasting has been determined upon. Charges of three pounds, five pounds, and ten pounds of ordinary gunpowder will be prepared for use, in tin canisters, with Bickford's fuse. If, however, the new explosive "cotton gunpowder" should be the substance selected to carry out this object, a small charge of about two pounds is prepared, primed with its detonator, to which is attached a short length of Bickford's fuse. Operations are commenced from the open water and carried on toward the ship. A hole is made in the ice by means of a drill some distance from its edge, and the charge is lowered down through this until it reaches the water and is placed immediately under the ice. The fuse is ignited, a sharp explosion takes place, and the ice is shattered and rent in all directions. Men in boats, and others armed with boat-hooks and long poles, at once assail the fragments, removing them from the channel into the open water. These operations are repeated until a clear channel has been made, through which the ship is able to steam and thus effect her escape. The advantages which the "cotton gunpowder" has over ordinary black gunpowder are numerous. It is a much more powerful explosive, its proportionate strength to common powder being as eight to one, but its great merit is said to consist in its perfect safety. If put into the fire it will burn quietly, without any explosion, nor will it explode on concussion.
The practice of ice-blasting is not a new invention, and had been much resorted to by the various search expeditions. Their plan was simply to lower a glass bottle, or preserved meat tin, containing from two to four pounds of ordinary gunpowder below the ice, and explode it. The results were most satisfactory. Lieutenant Mecham tells us that during Captain Austin's expedition, in 1851, a blasting-party was employed for twelve days in detaching a floe from the eastern shore of Griffith Island. With 216 pounds of powder they cleared away a space 20,000 yards in length, and averaging 400 yards in breadth; this ice varied from three to five feet in thickness. The estimated weight of the ice removed was about 216,168 tons. The heaviest charge used on this occasion was sixteen pounds, lowered ten feet below five-feet ice; its effect was the breaking up of a space of 400 yards square, besides splitting the ice in several directions. The last charge would be equivalent to two pounds of "cotton gunpowder," but the results with the latter explosive would, in all probability, be far more effective.
The work of an exploring expedition in the arctic regions for the period of twelve months has now been detailed. No unforeseen accident, no detention in the ice, in fact no casualty of any description has been taken into consideration, but every thing has progressed under the most exceptionally favorable circumstances. That the same will be the case with the Arctic Expedition of 1875 is too much to expect, but that it will be successful in exploring a large area of unknown land may be confidently hoped and anticipated.—Geographical Magazine.