|A Book of Discovery|
|by M. B. Synge|
|A fascinating account of the world's famous explorers, including the early travelers in ancient times, the discovery of the New World, explorations in Africa and Australia, and the expeditions to the Arctic and Antarctic. Many of the explorers tell part of their story in their own words. Amply illustrated with reproductions of early maps and charts, as well as old woodcuts, drawings, paintings, and miniatures. Emphasis is placed on the explorers' 'record of splendid endurance, of hardships bravely borne, of silent toil, of courage and resolution unequalled in the annals of mankind, of self-sacrifice unrivalled and faithful lives laid ungrudgingly down.' Ages 12-18 |
PARRY'S POLAR VOYAGE
 PARRY had left England the preceding April in an attempt to reach the North Pole by means of sledges over the ice.
To this end he had sailed to Spitzbergen in his old ship the Hecla, many of his old shipmates sailing
with him. They arrived off the coast of Spitzbergen about the middle of May 1827. Two boats had been specially
built in England, covered with waterproof canvas and lined with felt. The Enterprise and
Endeavour had bamboo masts and paddles, and were constructed to go on sledges, drawn by reindeer,
over the ice.
"Nothing," says Parry, "can be more beautiful than the training of the Lapland reindeer. With a simple collar
of skin round his neck, a single trace of the same material attached to the sledge and passing between his
legs, and one rein fastened like a halter round his neck, this intelligent and docile animal is perfectly
under the command of an experienced driver, and performs astonishing journeys over the softest snow. Shaking
the rein over his back is the only whip that is required."
Leaving the Hecla in safe harbour on the Spitzbergen coast, Parry and James Ross, a nephew of
John Ross, the explorer, with food for two months, started off in their two boat-sledges for the north. They
made a good start; the weather was calm and clear, the sea smooth as a mirror—walruses lay in herds on
the ice, and, steering due north, they made good progress.
Next day, however, they were stopped by ice. Instead
 of finding a smooth, level plain over which the reindeer could draw their sledges with ease, they found
broken, rugged, uneven ice, which nothing but the keen enthusiasm of the explorer could have faced. The
reindeer were useless, and they had to be relinquished; it is always supposed that they were eaten, but
history is silent on this point. The little party had to drag their own boats over the rough ice. They
travelled by night to save snow-blindness, also that they could enjoy greater warmth during the hours of sleep
THE BOATS OF PARRY'S EXPEDITION HAULED UP ON THE ICE FOR THE NIGHT.
Parry describes the laborious journey: "Being 'rigged' for travelling," he says, "we breakfasted upon warm
cocoa and biscuit, and after stowing the things in the boats we set off on our day's journey, and usually
travelled about five and a half hours, then stopped an hour to dine, and again travelled five or six hours.
After this we halted for the night as we called it, though it was usually early in the morning, selecting the
largest surface of ice we happened to be near for hauling the boats on. The boats were placed close alongside
each other, and the sails supported by bamboo masts placed over them as
 awnings. Every man then put on dry socks and fur boots and went to supper. Most of the officers and men then
smoked their pipes, which served to dry the awnings. We then concluded our day with prayers and, having put on
our fur dresses, lay down to sleep," alone in the great ice desert. Progress was slow and very tedious. One
day it took them four hours to cover half a mile. On 1st July they were still labouring forward; a foot of
soft snow on the ground made travelling very exhausting. Some of the hummocks of ice were as much as
twenty-five feet above sea-level; nothing was to be seen but ice and sky, both often hidden by dense fog.
Still the explorers pushed on, Parry and Ross leading the way and the men dragging the boat-sledges after.
July 12th was a brilliant day, with clear sky overhead—"an absolute luxury." For another fortnight they
persevered, and on 23rd July they reached their farthest point north. It was a warm, pleasant day, with the
thermometer at thirty-six in the shade; they were a hundred and seventy-two miles from Spitzbergen, where the
Hecla lay at anchor.
"Our ensigns and pendants were displayed during the day, and severely as we regretted not having been able to
hoist the British flag in the highest latitude to which we had aspired, we shall perhaps be excused in having
felt some little pride in being the bearers of it to a parallel considerably beyond that mentioned in any
other well-authenticated record." On 27th July they reluctantly turned to the south, and on 21st August they
arrived on board the Hecla after an absence of sixty-one days, every one of the party being in
good health. Soon after they sailed for England, and by a strange coincidence arrived in London at the same
time as Franklin.
Many an attempt was yet to be made to reach the North Pole, till at last it was discovered by Peary, an
American, in 1909.
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