The Forward succeeded, though not without difficulty, in getting
by James Ross Sound, by frequent use of the ice-saws and
gunpowder; the crew was very much fatigued. Fortunately the
temperature was agreeable, and even thirty degrees above what
James Ross found at the same time of year. The thermometer
marked 34°.
Saturday they doubled Cape Felix at the northern end of King
William's Land, one of the smaller islands of northern seas.
At that time the crew became very much depressed; they
gazed wistfully and sadly at its far-stretching shores.
In fact, they were gazing at King William's Land, the scene of
one of the saddest tragedies of modern times! Only a few miles
to the west the Erebus and Terror were lost.
The sailors of the Forward were familiar with the attempts
made to find Franklin, and the result they had obtained, but
they did not know all the sad details. Now, while the doctor
was following on his chart the course of the ship, many of them.
Bell, Bolton, and Simpson, drew near him and began to talk with
him. Soon the others followed to satisfy their curiosity; meanwhile
the brig was advancing rapidly, and the bays, capes, and
promontories of the coast passed before their gaze like a gigantic
Hatteras was pacing nervously to and fro on the quarter-deck;
the doctor found himself on the bridge, surrounded by the men
of the crew; he readily understood the interest of the situation,
and the impression that would be made by an account given
under those circumstances, hence he resumed the talk he had
begun with Johnson.
“You know, my friends, how Franklin began: like Cook and
Nelson, he was first a cabin-boy; after spending his youth in long
sea-voyages, he made up his mind, in 1845, to seek the Northwest
Passage; he commanded the Erebus and the Terror, two stanch
vessels, which had visited the antarctic seas in 1840, under the
command of James Ross. The Erebus, in which Franklin sailed,
carried a crew of seventy men, all told, with Fitz-James as captain;
Gore and Le Vesconte, lieutenants; Des Vœux, Sargent, and
Couch, boatswains; and Stanley, surgeon. The Terror carried sixty-eight
men. Crozier was the captain; the lieutenants were Little,
Hodgson, and Irving; boatswains, Horesby and Thomas; the surgeon,
Peddie. In the names of the bays, capes, straits, promontories,
channels, and islands of these latitudes you find memorials
of most of these unlucky men, of whom not one has ever again
seen his home! In all one hundred and thirty-eight men! We
know that the last of Franklin's letters were written from Disco
Island, and dated July 12, 1845. He said, `I hope to set sail
to-night for Lancaster Sound'. What followed his departure
from Disco Bay? The captains of the whalers, the Prince of
Wales and the Enterprise, saw these two ships for the last time in
Melville Bay, and nothing more was heard of them. Still we can
follow Franklin in his course westward; he went through Lancaster
and Barrow Sounds and reached Beechey Island, where he
passed the winter of 1845–46.”
“But how is this known?” asked Bell, the carpenter.
“By three tombs which the Austin expedition found there in
1850. Three of Franklin's sailors had been buried there: and,
moreover, by a paper found by Lieutenant Hobson of the Fox,
dated April 25, 1848. We know also that, after leaving winter-quarters,
the Erebus and Terror ascended Wellington Channel as
far as latitude 77°; but instead of pushing to the north, which
they doubtless found impossible, they returned towards the
“And that was a fatal mistake!” uttered a grave voice.
“Safety lay to the north.”
Every one turned round. It was Hatteras, who, leaning on
the rail of the quarter-deck, had just made that solemn remark.
“Without doubt,” resumed the doctor, “Franklin intended to
make his way to the American shore; but tempests beset him,
and September 12, 1846, the two ships were caught in the ice, a
few miles from here, to the northwest of Cape Felix; they were
carried to the north-northwest of Point Victory; there,” said the
doctor, pointing out to the sea. “Now,” he added, “the ships
were not abandoned till April 22, 1848. What happened during
these nineteen months? What did these poor men do? Doubtless
they explored the surrounding lands, made every effort to
escape, for the admiral was an energetic man; and if he did not
“It's because his men betrayed him,” said Hatteras in a deep
The sailors did not dare to lift their eyes; these words made
them feel abashed.
“To be brief, this paper, of which I spoke, tells us; besides,
that Sir John Franklin died, worn out by his sufferings, June
11, 1847. All honor to his memory!” said the doctor, removing
his hat.
The men did the same in silence.
“What became of these poor men, deprived of their leader,
during the next ten months? They remained on board of their
ships, and it was not till April, 1848, that they made up their
mind to abandon them; one hundred and five men survived out
of the hundred and thirty-eight. Thirty-three had died! Then
Captains Crozier and Fitz-James erected a cairn at Point Victory,
and left their last paper there. See, my friends, we are passing
by that point. You can see traces of the cairn, placed, so to
speak, at the farthest point reached by John Ross in 1831!
There is Cape Jane Franklin! There Point Franklin! There
Point Le Vesconte! There Erebus Bay, where the launch, made
of pieces of one of the ships, was found on a sledge! There were
found silver spoons, plenty of food, chocolate, tea, and religious
books. The hundred and five survivors, under the command of
Captain Crozier, set out for Great Fish River. How far did they
get? Did they reach Hudson's Bay? Have any survived? What
became of them after that?—”
“I will tell you what became of them,” said John Hatteras in
an energetic voice. “Yes, they tried to reach Hudson's Bay, and
separated into several parties. They took the road to the south.
In 1854 a letter from Dr. Rae states that in 1850 the Esquimaux
had met in King William's Land a detachment of forty men, chasing
sea-cows, travelling on the ice, dragging a boat along with them,
thin, pale, and worn out with suffering and fatigue. Later, they
discovered thirty corpses on the mainland and five on a neighboring
island, some half buried, others left without burial; some
lying beneath an overturned boat, others under the ruins of a
tent; here lay an officer with his glass swung around his shoulder,
and his loaded gun near him; farther on were kettles with the
remains of a horrible meal. At this news, the Admiralty urged
the Hudson's Bay Company to send its most skilful agents to
this place. They descended Black River to its mouth. They
visited Montreal and Maconochie Islands, and Point Ogle. In
vain! All these poor fellows had died of misery, suffering, and
starvation, after trying to prolong their lives by having recourse
to cannibalism. That is what became of them along their way
towards the south, which was lined with their mutilated bodies.
Well, do you want to follow their path?”
Hatteras's ringing voice, passionate gestures, and glowing face
produced an indescribable effect. The crew, moved by the sight
of these ill-omened lands, cried with one voice,—
“To the north! to the north!”
“Well, to the north! Safety and glory await us there at the
north! Heaven is declaring for us! The wind is changing! The
passage is free! Prepare to go about!”
The sailors hastened to their places; the ice-streams grew
slowly free; the Forward went about rapidly, and ran under full
steam towards MacClintock's Channel.
Hatteras was justified in counting on a freer sea; on his way
he retraced the probable path of Franklin; he went along the
eastern side of Prince of Wales Land, which is clearly defined,
while the other shore is still unknown. Evidently the clearing
away of the ice towards the south took place through the eastern
strait, for it appeared perfectly clear; so the Forward was able to
make up for lost time; she was put under full steam, so that the
14th they passed Osborne Bay, and the farthest points reached by
the expeditions of 1851. There was still a great deal of ice about
them, but there was every indication that the Forward would
have clear sailing-way before her.




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