Sir John Franklin Letter to Sir William Parry (1845 July 10)

Whale Fish Island

10th July 1845

My Dear Parry,

Having had the pleasure of seeing the last cask of provisions hoisted from the Transport into the Erebus I have come down to write to you. We are now in every way full and complete for three years – but of course very deep – and shall draw seventeen feet when the anchor & boats are up. Our passage hitherto from the Orkneys occupied one month. On the morning of the 4th we took up your former berth - and soon afterwards we brought the Transport alongside as the quickest way of clearing her. The magnetic men were landed with their instruments as were also the other observers, on the boat. I land at the spot you occupied – and you can fancy them all in full play – I am happy also to tell you that their results give the lat and long of their positions within a few seconds of those you assigned to it.

I find that the principal people are absent from Disco - so that I have had to obtain whatever information about the Ice to the North shores to be picked up here, from a Danish Carpenter who is in charge of the Esquimaux at this station. He tells me the winter was severe and that they had strong winds from the Northw – but the spring was not later than usual and that the Ice broke up hereabout at the close of April. He also seems to have had some intelligence from the Northern Coasts about the Women's Islands, from which he considered the ice to have broken up there also by the close of May – or early in June. The whalers, he has heard, have caught fish thereabout – He fancies from these circumstances that we may not meet with much obstruction from ice in getting to Lancaster Sound. And we hope his conjectures will prove true. At any rate we hope to be able to put them to the test in a few days. Nothing can be finer than the weather we have had here for all our operations. I think it must be favourable for the opening of the ice - and we all feel happy in the idea that we shall be quite in time to avail ourselves of any openings westward of Barrows Straits.

During my passage from England I have carefully read over parts of your voyages - as well as some notes of Richardson & my own which were made on the occasion of Back's expedition - deduced from our precious observations at & about Point Turnagain. And I am inclined to think from these and from the observations of Dease and Simpson - that there exists much land between the Wollaston and Banks Lands which I hope may be found to be separated into Islands; and also I trust we may be able to penetrate through a channel between them.

One of the arguments that has weighed with me in supporting that there must be land between the above mentioned parallels & not widely disconnected – is the circumstance of your having killed a musk ox and seen others on Melville Island. These animals cannot I believe swim for-wards I consider that they would cross large channels covered with ice where they could not obtain food. The Reindeer can do both they swim well - and over ice their speed is so much swifter than the musk ox that they readily pass from Island to Island. I have also been cogitating on the traces of Esquimaux which you found on Melville Island and on other of the shores north of Barrows Strait. Have these men come from Regent Inlet, where Ross in the Victory found the Esquimaux? Who were I believe recognized by him as being allied to – or at least in some way intimately connected with those you saw at Winter Island – and near the shoals of Fury Straits – or have the traces been left by Esquimaux who reside westward of Boothia?

If by the latter they in all probability have come thither along the coasts or by the chain of islands which I have imagined to exist – I think the west side of Boothia will be found to exist from James Ross's Point Felix to Cape Walker.

I have thus communicated my ideas unreservedly to you - because I know that you will kindly receive them if they be different from yours as the opinions of a person as yet comparatively inexperienced as to what may be inferred from circumstances met with in these higher latitudes so far apart from the Main Continent of America.

It would do your heart good to witness how zealously the officers and men in both ships are working and how amicably we all pull together. Knowing what an excellent instructor and fellow worker Crozier was & will prove to Fitz-James. I have left the magnetic observations of the Erebus to the latter – who is most assiduous respecting them. I have also endeavored to encourage each of the officers to take some one branch or other under his more immediate care - from which I trust he will ultimately reap substantial benefit - so that my share of the work at present seems to be more the training and overlooking of these gentlemen than doing the work itself. I have now for instance at the tables in my cabin a Lieut constructing the plan of the survey he has made of the islands of which this grant is compared – and Mr. Goodsir the assistant surveyor/naturalist with his microscope skeletons minutely examining the crustacae moluscae & which he describes at once while the colours are fresh.

He is very expert at dredging and has found many rare and some unknown creatures – with too long names for me to write. Beyond his table lie lots of skinned bivels the handy work of the surgeon who is skilled in such subjects. Around the deck of the cabin are arranged the ships store of preserved potatoes – packed in neat tin cases. With the above description you will be able to bring me before your mind at the moment - and in turning my head I recognize you like as life.

Was there not in your time a large station here for the Esquimaux under a commandant? This office is broken up and the establishment of Esquimaux reduced to 130 – only 30 of whom are at present here, the rest are absent hunting seal. Judging from their manner, their dress and more cleanly appearance than other Esquimaux whom I have seen I should say they are well taken care of by the Danish Govt -

I must now thank you for your signal books – which are so complete that I had only to add some few Nos. to suit the steam purposes – before I sent them to Crozier to copy – we shall use them after leaving this place.

I meant to have had the steamship here to see that all was right - but we really could not at present spare either the space or time. We are satisfied however that all is right and kept in order by the Engineer and it is my intention to take the first opportunity of our being by it to get the steamship, and certainly have everything ready for its immediate use by the time we reach Lancaster Sound. We find our engineer Mr. Gregory a good & valuable man – and willing to do anything required of him.

Again my dear Parry I will recommend my dearest wife and daughter to your kind regards. I am persuaded that she feels now entirely she may trust to your friendship for advice and comfort whenever she may need them. It will always prove a happiness to know your opinion as to where we may be & what we may be supposed to be employed in doing. I have every confidence in the firmness of her mind and that she will endeavour to repress any undue anxiety as long as the time has not arrived in which she may have fixed upon in her own mind for our return. But I fear if we should not happen to make our appearance by that time she may be become over-anxious. [sic]

Then it will be, that I more especially entreat of my friends to comfort her, by pointing out that without there being the least occasion for uncertainty as to our safety – there may be reasons for the delay, such as the desire to look into every hopeful place as long as the health of the crew & the state of the provision justify our doing so.

I know my dear Parry that both my wife and daughter will heartily join with many dear friends in fervent prayer that the Almighty Power may guide and support us – and that the blessing of His Holy Spirit may rest upon us.

Our prayers I trust will be offered up with equal fervour for these inestimable blessings to be also vouchsafed to them, and to all who love the Lord Jesus in sincerity and truth.

I humbly pray that God's richest blessings may attend yourself, Lady Parry and your family.

Believe me

Ever your affectionate friend

John Franklin

Will you have the goodness to say every thing most kind to Beaufort, and perhaps you will have the goodness to let him see any parts of this note which may interest him. I would most willingly write to him if I could say anything more about the ship & our prospects than I have to you - or that I could give to him any farther proof than you will have the kindness to convey to him, of my most sincere & affectionate regard for him and of my esteem for Mrs. Beaufort and his family. May the Lord bless & preserve them all -!

I have requested the Agent of Transports, Lt Griffith[s], to call upon you. He is an intelligent person and I have been much pleased with him. He wishes to obtain either his promotion or some command as a Lieut. - though I fear his service on the present occasion would not add to his claims - I should yet be glad to say a good word for him. Can you venture on saying this at the Admiralty?

You will be glad to know that I have not had the least return of a cough since I have been at sea and that I never was in better health.

Page images (10)

About this document ...

  • Written by: Sir John Franklin
  • Written to: William Parry
  • Archive: Scott Polar Research Institute
  • Collection: GB 15 Sir John Franklin/Correspondence
  • Reference number: MS 348/18/7
  • Date: 1845 July 10
  • Page(s): 1-10
  • Notes: From Whalefish Islands. Discusses the voyage from England and speculates about possible islands between Wollaston and Banks islands in suggesting his possible route for the HMS Erebus and HMS Terror voyage
Sunken ship