4. Parry, William Edward, Sir (1790-1855). 

Journal of a Voyage for the Discovery of a North-West Passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific Performed in the Years 1819-20 in His Majesty’s Ships Hecla and GriperLondon: John Murray, 1821-24.


HMS Hecla in Baffin Bay, from William Edward Parry, Journal of a Voyage, 1821.


HMS Hecla and Griper in winter quarters at Melville Island, from William Edward Parry, Journal of a Voyage, 1821.

One of the most successful of all the searches for a Northwest Passage was one of the earliest.  Although Ross had claimed there was no access through Lancaster sound, Parry the next year sailed straight through with his two ships, the Hecla and Griper, and made it all the way to Melville Island, beyond the 110º longitude line.  No other ship would make it that far for more than thirty years.  This voyage discovered dozens of new headlands and islands, most of which were named after (and are still named after) Admiralty notables, such as Viscount Melville, First Lord of the Admiralty, John Barrow, Second Secretary (Barrow Strait),  Admiral Sir William Cornwallis (Cornwallis Island), and Sir William Beechey (Beechey island).

Many future Arctic explorers were aboard, such as Frederick William Beechey,  James Clark Ross, and Edward Sabine.  In addition to being the first ship to cross the 110º longitude line (winning a £5000 reward offered by the Board of Longitude), the Hecla and Griper became the first British ships to winter over in the Arctic, when they were frozen in at Winter Harbor, Melville Island.

All of the illustrations in this work are impressive, but by far the most evocative is this view by Lt. Beechey of the Hecla and Griper in winter quarters at Winter Harbor.  Notice how the upper masts and spars have been removed and the decks covered over to provide some measure of protection against the cold.  Stoves were constructed on deck, not only to provide warmth, but to prevent condensation.

Another compelling image by Beechey shows the Hecla in Baffin Bay, on its way to Lancaster Sound.  The scene, with the seals in the foreground, looks quite peaceful, but Parry tells us that they narrowly escaped being crushed against the berg by the floe-ice, and close inspection reveals the men in boats, frantically (and successfully) pulling the Hecla out of danger.

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