HC Deb 05 February 1850 vol 108 cc386-92

begged to move for copies of any reports or statements from the officers employed in the Arctic expeditions, or from any other persons, which have been laid before the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty in respect to the resumption of the search for Sir John Franklin's expedition. It was not necessary, in making this Motion, that he should quote any precedent in its support. It was one in respect to which he hoped he should have the same cordial concurrence of the House as he experienced in respect to the last Motion he made on the subject. At the same time, though he was aware that there was not, technically, any opposition to the production of the papers, yet he would not conceal from the House that his object was not simply to obtain those papers, but to induce the House to express the same sympathy with the same object to which the papers adverted, as had been done on a former occasion. He was desirous of eliciting from the House a manifestation of sympathy with those of their fellow-countrymen who were now passing their fifth year—if God should have spared their lives—amid the horrors of an arctic winter. He would earnestly urge upon Her Majesty's Ministers to take such further measures for the relief of those brave and disinterested men as their own zeal and as the science of those by whom they were surrounded might teach them to be the most applicable for the purpose—that of rescuing Sir John Franklin and those who were associated with him; that they would, in fact, do what they had on a former occasion done in sending forth an expedition to resume and complete the unfinished search after that gallant officer and his gallant crew. The Government would have a right to complain of any person who could move for even a slip of paper in reference to future proceedings, who did not at the same time acknowledge what they had already done upon the subject. At the same time he was bound to urge upon them not to lose a month, a week, a day, or even an hour, in seeking to release those gallant men from their perilous position; for every former expedition had failed, if not entirely, or principally, yet in great measure at least, from not having been sent forth from this country at an earlier period. He believed that during last month all the crews of the whalers were engaged for the ensuing season; and that hardly any whalers would remain in this country by the end of March. He had learnt from one of the most experienced authorities on the subject, that, in order that the search might be effectual, it ought to commence in Baffin's Bay at the end of May, or the beginning of June, so that it might take advantage of the first opening in July. He ventured to hope—without wishing to disparage any other mode of search—that Her Majesty's Government and the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty would take into consideration the expediency of applying steam navigation directly and primarily in the search. It was not the suggestion of Sir James Clarke Ross, but of his predecessor Sir John Ross, that steam paddles might be used with unmixed advantage, provided they could be raised above the vessels on the approach of any probable collision in the ice. He (Sir R. Inglis) had learned from high authority that the measure was not only practicable but might be easily adapted and applied most usefully in such an enterprise. He would also suggest that instead of two vessels being employed, the same amount of tonnage should be distributed among four vessels. The object was not so much to go from one given point to another equally known, as to make a search in all directions. It was like sending out four policemen instead of one. Supposing four vessels should go out, he would suggest that each vessel should be independent of the others. A stimulant would thus be given to the energy of each, and greater results would probably follow, than could be secured by any other mode. He had not said a word on the subject as being one connected with national honour, or with science; but the cause of humanity ought to compel them, and a feeling of national honour ought to induce them to do what he now urged upon Her Majesty's Government, without a word being said about science. For what did they hear at the close of the last Session? That the Governments of two other States were engaged in making preparations for rescuing our own countrymen. He believed there was no precedent in history of one nation sending forth an expedition to rescue the lives of the subjects of another nation. He did not know whether, either in the case of Russia or of the United States, these hopes had been realised, and whether any actual efforts had already been made by those Governments for this object; but the honour of England required that efforts should be made by England herself to rescue her own countrymen. It had been suggested that the use of small balloons would facilitate the search. He gave no opinion upon the subject, but he understood that such a mode might be made subsidiary to the other means employed: the balloon being attached by ropes to the ship or point from which it might be sent up. This was not a private question; he would not, therefore, introduce private considerations; but when he reflected on the remarkable and most memorable conduct of the wife of Sir John Franklin, of her self-denying efforts in the cause of her husband and of his companions; when he considered the hundreds of persons who were interested in the fate of the husbands and brothers now engaged in that expedition, he thought he did not unreasonably prefer his suit to the First Lord of the Admiralty when he ex pressed a hope that he would take the subject into immediate consideration, not merely from a sense of humanity towards those who were missing, or from a sense of national honour, or from a consideration for the cause of science, but also from a sym pathy for the anguish and suspense that had been felt by so many of those who, though breathing the same genial air with ourselves at home, were suffering for those who were now separated from them, and were existing in the regions of an ice-bound zone. He had reason to hope that his right hon. Friend was not only prepared to concede the papers he had asked for, but to indicate to the House at once that it was the firm intention of the Government to comply with the suggestions that had been made. He should conclude by moving for— Copies of any Reports or Statements from the officers employed in the Arctic Expeditions, or from any other persons, which have been laid be-fore the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty in I repect to the resumption of the search for Sir John Franklin's Expedition: Of any plan or plans of search, whether by ships or boats, up to the present date: Copy or Extracts from any Correspondence or Proceedings of the Board of Admtralty, in relation: to the Arctic Expeditions (since the date of the last Return to this House in 1849): Copies of the Orders issued by the Board of Admiralty to the Captains Collinson, Kellett, and Moore, and to Lieutenant Pullen; and also Copy of the Instructions given to Dr. Rae, through the Hudson's Bay Company: Of any Reports made by any officer or officers employed in the late Expeditions, and addressed to the Board of Admiralty: And, of the latest chart of the Polar Sea compiled by order of the Board of Admiralty (in continuation of Parliamentary Papers Nos. 204 and 386, of Session 1848, and of Nos. 188 and 387, of Session 1849).


, in seconding the Motion, begged to call the attention of the right hon. Baronet the First Lord of the Admiralty to the proposal of Mr. M'Cormick, surgeon of the Erebus. That gentleman proposed that, whatever other expeditions might be set on foot, a number of boats should be employed to examine Smith's Sound and Jones's Sound, ending with the Wellington Channel. From the long period which had elapsed since the last tidings of the missing expedition had been received, there could be very little doubt that if the officers and men were in existence, they had been arrested at some point between which and the known or habitable regions of the globe there was no communication, and consequently it was more than probable they would be found to the northward of Parry's Islands. Jones's Sound and Smith's Sound had not yet been surveyed, but were considered points of communication with the Arctic Sea, and, therefore, with Wellington Channel itself. Mr. M'Cormick had volunteered to take command of the boats to be employed in this hazardous enterprise, and asked for no outlay beyond that which would enable him to reach the place indicated on hoard some whaler, which might afterwards be employed in the investigation. In addition to the rewards offered last year to those who might afford relief to the expedition, he would suggest the propriety of offering some reward to such persons as might bring indubitable proofs of the traces of the vessels or of the men, who might, perhaps, have abandoned the ships.


said, it had been his intention to take the earliest opportunity of stating the course the Government intended to pursue in this matter. As time pressed, and it was necessary that Government should decide, the Admiralty took upon itself to despatch an expedition by Behring's Straits; and it was the intention of Government to send an expedition in search of Sir John Franklin to proceed from the eastward by Lancaster Sound. He thought it would be better for him to defer entering into the details of the course Government would adopt, and that he should state it in a paper to he laid before the House, because the details were not fixed. But he assured hon. Gentlemen that a good many of these propositions had been submitted to the Government, who had paid every attention to them. Of course, on a subject like this every one had his own project; but it would be the endeavour of the Admiralty to adopt that which they really believed would be most efficient for the purpose. He thought it right to state that in an expedition of this nature the pecuniary cost would not be a consideration in the slightest degree. Of course the time might unfortunately come when they would no longer have a right to risk the lives of men in such a search. That had been to him a subject of consideration; but from the opinion of those who were best able to form an opinion, he trusted there still was such a hope as justified the Government in taking every measure which they fairly and properly could take, to render assistance, if possible—at any rate, to ascertain the fate of their unfortunate fellow-countrymen. It was not for the purpose of nautical science, or for the extension of geographical knowledge, the importance of which he hoped he did not underrate, but solely for the purpose of saving life, that this expedition was about to be undertaken. As soon as possible, the papers giving the details of the proposed expedition would be laid on the table of the House. Allusion had been made to the assistance rendered by foreign Governments; he ought to add that his Imperial Majesty the Emperor of Russia had most kindly and cordially given every assistance in his power, and had acceded to every request which had been made to him by this Government. He was also bound to state that the Hudson's Bay Company had not only acceded to the representations which had been made to them by the Admiralty, but had voluntarily undertaken whatever they thought could by possibility tend to throw light on the missing expedition. As to the papers now moved for, a certain discretion must be allowed to the Admiralty as to the time and mode of presenting them; and he had no doubt that, in exercising that discretion, they should meet, the wishes of the House and of the hon. Mover.


alluded to the large sums which had been expended in these exploring expeditions, and said that they had always gone on an erroneous principle, by proceeding from the east westward. This was but carrying out an old tradition which had existed some time in the Admiralty Office, about the discovery of a north-west passage. All who had studied the matter either theoretically or practically, knew full well that as the currents always set from west to east, the expeditions sent from this country had to encounter not only the perils of the season, but large aggregations of ice which had been partially broken up, and were drifted from west to east by the continuous flow of the current. He entertained a confident hope, in common with most who had studied the subject, that the expedition under Sir John Franklin was at this moment existing; and looking at what the course of the expedition had been, he must say, that the principal point had never yet been explored. Those who had looked at the subject, had a very firm assurance that the expedition was now existing on the southern point of Melville Island. If the expedition now to be sent out were to go from east to west, he did not think it would accomplish its object so well and so easily as by another course of action. With the ready means which existed for obtaining large supplies from the northern coast of America, and the Hudson's Bay Company, he thought the best course would be to start from the mouth of the Coppermine river, the boats being carried over the ice; and thus the whole of that portion of the coast, where there was any likelihood of Sir John Franklin and his companions existing, might be explored at one-fourth the cost which would otherwise be incurred. He hoped the Government would take into consideration the large sums of money which had been hitherto expended uselessly and fruitlessly. If the expedition was to be carried out with success, he thought it ought to be more from the land side than the sea side. He did not quite agree in the propriety of employing steam vessels; he did not think they would be applicable in those latitudes, and that peculiar climate.


said, the right hon. Baronet the First Lord of the Admiralty had mentioned the Russian Government; he wished to ask, if efforts had not also been made by the Government of the United States?


was understood to say, that no official communication had taken place with the American Government on this subject. His statement only had reference to those quarters in which the Government had officially applied for assistance in promoting this object.


said, he would not allow the Motion to be agreed to without expressing his gratitude to the right hon. Baronet and to the House, for having concurred so entirely in the suggestion of another expedition being sent out in search of Sir John Franklin.

Motion agreed to.