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Into the Ice: March 25-31st, 1811.

March 27, 2011

The Resolution made good progress from Shetland; in the last week of March Scoresby navigated from 62 deg 51 North to 68 deg 30 North, and entered the brash ice. The whaling fleet passed the northernmost point of Zetland at 5pm on the 25th and “met a very heavy sea” which did not suit the Resolution. With the Sarah and Elizabeth astern, the morning of the 26th brought fresh gales and fine weather, and they made good progess. Scoresby alloted the men to boats and appointed the harpooneers. In the evening, eight ships were in sight.

The temperature began to fall noticeably on the 27th, and on the 28th there was snow. It was still early in the season, and the ice was as yet quite far south. It snowed heavily on the 29th, and  the “Aurora Borealis was uncommonly brilliant”. On the 30th, Scoresby noted that the snow was not melting in the sea. He suspected ice was near, and took a temperature reading of the seawater, finding it was 33 F–just above freezing. Soon the Resolution was amongst ice, though in broken up streams. By then the threat from French naval vessels was receding, so Scoresby ordered the guns dismantled: “All hands were turned up at 9 AM to unload dismount the carriage Guns and stow them away.”

On the 31st, the Sarah and Elizabeth of Hull hove into view again. By then they had reached 68 deg 30 N, and the ice was thicker:

At mid’nt we tacked and stood in towards the Ice which we made about (6.30) am consisting of disseminated heavy pieces and brash streams[.] Stood in NbW tacking occasionally until we came to Ice so close as to be impassable. A few miles west appeared to be impervious[.] The Ice was washed and moderately heavy.

Scoresby was already developing an interest in the problems of calculating longitude, notably the reliability of clocks and watches near the magnetic pole. He made “seven sets of observations on the time, distance and altitudes from [the sun and moon] and the time regulated again in the afternoon the Longitude of the ship proved to be 5 deg 2 W. Watch per Greenwich 1 [minute] 35 too slow.”




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