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A Near Miss: April 25th, 1811

April 25, 2011

At Latitude 76 degrees 58, there were strong winds and gales overnight, and the Resolution continued running in poor light, before laying to, to drift through it in the dark. Despite the vast area of sea in which the whalers operated, ships were often in sight, and when the ice made open water scarce, there was considerable danger of collision. At about half past two in the afternoon, the Resolution was passed by two ships, and Scoresby made sail to force their way through the ice; they lay to again among open ice for the night. The following morning Scoresby was reminded of the dangers they faced, not just from the Arctic conditions, but from one another:

At 8AM while dressing myself I heard a bustle on deck ran up and observed a Ship (the Hope of London) almost aboard of us. He attempted to come to Windward of us while we were in the act of Stays* or immediately following, consequently our ship was under no command[.] Our Sprit sail Yard carried away one of his Quarter Boats Davids [davits] the Boat was precipitated bottom upwards into the water. Two men in her escaped with a wetting. I believe the lines which were in the Boat were not lost. From what I could learn it evidently appeared the Hope alone was to blame.

In the end, Scoresby ran for a “trifling opening” simply to get away from the gathering of five ships. Even so, with so few options, the Resolution was followed by several ships.

*A sailing ship in “Stays” was in the process of going about, and as such was “without command” in the sense that it was unable to take evasive action, being without power.

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