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Heading the Convoy: 8th-10th July, 1811

On Monday July 8th, the Resolution was still amongst ice when strong winds blew up which “rendered the sailing very dangerous”.  By now though, at Lat 76, the edge of the ice was near. There was still work to do flinching and making off whale tails, which were spread “upon the Casks as far aft as possible”. And the re-rigging continued: “rigged the long TG [Top Gallant] Masts Mizen Top Mast &c.”

By Tuesday the Resolution was in company with the Enterprize and Aimwell at Lat. 75. The Aimwell had taken 30 whales, and Scoresby loaned 4 provisions casks (180 gallons each) to help with stowing the blubber. Scoresby must have been proud, on his first voyage as Master, that the Aimwell and Enterprize nominated the Resolution Commodore of the convoy. Work continued on the rigging. The following day, the 10th, he notes that “At noon 5 sail in sight” and, after a calm, “we sailed under all canvas 4-5 knots P hour”.

News of the Fleet: 6th-7th July, 1811

With a southwesterly wind the Resolution came upon the Volunteer, which had been waiting for her, and Scoresby shared stories about the season, and information about the catch. The Volunteer had:

23 fish (15 size) = 150 Tons of Oil he informed us that Captn. Cutter [of the Reliance (London)] had been seeking a passage to the NE of this in an E[asterly] direction out fo the Ice and had been obliged to return and seek it more Southerly. Mr. Dawson [of the Volunteer (Whitby)] says he wants a Fish or two more before he goes home.

Fog meant that “sailing became troublesome” but on Sunday 7th July, the fog cleared, and they “made sail with a light air of wind” to the ESE, with around 20 ships in sight. The fog, a calm, and possibly a desire to make sure the men were kept active, forced Scoresby to employ boats to tow the ship. By now, as they finished making off the blubber stowed in the past few days, they were using every empty cask they could lay their hands on: “Finished making off having filled all our Blubber Casks several Beer and Fresh water Casks and 30 or 4 Beef or Pork casks.”

At noon, the Aimwell hoisted the pendant to indicate she was full and heading home. By now 24 ships in sight of one another were all following the same course homeward to the South East.

A Good Cargo: 5th July, 1811

Scoresby saw his success in whaling as a gift from God, but he also knew that the longer he kept to the edge of the ice, the more chance there was of catching more whales:

Having now by the kind assistance of Divine Providence obtained a good Cargo suppose upwards of 210 Tons of oil we purpose to proceed homewards taking the Ice along as we go that we may have the chance of obtaining another Fish or two in our way having sufficient convenience for 20 or 30 Tons more could we obtain it.

Further preparations for the journey included filling six casks with ice, for fresh water on the way home, giving them a total of “9 Casks Ice 2 of water and 2 of Beer for the passage homewards”.

A Broken Harpoon: 4th July, 1811

With the rigging set, the Resolution began her long journey south, but with a little space left in the hold, the men were still on the lookout for whales. Scoresby observed whales travelling west at 3-4 knots, and then, around midnight, a whale surfaced next to the ship, and was struck. The whale began to move quickly in one direction and then another, making it difficult for the boats to close in, but a second harpoon struck home “and immediately afterwards the first broke in the shank”. Scoresby attributed the breakage to the harpoon being cold, and therefore brittle. Although it was “very much used,” it was “the only one of 12 which “stood not the test”.

The whale was killed, and after rearranging the now crowded decks, the blubber was brought on board. Again the Resolution made way to the south, keeping the pack of ice “aboard” or nearby.

Flying Jacks: 2nd-3rd July, 1811

On Tuesday, Scoresby gave the signal for the boats to return, the ship almost full, and the season over:

The Crew now seemed satisfied with our success as a signal brought the Fish to the Ship with flying Jacks. Finished flinching made a short board to Windward and then reached by the wind to the SWbW … constant fog commenced which continued until (Wednesday) at intervals very thick could not see 100yards. The Fopg was such that the decks were quite dry but the rigging was coated with glass.

The following day, as the fog cleared, the Resolution mad a dash for an opening, but found time to send a boat in pursuit of another whale. The Fore Top Gallant mast was re-rigged, making the ship better able to make good progress in open water as it sailed home. Jackson notes that the ship was rigged for manoeuvring amongst the ice, while in Brassa Sound, on March 16th. In the days to come, a great deal more work would be needed to transform the ship from a nimble, working whaler, to an effective long-distance cargo ship.

Scoresby counted “20 sail in sight” at midnight, including the Enterprize and Aimwell. Although no doubt their thoughts were of home, on July 3rd Scoresby and his crew were still far north, at Lat 78.

Last Whales: 30th June to 1st July, 1811

In loose ice Scoresby saw more whales, and sent boats in pursuit, through snow showers. They steered North East, and met the Enterprize, whose captain reported having “20 Fish 130-140 Tons gives account of the Perseverence of Peterhead having 160.” Along with several other ships, the Resolution sailed for around eight hours, or, Scoresby estimates, 30-40 miles before reaching a patch of ice.

On Monday, in open ice, and thick fog, whales and “Unicorns” were sighted, and the blowing of whales heard:

About 5AM having come near a floe and hearing the bowing of a whale tacked and sent a Boat to seek it. They continued to lie in wait 4 or 5 hours seeing the same fish occasionally which at length was struck next to a close patch of Ice to the Nd of a Floe the Boats spreading themselves judiciously soon got her on coming up and in due time killed her. Took her alongside and flinched as we lay too.

Got a Bear: 28th-29th June, 1811

Polar Bears were much prized for their skins, and sometimes, in the case of cubs, as pets, or as zoo animals. With the ship almost full of blubber, the crew of the Resolution could afford to expand their horizons a little, and capture exotic Arctic wildlife to take home. So after a bad day catching whales–one harpooner missed, another whale escaped with 10 lines–they caught a bear.

The following day, the 29th, they observed many narwals, but there was work to be done, making off 4 tons of blubber. Again Scoreby records the draught of the ship as “Forward 14ft 5in aft 14ft 9in (New Marks)”. Again the ice gathered.

More Whales: 27th June, 1811

In a fresh SSW breeze, with fog, and snow showers, the boats of the Resolution struck, and killed a whale. Unfortunately, the corpse became trapped by ice, and had to be freed by pulling it out using whale lines attached to the capstan, and men clearing the way. With the whale alongside, the flinching began, while the boats went off again. Another ship, the Effort, signalled that she was about to return home. The season was a great success. Scoresby records “10 or 15 sail all made fast to this field it drifts very fast to the SSW or SW. 3 Boats on Watch.”

They Brought a Bear: 26th June, 1811

On Wednesday the Resolution was still far north, at Lat. 78, with the wind blowing NNW. Work had been underway for some time filling casks with blubber, and the final 25 went into the lower hold. Along with many other ships, the Resolution made for an area of clear water to the NE. There was some danger that they would become beset, and Scoresby sent off five boats to look for a passage through to the edge of the ice:

Made sail and after a good deal of anxiety and care accomplished the passage and worked up towards the Field. The Boats met us as we got out. They brought a bear had mistaken orders and ranged the Field E[astward] instead of Westward. … The Aimwell to Windward got two Fish most of the Ships about us made some captures and some several. The Henrietta and Active (Peterhead) bore away with colours flying.

Ships flying their colours indicated that they were full, and were heading home. Before long the Resolution would raise its Jack too.

A Loose Fall: 25th June, 1811

The definition of nautical terms is often difficult, and the term ‘loose fall’ is one with an uncertain meaning. Smyth’s Sailor’s Word Book suggests that it refers to losing a whale when there was a good chance of securing it. In his entry for 25th June, however, Scoresby says “made a loose fall and sent away 6 boats,” by which, as Jackson explains in a footnote, he meant “sent out all the boats”. Whatever the actual meaning, if indeed there was a universally accepted one, this Tuesday did not work out well. Both the Resolution and the Aimwell sent out all their boats after “several large fish in a very open patch of ice” and in doing so, scared the whales away: “Thus we spent several hours in active pursuit and got nothing”.