It was always been said that little ships were better suited to cross the shallow and treacherous waters of the Northwest Passage, there were several explorers who affirmed that thing (Hall, Hood, among others), but of course the Admiralty was thinking on a different way, because they persevered on sending to the NWP heavy expeditions.
|William Edward Parry: From: WahooArt.com|
What have surprised me is that William Parry, a man already experimented in the arctic hazards, said this on the narrative about his first Voyage:
"On the 5th, it was necesary to pass through some heavy streams of ice, in order to avoid the loss of time by going round to the eastward. On this, as many other occasions, the advantage possessed by a ship of considerable weight in the water, in separating the heavy masses of ice, was very apparent.
In some of the streams, through which the Hecla passed, a vessel of a hundred tons less burthen must have been immoveably beset. The Griper was on this, and many other occasions, only enabled to follow the Hecla by taking advantage of the openings made by the latter. "
He thought, and likely correctly, that the weight of the ships could help them on saving time ,while sailing on a straight line breaking the ice, as the heavy ice breakers currently does, pushing the ice and climbing slightly over the borders of the floes to break it with their weight. But Parry had been beset before by the ice, he should have known the dangers of sailing in icy waters with such heavy ships. He should have known by then that the seas on those latitudes are not always covered by thin ice but for thick ice which can trap easily a heavy ship. A more maneuverable ship could have helped him to sail closer to the shores when the waters would be impracticable and a smaller and lighter ship could take the advantage of using whatever lead opened in the ice, no matter the smaller the lead could have been. He should have known or deduced that.
Ivan Constantinovich Aivazovsky - Ships in a Storm From Wikimedia Commons
Wasn´t Parry wrong on their appreciations? Was he only refering to the kind ship which could be best suited for navigation on open waters or he meant what kind of ship could be suitable for the whole expedition? Did he change his mind?
I have read several original narrations about arctic expeditions and I don´t remember that any of their commanders would propose the use of lighter ships. It is true, on the other hand, that previously to these expeditions of the nineteenth century, there were several cases of small ships, which were accompanying others of a bigger size, which capsized during storms, sometimes even before reaching the shores of America.