Among the long list of "first discoverers" or "the first on crossing" the Northwest Passage (NWP), the name of Bedford Clapperton Trevelyan Pim, perhaps could be one of the less named by the historians and for those who had been always arguing about "who was really the first" on discovering or crossing the path across the frozen labirynth. But he really was one of them, one of those who could be named "one of the first".
Leaving apart the discussion about if it was S.J. Franklin or the Dr. Rae the first on discovering the South NWP (I prefer not to mention here Francisco Ferrer Maldonado in order to avoid blushing myself), it is undoubtely McLure, who must wear the laurels of having been the first on joining all, till the date, lost points of that singular, dangerous and frozen puzzle which conforms the North NWP.
He reached the farthest point gained by Parry in 1819 in Winter Harbour in the Melville Island and he leaves proofs there under a Cairn to demonstrate his succes on having linked the both ends of that broken rope. This same message was later the key for his rescue.
But, McLure, also wears the laurels of having been the first on doing the first crossing of the passage from its east side to the west, part on his own ship (HMS Investigator till it was abandoned in Mercy Bay), part on foot over the ice, and part on the ships of the Edward Belcher rescue expedition. And it is here where it grows my doubt.
It was Bedford Pim who found the desperate McClure, just on time before he will send the weakest men of his crew towards a certain dead, (this assertion could be discussed on later posts, because as always, there are some extenuating circunstances which could justify such apparent cruel decission).
Bedford Pim appeared in the scene of the McLure Drama in such way:
"While walking near the ship, in conversation with the first Lieutenant upon the subject of digging a grave for the man who died yesterday, and discussing how we could cut a grave in the ground whilst it was so hardly froze- a subject we perceived a figure walking rapidly towards us from the rough ice at the entrance of the bay. From his pace and gestures we both naturally supposed at first that he was some one of ourparty pursued by a bear, but as we approached him doubts arose as to who it could be"
(pg. 289 Discovery of the Northwest Passage by McLure).
Of course it was Bedford Pim who, with 27 years old, had reached the HMS Investigator in april of 1853. He had walked from Dealy Island (in front of Melville Island) where the HMS Resolute had wintered (more tan 200 miles as the crow flies). The rest of the description of that encounter is impressive, and I reccomend its Reading (pg. 289 Discovery of the Northwest Passage by McLure).
Then, here it is where has raised the seed of a doubt into my brain. Of course it was Robert McLure who joined the lost points and those laurels must be attached fixedly to his head, but before he crossed the passage towards the east, Bedford Clapperton Trevelyan Pim had previously walked all that way towards the west. Yes, I know, it is true, he returns from this point to his ships in Dealy Island, so he couldn´t wear by himself the honour of being the first on crossing the NWP, ...then?.
Then, my doubt is:
Is it fair assigning the title of being the first on crossing the NWP only to Mc Lure?
Or perhaps it would it be more fair consider that it was a dual accomplishment?.
At the end Pim had traveled aproximately 850 miles from the east end of Lancaster sound (which could be considered the east end of the NWP) versus the 350 miles sailed by McLure from what we could consider the entrance of the east side of the NWP, the Baillie Islands to Mercy Bay.
In my opinión, the first crossing of the NWP corresponds two thirds to Bedford Pim and one third to Robert McLure.
Besides these considerations, it is interesting to mention here that Bedford Pim, before being involved in the Edward Belcher expedition did an extraordinary effort trying to organize a searching expedition to locate the Erebus and Terror ships in the north Russian shores. The reason? because he thought that Franklin could have gone through the Wellington chanel towards the North Pole, and on havong encountered there a free ice sea, he could have reached those distant shores. There is an interesting article about the posible location of the Erebus and Terror ships in hte Russian waters here: http://pubs.aina.ucalgary.ca/arctic/Arctic45-1-36.pdf. There is also a later manifest on which Bedford Pim tries to expose more reasons to clarify the fate of the men of the Franklin expedition, the doccument is called: "An earnest appeal to the British public on behalf of the missing Arctic expedition"
But all this thing is, as it is said in the "Neverending story", another tale.