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Sir Edward Sabine (1788-1883)

North Georgia Gazette and Winter Chronicle 1821

RCIN 1141476

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  • In 1819, William Parry (1790-1855) was commissioned by the British government to undertake an expedition to discover the Northwest Passage with a fleet of two ships: HMS Hecla and HMS Griper. The expedition is noted for travelling further west than any search for the passage had previously achieved. Parry ventured beyond Lancaster Sound into what is now called the Parry Channel, reaching Melville Island in the winter of 1819. Unable to proceed due to the pack ice and lack of sunlight – it was dark for 96 days – the ships were forced to spend the winter at Winter Harbour just off the southern coast of the island.

    In order to relieve the monotony of spending the winter in one place, the expedition's Science Officer and later President of the Royal Society, Edward Sabine (1788-1883), decided to print a newsletter containing "original contributions on any subject" written anonymously by crew members. The result provides an often humorous insight into life on board the ships in the depths of winter. The 21 issues that were printed, and published, much to Sabine's surprise, on the return of the expedition in 1821, contain a wide variety of material: accounts of plays performed, satirical advertisements, descriptions of the wildlife (in the style of society notices in newspapers) remarks on the weather and thinly-veiled frustrations at the hobbies and habits of other members of the crew (whistling and humming songs out of tune being a particular gripe).
    The idea of a crew newsletter printed during a long expedition makes a contrast to the published accounts of voyages that often followed such significant endeavours. It provides more of a human touch to the experience of travelling on such extensive, and often dangerous, journeys.  The Winter Chronicle is not the only instance of such a production. The Royal Library contains a similar work, The South Polar Times, which was first printed for the amusement of the crew during Scott's Discovery expedition to Antarctica, and published upon their return to Britain in 1904.

  • Alternative title(s)

    North Georgia Gazette, and Winter Chronicle / edited by Edward Sabine