13. Beechey, Frederick William (1796-1856)
Narrative of a Voyage to the Pacific and Beering's Strait, to Co- operate with the Polar Expeditions: Performed in His Majesty's Ship Blossom, under the Command of Captain F.W. Beechey ... in the years 1825, 26, 27, 28. London: Henry Colburn and Richard Bentley, 1831.
Inupiat of Kotzebue Sound, wishing to trade, and approaching the Blossom in two umiaks, from Frederick William Beechey, Narrative of a Voyage, 1831.
“Tracking the barge” around Cape Smyth, from Frederick William Beechey, Narrative of a Voyage, 1831.
HMS Blossom was sent out in 1825 to approach the Arctic through the Bering Strait and meet up with Franklin, who was to have headed west from the mouth of the Mackenzie River (see item 12) .
Blossom was commanded by F. W. Beechey, who was also an accomplished artist, and had provided many of the illustrations for Parry’s second voyage (see item 7). Beechey successfully reached Kotzebue Sound in July 1826, which was the proposed meeting point with Franklin. There they encountered native Inupiat, who came out to trade in their umiaks (which Beechey calls “baidars”). Since Franklin was not there, the Blossom continued on, passing Icy Cape, the furthest point reached by Captain Cook. When the ship was eventually blocked by ice, Beechey sent ahead what he called a “barge,” which was actually a schooner that he had on board, small enough to be able to move along the shore. Aboard was William Smyth, another capable artist.
The schooner reached a major headland, which Beechey would later name Point Barrow, and which would turn out to be the northernmost point on the American continent west of Boothia. Since they saw no signs of Franklin, they erected several marker posts, turned around, and came back, often having to pull the barge by hand, or “track” it along the shore. Smyth recorded all this in his sketchbook, which was the source for several of the plates in the published Narrative, and both of the images reproduced here.