William Edward Parry (1790-1855)


  • Ann Parry




Biographies, Expeditions, Explorers, History, Parry, Sir William Edward, 1790-1855, Melville Island, N.W.T./Nunavut, Northwest Passage


Through the influence of John Barrow, ships and men left idle by the end of the Napoleonic Wars were engaged to seek a commercially viable Northwest Passage - a quest already 300 years old. This first expedition in two small ships, Isabella and Alexander, was disappointing, for Ross returned home to report that Lancaster Sound was landlocked. Some of his officers disagreed, Barrow remained unconvinced, and in the following year Parry, still only a lieutenant, was given command of a further expedition with the same objective. This expedition of 1819-20 set the pattern for arctic exploration for a generation. Parry, in the sturdy bomb-vessel Hecla with a smaller Griper as consort, sailed through Lancaster Sound and westward as far as 112 51 W, thus winning the 5000 Pound Sterling prize offered by Parliament for the first ship to pass 110 W within the Arctic Circle. He wintered at Melville Island, hoping to continue westward in the new season, but he was frustrated by pack ice. This was the first time ships of the Royal Navy had wintered in the Arctic, although whalers had sometimes spent the winter trapped in the ice of Davis Strait, and Parry's meticulous care of his men ensured that all came through safely. The expedition returned home with a mass of scientific data and aroused great popular enthusiasm. ... In Parry's three major arctic voyages, many problems of northern exploration - health, clothing, boredom in the long winter nights - were solved. ... In 1827, Parry made one more arctic voyage, over the ice from Spitsbergen in an attempt to reach the North Pole. He failed, of course, but his "farthest north" (82 43 32 N) stood for nearly 50 years. ...






Arctic Profiles