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Sir William Parry: Vanguard of British Exploration

Sir William Edward Parry (1790-1855) led a number of British expeditions in search of the Northwest Passage. Although he was not successful, one of his Arctic expeditions almost reached the 113th meridian and qualified for the 5,000 prize offered by the Board of Longitude to the first vessel to cross the 110th meridian in high northern latitudes.

Ice stopped Parry's third expedition in 1821, and the "Hecla" and the "Griper" became the first Royal Navy ships to winter in the Canadian Arctic.

Men exercised by playing cricket on the ice or by running around the canvas-roofed deck in time to music from the ship's organ; beer was brewed, which the men enjoyed more than the daily dose of limejuice that was required to keep scurvy at bay; a weekly newspaper was published; and an amateur theatrical group presented comic farces each fortnight.

The arrival of a group of Inuit that winter led to a friendly relationship, and they told Parry of a strait that led to a sea in the west. He did not find the strait, but this voyage uncovered a little known section of the Arctic and provided a wealth of information on the culture and way of life of the Inuit.

One of Parry's contributions was to prove to the British Navy that survival through an Arctic winter was possible (much to the relief of the Inuit).

PICTURE: Inuit guides sketch maps for Parry.

Arctic: Library and Links
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Library: Exploration and Franklin Expedition
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A Guide to Arctic Sunrise and Sunset GUIDE TO ARCTIC SUNRISE & SUNSET: How much sunlight or darkness is there in the Arctic on each day of the year?

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