The expedition now descended towards the south for some twenty miles, in order the more easily to pass round Franklin Bay. The country was still covered with verdure, and the quadrupeds and birds already enumerated were as plentiful as ever; so that they could reasonably hope that the whole of the north-western coasts of the American continent were populated in the same manner.
The ocean which bathed these shores stretched away as far as the eye could reach Recent atlases give no land beyond the north American coast-line, and it is only the icebergs which impede the free navigation of the open sea from Behring Strait to the Pole itself.
On the 4th July the travellers skirted round another deep bay called Washburn Bay, and reached the furthest point of a little lake, until then imperfectly known, covering but a small extent of territory, scarcely two square miles-in fact it was rather a lagoon, or large pond of sweet water, than a lake.
The sledges went on easily and rapidly, and the appearance of the country was most encouraging to the explorers. It seemed that the extremity of Cape Bathurst would be a most favourable site for the new fort, as with this lagoon behind them, and the sea open for four or five months in the warm season, and giving access to the great highway of Behring Strait, before them, it would be easy for the exiles to lay in fresh provisions and to export their commodities.
On the 5th June, about three o’clock in the afternoon, the party at last halted at the extremity of Cape Bathurst. It remained to ascertain the exact position of this cape, which the maps place above the seventieth parallel. It was, however, impossible to rely upon the marine surveys of the coast, as they had never yet been made with exactitude. Jaspar Hobson decided to wait and ascertain the latitude and longitude.
“What prevents us from settling here?” asked Corporal Joliffe. “You will own, Lieutenant, that it is a very inviting spot.”
“It will seem more inviting still if you get double pay here, my worthy Corporal,” replied Hobson.
“No doubt,” said Joliffe; “and the orders of the Company must be obeyed.”
“Then wait patiently till to-morrow,” added Hobson; “and if we find that Cape Bathurst is really beyond 70° north latitude, we will pitch our tent here.”
The site was indeed admirably suited for the foundation of a new settlement. The wooded heights surrounding the lagoon would supply plenty of pine, birch, and other woods for the construction of the fort, and for stocking, it with’ fuel. The Lieutenant and some of his companions went to the very edge of the cape, and found that towards the west the coast-line formed a lengthened curve, beyond which icebergs of a considerable height shut out the view. The water of the lagoon, instead of being brackish as they expected from its close vicinity to the sea, was perfectly sweet; but had it not been so, drinkable water would not have failed the little colony, as a fresh and limpid stream ran a few yards to the south-east of Cape Bathurst, and emptied itself into the Arctic Ocean through a narrow inlet, which, protected by a singular accumulation of sand and earth instead of by rocks, would have afforded a refuge to several vessels from the winds of the offing, and might be turned to account for the anchorage of the ships which it was hoped would come to the new settlement from Behring Strait. Out of compliment to the lady of the party, and much to her delight, Lieutenant Hobson named the stream Paulina river, and the little harbour Port Barnett.
By building the fort a little behind the actual cape, the principal house and the magazines would be quite sheltered from the coldest winds. The elevation of the cape would help to protect them from the snow-drifts, which sometimes completely bury large buildings beneath their heavy avalanches in a few hours. There was plenty of room between the foot of the promontory and the bank of the lagoon for all the constructions necessary to a fort. It could even be surrounded by palisades, which would break the shock of the icebergs; and the cape itself might be surrounded with a fortified redoubt, if the vicinity of rivals should render such a purely defensive erection necessary; and the Lieutenant, although with no idea of commencing anything of the kind as yet, naturally rejoiced at having met with an easily defensible position.