His departure from the United States

In the year 1817, I projected a voyage of discovery, in the hope of
finding a passage to a new and untried world. I flattered myself
that I should open the way to new fields for the enterprise of
my fellow-citizens, supply new sources of wealth, fresh food
for curiosity, and additional means of enjoyment; objects of vast
importance, since the resources of the known world have been exhausted
by research, its wealth monopolized, its wonders of curiosity explored,
its every thing investigated and understood!
The state of the civilized world, and the growing evidences of the
perfectibility of the human mind, seemed to indicate the necessity
of a more extended sphere of action. Discontent and uneasiness were
every where apparent. The faculties of man had begun to dwindle for
want of scope, and the happiness of society required new and more
copious contributions.
I reasoned with myself as follows: A bountiful Providence provides food
for the appetite which it creates; therefore the desire of mankind for
a greater world to bustle in, manifested by their dissatisfaction with
the one which they possess, is sufficient evidence that the means of
gratification are provided. And who can doubt but that this is the
time to find the means of satisfying so general a desire?
A great obstacle presented itself at the outset. The aid of steam in
the navigation of my ship, was necessary to render my enterprise safe
and expeditious against the adverse circumstances which I was sure
to meet. But steam vessels were adapted only to smooth water. Every
attempt to employ them upon the ocean had been unsuccessful. I foresaw
that I must have a vessel capable of encountering severe gales in a
dense atmosphere, of being rapidly impelled against strong currents,
both of wind and water, and of surmounting, without harm, the impetuous
tides, and resisting the violent winds to be expected in the polar
seas. Moreover, she must be of such strength as to sustain the shock
of floating ice, or of taking the ground; and of such capacity as to
contain fuel and provisions for at least fifty men for three years,
with apartments from which the external air could be excluded,
and which might be artificially warmed during the rigours of a
polar winter.
But he whose soul is fired with the true spirit of discovery, is not
to be dismayed. I saw the end, and instantly began to use the means of
attaining it. I caused a steam vessel of 400 tons to be constructed
with double frames; the timbers being inclined from a perpendicular
about 45 degrees; so that the outer set crossed the others at right
angles. The timbers were let into each other to the depth of three
inches, and were secured by powerful bolts. This structure of massive
grating was incalculably firmer than the frame of a ship could possibly
be made upon the ordinary plan. The bottom was covered with four inch
plank, over which, after they were fastened and caulked, a layer of
three inch plank was put on; and the whole was sheathed with copper
of unusual thickness.
I remembered the misfortune of the discoverer Sindbad, whose
ship, when he approached the magnetic mountain, fell to pieces, in
consequence of the iron being all drawn out of it. To guard against
a similar disaster, I fastened my vessel first with tree-nails, and
then throughout with copper bolts firmly rivetted and clenched. To
obviate the dangers of exposed and upright paddles, I built her with
double top-sides for a space of thirty feet. Within this space the
inner frames sloped in from the bends, on an angle of 45 degrees,
and were covered and finished, in all respects, like the sides of a
common ship. The outer work was carried up in the usual manner, so
that the aperture was not apparent to external observation. Through
this outer side a longitudinal port was cut, 30 feet long and 3 feet
wide, for the paddles to play through obliquely, like the fins of a
seal. The nave of the wheel was two feet within the sill of the port,
between the double walls, and supported by both of them. The blades
of the paddles, made of the best ash timber, and firmly coaked and
rivetted together, were fitted into sockets in the nave; whence they
could be easily unshipped for the purpose of closing the ports in bad
weather, and rendering the vessel perfectly secure, with the paddles
inboard. The shaft by which the power of steam was communicated
to the paddles, passed through the inner side of the ship only, so
that water could not be forced into the ship, even in the roughest
weather, when the ports were closed. The inconvenience caused by the
rolling of a vessel with upright wheels, was avoided by the obliquity
of my paddles; the ship never rolling so much as to bring them to a
perpendicular, or dip the nave to which they were fastened. To avoid
accidents from fire, I built beneath and on the sides of the furnace
and boiler of the engine, two narrow cisterns, perfectly tight, and
of incombustible materials. These were kept constantly filled with
the waste water of the engine, which was allowed to escape only by
a spout at the top. No fire was permitted out of this enclosure. The
economy of fuel, which was necessary from the length of the voyage,
and from the emergencies which might happen, obliged me to adopt
all the means of motion in my power. I therefore rigged my vessel
as a ketch, with one large mast, and a long sliding topmast, which
could be easily launched or sent up by the assistance of the engine;
and a small mast abaft fitted to be struck at pleasure.
Having thus constructed a vessel which possessed the qualities most
essential to my purpose, I finished the interior in such manner as I
judged best calculated to render myself and people comfortable during
the voyage. I took care to have one apartment large enough to contain
all my crew. This was situated next to the furnace chamber, and had
communication with it, by means of a tight covered passage. By a tube
from the furnace, heated air could be conveyed to this apartment,
and steam from the boiler by another tube, should the state of the
air at any time require it.
Confident that, with this vessel, I could reach any place to which
there was a passage by water, whether on the external or internal
world, I named her the Explorer.
I furnished her with abundant stores for three years; among which were
large supplies of dried and preserved vegetables and fruits, pickles,
acids, and other anti-scorbutics. The room not occupied by water and
provisions, was filled with coal. Thinking I might meet with regions
where none but salt water could be had, from land, sea, or clouds,
I took on board one of Youle’s cambouses for converting salt into
fresh water. Besides the best of cables, both of iron and hemp, and
an extra supply of common and ice anchors, I failed not to provide
one launch, as large as could be carried on deck, and four whale boats.
My next care was to select my officers and crew from among the
most skilful, temperate, and orderly mariners I could find; whom I
shipped for a sealing voyage in the South Seas, having a clause in the
articles authorizing me to cruize and seek for seal wherever I might
judge proper, for the term of three years. The crew consisted of 4
mates, 1 boatswain, 1 boatswain’s mate, 3 engineers, 4 carpenters,
3 blacksmiths, 2 coopers, and 32 seamen; in all, 50 men, besides
myself. In addition to a portable forge, and materials for repairing
any damage which might happen to the engine, I took, on the suggestion
of the chief blacksmith, duplicates of such parts of the engine as
were most liable to fail. Of nautical instruments, chronometers,
and books treating upon matters in any way connected with my object,
I provided liberally. Least of all, did I omit Symmes’s Memoirs,
and printed Lectures. Finally, having completed my arrangements, and
settled all my affairs, I took leave of my wife and children, whom,
as I had no particular friends, I left to the humanity and kindness
of the world, and set sail on the 1st day of August, 1817.