Imágenes de páginas

Voyages of John Davis.


he“ fell in with another shore," which must have been what is now known as Cumberland Island, and entered the strait which has since been named after him. But as it was then the end of August, when the short summer of the Arctic regions is drawing to a close, he thought it best to retrace his course, "and so, returning in a sharp fret of westerly winds, the 29th of September we arrived at Dartmouth.”

Having reported to the company of merchant adventurers by whom he was employed the results of his voyage, he was appointed to a new expedition in the following year, when he sailed from Dartmouth with two small vessels, taking the same course as before. When the sixty-sixth parallel was reached, the larger ship abandoned the enterprise, and Davis entered the strait in a bark of thirty tons, and sailed up it eighty leagues. “By searching with our boat,” he says, “we found small hope to pass any farther that way; and therefore returning again recovered the sea, and so coasted the shore towards the south, and in so doing (for it was too late to search towards the north) we found another great inlet, near forty leagues broad, where the water entered in with violent swiftness. This we likewise thought might be a passage, for no doubt but the north parts of America are all islands, by aught that I could perceive therein; but because I was alone, in a small bark of thirty tons, and the year spent, I entered not into the same, for it was now the 7th of September, but coasting the shore towards the south, we saw an incredible number of birds."

Returning in safety to Dartmouth, he sailed again from that port in the following year, with two small vessels for codfishing and a pinnace for exploring. Running the same course as in his two former voyages, the strait was reached; and leaving the ships engaged in fishing, Davis sailed in the pinnace as far as what is now known as Alison Bay. “Then,” he says, “I departed from that coast, thinking to discover the north parts of America; and after I had sailed towards the west near forty leagues I fell upon a great bank of ice; the wind being north and blew much, I was constrained to coast the same towards the south, not seeing any shore west from me, neither was there any ice towards the north, but a great sea, free, large, very salt and blue, and of an unsearchable depth. So coasting towards the south, I came to the place where I left the ships to fish, but found them not. Then being forsaken, and left in this distress, referring myself to the merciful providence of God, shaped my course for England, and unhoped for of any, God alone relieving me, I arrived at Dartmouth."

This was the most successful attempt to penetrate the realm of the Ice King which had yet been made, Davis having not only crossed the Arctic Circle, but sailed eight degrees beyond it on the direct route to the North Pole. But war with Spain, and the death of Sir Francis Walsingham, who was a chief promoter of the enterprise, prevented for the time the attempt from being renewed.

[graphic][merged small]



N 1594 William Barentz, a Dutch navigator, renewed

the attempt to discover a passage to the east by sailing “north about,” as it is termed. He repeated the endeavour in the following year, and again in 1596. He steered a north-easterly course, as the unfortunate Willoughby had done, and, in his first

voyage, reached the northern extremity of Nova Zembla, where he was forced back by head-winds and ice. In his next attempt, he tried the strait which divides the island of Waygatz from Russia ; but found it closed by ice. In his third voyage, he ran farther north, hoping to pass round the northern extremity of Nova Zembla. On the 9th of June he discovered an island, rising abruptly in steep, lofty cliffs, which has received the name of Bear Island. He sailed on till the eightieth parallel was reached, when he discovered Spitzbergen, but supposed it to be a portion of the east coast of Greenland. He then sailed eastward, and on the 17th of July found himself on the north-west coast of Nova Zembla, upon which he ran northward, rounded the northern extremity of that island, and then ran southward to what he appropriately named Ice Haven, nearly on the seventy-sixth parallel of latitude. Here the

[ocr errors]

accumulation of ice was so great as to render farther progress impracticable. Immense icebergs, drifting with the wind and current, closed around the ship, threatening it with destruction,

It was then September, when the long winter of the Arctic regions was setting in; and though they exerted themselves to the utmost, “ we saw," says Gerrit de Veer, the narrator of the voyage,“ that we could not get out of the ice, but rather became faster, and could not loose our ship as at other times we had done, as also that it began to be winter, we took counsel together what we were best to do, according to the time that we might winter there, and attend such adventure as God would send us; and after we had debated upon the matter (to keep and defend ourselves both from the cold and wild beasts), we determined to build a house upon the land, to keep us therein as well as we could, and so to commit ourselves unto the tuition of God.”

Fortunately for this purpose, they found a large quantity of drift wood, by which discovery they “were much comforted, being in good hope that God would show us some further favour; for that wood served us not only to build our house, but also to burn, and serve us all the winter long; otherwise, without doubt, we had died there miserably with extreme cold.” With this material, and some planks from the ship, they built a house, into which they removed all their stores and effects. This labour was frequently interrupted, sometimes by snowstorms, and occasionally by the appearance of a polar bear. The building proceeded slowly, and the end of October came before it was completed. The chimney was built in the middle, to diffuse the heat equally; and the bedsteads were arranged around the sides. They brought a clock from the ship, and set it up; but in the middle of November, when the cold became intense, it stopped, and they had to reckon time by “the twelve-hour glass.”

Wintering in Nova Zembla.


After the 4th of November they “saw the sun no more, for it was no longer above the horizon.” Then all the spare clothing was distributed, dietary regulations made by the surgeon, and a cask converted into a bath, which was found conducive to their health. Snow-storms and gales of wind were frequent throughout the winter, and at times they could not open the door for several days together, owing to the drifting of the snow, which, however, had the good effect of raising the temperature within. As the cold increased, they “ looked pitifully one upon the other, being in great fear that, if the extremity of the cold grew to be more and more, we should all die there with cold; for what fire soever we made it would not warm us; yea, and our sack, which is so hot, was frozen

very hard, so that when we were every man to have his part, we were forced to melt it in the fire, which we shared every second day about half a pint for a man, wherewith we were forced to sustain ourselves; and at other times we drank water, which agreed not well with the cold.”

At length the shortest day arrived, “and then,” says Gerrit de Veer, “we put each other in good comfort, that the sun was then half over, and ready to come to us again, which we sore longed for, it being a weary time for us to be without the sun, and to want the greatest comfort that God sendeth unto man here upon the earth, and that which rejoiceth every living thing.” The feast of the Epiphany was duly honoured, according to custom, the ice-bound Dutchmen making merry with "a little sack and two pounds of meal,” with which they made a cake, and “every man a white biscuit, which we sopped in wine.” No praise can be too high for the patient piety, obedience, and courage of these brave men. During their nine months' misery, not a mutinous, not even a fretful word is recorded against them.

Their faith in the presence and

« AnteriorContinuar »