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us, and there were symptoms of a change for the worse in this respect; but there is much fortitude required when the
game abounds and the chase exciting, to draw off when it seems at its best. Nevertheless we have to return again to the somewhat dry demands of scientific inquiry. Many a cup of coffee did we sip that night as we sat over our pipe without the least sense of weariness or fatigue, in the fine bracing air of the far north. Coffee is a far more acceptable beverage than wine or brandy of any kind in these regions. In the warm latitudes spirits seem essential at such a time, but here the system seems to reject the stimulant, and tea or cocoa are more highly prized.
Our ambition is to reach some point to the north of Spitzbergen, as the ice is about to open, where we may complete our work commenced last year. Besides there is the ground-seal to be found on the coast of Spitzbergen, and the prospect of other us for the seeming loss we are about to endure as we leave these teeming hunting-grounds.
Getting away to the eastward is by no means easy work, and another scrape on our false keel signals us from below that the shocks we occasionally encounter in our course have not been without effect upon the tough schooner's sides. Next day we take it easy, and the 29th is a perfect day of rest on board ;
game to console
the men sleep off the effects of yesterday's rough toil.
The men are satisfied that our seemingly new plan of sealing (by sailing our ship itself in their direction) is far preferable to the one in general use-in foggy weather especially. If silence can be secured on board, the ship slips through the thick atmosphere, and she may easily be mistaken for a harmless iceberg. Gliding along the sea, just out of reach of the long tongues of ice, but still near enough to shoot the basking seals. The small icebergs are often muddy and discoloured near the water's edge, and black blocks of ice are not uncommon. In this way their resemblance to a ship is not so difficult to comprehend. The men inspect their weapons and spin yarns as they give themselves up to a few hours of idle enjoyment. Next day, the 30th of June, the sun shines out upon the silver sea, whose surface is without a ripple. No one has as yet described the loveliness of an Arctic summer's day, and we shall not be betrayed into the attempt. All nature enjoys the calm, and the little roaches (mergulus) in large flocks, forgetful of their constant employment in the search of food, give themselves up to long hours of enjoyment; they come whirring past the bows of the schooner, and wheeling in their rapid flight, they rush with a surprising sound
of wings past the stern. A great whale in the far distance comes up to blow, and after watching his movements for some time, we are compelled to forego the chase, as he is far beyond the bounds we would be justified in venturing after him.
Next morning as Byers is on watch, a whale appears. This time there is no difficulty in the way, and as everything depends upon the steady action of the crew, he gets his men quickly and quietly together and leaves the ship. So orderly had been his plans, we did not know what had occurred until after he was well away in the pursuit.
“So forth they rowed, and that ferryman
With his suff oares did brush the sea so strong
We ran on deck and saw the whale on the surface of the sea, spirting up the expressed air from his lungs like jets of water, but in reality it is a fine vapour cloud which easily condenses in this cold air, and looks, at a little distance, like water. In the far distance the land (some forty miles away) fills in the view, like the frame to a picture. The mountains, lit up with the various effects of light and shade, seem only fifteen miles away ; but the vast height of the distant peaks, seen through the clear air,
confuse our power of judging the distance ; nor are we alone in our difficulty. We read somewhere of one hardy explorer of the early days, who after vain attempts to gain the land he saw so distinctly, and which always seemed to baffle his attempts, at length, in superstitious dread, turned his back upon the scene, fearful of being beguiled by some enchanter's trick ; and we now do not wonder at his simplicity. All this time we watch the harpooner steadily gaining on the distant object, the wondrous beauty of the scene before us and the sport in hand dividing our admiration and combining to fill us with such a sense of enjoyment as we have rarely felt.
The little crowd around us are plunged into the same sea of ecstacy. No one breathes a whisper as the eyes are strained to observe every motion of the pursuers and pursued. The boat seems to glide rather than creep upon its prey, who lies all regardless of the impending danger, and at the distance we are, the suspense grows painful. Suddenly, like lightning, something has happened, and the shout is raised, “A fall ! a fall !” Before the echo dies away, the crowd, as if released from some enchanter's spell, is now a confused mass of bustling, hurrying men, as they rush to assist the crew in the first boat. Men come tumbling up from below, half clad, clutching in
DEATH OF THE WHALE.
their hot haste such clothes as are snatched hastily as they run. Here are fellows but half awake, dropping into their places in the boats, with oar in hand, impatient to give way when the rest are in their places. There is no time now to waste, and for the present the garments are scattered anywhere. By-and-by a chance may come in which they may get time to dress. In the meantime the whale, hard hit by the trusty Byers, has plunged headlong into the depths below.
In some ten or twelve minutes 500 fathoms of line has spun itself out over the boat's bow into the sea, measuring the course the wounded whale has run in his agonised fear of the too certain fate awaiting him. The boat, dragged through the water, throws up a spray from the divided wave, and the bollard smokes and fizzes with the friction of the line. We overhaul the boat just as the line is all paid out.
We bend on our line. “Look out! look out !! Keep away, or I can't fire again!” shouts Byers, in his eager way, as he sees the indications of the whale's reappearance. Up he comes, a frightful sight to see—the great tail lashing the water into foam, the fountain this time a jet of blood. We slue our boat round, and pull hard, in the hopes of getting a shot ;
We are out of range, and miss
but to no purpose.