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GAME LESS ABUNDANT.
and neglect to lay in a winter supply of food; so that when the “ banyan” days come they bitterly repent their folly, and weary for the bleached carcases up the frozen fjords.
Notwithstanding this, regularly as the season comes round they are off again to the shooting from far and near, and repeat the same improvident course ; nor, if they like it, has anybody a right to complain. In all verity enjoyments few enough fall to the lot of these hyperborean hunters. However, the result of this indiscriminate slaughter is now being felt in the decrease of the reindeer in many parts where they were once common. They are no longer found on Disco Island as in the days of Cranz and Fabricius. Indeed there are now very few shot in Mid-Greenland, and many of the natives are giving up the hunt for them altogether.
Holsteenberg, another Greenland settlement, is a favourite locality ; the hunting-ground is behind the large inlets where the ice lies far back, and where the land most free from the ice has been found. The animal cannot travel well on ice, and the difficulty of transporting its food on long journeys is another obstacle to its use in Arctic travel. The Eskimo make long journeys over the frozen sea along the coasts of Greenland in the winter with dog, in preference to the reindeersledges. Deer meat is very good if eaten soon after the animal has been killed, or again at some long interval afterwards. Once the flesh sets and becomes rigid it is not near so toothsome and nutritious. The Spitzbergen reindeer certainly offers the best meat; and the newly-discovered land to the eastward of Mid-Spitzbergen is reported to have reindeer of a quality still better in point of flavour and condition to those we have been killing. This discovery of new land gives additional zest to exploration; the north-east point of this new region is in Lat. 78° 8' N. and Long. 50° 15' E. Altman had touched here previously to Johnsen, and his three islands are now found to be but one vast land with a coastline of forty-five miles.
The sea in the vicinity was free from ice, except on its. northern shores, and on the island no snow-field of any extent was observed, and only one glacier, and the shores abounded with immense quantities of saddleback seals (P. Grænlandicus). The whole coast to the height of 20 feet, and extending 100 feet inland, was covered with quantities of driftwood, most probably washed out of the mouths of Siberian rivers.
The tallow of a large reindeer will weigh from eight to twelve pounds; the tongues are first cut out after the deer is killed, and in some places where the difficulty of land-carriage is not to be overcome,
the tongue alone is brought away. In this way the waste of deer meat is enormous, and it is so nutritious it is very strange that some means of preserving it on the spot for exportation has not been devised : this meat would surely be profitable in these days, when the flesh of the Australian kangaroo is a marketable article in England at the present time. We landed with the determination of examining and making a thorough exploration of the land immediately abreast of the position of our schooner, our opinion at the time being that the magnificent valley we could see would be found to wind in a gentle course, under some high and very rugged mountains, whose lofty sides rose precipitously from the bay. In our intended land-survey we had some prospect also of falling in with some herd of reindeer, the place having all the appearance of affording the animals sufficient inducement to attract them to it.
Our party on this occasion was a large one, the men, whenever there seemed any likelihood of sport on foot, being evidently eager to be permitted to join in the adventure ; and my companion, at all times pleased to afford them whatever enjoyment they might join in whenever the duties on board the ship would allow of their absence, took with him whatever hands could be spared. It was this enjoyment of the men that defeated whatever chance of sport we might otherwise have had; for their hearty acclamations, engendered by the glorious weather we were exulting in, rose to fever heat as they set out, and manifested itself in good-humoured laughter and jolly exclamations as they advanced, so that the deer would have been dull indeed had they remained anywhere in our immediate neighbourhood. So we wandered along in happy disregard of order and moderation, and as we passed under the great masses of rock, which seemed barely suspended from the grand cliffs to which they clung, we could not help looking up with a kind of dread lest they might in some way become detached from their resting-places, and come tumbling down upon us; nor were our fears without reason. The sun had melted away the snow and ice which during the winter had clung to them, and the thawing water had carried away with it much of the earth and detritus, which to some extent had cemented these masses to the surface on which they clung. By degrees we were enabled to leave the dangerous propinquity of these cliffs, and we gradually made our way out on to the charming valley. The little plateaux were beautifully green, with scanty herbage, eked out with rank moss, whose surface was spangled over with many flowering plants, whose gay bloom gave a peculiar charm to the
ON THE MOUNTAIN SIDE.
otherwise desolate-looking soil. The sight of fresh flowers starting into life under the influence of a bright northern sun in the space of one short month, with a temperature whose greatest power raises the heat of the surface from 30° to one rarely, if ever, over 50°, must be seen in order to comprehend the enjoyment it produces.
Then, gradually ascending, we rose above the rain
cloud, and onwards and upwards through the mist ; on and on until we got into a clear atmosphere above, where we found a totally different climate to that we had passed through in the valley below, its effects upon us being evident in the cheerful countenances of all our party. Fatigue had no depressing influence upon us up here. Such a thing as care was left far down in the mists of the valley. Nature in her welcome