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however, but after blundering for a while in the slush and snow, we turned back, defeated, and made other and equally fruitless attempts in every direction where there seemed a possibility of success. Bafiled in our efforts, we were about returning, when an unexpected occurrence arrested our progress. A novel interruption, a whirl under the surface of the water, and the boat suddenly slewing round, caused us all to start up in consternation. What could be the cause ? Looking over the side, we see a large Narwhal rising to the surface, his splendid horn and curiously dappled hide being distinctly visible. He presents a capital opportunity for a successful shot ; but, as often happens in such circumstances, we are not ready either with gun or harpoon, and as he has seen his danger, he has dived out of reach, and we are forced to return on board without a capture. The hole we are in evidently closes around us, and we make desperate efforts to escape from being caught in the ice. Already we have struck several pieces and received some severe thumps, even a bit of our false keel, being broken off, came up to warn us of our danger ; and now we have hardly room to turn round. These disappointments and disasters fill the most experienced amongst us with forebodings of evil, and we find ourselves falling in with his opinion. We strive all we can to make the best of it, and secure our vessel to a bit of ice, whose two projecting tongues keep off the pressure for the present.
Nature now wears an aspect, “such as the painter might imagine, or the poet, with his lying licence, might invent, or the imagination of a sleeper could fancy in dreams of night.” It is our first experience of being “ beset in the ice," we go into our cabin with the vague impression that at any moment we may be crushed to death ; and before going to sleep, we note that the thermometer is very low; that the water is perfectly calm outside ; there is. a stiff breeze blowing from the south-everything indicates a gale beyond the ice—but at this distance from the unfrozen open water, the wind is moderated by the wonderful effect of the icefields on the atmosphere above, the moist particles borne along by the gale become condensed as they float over the ice from its edge, and the barometer is depressed accordingly, clearly showing the disturbed state of the atmosphere outside. The storm of wind is mellowed with us into a gentle breeze by the same agency, and it is quite possible that the wind at a little distance in the opposite direction is blowing steadily from the north, and possibly along the edge of the ice to the southward, and hence it may be only local
WE “LIE ON BRAN.”
in its effects, and need not be dreaded. It strikes us that this question of local storms and their formation is a question of supreme value in these seas, and the study of the barometer is of paramount importance. At present the instrument is almost ignored by the sailors in these Arctic seas, simply because its use is not clearly understood. Sufficient attention is not paid to the changes of the currents and the position of the ship with respect to the ice, and the direction of the wind in connection with the fall of the barometer. In a fine season like this we were enjoying, it was simply impossible to make observations of this nature, but in heavy weather no opportunity should, in our opinion, be lost of collecting such data as we have indicated here. In the morning the ice had closed in around us, leaving about 200 yards of clear water, and close by a larger lake was seen in which the narwhals could be heard blowing. We lower a boat and let her "lie on bran,” as they call a boat ready for action at a moment’s notice. In this service the men are relieved every two hours. We sat in the boat at our oar with the rest, ready to take our share in whatever work is cut out for us. We are in momentary expectation of seeing the narwhal in the open space around us as we sit silently watching; we hear them blow, and can see in the distance the little jets of
vapour spirting from the curious blowholes placed on either side of the head above the curiously formed eyes. We sit and listen to this dreary overture, waiting for the performers to come within our reach, but are doomed to wait nearly two hours before any sign is made. Then the longed-for signal is given from the taffrail of our schooner, intimating that something is seen astern. The signals being made in a kind of suppressed dumb show are so grotesque, that we almost spoil our chance of being successful in the coming struggle by giving way to the laughter we
can hardly suppress; the object of the signalman evidently being to assure us that there is no deception this time.
The narwhal is the most difficult of Arctic game to deal with ; he never remains at rest for any great length of time, and is generally seen at the surface of the water halting for a few minutes to breathe, or going at great speed. The utmost caution is therefore requisite in approaching him ; the oars are carefully dipped in the water, the strength of the stroke is diminished in order to lift the oar out again without
A FALL! A FALL!
noise or splash. Only a few strokes, and the boat has "way on " sufficient to take her within harpoon range ; the harpooner raises his hand, the signal is repeated by the steersman, and the men rest on their oars ; the force given to the boat's motion proves sufficient to bring us alongside. No one dares to turn his head, and we feel the short interval of enforced obedience to this severe trial of patience intensely. The narwhal all this time has not budged an inch, he does not even seem to notice us ; his eye, however, is so placed that he has a wide range of vision, and the steersman, knowing this, takes us obliquely towards him, being careful to keep at a respectful distance from his tail. The boat glides within striking range. What would we not give to see the action of the harpooner now! But while we hesitate, a wild hurrah comes from the ship, and the spell is broken ; we look round in time to see the line fly like lightning from the tubs. “A fall! a fall!” is the cry of the boatmen. “And well fast," is the echo to the cry. A second crew hastily man another boat and hurry to our assistance; the stricken narwhal has taken a headlong dive beneath the ice, so there is nothing for it but to take the line over and across the pond we are in, and with two or three long and strong pulls we drag him to the surface. Up comes our narwhal, lashing the water with his power