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“Ye who love the haunts of nature,
Lore the shadow of the forest,
TUESDAY, the 13th, brought the wind round to the westward, and the ice naturally began to slack off. We take advantage of every turn of the ice. Now a lane opens, and with sails set we glide over the space without impediment. All our object is to keep our schooner's bows to the eastward. We can do no better than drift with the wind. The labour on board is unceasing ; the men at night are divided into parties by watch and watch, all hands by day. We adopt every plan we can devise to break off the “point-ends” with our long axes, ice-slices, and crowbars. The windlasses are continually at work, the warps are out, fastened to ice-anchors; these require continual shifting. The men force the ship through
every narrow channel. Her bows serve as a wedge to drive asunder the obstacles. Some of us, going in advance of the ship, force open a channel by pressing the larger blocks out of our way, the openings thus made soon filling up with lesser ice. But after all our exertions it often happens she cannot be got into the passages we have constructed in this way. The services of the harpooners are now fully tested, and the knowledge they have gained in the old whaling ships is invaluable to us now. They know this work well, and, being accustomed to it, give confidence to the rest. A steamer would of course make light work of these difficulties which to our sailing vessel are alm st insuperable.
The fog lifting at this time, we descry land, and that blue cloud which indicates unfailingly open water beneath. Now we press on down a narrow channel of some two hundred yards. A block of ice checks our course ; this removed, we are in a little sea, guarded by a neck of ice which acts somewhat like a gate ; this too is rent open, and we at last sail upon the open water, clear as far as the north foreland.
In the far distance we clearly see high perpendicular rocks, culminating in snowy peaks.
We now steer direct for Moffen Island, hoping to go from there to Vertigen Hook, and thence to the Seven Islands, where the Swedish Expedition intend
building their winter residence, their object being in the following spring to start from there, when they hope to reach the North Pole in boats dragged over the ice, before it is broken up by winds, &c.
In the previous year the schooner was fortunate in gaining these islands, and had she been provided with steam-power, there was no reason to anticipate failure in sailing into the open sea to the north as they saw it clearly indicated in that direction. On that occasion she had no difficulty to contend with but the superstitious fears of the Norwegian captain and crew (the wind was blowing hard from the north-west, and the ice, scattered in every direction, was streaming to the southward, leaving occasional open water, and offering no impediment to the vessel's northward course), which could not be overcome. It is to no purpose, then, that any sailors but Englishmen can ever hope to “gain the gold,” as the Arctic voyagers fondly name the object of their ambitious hopes. With an English crew we are without the least fear of failure, if all goes well with our ship. On, then, to the northeast of Spitzbergen-on towards the hunting-grounds. where the walrus will supply us with fresh means of Arctic enjoyment.
It will be remembered that Parry gained the point 82° 45', and he assuredly might have gone farther north had he but started at the right season for sledge
THE GATE-WAY TO THE POLYNIA.
travelling, and had he been supplied with suitable appliances for the laborious journey he entered upon even at the close of the season; had he used light boats instead of the heavy ones provided in which his daring experiment was attempted ; but no one could have succeeded in dragging two boats, each weighing 3753 lbs., being heavily laden with stores, over such ice as he that year encountered, which, as he got to his farthest point north, he found to his dismay was drifting at the rate of fourteen miles each day to the southward, through the long lanes of water and open lakes. Had steam power been known in the days of Parry he would, no doubt, that season have gained the Pole by its assistance, and by this very route, which may be truly called “The Gateway to the Polynia.”
We have a light breeze on the 28th July, and the look-out man sights Moffen Island. Weary with the delays of beating to windward we leave the schooner, and, with a well-manned boat, we go in search of the land, hoping to meet with walrus on our way. A four miles pull brings us no immediate prospect of land. Mounting a hummock of ice which has a smoother surface than usual, we seek in vain for the land with our glasses. After another four miles pull we take another view, and this time see a low, flat, black-looking land in the distance. This must be the island we are in
quest of, and we give way with a will, only halting for a time to kill a seal and a few dovekies (mergulus), which offer too tempting opportunities to neglect them. We land upon the crater-like formation which rises hardly above the water, and the shingly shore has but one break in its circumference, opening to the westward, not, as it is figured on the chart, to the northward. The vast sheet of water enclosed is covered with ice, which seems to have remained there all the year. Numbers of eider ducks, usually sociable in their habits, were found here, but wild and difficult to kill. The drakes, especially shy, could have had little experience of the tender solicitude bestowed upon their kind by the good folk of Iceland; or in migrating north, it is possible that they laid aside their company manners, and with the change in their habitat had assumed a wilder nature and a greater fear of human beings. C. W. Shepherd, in his admirable account of the birds of Iceland, mentions a visit to an island but three quarters of a mile in width, where he found “on the coast, a wall built of large stones put above the high water-level, about three feet in height and of considerable thickness. At the bottom, on both sides of it, alternate stones had been left out, so as to form a series of square compartments for the ducks to make their nests in. Almost every compartment was occu