Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB
[blocks in formation]

pied; and as we walked along the shore a long line of ducks flew out one after another. The surface of the water also was perfectly white with drakes, who welcomed their brown wives with loud and clamorous cooing. When we arrived at the farmhouse the mistress gave us a cordial welcome. The house itself was a great marvel. The earthen walls that surrounded it and the window embrasures were occupied with ducks. On the ground, the house was fringed with ducks. On the turf slopes of the roof we could see ducks, and a duck sat in the scraper.” The eggs of this bird differ somewhat in size, the rounder is supposed to contain the germ of the future duck, the longer contains the drake, having a smoother, larger, and a thicker shell. These ducks are not now so numerous where they are every year disturbed for the sake of their down, for which, in the breeding time in Norway and Iceland, they are so carefully protected.

We have a long pull back to the schooner. She has come nearer into the land, and the fog, as it lifts and falls, shows her enveloped in a hazy mist. From her deck, as the air grows clearer, we enjoy the glorious scenery of Spitzbergen. The coast is resplendent with glaciers here and there along the water's edge; the vitreous heaps glisten in the sun's rays, reflecting all the colours of the prism. Above them a

[ocr errors]

vapoury cloud floats like a girdle in mid air, and above this again, the thousand needle-like peaks of the mountains rise to a prodigious height; the mountain tops are clad in snow, and stand out in bold relief against the leaden sky. Snow lies in patches on the precipitous sides of these mountains wherever it can find a resting place out of range of the sun's rays. This pure white contrasts strangely with the rocks around. Their sombre hue is due to a clothing of a curious lichen, inky black in colour, and this black colour is intensified by the play of light upon the surface of the rocks it clothes like a garment, the effect of the transparent atmosphere being to bring out the lurid white of the pure snow, and to give a strange aspect of deep mourning to the veil of lichen thrown over all. Nothing could harmonise more perfectly with this awfully solemn aspect of nature, or add more to its grandeur than the colour of the sea beneath. It is possible that even scenery like this may have no attraction to some who have witnessed it. To us it is all absorbing, and we linger long over the multitude of combinations which everywhere arrest the gaze; as we sit and look upon the wondrous sight spread out before us a great curtain of fog slowly descends and shuts out from view every trace of the magic scene.

All through the next day the ship is being forced

[graphic][subsumed][subsumed][merged small][merged small]
[blocks in formation]

along her course against a north-east gale, and with all our efforts our progress is but slow. Moffen Island slowly passes out of view, and our shiphead points towards Vertigen Hook. We are every moment arrested on our way by some great block in the ice, and though we make some progress, our position is unfortunate. All this time we are contending with the ice that we see between the land and the much desired clear water we would fain approach.

In the clear water we sight a small Norwegian fishing smack making easy way, and from the sounds that come booming over the hollow sea from time to time we conclude that their sport is excellent. The masthead look-out now sights the walrus in the distant waves ; while a boat is being prepared we satisfy ourselves with a hurried view of the gambols of these strange beasts. There they are, tumbling over and over in the water, enjoying the calm, or basking in the warm rays of the sun, lying listlessly on the ice. The water is dotted with their great black grizzly-bearded heads, with trenchant tusks 18 inches long, as they rise and sink on the little waves. To reach them it will be necessary to haul our boat and all the needful appliances for the chase a good mile and more over the intervening ice; and as we settle down to our work we think of the journey the Swedish Arctic men pro

« AnteriorContinuar »