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THE WOUNDED SEA-BIRD.
We have just sufficient wind to move us slowly along, and we make for Albert Dirke's Bay. There is a belt of ice off Grey Hook; through this we must pass. The wind causes a heavy swell to break upon its outer edge. We get the boats out and tow our poor wounded schooner towards a safe haven. The swell breaks heavily on the ice as we approach. We fear to drift broadside on—a disaster which would be fatal to us. Having this fear in view, we give way with might and main. It is a hard task we have undertaken ; but we go through with it without a murmur, and her head is kept steadily to the ice, although the current is dead against her weight. As she rises to the top of the swell, she drags us astern, in spite of all our efforts to keep her headway. Our anxiety increases as we approach the danger, and our thoughts are divided between the leak and its effect and the coming struggle with the ice. The tough hands of the crew are blistered with their exertions before we got hold of the tail-end of the breeze, and worked into it. There our labour ceased. The schooner worked easily into Albert Dirke's Bay ; there the ice occupied all the space, and we were forced to try Hecla Cove ; but before midnight we haul to the wind and beat up the Fiord. The wind blowing hard, we are forced to use the pumps all the time.
The wind in the morning favours us considerably, and we run under Gilles Island, where we find tolerably good anchorage, and a beach suitable to our purpose. This island is not marked in the chart.
On the 1st of August two boats go away—one party to arrange for beaching our schooner; we in the other to look for game. The land here is peculiar in its shape. At a short distance from the sea the mountains rise abruptly out of a plain of their own creation by the constant detritus washed down the steep mountain sides, which fill all the foreground with the newly formed soil ; the mountain torrents stream down and wear deep chasms in this level plain ; the ground is strewn with beautiful flowers, and a kind of willow, which is almost a creeping-plant here, grows over the moss-covered ground. We go gently along this charming coast-scene, and as we go we pick up a seal, who suffers for his temerity ; the noise we make has no effect upon him, and he persists in following us, so we shoot him in the water and harpoon him before there was time for his sinking altogether.
Although the ground does not differ from ordinary wild places where we have often been in search of wild game, the eye in roving over the landscape misses the presence of verdure of any kind worthy of the name, the vast mountain sides are destitute of green places,
NATURE MOST DESOLATE.
one would naturally expect to find, and it soon became dreary work wandering in their awful presence. Great boulder-stones alone gave some relief to the tameness of the melancholy and solitary plains, but these inequalities of the surface left a sad and unsatisfied impression on the mind.
None of these sympathies which are roused by the sight of familiar objects, which in some way contribute towards satisfying our wants, and so become associated with our existence, and serve to celebrate in some way our supremacy in creation, existed here.
It was in these vast solitudes, surrounded by the sea, laden with so many unconquerable difficulties, that we began to inquire with ourselves into the enigma of human existence. Nothing here helped to sustain the ideas gained by education or naturally implanted by human vanity. Man never existed here, and the puny attempts he had made in his endeavour to settle for a season looked as if they were only preserved to illustrate how unchangeable are the laws which control his actions. Here the imperfections of his nature are constantly displayed in his want of power to cope with the creatures which roam at will over the almost barren land, or haunt the ice-covered ocean surrounding us, only proving the
belief, that the world is only made for us and for our convenience, is sadly at fault ; and nowhere on this earth does man feel his weakness and insignificance so much as here, amid this awful desolation.
This was the fitting place for the ascetic of old, who would torture himself by seclusion from the world he feared, lest it might fill his soul with exultation and the vain pride he strove with such anxiety to extinguish.
It is true the ground in places was strewn with fair flowers, and there were, in places, broad patches of brilliant green ; but they were so few and far between, their existence seemed only a mockery, and looking from them to the awful grandeur of the surrounding mountains served only to heighten the desolation that surrounded us. There was but one effect which served as a relief in all this solitude; it was the peculiar Arctic light which brought all these varying aspects of nature so vividly before us—the clear, unaccustomed light which during the hours of the day glorified everything it illuminated. We ourselves partook of its influence; our health was at its best : we breathed more freely; we enjoyed everything. Our elastic spirits knew of no check. We possessed an energy which knew of no exhaustion. Only a slight change in the action of this clear atmosphere recurred
at regular intervals, and a perceptible chill crept over the face of nature. In this way only were we warned that night was approaching, or had for a short interval interrupted the seemingly life-long day.
To-day, a group of fine reindeer were seen nibbling on a level plain near to the mountains, and the prospect of fresh meat for dinner stimulated the sportsmen to the utmost. Our last joint of meat had gone through the various phases of cooking, known only to thrifty housewives at home. Judiciously carved, the second day it was warmed up again ; and on subsequent occasions it appeared as a stew, as a grill, and finally the bones, in true sailor fashion, appeared in a “makeshift;" but with a good appetite for sauce, and a glass of sound champagne, it furnished a meal not to be despised. Meat, in these high latitudes, appears to suffer less from exposure to air than at home. All this time the deer are browsing on such scant herbage as they can pick up, and we prepare to stalk them after the Highland custom. Creeping into a water-worn chasm, which has all the appearance of having been scoured out by the drainage from the distant hills, we endeavour to get within shot ; but the wily deer seem to regard the waterworn gully with aversion. Finding the scheme hopeless we return, to concert measures for some more certain means of getting within reach. Yesterday we