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racter are exceedingly difficult to descend, but we overcame the difficulties, and arrived at the schooner in time to see all hands busily at work. For during our absence the ice had shifted, and, drifting down and across the schooner's bows, her position had at once to be altered, and to do this all hands had been engaged upon her during the night. We were glad, then, to find that good fellow the cook had not forgotten us -- far from it. “It's steaming 'ot, sir! Been waiting for you, sir, for the last five hours !"
“ Jacet extra sidera Tellus
Extra anni solisque vias.”
We saw no foxes here ; in most of the other valleys we saw a few, but on no occasion could we secure a specimen. At this season the reindeer, finding food abundant, grow very fat, and their condition is at its best ; roast haunch of venison, served up hot five hours after the stag has fallen, is food of the highest quality. And a neighbouring Russian hut, with its scant appliances, quickly serves us for our banquet-hall; driftwood abounds. The vegetation on which the deer fattens is abundant, and is becoming dry and nutritious food for them, but in the winter here, when supplies grow short, the deer must suffer greatly; it serves us as well for fuel. We must follow the course of the ice day by day, as some good result may come from the record of our observations here. We found the wind shifting again to the north on the 18th of August, and bringing down upon us the ice, so we moved to the southward of the point. Here we lay one whole day, and then growing weary of this perpetual buffeting with the ice, we make sail and work our way out of the bay, keeping well to the west side, where the water is pretty free from our opponent. Once outside, the sea looks tempting, and it again sets us thinking of a northerly run, late as the season is. But before we have quite resolved, the ice is once more about us, and we run from it to Red Bay, the ice being driven by a north-westerly
breeze. Here we anchored under the lee of a “point,” and bad the misfortune to break our anchor. The ice coming down so fast upon us we could not hold our own against it without much labour, in which we lost two hawsers we had just been using as warps, our boat was capsized, and little David nearly drowned ; we haul in alongside an iceberg lying aground in
shore, and protected by it we rest secure. The sloop joined us here, and soon after two steamers put in, followed by two more fishing craft. We form quite a fleet resting here for safety, and we pass our time inquiring from the men what sport they have had during the season.
The ice to them had been equally unfriendly with ourselves; the sport consequently was poor. The northern coast being so much obstructed, but few white whales had been captured, and the men had a gloomy prospect for the coming winter, depending, as they did, upon the full stores they expected to bring home, out of which their share in the venture would be paid.
During our short acquaintance with these foreign seamen we learned one fact worth knowing ; soap is by them considered an expensive luxury, and the gift of a morsel was esteemed as an exceeding great favour. The price of soap in Norway places that necessary article quite out of the reach of most poor people, and we need not dilate on the want of it amongst men not particularly careful in their persons, packed so closely in their poorly provided ships. These ships themselves are small, and ill-contrived for Arctic navigation ; built of their native fir, the timber is sometimes made more capable of resisting ice by the addition of a few sheets of thin iron ; never intending to go far away from the open water, they always hope to find oil-bearing animals to the south-west and north of Spitzbergen. They have little to fear in venturing into these fishing-grounds, always depending on their skill to escape from threatened danger. Once inside the ice, they coast along the shores during the fishing season, and run back at its close without much risk. It is only through a complication of disasters they at times get caught in the ice, or get nipped between two ice-fields. They manifest great skill in dealing with the ice in such emergencies, and some of them display a coolness and judgment which is most marvellous to one looking on. The ice is so buoyant, the least pressure in the right direction often diverts enormous masses of congealed water, whether in the shape of floes or pseudo-bergs. They rig their craft with a square sail, which is of great value in moments of difficulty, as by its aid they can back out of an opening readily; they generally have a mizen-mast and sail in addition. There are usually nine to seventeen men on board their boats of from forty tons, provided with accommodation for the reception of what oil they may secure.