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OBJECTS OF THE SEA-SHORE.
mass by a rapid change shone out in the clear air, white as a snowdrift, and then cohort after cohort would float past again in another cloud-like mass. The noise, too, of so many wings, and the wild, scared cries from a host like this, was much greater than could be imagined, much less described in words. The temperature of the water at the surface was 32°, the air 32. Fahr.
The beach itself was not without its wonders. Here lay scattered an accumulation of flotsam and jetsam, curious in their diversity. We picked up the little glass floats used by the Norwegian herring fishermen for buoying up their drift nets, that had evidently drifted from Iceland; bits of whale-boats, reduced to matchwood by the frightful action of the boisterous seas; fragments of wrecks of ships that once fought bravely against the ice, but, beaten at last in some dread encounter, everywhere lie shattered on these sands; bits of what once had been the masts of merchant ships, now fit for nothing but the fire ; huge piles of driftwood, once stately trees on the side of some Siberian river, torn down by one of those periodical inundations which devastate the northern lands of the earth, and, hurried along by the torrent, floated out into the open seas, where the climate is mild enough, and the temperature of the water is sufficiently high to admit of the existence of the wood-boring teredos, such as are found in timber used in ships, marine structures, and driftwood floating on or near the surface. Caught at last in some ocean current, the wood is drifted westwards, and at length finds a resting-place on this desolate coast. These sea-worms cannot live in the Arctic seas, and the driftwood, perforated in every direction with their little tunnels, has long since been rendered tenantless.
As we came near our landing-place, at four o'clock in the Arctic morning, we found that the men during our absence had collected a quantity of dry wood, and, setting fire to it, were busily engaged in spreading a comfortable repast for us after our wanderings; here we found the comfortable odour of coffee diffusing itself over the other good things laid out for our entertainment. It was with no small satisfaction we once more took our places on board our boats, since landing at Jan Mayen is not considered at all times safe. Frequently a sudden gale springs up unexpectedly, and people coming for a few hours are often detained a week on the shore, waiting for a chance of escape,
and we were well aware of this fact, as the stores provided for the trip we had just made, were intended for an emergency of the kind.
The wind had not shifted during our short stay,
and there was therefore no surf to hinder our embarking. We made a quick passage to the ship, and having "an imposition of sleep upon us,” we turned in for five hours until breakfast time.
Going on deck again, we found the wind still off the land, bringing down with it blasts of air that had become chilled by passing over the frozen mountainsides to windward of us. High above us rose the icy peak of Beerenberg, as stately a mountain as ever eye gazed upon ; its pointed crest, robed with snow, towered above the clouds that cling around it in wreaths of vapour. The water under the steep shore was comparatively calm ; we therefore took a boat's crew and landed again, leaving two of the men to look after our boat in our absence.
The soil formed by the washing away of the mountains was heaped up in the neighbourhood of the sea into rich plains, and its richness surprised us. There are two craters marked upon the chart, which at no distant period gave out flames and lava. With difficulty we made our way over the black soil and rugged ridges which opposed themselves to our progress, and, ascending an eminence, we looked towards the sea on the opposite coast, and the craters coming within our range, we at once turned our steps in their direction. The place has greatly changed since Scoresby described it,
For instance, the remarkable rock known by the name of Egg Island, which in his time might have formed a tolerable shelter for a vessel of good size, is now joined to the mountainous shore, and presents an outer surface of about twenty-five feet above the level of high water mark.
We ascended one of the lofty ridges of Beerenberg, whose summit at that moment was perfectly free from clouds, and the prospect was of surpassing grandeur. The sun lit up all its projecting crags, and whenever its direct
upon the snow and ice, the mountain glistened with iridescent colours. A torrent falling from hidden recesses near its summit came down in long leaps, or tumbled amongst the projecting crags, and as it came it froze into rigid icicles; the sunbeams falling on these cascades caused them to glitter and sparkle again. We had never contemplated anything so fairy-like, and at the same time so weirdlooking. We had a long ten-hour walk, and were rewarded by the discovery of a hitherto unnoticed crater, whose position we carefully noted. The place was blocked with scoria, which was evidently of recent formation.
Returning to the boat, we found our men in a state of great excitement; they had returned from the chase of a little fox, which had occupied a good part of their
time during our absence. At first they watched the cunning little scoundrel stealing down the cliff, evidently in pursuit of game; taking advantage of every little inequality in the surface which could serve as an ambush, it crept down towards the beach, where some sea-birds were resting. The men watched his every move with eager curiosity, and at last they saw the subtle rascal select his victim-a solitary bird stood preening its feathers, arranging its toilet preparatory to a little sleep, all unconscious of the danger impending; having adjusted its plumage to its satisfaction, the bird quietly settled down to rest, and dozed off quietly to sleep. But a short interval now separated the wily fox from its prey, and running quickly from its place of concealment, it bounded towards the bird, and secured, not the coveted morsel, but a single feather from its tail. Without delay, the sea-bird soared aloft into the air, leaving the baffled fox in a state of evident perplexity. Then began their long-delayed chase of the fox, the wild bird screaming as if in satisfaction, as shot after shot told how eager the pursuit was, how difficult the capture.
The cartridge boxes left with the men for their protection were nearly emptied of their contents early in the day, as the wild duck knew to their cost. And it is to this cause they attributed their failure in the