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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 ing 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 onės 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
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
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