« AnteriorContinuar »
DIFFICULTIES IN NARROW WATERS.
Lancaster Sound are often subjected to accidents of this kind, and often experience like dangers further south. Should a vessel be crossing Melville Bay, in Davis's Straits, in a southerly gale, she is most liable to suffer some such nip, if she is fortunate to escape worse treatment from the ice. On this account we believe the insurance offices do not take up policies for this expedition. Old men tell of many a good ship’s hull now lying in Melville Bay, whose object was, if possible, to escape the dangers that there beset them on their way north into Pond's Bay. Beyond these straits, again, other and as terrible dangers await the Arctic explorer.
In comparison with these trials, our own seem almost insignificant; but nevertheless we had severe difficulties to contend with until the 29th. We had certainly some good chances of following up our Arctic field-sports, which we were not slow to set about when the opportunities offered. Our success is not worthy of being recorded, although it gave us much occupation. The seals were harder to kill than the west ice-seal (Phoca Grænlandica) we had been first introduced to. These fellows were laden with blubber, and gave only the poorest chance, as their fat sides and their small heads present a difficult object for a floating marksman. As the day wears on, our ship gets clear, and a breeze springs up from the westward. We are once more on our way to the clear water between the land and the ice we have been hemmed in with. We see a Norwegian fisherman in the distance, and make for his ship to see what sport they were having. What words can describe our mortification on suddenly discovering that our little ship has sprung a leak and is settling in the water? We endeavour to preserve a decent composure ; yet it is easy to see that the effort is enforced, and all faces wear a look of ill-concealed anxiety. We look uneasily about to see if assistance is near at hand, and fortunately for us there are two other Norwegian whalers within reach, who will be glad to earn money for their services. So we bear down upon the Norsel Jack of Tromsoe. The skipper, after tendering his advice, is earnest in his inquiries. All his thoughts run on the seals we have killed, and he laughs at the account we have to give, although our cargo would sink his craft. He has killed 135 seals, and is making his way to Moffen Island in search of walrus.
From him we learn many valuable particulars as to the anchorage we are now compelled to seek. It is calm, he tells us, under Grey Hook; but beyond, in Widdie Bay, there are big waves rolling under a strong wind whose direction is exactly the reverse of our own, which is barely perceptible.
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