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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 waterwom gully with aversion. Finding the scheme hopeless we return, to concert measures for some more certain means of getting within reach. Yesterday we
noticed in a kind of pass amongst the rocks the tracks of deer so numerous, we concluded that this must be in the direct course from one feeding ground to another. Here we built up a kind of screen of rough stones and débris from the mountain side, as a kind of blind to hide behind in the event of deer passing that way; and though our whalers are expert in the pursuit of their own calling, they so entirely lack the ordinary requirements of sportsmen, in the true sense of the term, we fancied they might, on a pinch like the present, assist in a “drive.” Having this object in view, the men were initiated, as far as circumstances would admit, into the mysteries of the art; and though they never had killed a deer before, they entered fully into the scheme. Some of them were posted in the pass, we amongst the number. The others were sent off, with instructions to avoid giving the herd their “ wind,” and, when at sufficient distance, they were to endeavour to approach within range, when, if the stags became alarmed, they would naturally move off in the direction of the pass and give us the chance we sought. Nothing could have been more successful than the plan, had the old stag towards whom the little herd seemed to run for protection on the first indication of alarm only taken the expected course. He did nothing of the sind; after a rapid survey of the besieged ground the
herd turned tail, literally, and made off in a direction we never contemplated. From our vantage ground we could see the whole proceeding with our glass, and we followed the dusky forms of the herd as they went away at a topping pace down the valley towards some special retreat they were known to frequent. As they go, the men bring their guns to their shoulders to try their luck at a long shot, but all to no purpose; the beasts escape without the loss of an antler tip, and pretty as the sight is to us who are only lookers on at this attempt, it is a disappointment we all equally deplore.
Our observations were not entirely without a purpose. During the chase of the deer we had time to look about us, and as our schooner lay in Widdie Fiord, a harbour on the northern shore, we could see that only a narrow neck of land divided us from Icy Fiord, the point for which shipwrecked sailors in this inhospitable land make, in the hopes of meeting with a ship to take them home; we endeavoured to trace a course from the northern shore, by which escape could be rendered more secure. These valleys, through whose windings the deer wander, may be part of a continuous system, which start from the fiord on the western coast, and lead down to the swampy lowlands where we found the herd. Speculating on these things we return to
report our failure to the ship, and are content to assuage our hunger by appeals to the Australian meat tins, that in our estimation are certainly not composed of venison.
Sportsmen as keen as ourselves may, on reading of deer-stalking in Spitzbergen, be tempted so far in the hope of enjoyment such as we had in their pursuit. To these we would recommend the study of the newest chart of Spitzbergen, and advise them to adopt the precaution of carrying a pocket compass, whose use should be well understood, in the event of getting separated from their party ; a watch is of little use, and may, with prudence, be left on board.