« AnteriorContinuar »
“How shall I admire your heroicke courage, ye marine worthies, beyond all names of worthiness, that neyther dread so long presence or absence of ye sunne ; nor those foggy mysts, tempestuous winds, cold blasts, snowes and hayle in the ayre ; nor the inequall seas, which might amaze the hearer and amate the beholder where the Tritons and Neptune's selfe would quake with chilling feare to behold such monstrous icie ilands, renting themselves with terrour of their own massiness, and disdayning otherwise both the sea's sovereigntie, and the sunne's hottest violence, mustering themselves in those watery plaines where they hold a continual civill warre, and rushing one upon another, make windes and crashing and splitting their congealed armours.”—PURCHAS HIS PILGRIMS.
For the next two days we devote ourselves to stalking the reindeer. We can see them from the ship, but the ground is totally unsuited for our purpose. There is not a trace of shelter to conceal ourselves in approaching the herd. Driven as it has been for some time by the Norwegians, who have made them wild by constantly shooting them down-in fact, the Norwegians consider our going after deer as an intrusion, and this fact adds to our chagrin, when we return empty-handed to our ship. The third day we haul the schooner at high water on to the beach; as the tide recedes we search for the wound in her side, and we seek in vain. Her injury is quite incurable. Had
there been a hole we might have stopped it, and gone where we pleased; but this hurt was beyond our skill, and we were forced to turn back after all our plans were laid. We look again and again for some damage that may be repaired. We are far on our way, and it seems hard to relinquish our purpose. How can we dare to face the ice in such uncertainty ? We ask, and console ourselves by the thought that next season we shall come again into these seas, better prepared to face the difficulties that may present themselves; and we set to work on what we believe to be the weak place where the leak exists. We nail a sealskin, coated with tar and oakum, over the place, and next tide haul her once again on to the sea. The leak is somewhat reduced, and we have a tussle with the ice once more before we return out of the fiord into the open water. The north wind drives the ice up to and beyond us. While we stand waiting to see the effect of the thirty miles of ice which holds us back, we begin to drift down the fiord, following the field as it goes. At one time we are nearly driven on shore by a sudden shift, which threatens to force us back the path we have come. We, therefore, look out a safe anchorage, and starting from thence we wander sometimes for two days away from the ship in quest of game. On such occasions the continual daylight
is of rare advantage to the sportsman. In the dusk of evening or the hours of darkness, under the long shadows of the mountains, the water would freeze ; but the cold is never unpleasant, except during a northerly wind. We rest at all hours, and after sufficient sleep we start on whatever occupation we may be engaged upon. To one accustomed to a life of routine the change is rather trying at first, but, after a time, the perfect freedom of action is delicious, and breakfast or dinner is served when breakfast or dinner may be required. Our cook, good, easy man, falls into the humour of the thing, and has for his motto “ toujours prêt.”
On the seventh, we row about eight miles from the schooner up the fiord to a point inside an island not in the chart; we land, and inspect a square wooden house, which, from its age and exposure to the weather, ought to have been by this time a respectable ruin. Here, owing to the atmosphere, it wore the aspect of a modern structure, simple in detail, twelve feet by eight, having a fireplace of clay and rough stones, with two rough wooden benches for its furniture; a curious cross stands near the door, having upon it in the Russian language a short inscription, the name and date of the last inhabitant. This, and some other buildings in Widdie Bay, belonged to a company of