Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

Russian traders who lived here from year to year ; some of their party returned home with their spoils, and brought back such simple requisites as the people needed. They killed and tracked Arctic animals, and became so wedded to their life here, that one of the party, a serf, spent thirty-five years in the islands : only once in eighteen years did he return home. He died at last, and was buried on the island. The others met the same sad fate that has befallen so many of their hardy companions who have braved the winter in these desolate regions. Once when they had assembled together, as was their custom every year, to receive looked-for reliefs and the year's supplies, the expected ship, as she neared the coast, was wrecked, and they were starved to death. Afterwards a Norwegian crew, having escaped from shipwreck, came to the Russian depôt, expecting to find some assistance in their dire distress; then they also found a sad sight to crush out the little hope remaining in them : the newly made graves of the Russian colony, and the dead bodies of the two last men lying in their sleeping-places, told a tale of misery and want, hard to describe in words. Their journal gave the dry details of each day's doings; gradually its pages began to tell the hopes and fears that racked the brains of the expectant crew. The patient waiting for relief that never came; the daily

LONG YEARS OF WAITING.

227

decrease of their rations, never abundant at any time; the approach of scurvy, vile servant to want of hope and biting hunger. We should doubt, if it were said that they gave way without a manful struggle; the men who come here are not prone to that. Other evidence is here to prove that men, when all hope of aid from without fails them, have still resources they are not slow to practise ; a little crew was wrecked close by, and their ammunition having failed them they set about to construct harpoons of such scraps of bone as they picked up along the shore, and contrived traps made out of drift-wood, resolved to support themselves by such food as they were able to capture in this way until a vessel came their way; six long years' after, four out of five of the men went on board a sealingship that opportunely was passing by; nor did they go from their captivity empty-handed, they were enriched by their stock of accumulated skins collected during the time of their imprisonment.

We saw the remains of traps along the shores of Widdie Bay—wooden cages constructed with bits of drift-wood. The huts, also, we were careful not to injure, never knowing how soon they may be required for the reception of some fellow-seaman. We ourselves had some reason to be thankful for enjoying such shelter as they offered. Once we got well soaked in

as

-

crossing an estuary, and after stopping sundry holes in the walls with moss, we lit a fire, broiled some deer, and, while our clothes dried at the fire we had made, we sat and smoked a pipe in comparative comfort.

The Norwegians make poor attempts at wintering in the north ; they are not equal to the difficulties, and of late years have given it up as altogether hopeless.

The reindeer in Spitzbergen have a reputation for being tame and almost indifferent to the coming of the sportsman. However they may have comported themselves in former times we can form no opinion, but with the exception of such rare opportunities as the scanty cover may afford, or rocky places give the sportsman, we found these deer as difficult to approach as the red or fallow deer in other parts of Europe. During the eighteen days we spent in the pursuit of reindeer the first three days went for nothing ; after that we succeeded in killing thirty-six beasties, and our stock exceeding our requirements, my worthy companion was able to make presents to the Norwegians, who seemed glad of this accession to their stores so far away from home.

We landed in quest of geese one day, and on our way to the beautiful lakes where they harboured we saw a deer, but did not shoot him, fearing to disturb the watchful birds we were in search of. We had no suc

LANDING IN PURSUIT OF GAME.

229

cess in this, at all times difficult, sport, but we carried off some young birds of the year which were capital eat

[graphic][ocr errors][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][ocr errors][subsumed][subsumed][ocr errors][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][ocr errors][subsumed][ocr errors][ocr errors]

ing. Returning, our friend wanders a little out of the way, and some deer are seen in the distance by us ; we

[ocr errors][merged small]
[ocr errors]

wave a handkerchief to attract his attention, and we see by our glasses that he also has discovered the deer. We act in concert, our object being to get closer to the herd and keep them well between us. The stag disappears from view, and is soon again under cover of a rock; we make for a ravine and run along its rugged side to get within range: we fire, and miss. Not so our experienced comrade ; he knocks over the beast he shot at. Our friend carries a little Henry-Richard's rifle; we are armed with a short Enfield, whose trajectory is too great for this kind of sport, and we resolve to use an express rifle for the future; it is certainly heavier to carry, but for a range of 180 yards as perfect a tool as a man can well find. We have been walking for six hours; it is 3 o'clock A.M. We do not conceal the fact that we have enough of it, with seven miles to pull home to the schooner to conclude ; we insist we have had pleasure enough for one day, and the point is conceded without further parley. Starting again, after a few hours' rest, in pursuit of deer, we have varying success; then we return to the boat to find our man gone in pursuit of deer himself; we wait patiently for his return; piling up a log of drift-wood upon the fire we go to sleep upon the beach, and on his arrival we propose a fresh excursion, but we find Eddy worn out with fatigue, at 8 A.M., so we return

[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »