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shore, and protected by it we rest secure. The sloop joined us here, and soon after two steamers put in, followed by two more fishing craft. We form quite a fleet resting here for safety, and we pass our time inquiring from the men what sport they have had during the season.
The ice to them had been equally unfriendly with ourselves; the sport consequently was poor. The northern coast being so much obstructed, but few white whales had been captured, and the men had a gloomy prospect for the coming winter, depending, as they did, upon the full stores they expected to bring home, out of which their share in the venture would be paid.
During our short acquaintance with these foreign seamen we learned one fact worth knowing ; soap is by them considered an expensive luxury, and the gift of a morsel was esteemed as an exceeding great favour. The price of soap in Norway places that necessary article quite out of the reach of most poor people, and we need not dilate on the want of it amongst men not particularly careful in their persons, packed so closely in their poorly provided ships. These ships themselves are small, and ill-contrived for Arctic navigation ; built of their native fir, the timber is sometimes made more capable of resisting ice by the addition of a
few sheets of thin iron ; never intending to go far away from the open water, they always hope to find oil-bearing animals to the south-west and north of Spitzbergen. They have little to fear in venturing into these fishing-grounds, always depending on their skill to escape from threatened danger. Once inside the ice, they coast along the shores during the fishing season, and run back at its close without much risk. It is only through a complication of disasters they at times get caught in the ice, or get nipped between two ice-fields. They manifest great skill in dealing with the ice in such emergencies, and some of them display a coolness and judgment which is most marvellous to one looking on. The ice is so buoyant, the least pressure in the right direction often diverts enormous masses of congealed water, whether in the shape of floes or pseudo-bergs. They rig their craft with a square sail, which is of great value in moments of difficulty, as by its aid they can back out of an opening readily; they generally have a mizen-mast and sail in addition. There are usually nine to seventeen men on board their boats of from forty tons, provided with accommodation for the reception of what oil they may secure.
The steamers are of the oldest pattern. None of the modern appliances, now invariably found in boats even
cheaply fitted, by which greater speed is attainable, or the consumption of a less quantity of fuel is secured, are to be found on board the Norwegian steam whalers. Their stowage also is very defective, and this involves the additional expense of a tender, generally a sailing craft in tow. They creep along rather than steam, and are totally useless even for the purpose they fill at the present time. A steamer of this kind, homebuilt, with vertical engines of the old pattern, making its fussy way over the sea, is a curious addition to the Arctic landscape. The slow rate is preposterous ; the dark volume of filthy smoke rolling out, and the noise of her engines fretting and fuming as they plod along fill us with pity for the backwardness of the people who are forced to remain content with such old-fashioned appliances in this age of improvements.
We sailed into King's Bay and anchored in view of the glacier, which shares in interest with the rare and beautiful marble found here by the few visitors who make their way so far north. We climbed amongst the cliffs in search of specimens, and in one place, where the rocks are hollowed out into a lofty cavern with a current of pure water flowing along its bottom, we found some charming bits of pure white stone curiously veined with streaks of red; specimens of these we carried away with us.