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The glacier next attracted our attention ; its vast proportions filled the mind with awe. The whole of the upper part of the harbour is occupied with this imposing object. As we gazed on the novel scene, a bottle-nose whale suddenly presented himself in the waters close by, and the men at once gave chase ; with varying fortune they pursued him over the sea, and at length, after seven hours' hard pull, they were forced to desist from the vain pursuit. We landed in the evening, if that can be called landing, when the boat can only touch the foundations of some frowning fortress whose lofty walls rise abruptly from the waves.
Here we scrambled up the steep sides whose every ledge and “coigne of vantage” was occupied with Alocks of sea fowl. Flocks, say rather countless myriads of spectators in some vast arena. We watched them for a long time, and their attitude resembled closely a crowd of spectators looking on at some spectacle; the old and the young together chattering away as if they had one common purpose. Near by was a patch of low land running inland, and the ground was everywhere broken up by foxes in search of food of some kind. What its nature might have been we could not detect; worms we hardly think exist, for there was no sign of life of that kind, and the scattered blocks of timber, bored and pierced in all directions with some sea-worm,
THE SNOW GOOSE.
were tenantless, although it was the warm summer time ; and had they ever lived in these latitudes we should have certainly found them when the wood was being split for firewood.
Here it was we saw those northern geese called by the Norwegians “rein-geese.” We had ascended a steep, rocky ledge of rocks, 800 feet above the sea level ; clambering and creeping by turns we scaled the rugged mountain wall ; slowly we made our ascent to the steep brow of the crags, and as soon as we mastered the height we found we were on a level with the top, near to the edge of a deep blue lake, the surface of which was as smooth as a mirror. On it were reposing a number of large pure white geese, resting undisturbed in the awful solitude. Our sudden appearance was a warning of a danger they were not slow in avoiding; rapidly they rose from the margin of the water and flew towards us, making for the open sea. We quickly recovered from the surprise the unexpected vision of these birds threw us into, but in our haste we fired, without reflecting that the birds would fall into the sea if killed or wounded; and so it happened—our two birds killed in an easy shot were lost to us. So ended the solitary opportunity we had during the voyage of securing specimens of the rare snow goose of Spitz
bergen. Turning to look seaward, a splendid scene repaid us somewhat for our regret at the careless waste of life. Our eyes wandered at will over the vast sea, where only a few blocks of ice lay scattered on its surface; beyond these the ice-fields were spread so far as to seem limitless, while the peculiar Arctic sky lent a charm to the whole it is impossible to describe. We sat and watched the many curious features presented by the unusual prospect, and to us it realized an entirely new kind of enjoyment, which we can only compare to a feeling of profound satisfaction and relief.
We returned from our excursion to the shore. We shot a fox. Start not, my hunting friends! to us the fox is as sacred as to yourselves. Our fox was not russet red; he was a decidedly blue fox, and blue foxes may be shot with perfect propriety. Our blue fox was to us a perfect treasure; white foxes, brown foxes, and even black foxes abound in Spitzbergen ; but a little blue fellow was worth bagging, and we carried him gaily to the boat. As we were stepping on board, a blackish-coloured fox, closely resembling the surrounding objects seen in the dusk of evening, crept slyly after us. We could not make him out, however, and we gave up the pursuit. The sailors had seen two black foxes in our absence, which appeared to them to be as large as good-sized retriever dogs. For three days we
A REMOTE GUANO BED.
remained here in hopes of adding to our stock of oil, the sea being rather noted for its whales outside Prince Charles Island, but on the fourth we bore up for the fiord, having had no chance of gain.
Here a party of Swedes have entered into a curious speculation. Agriculturalists in England and elsewhere having once benefited by the application of guano to the soil, seem in nowise inclined to forego the gain it brings. The sea coasts and rocky islands, the cliffs and coral reefs of the world, are ransacked in search of the precious stimulant to vegetation, and the homes of countless birds we have seen cannot be far removed from deposits the farmer covets. So, here also have come the guano-hunters, and having prospected, they have settled to the work ; a hut large enough to shelter the gang of diggers has been constructed near the shore, and all the appliances are ready. But to winter here has been more than the Swedes would undertake, and for the present the place is deserted ; some few Norwegians we have met around the coasts have stopped for a time in the place, hunting, as we were lately doing, for whales, but, like us, they had no success. All the long season they waited for the whale that never came, and as there was nothing else, they left, empty as they came. All the season went by without a chance presenting itself by which a single boat could fill her hold with Arctic produce, and this account applied to all the few foreign whalers we had met throughout our cruise.
We bore down the coast to Green Harbour, where we found two fishing schooners at anchor; from them we obtained some salmon, said to be peculiar to Spitzbergen. They had been captured by a net which had been the property of the former Russian settlers, and although this net had remained unused for years, it was perfect in its preservation. We found in this fact fresh evidence, if further evidence were needed, of the strange effect this peculiar climate has in keeping everything exposed to it intact. Further up this bay we landed at a place where coal is indicated on the chart, and sure enough we found a rich-looking coal, good cnough for most purposes, considering the small portion we gathered, in order that we might have it tested in the galley fire, had been collected from the surface only. Some specimens we brought back gave promise of a much finer quality to be found at some distance below the surface, but we had no opportunity during our short visit of testing it in that particular way. This seam of coal crops out all along the surface for some very considerable distance. We once made inquiries of those on board the steamer off Red Beach if they had used this coal, but it was at once con