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upon the men themselves or their ready listeners. Only in the previous year thirty-two American whaleships were beset, and their crews fearing to be compelled to endure all the horrors of an Arctic winter in ships but ill-provided with the necessary provisions, left them, and travelled over the ice to their more fortunate companions who were safe on the outside of the floe, and so escaped with their lives, only too glad to leave their own vessels to the mercy of the ice, and the savage onslaughts of the storms of the Arctic seas.
On Monday, the 13th of May, the warps are ready, a steam-tug has taken a final hold of the Samson to tow her out. The wharf is still lined with the same people ; there, in the crowd, are the wives and families of the married portion of the crew. The surging mass raise a parting shout as we slowly move towards the entrance of the dock, and hurrying to the next point of vantage, give many another hearty cheer, which told us plainly that their anxious and best wishes are sincerely with us.
We have Captain Wells on board, and he seems, even at the last moment, more than half resolved to come with us, but the ties of home are too strong upon him, and he fills up all the short remaining time at his disposal in giving final instructions, and many scraps of valuable advice. He explains many important facts
to be always kept in view, and as he fears they may be forgotten when occasion will demand their most careful attention, these, with other hints of equal value for our guidance, he has carefully written down and presented to us. We distinctly remember one solemn warning he gave us against too hastily landing upon ice, or even ice-bergs, in pursuit of game, and told us that once he himself had incautiously stepped on to a huge mass, with the intention of shooting an Arctic bear, when the great berg, so finely balanced in the sea that it needed but the addition of his weight to make it come crashing down with an awful noise, toppled over into the sea. The sea itself was lashed into a fury by the fall, and in the confusion that ensued he narrowly escaped being drowned. These enormous masses of ice often rolled over as we gazed upon them, owing to the water, being warmer below, causing the ice to thaw more rapidly, when the upper part, which is heavier, totters, the ice beneath is suddenly overbalanced, and the portion that was lately submerged is now suddenly tilted into the air through the disturbance of the equilibrium of the mass. At last the time came to part with our gallant friend, and our attention being drawn off from the receding tug-boat, we began to notice the fact that our schooner was already battling bravely with a high and heavy sea, the result of the recent gales. “Dinner, sir !” says the French cook, adding in a strong north country accent, “it's right good stuff.” We quickly put away the thoughts the parting has sent crowding into our brain, and we do our best to conceal our feelings. Few men at such a moment can be totally indifferent at starting for a long journey, especially when the leave-taking culminates in a tumbling sea. There are emotions at such a time which the untravelled Englishman has never experienced. Such a one knows nothing of the strange sensation of sailing away from home and friends, league after league, day after day over a wide waste of sea, to another zone where every object to which use has made him familiar, gives place to new phases of nature, wearing for him a totally different aspect—to distant regions he may be familiar with, no doubt, from the perusal of books whose pages depict vividly the scenes they describe ; but, after all, book descriptions, however good, fall very short when attempting to convey impressions which experience alone can supply. All our efforts to overcome the obstinate resistance of the gale which now rages from the north proving quite ineffectual, we are compelled to run in again and seek shelter. We anchor under the lee, with a crowd of other craft, who, like ourselves, are waiting for the wind. As the day breaks
on Tuesday morning the whole fleet is again in motion, all being evidently as anxious as we are to get away, and the scene is a stirring one as the sails are once more shaken out to the morning breeze. The fishing smacks lay a little closer to the wind, but we soon overreach them, and the fine sailing qualities of our schooner are soon evident to all. There is a kind of pardonable pride in such a display, and we revel in our success over our unknown opponents.
The wind blows fresh, and the sea runs high, but the schooner tops the waves in gallant style, and the race grows exciting as we quickly outrun each sail in turn; once fairly on our way, we notice that the fishermen haul off towards their fishing-banks, while the merchantmen who hold on our course are evidently bound like ourselves due north.
Now we turn to the men on board, and listen to the tales of daring they have to tell, so different in character to the usual experiences of men whose lot it is to sail in lower latitudes ; here the talk is of adventures with whales, and amongst the ice-bergs, their shipwrecks and disasters of every kind. Often it happens that the ships they sail in are badly found, wanting in the commonest necessaries of life, and but ill-adapted for the purpose they are intended to serve. From the accounts we listen to of whaling adventures we soon
learn enough to gather that these voyages have in no wise fallen off in point of interest since the earliest exploits in these seas were recorded. Eddy and Byers (our harpooners) told us of one encounter
with a whale in a previous voyage, when the boat, ere Eddy could strike with his harpoon, was capsized by the sudden rising of the whale beneath her, and in a moment the crew and all her gear were hurled a few feet into the air.
Byers, too, had a somewhat similar misadventure, but in his case, as he was preparing to let drive at a stricken whale, she struck violently with her enormous tail (we shall have something to say of whales' tails presently), carrying away all the gunwale of the boat with one terrific blow, and had it not been for the harpoon lines which are always coiled down in the open spaces between the seats of the whale boat, and which served as a fender to the stroke, they might have suffered still greater damage ; as it was, they managed to escape with only a ducking in the icy sea, owing to the ready assistance of their more for