Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB
[merged small][ocr errors]

the sea. The bay we entered, on the 3rd of May, was named after a very shrewd Dutch woman, Mary Muss, whose energy and industry entitled her to rank amongst the foremost merchants of Rotterdam in this lucrative trade; this intelligent woman was the first to send a ship provided with all the necessary appliances for boiling the blubber on the coast after the whales were captured, and the oil and whalebone so obtained gained a higher market price than could be obtained after the blubber had lost some of its most valuable qualities by being stowed away in its crude state. Our companion, with one sailor, landed here, whilst we and another ascended a mountain ridge, about a mile to the northwards. On the way we noticed several patches of rich vegetation, and we gathered specimens of the botanical productions, such as they were. One plant we found growing in great abundance, we regarded as a species of saxifrage or arenaria. We had some idea of making a long detour, and of joining our friends at a point somewhere on the eastern slope of the island. But the labour and risk involved in such an adventure was so great, owing to the slippery state of the snowy ledges and the exceedingly rough volcanic nature of the ground, composed for the most part of scoriæ, cinders, and blocks of lava, which crumbled beneath our weight as we endeavoured to force our way over the uneven surface, that we were soon compelled to relinquish our attempt, so there was nothing for it but to retrace our steps and endeavour by some short cut to join the others on the sandy beach below. Getting down again we struck across a kind of lagoon, rough with frozen snow, called by arctic travellers“ bay ice ;” for three miles our way lay across this flat, which lies at the base of the mountains, and is fringed by the sea-shore.

We found our friends at length, and enjoyed with them the prospect they were contemplating. A pyramidal rock shot up into the air about 1,200 feet above us; its otherwise bleak and wall-like face was cut up by stratification into a series of narrow ledges inaccessible to all save the winged denizens of the air, who here found a secure resting-place and a nursery where they might bring up their callow brood, safe from the approach of the cunning foxes, evidences of whose presence on the island were to be observed everywhere. We found no difficulty in spreading alarm amongst these airy colonists by throwing stones at the cliff, and when we succeeded in setting on the wing a myriad of sea-fowl, the flocks circling round and passing over our heads really darkened the air above us, and, as they swept along like a thick cloud, wheeling suddenly in their flight, produced a curious effect,—the dull-looking

a nurs

[merged small][ocr errors]

mass by a rapid change shone out in the clear air, white as a snowdrift, and then cohort after cohort would float past again in another cloud-like mass. The noise, too, of so many wings, and the wild, scared cries from a host like this, was much greater than could be imagined, much less described in words. The temperature of the water at the surface was 32°, the air 321° Fahr.

The beach itself was not without its wonders. Here lay scattered an accumulation of flotsam and jetsam, curious in their diversity. We picked up the little glass floats used by the Norwegian herring fishermen for buoying up their drift nets, that had evidently drifted from Iceland; bits of whale-boats, reduced to matchwood by the frightful action of the boisterous seas; fragments of wrecks of ships that once fought bravely against the ice, but, beaten at last in some dread encounter, everywhere lie shattered on these sands; bits of what once had been the masts of merchant ships, now fit for nothing but the fire ; huge piles of driftwood, once stately trees on the side of some Siberian river, torn down by one of those periodical inundations which devastate the northern lands of the earth, and, hurried along by the torrent, floated out into the open seas, where the climate is mild enough, and the temperature of the water is

sufficiently high to admit of the existence of the wood-boring teredos, such as are found in timber used in ships, marine structures, and driftwood floating on or near the surface. Caught at last in some ocean current, the wood is drifted westwards, and at length finds a resting-place on this desolate coast. These sea-worms cannot live in the Arctic seas, and the driftwood, perforated in every direction with their little tunnels, has long since been rendered tenantless.

As we came near our landing-place, at four o'clock in the Arctic morning, we found that the men during our absence had collected a quantity of dry wood, and, setting fire to it, were busily engaged in spreading a comfortable repast for us after our wanderings; here we found the comfortable odour of coffee diffusing itself over the other good things laid out for our entertainment. It was with no small satisfaction we once more took our places on board our boats, since landing at Jan Mayen is not considered at all times safe. Frequently a sudden gale springs up unexpectedly, and people coming for a few hours are often detained a week on the shore, waiting for a chance of escape, and we were well aware of this fact, as the stores provided for the trip we had just made, were intended for an emergency of the kind.'' * The wind had not shifted during our short stay,

EXTINCT CRATERS.

W

and there was therefore no surf to hinder our embarking. We made a quick passage to the ship, and having “an imposition of sleep upon us,” we turned in for five hours until breakfast time.

Going on deck again, we found the wind still off the land, bringing down with it blasts of air that had become chilled by passing over the frozen mountainsides to windward of us. High above us rose the icy peak of Beerenberg, as stately a mountain as ever eye gazed upon; its pointed crest, robed with snow, towered above the clouds that cling around it in wreaths of vapour. The water under the steep shore was comparatively calm ; we therefore took a boat's crew and landed again, leaving two of the men to look after our boat in our absence.

The soil formed by the washing away of the mountains was heaped up in the neighbourhood of the sea into rich plains, and its richness surprised us. There are two craters marked upon the chart, which at no distant period gave out flames and lava. With difficulty we made our way over the black soil and rugged ridges which opposed themselves to our progress, and, ascending an eminence, we looked towards the sea on the opposite coast, and the craters coming within our range, we at once turned our steps in their direction. The place has greatly changed since Scoresby described it.

HA

« AnteriorContinuar »