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For instance, the remarkable rock known by the name of Egg Island, which in bis time might have formed a tolerable shelter for a vessel of good size, is now joined to the mountainous shore, and presents an outer surface of about twenty-five feet above the level of high water mark.
We ascended one of the lofty ridges of Beerenberg, whose summit at that moment was perfectly free from clouds, and the prospect was of surpassing grandeur. The sun lit up all its projecting crags, and whenever its direct rays fell upon the snow and ice, the mountain glistened with iridescent colours. A torrent falling from hidden recesses near its summit came down in long leaps, or tumbled amongst the projecting crags, and as it came it froze into rigid icicles; the sunbeams falling on these cascades caused them to glitter and sparkle again. We had never contemplated anything so fairy-like, and at the same time so weirdlooking. We had a long ten-hour walk, and were rewarded by the discovery of a hitherto unnoticed crater, whose position we carefully noted. The place was blocked with scoria, which was evidently of recent formation.
Returning to the boat, we found our men in a state of great excitement; they had returned from the chase of a little fox, which had occupied a good part of their
time during our absence. At first they watched the cunning little scoundrel stealing down the cliff, evidently in pursuit of game; taking advantage of every little inequality in the surface which could serve as an ambush, it crept down towards the beach, where some sea-birds were resting. The men watched his every move with eager curiosity, and at last they saw the subtle rascal select his victim—a solitary bird stood preening its feathers, arranging its toilet preparatory to a little sleep, all unconscious of the danger impending; having adjusted its plumage to its satisfaction, the bird quietly settled down to rest, and dozed off quietly to sleep. But a short interval now separated the wily fox from its prey, and running quickly from its place of concealment, it bounded towards the bird, and secured, not the coveted morsel, but a single feather from its tail. Without delay, the sea-bird soared aloft into the air, leaving the baffled fox in a state of evident perplexity. Then began their long-delayed chase of the fox, the wild bird screaming as if in satisfaction, as shot after shot told how eager the pursuit was, how difficult the capture.
The cartridge boxes left with the men for their protection were nearly emptied of their contents early in the day, as the wild duck knew to their cost. And it is to this cause they attributed their failure in the attempt to capture the first Arctic white fox met with on our journey.
We are unwilling to lose the opportunity of devoting ourselves altogether to a closer survey of the island, as the wind to the eastward makes it a difficult matter to approach the land on that side; to the southward the water is calm, and a black sandy beach invites us, but the sandy beach is “steep to,” and is bounded with rough, weather-beaten rocks on either hand; it is not a place for anchorage ; we sound and verify our opinion, and beat up without further delay. Broken water extends a long way out from the land, but we see no ice in the offing. As we sailed along with a fair wind we suddenly fell in with the true commencement of the west ice.
Extending far beyond the range of vision, and as we scud along, the fog as it lifts reveals vast plains. beyond, still encumbered with these quaint-looking masses of floating, toiling ice. Here is a plain of some twenty square yards burthened with little mounds of ice covered with folds of frozen snow; here is a patch of a hundred square yards more heavily weighted with little hummocks, as the lumps of ice scattered over its surface are called by the Arctic voyagers. These are treacherous places to venture upon, as the action of the air and the wasting influence of the salt,
ASPECT OF THE ICY SEA.
sea, are constantly at work upon the frozen masses, and they become undermined and eaten away along the edges as they drift southwards towards the warmer water flowing north from the Gulf Stream, which seems to find a limit to its force about this latitude. Spreading out like a fan, it interdigitates with colder surface currents which flow.ice-laden from the northeast. The drift also has its effect on the floating ice, driving it with sudden force, and grinding each block against its immediate neighbour; then the brittle floor soon gets crushed and shattered in every direction. The newly-exposed fracture glints in the sunlight with all the iridescence of an opal—delicate greens and pure blues reflect the light in brilliant prismatic hues. The sparkling water beneath throws off these refracted colours, and the pure snow above serves as a foil to the diamond-like coruscations. Every moment some new charm is added to the splendour of the prospect, and were it not from a sense of danger it is almost impossible to shake off, the spectator might spend many an hour in unsatisfied contemplation of a scene so novel and suggestive. Here is a block of ice eaten away by the rapid thawing process of the higher temperature in which it floats, until it assumes the form of the knarled stem and riven roots of some old forest tree overturned by a storm ; there is the finelycurved neck of a haughty swan carved in the purest crystal. Often whilst we gaze the neatly poised floating object we are watching will plunge head foremost into the waves, and what was but recently its submerged portion will float above the sea, the centre of gravity having become altered by the melting of the ice of which it is composed. Then the attention is roused by a report as of the firing of the heaviest ordnance, and the awful din is caused by the sudden rending of some vast frozen drift. The lurid light known by the sailors as the ice blink played over all.
“Quod simul ac primum sub divo splendor Aquai
Ponitur: extemplo, cælo stellante, serena
Lucret. lib. iv. 215.
This novel episode was a fresh illustration of the altered condition of the aspect of nature viewed under the Arctic circle. It is quite impossible for any one who has not seen the ice in these regions to form any adequate idea of its wonderful appearance. The surge of the heavy sea is breaking upon the outer edge of the huge floating masses of ice, and the distant prospect is laden with heavy looking blocks, interspersed with flatter snow, covering all the fields on which little