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FIRST EXPERIENCES.

103*

hummocks of ice have formed. The first impression naturally is that the barrier is impassable for a ship, and this depressing effect is hardly relieved by the wonderfully beautiful appearance of the obstacle. Here the opposition is seemingly constructed out of a multitude of gigantic gems glittering in all the splendour of the diamond, emerald, and sapphire. The great waves of the sea strike against the glistening diadem, and as the spray dashes down its su

dashes down its surface, the sun's rays catch up all the prismatic hues of the frozen facets, and so reflect them with redoubled lustre. Nor is the mind contented with the contemplation of these vast riches of rubies and opals. There are fantastic forms floating over the surrounding sea which have an interest of their own nearly equal to the lustre of the ice itselfwe mean the air and water-worn portions of the ice, which, in their dissolution, grow into the resemblance of quaint forms, but the constant wasting of these objects is very striking; their destruction is rapid, owing to their evaporation from the causes mentioned ; and not only is the sense of sight affected by the prospect, the ear is tortured by the thundering sound of the disrupted masses as they tilt against each other and are rent asunder. All this time we are sailing towards the densest part through a fringe of broken ice in a heaving sea. The

older hands on board now offer their opinion as to what is best to be done. We hope to find streams of water leading to the westward, and we make the attempt. There was a long neck of ice about two miles broad, the sea breaking on the outer edge, the swell lifting the inner pieces and threatening to grind the whole mass into powder. Into this commotion, the

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schooner is forced with all speed, charging the most likely place to make an entrance for us, as the surge rises and falls with awful fury. Thump she drives against the barrier, the bells ring out loudly on board, the glasses rattle, and the schooner shivers from stem to stern. The nerves of the uninitiated quiver the while, but we force our way, and, once inside, we take the ice

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obstacles with greater care, backing off, filling again, heaving about, twisting this way and that, and by the help of ropes and poles, turning the schooner whenever the ice ahead is too thick to contend with. When once a wall of ice is formed by the combination of a number of pieces getting packed closely together, it entirely breaks the swell of the sea, and leaves the water perfectly calm within. Another remarkable effect we now noticed for the first time, although we had read of it in Arctic records, was the curious effect of the ice upon the wind, even though a gale may be blowing. At a short distance from the outside edge the force of the wind is stayed, and its influence is no longer felt. We now felt sure some accident must occur. Several of the ice fields were an acre in extent, and as they float above the surface, their thickness can easily be calculated, for we only see one-tenth of the submerged mass above the sea. A block of ice of twelve feet elevation presents its front to the approaching ship. We must ever bear in mind that this twelve feet represents a thickness of one hundred and eight feet below the surface. Great and irresistible as this obstacle may appear, it is easily dealt with. The united efforts of two intelligent men soon divert its threatening course ; but men experienced in dealing with ice should alone attempt to cope with difficulties

such as these. To drive a ship through such waters as these would be sure to end in disaster, if attempted by sailors who had not been reared in this kind of service. We noticed that the blows were delivered upon the angles and corners of the ice rather than upon the surface directly. Should the vessel strike against ice aground, of course the shock is as great as if a rock was ahead. We got through the first long neck of ice into clear water, only to commence another attack. By this time we are grown well acquainted with the details of the operation, and we drive headlong into another pack. The fog now grows so dense, we are quite unable to advance. Fortunately for us, the calm here was perfect, and the swell of the sea had quite subsided. Gradually the wind rises, and there being no prospect

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progress intended direction, we turn the schooner's head towards the south, and a lane of water having in the meantime opened in the direction we were about to sail, we took advantage of it, and the schooner stood out towards the open sea once more, the walls of ice on either hand protecting us as we went.

Early on the 6th, our second harpooner went away in the whale-boats, and soon returned with our first seal ; in the mean time, we amused ourselves by making short excursions from the schooner in quest of loom

in our

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(Uria grylle), and other sea-birds. Fine as the weather is, we are forced to keep the ship in sight, owing to the foggy state of the atmosphere ; presently a second boat's crew ventures away, and we observe a signal from the deck intended for us, which indicates something is in store—a seal has been noticed from the deck floating at some little distance, and we stealthily go in pursuit of the pussy (the seamen's name for a seal); we kneel down in the bows, while a sailor in the stern sculls warily towards her, stopping whenever he sees the least motion in the ever-watchful animal. She is resting on the ice, and as we approach, she lifts her head and turns slowly to look upon us, when, of course, we remain perfectly still until she again settles quietly down. In this way we advance to within about thirty yards, when she turns restlessly, as if contemplating a sudden move; we see her keen, inquiring eye turned full upon us—a warning word whispered by the sailor, and as we pull the trigger, the whisper is changed into a wild exclamation of disappointment, for the seal slips quietly over the ledge out of sight; we feeling perfectly satisfied with the success of the shot, hurry up, and entirely forgetting the advice of the Hull Harbourmaster, jump on to the treacherous ice and hasten to the opposite side ; there the ledge overhangs somewhat ; the mass yields beneath our weight, and

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