Imágenes de páginas

were the mothers with their young on their northward passage-interspersed amongst them were a few bladder noses. This steamer can force herself in amongst the ice without much risk or difficulty. With our schooner it would be impossible to attempt so much, and our boats are unable to force their way after seals, yet we lose no chance that may present itself of following up the sport. While we loiter here in doubt respecting the course to be pursued, the question is finally settled by the appearance of two fresh arrivals on the scene; two steamers come puffing and screaming towards us, following their system of joining in the sport whenever they find any indication of the presence of seal hunters, who, though lacking some of the advantages of the steamer, have far greater opportunities of sport, being less noisy and demonstrative than they necessarily are in their progress under steam. There is now nothing for it, but to stand away far to the north of the new comers, and to wait for the arrival of the seals which are sure to be driven in our direction by the steamers to the southward of us.

The men say that after the month of August no seals are to be found on the west ice so far to the south, and we begin again to speculate upon their northernmost haunts.


“So on we journey'd through the evening air,

Gazing intent far onward as our eyes
With level view could stretch against the bright
Vespertine ray : and lo ! by slow degrees
Gathering, a fog made toward us, dark as night
There was no room for 'scaping; and that mist
Bereft us both of sight and the pure air.” —Caley's DANTE.

STEAM-VESSELS intended for the ice require to be not only of a very strong construction but of a peculiar model. It is essentially necessary that a vessel frequenting the Arctic seas should be full-rigged, and sailed, in case of a break-down of the engines, or the running short of coal; when the vessel would be in a safe condition to prosecute her voyage. The construction of a ship for this purpose is also novel when compared with others. The sharp run and clean entrance into the water of a steamship has to be kept in view, as well as the peculiar breadth of beam necessary to all sailing craft to give her hold in the water, but something must be given up to ensure both sailing and steaming qualities; everything depends upon a judicious economy of steam propelling power with a small consumption of coal, so that it may last with

care the whole of a voyage, where there are no places to replenish. Consequently, the necessary beam for sailing purposes should be retained with a moderate sharp bow, but the stowage of cargo in the hold has to give way; the flat floor is changed to a sharp, wedgeshaped bottom, which answers all the purposes of clean entry and fine run, the room for stowage of cargo being given up. Were some of our men-of-war, of what is called the composite-class, built after the fashion of whaling-ships, we might have the two qualities combined. Whereas, the long bows, rising three feet above the level of the afterpart, with thin, narrow ways in wake of the foremast, give them no hold in the water, and when on a wind they are useless ; nor can they beat off a lee shore, even in a light breeze with little sea.

To be able to run up the wind's

about without loss of

way essential quality in weathering a long tongue of ice. The engines require to be made on the compound principle, and no expense should be spared to ensure their perfect structure. It often happens that, when under sail, the two square sails on fore and mizen mast have often to be hove back, to save the vessel's bows from striking the large pieces of ice when navigating the narrow channels. These steamships are specially built for the Arctic

They are fast, and easily handled, consume a


is an




may demand it.

very small quantity of coal per diem, and carry in anticipation of a cargo of oil, a store of coal in the oil tanks. Such vessels are necessarily costly, being constructed to steam and sail whenever the occasion

Owners of steam-vessels or of sailing crafts suffer from want of some such combinations; and although on some voyages such vessels make a lucrative venture, there is no question about the greater value of a sailing-steamer in these Arctic seas, adapted as well for one purpose as the other.

Ordinary masses of ice offer no opposition to the whaler under steam, and beyond the shock to the system of the sailor, who is not ready when the lookout man calls out, “Hold fast !” there is rarely any perceptible injury done to the craft itself.

Hurrying towards the north, we overhaul two more Peterhead steamers, and early on the 12th a Norwegian brig hove in sight. Her beams would serve for the timbers of an old line of battle ship. She is put together so stoutly that we cannot but admire her bows, iron-bound, and having great sheets of iron overlaying her on either hand. She was clean—i.e. empty-and her captain was the true type of a Norwegian, tall and handsome ; and though his features were bronzed by exposure to the Arctic atmosphere, which has the same effect upon the skin as the


very warmest air of the Tropics, to judge by his blue eyes and light hair, his skin ought to have been fair. He had a crew of fifty-five men, who were paid on the “share in the profits” principle; and as they had been

away from home since early in April, without capturing a seal or whale, the poor fellows had but a poor prospect for the coming winter at home. The Norwegian was as hospitable as his race is known to be, and did the honours of his cabin with true courtesy. As we entered this curiously quaint room, we noticed that his table presented the appearance as if some scientific game was being played by the skipper to while away his solitary hours when his presence was not required on deck for the sailing of his ship. An infinity of little holes dotted the surface of the board, and a few pegs stood out here and there, with something like order in their arrangement. We apologised forthwith for our intrusion, and the consequent interruption in a game we were unacquainted with. Judge then of our surprise when we learned that the pegs and holes were the ordinary means by which the crews on board such ships keep their plates and glasses during dinner in their places when the weather is at all rough.

He was glad to pick up the threads of European political affairs since he left home, and the “ Alabama Question” particularly interested him. He was very

« AnteriorContinuar »