Imágenes de páginas
[blocks in formation]

and what seemed inevitable is instantly averted, the mass slews round, and we glide into smooth water, the vessel is laid-to, and a short respite gives our men the sorely-needed rest they require before all hands are called upon once more to face new dangers. This time our difficulty comes from the water, which, rushing like a mill-race round the point-ends of ice, gurgles and foams with frantic haste to get past the obstacle. This time the water wins. Our ship misses stays ; she no longer works with that cool indifference we had but recently been applauding. Something is evidently wrong with her, and we are not long in doubt. A piece of her keel becoming detached, has got across her bows, and impedes her efforts. We strive all we can to remove the impediment, without success. A rope is lowered, with a noose and slip-knot, in the hope of jerking off the broken timber, firmly held by an iron bolt. We are perplexed to understand the extent of our injury, and the success of this attempt may only make matters worse by breaking away more than would be desirable. On we go, bumping now without the power to direct the schooner towards the blows we are receiving, and once more we are slewed round by the forces we can no longer contend against. At this moment a deceitful tongue of ice projects from the field for some distance beneath the surface, and

on to this hidden floor we glide without power to help our ship. The almost worn-out crew have to pluck up energy sufficient to avert our new danger. They hasten to remove all the heavy lumber in the fore part of the schooner to add weight to her stern; they run along the deck and jump in the hope of giving her motion; others make strenuous efforts to cut the ice asunder beneath her keel. In the midst of the toil, which may be rendered futile should we be blocked up by fresh accessions of ice, the schooner gently and of her own accord slips back into deep water, and we breathe again. There is no time lost in trying to get her well to windward, as the ice is rapidly getting to the westward, and it will never do to be driven back. For three days this struggle is carried on with hardly an hour's respite, and these three days seem an infinity of time to us all. The wind, coming up from the south, had probably been the cause of all our present trouble, as in the previous year there was no difficulty of this kind to contend with, and we are again confirmed in the oft-repeated opinion, that had we but steam-power to assist us, we should have escaped from all the fatiguë which had now nearly exhausted us. One thing is quite certain, these encounters with the ice are as nothing when compared with like difficulties in Smith Sound. There, in the narrow channels, the currents flow



at the rate of some seven knots in the hour, and the ice packing, is driven against ice adhering to the land. Acting against such fixed masses the driven ice is overlapped with that it is forced against, and little icebergs are quickly formed by the accumulatation of heaped-up floes.

In this way the ice is formed into vast bergs, rugged and torn, dashed up into heaps, one thickness overlaying another, and giving the ice the appearance of laminated floors. The ice to the westward of Spitzbergen is no doubt rough in places, but the roughness is easily accounted for. In general the surface is perfectly level, and it almost satisfied us that it is formed upon the surface of the sea, which, getting broken up in the spring, sometimes receives the portions of some toppling iceberg rudely broken off, and the fragments strewn about make what hummocks and other rough projections are seen upon its surface. In rough weather it is possible that two wedge-shaped masses may be driven together with sufficient force to lift some luckless ship that may be in the way some distance into the air ; but the chances are greatly in her favour that the cause being removed the ice will slip back into its former position and restore the uninjured craft once more to her place upon the sea; in fact, the experienced men who sail in these seas, with whom


we have conversed, mention several such instances, but the Smith Sound ice combinations are rarely if ever seen by them in these seas we have been traversing



Page 210.

« AnteriorContinuar »