« AnteriorContinuar »
crossing an estuary, and after stopping sundry holes in the walls with moss, we lit a fire, broiled some deer, and, while our clothes dried at the fire we had made, we sat and smoked a pipe in comparative comfort.
The Norwegians make poor attempts at wintering in the north ; they are not equal to the difficulties, and of late years have given it up as altogether hopeless.
The reindeer in Spitzbergen have a reputation for being tame and almost indifferent to the coming of the sportsman. However they may have comported themselves in former times we can form no opinion, but with the exception of such rare opportunities as the scanty cover may afford, or rocky places give the sportsman, we found these deer as difficult to approach as the red or fallow deer in other parts of Europe. During the eighteen days we spent in the pursuit of reindeer the first three days went for nothing; after that we succeeded in killing thirty-six beasties, and our stock exceeding our requirements, my worthy companion was able to make presents to the Norwegians, who seemed glad of this accession to their stores so far away from home.
We landed in quest of geese one day, and on our way to the beautiful lakes where they harboured we saw a deer, but did not shoot him, fearing to disturb the watchful birds we were in search of. We had no suc
LANDING IN PURSUIT OF GAME.
cess in this, at all times difficult, sport, but we carried off some young birds of the year which were capital eat
ing. Returning, our friend wanders a little out of the way, and some deer are seen in the distance by us, we
wave a handkerchief to attract his attention, and we see by our glasses that he also has discovered the deer. We act in concert, our object being to get closer to the herd and keep them well between us. The stag disappears from view, and is soon again under cover of a rock; we make for a ravine and run along its rugged side to get within range: we fire, and miss. Not so our experienced comrade; he knocks over the beast he shot at. Our friend carries a little Henry-Richard's rifle; we are armed with a short Enfield, whose trajectory is too great for this kind of sport, and we resolve to use an express rifle for the future; it is certainly heavier to carry, but for a range of 180 yards. as perfect a tool as a man can well find. We have been walking for six hours; it is 3 o'clock A.M. We do not conceal the fact that we have enough of it, with seven miles to pull home to the schooner to conclude ; we insist we have had pleasure enough for one day, and the point is conceded without further parley. Starting again, after a few hours' rest, in pursuit of deer, we have varying success; then we return to the boat to find our man gone in pursuit of deer himself; we wait patiently for his return; piling up a log of drift-wood upon the fire we go to sleep upon the beach, and on his arrival we propose a fresh excursion, but we find Eddy worn out with fatigue, at 8 A.M., so we return
on board. In this way the time goes by, there being nothing but bodily fatigue to induce one to desist from labour. We lose count of time, and grow confused as to the proper ordering of a day's occupation.
The 13th of August has come, and after a short council it is decided to try again for the north, and if we are unequal to the struggle, owing to the unhealed wound in our ship's side, to sail south once more. In the afternoon we killed a white whale (Beluga catodon). These little fellows are from ten to sixteen feet
in length, and give a ton of oil to every six whales. The hides are used for making a fine boot leather, worn by the Norwegian ladies, but our people rarely bring home the skin, as there is no suitable way for dressing it, and no market for it.
The white whale is beyond all comparison, says Brown, so far as its importance to the Greenlanders and Eskimo is concerned, the whale of Greenland. Like the narwhal, it is indigenous, but it is only seen on the coast of Danish Greenland during the winter months, leaving the coast south of 72 deg. N. lat. in June, and roaming about at the head of Baffin's Bay and the western shores of the strait during the summer. In October it is seen to go west, not south, but in winter can be seen in company with the narwhal, at the broken places in the ice. Its geographical range may be said to be the same as the narwhal's, and during the summer months corresponds with that of the right whale, of which it is looked upon as the precursor. It, however, wanders further south than to 63 deg. N. lat., being quite common in the St. Lawrence River.
It feeds on crustacea, fish, and cephalapoda; but in the stomach is generally found some sand. The sailors often jocularly remark, in reference to this, that the Kelelluak takes in ballast.
The males and females swim together in the same flock, and do not separate, as has been stated. Their blast is not unmusical, and when under water they emit a peculiar whistling sound, which might be mistaken for the whistle of a bird. And on this account the whalers often call them sea-canaries.
The two Norwegian sloops are occupied in netting these white whales close by, and we go to see the sport. Their costly nets have meshes six inches square, made of cod line, seven fathoms deep, and about 800 fathoms long. One end is made fast to the