Imágenes de páginas

aloft and brings her down upon a great piece of ice with a force which sends her shivering from stem to stern, but her stanch timbers are equal to the shock, and she seems none the worse.

Now we miss stays and make a stern board, losing our headway. This endangers our rudder, but it is stoutly built, and resists the hardest knocks. We get her round, and run at high speed between two blocks of ice that threaten to crush us up.

This danger being averted, there is a pause in which every heart feels grateful to a merciful Providence for an, escape so unexpected. We were now forced to, make fast to some ice, and in a short time we were in a sea of water as calm as a pond ; the ice closing us in on all sides was like a low wall opposed to the outside waves. Weary with labour and watching, our sleep is now only disturbed by an occasional trembling of the ship’s timbers as she gets a squeeze from the ice pressing upon her sides. For the next seven days we are beset. The men pass the time pleasantly enough with various extemporised games, and with keeping a good look-out for game. We go in quest of snow-birds, and one afternoon we see the curious and goodhumoured antics of a mother bear playing with her cubs. These savage animals are not devoid of tender affection towards their offspring in times of



happy undisturbed repose, but when roused by cruel treatment they are ever ready to exert all their maternal instinct in defence of their offspring. It is during these seven days we devote ourselves to a scientific examination of deep-sea temperatures in the Arctic seas. An account of our operations is deserving of a chapter on that special subject.

[graphic][ocr errors]


“ Where the North Pole in moody solitude Spreads her huge tracts and frozen waters round.”

3 are

In the following remarks there are points respecting the temperature of the Arctic Sea, to which access is obtained through the broadest gateway to the North, i.e., that between Greenland and Norway, the portal of which is guarded by Spitzbergen. In the western portion, along the coast of Greenland, it is more or less blocked with ice, and the water is cold. In the eastern part, in the vicinity of Spitzbergen, there is warm water and an open sea at certain seasons of the year as far north as 81°, and in some years one or two degrees further. Nearly all the discoveries in these regions have been made by persons engaged in commercial enterprise ; so that, even when favourable opportunities offered, their interests restrained them from taking advantage of the same.

In 1871 Mr. B. Leigh Smith made a cruise in his



schooner yacht Samson, and reached 81° 24' N., with an open sea before him, comparatively free from ice. The pack-ice was drifting southwards, and the water at the surface was 33° F., while at 300 fathoms it was 42° F. This fact was observed by Captain Scoresby in lat. 78° N., 0-10 W., surface 32° F., and at a depth of 760 fathoms 38° F. In 1872 the cruise in which we had the pleasure of assisting, gave the following results. On this occasion the sea was crowded with ice, and, as we have said, the ship was beset.

The ice had evidently required more than one year for its formation ; its surface was covered with opaque snow, and was generally flat, and in no case rose higher than the gangway of the little schooner.

Owing to the floes presenting a comparatively smooth surface, with a total absence of icebergs, we were led to form the opinion that no land can exist in the vicinity immediately north of Spitzbergen, as the southerly drift would be sure to bring down floating bergs, which are always formed in the valleys of northern land.

On this occasion observation with the Miller-Casella thermometer confirmed the result of the previous year, viz. gradual increase of temperature at great depth. On July 12th, when in 80° 17' N., and when the vessel was fixed in the ice, the temperature gradually increased to 64° F. at a depth of 600 fathoms. These facts indicate the southward flow of a vast body of warm water. It cannot be said that the heat is derived from the Gulf Stream, because nowhere in its course, even in such latitudes as 50° or 60°, does it acquire so high a temperature, even at the surface ; and it is highly improbable that the general warmth of the ocean along the west coasts of North Europe, on the shores of Norway, could possibly be supplied by the limited body of warm water which leaves the Gulf of Florida. If the whole of the Gulf Stream water were spread over the warm-water area in the north, its depth, even allowing the most liberal estimate for its volume, would not exceed ten fathoms ; whereas warm water of 42° F. occurs to the depth of 400 fathoms in this region, and north of Spitzbergen it is found as high as 64° F. at 600 fathoms. If it be said that this temperature is due to the northward drifting of the Atlantic from warmer localities, we are met by two difficulties, of which one is, that the soundings obtained by Carpenter and others gave temperatures much below 64°, and the other is, that the waters flow south, not north. Volcanic action, or a warm mineral spring rising from the ocean-bottom, may by some be imagined to be the cause of the temperature of 64°; but there is no evidence of either of

« AnteriorContinuar »