and duly planted the white ensign of St. George beside her,--we left the superseded damsel, somewhat grimly smiling across the frozen ocean at her feet, until some Bacchus of a bear should come to relieve the loneliness of my wooden Ariadne. On descending to the water's edge, we walked some little distance along the beach without observing anything very remarkable, unless it were the network of vertical and horizontal dikes of basalt which shot in every direction through the scoriae and conglomerate of which the cliff seemed to be composed. Innumerable sea-birds sat in the crevices and ledges of the uneven surface, or flew about us with such confiding curiosity, that by reaching out my hand I could touch their wings as they poised themselves in the air alongside. There was one old sober-sides with whom I passed a good ten minutes tete-a-tete, trying who could stare the other out of countenance. It was now high time to be off. As soon then as we had collected some geological specimens, and duly christened the little cove, at the bottom of which we had landed, "Clandeboye Creek,"--we walked back to the gig. But--so rapidly was the ice drifting down upon the island,--we found it had already become doubtful whether we should not have to carry the boat over the patch which--during the couple of hours we had spent on shore--had almost cut her off from access to the water. If this was the case with the gig, it was very evident the quicker we got the schooner out to sea again the better. So immediately we returned on board, having first fired a gun in token of adieu to the desolate land we should never again set foot on, the ship was put about, and our task of working out towards the open water recommenced. As this operation was likely to require some time, directly breakfast was over, (it was now about eleven o'clock A.M.,) and after a vain attempt had been made to take a photograph of the mountain, which the mist was again beginning to envelope, I turned in to take a nap, which I rather needed,--fully expecting that by the time I awoke we should be beginning to get pretty clear of the pack. On coming on deck, however, four hours later, although we had reached away a considerable distance from the land, and had even passed the spot, where, the day before, the sea was almost free,--the floes seemed closer than ever; and, what was worse, from the mast-head not a vestige of open water was to be discovered. On every side, as far as the eye could reach, there stretched over the sea one cold white canopy of ice. The prospect of being beset, in so slightly built a craft, was--to say the least--unpleasant; it looked very much as if fresh packs were driving down upon us from the very direction in which we were trying to push out, yet it had become a matter of doubt which course it would be best to steer. To remain stationary was out of the question; the pace at which the fields drift is sometimes very rapid, [Footnote: Dr. Scoresby states that the invariable tendency of fields of ice is to drift south-westward, and that the strange effects produced by their occasional rapid motions, is one of the most striking objects the Polar Seas present, and certainly the most terrific. They frequently acquire a rotary motion, whereby their circumference attains a velocity of several miles an hour; and it is scarcely possible to conceive the consequences produced by a body, exceeding ten thousand million tons in weight, coming in contact with another under such circumstances. The strongest ship is but an insignificant impediment between two fields in motion. Numbers of whale vessels have thus been destroyed; some have been thrown upon the ice; some have had their hulls completely torn open, or divided in two, and others have been overrun by the ice, and buried beneath its heaped fragments.] and the first nip would settle the poor little schooner's business for ever. At the same time, it was quite possible that any progress we succeeded in making, instead of tending towards her liberation, might perhaps be only getting her deeper into the scrape. One thing was very certain,--Northing or Southing might be an even chance, but whatever EASTING we could make must be to the good; so I determined to choose whichever vein seemed to have most Easterly direction in it. Two or three openings of this sort from time to time presented themselves; but in every case, after following them a certain distance, they proved to be but CUL-DE-SACS, and we had to return discomfited. My great hope was in a change of wind. It was already blowing very fresh from the northward and eastward; and if it would but shift a few points, in all probability the ice would loosen as rapidly as it had collected. In the meantime, the only thing to do was to keep a sharp look-out, sail the vessel carefully, and take advantage of every chance of getting to the eastward. It now grew colder than ever,--the distant land was almost hid with fog,--tattered dingy clouds came crowding over the heavens,--while Wilson moved uneasily about the deck, with the air of Cassandra at the conflagration of Troy. It was Sunday, the 14th of July, and I had a momentary fancy that I could hear the sweet church bells in England pealing across the cold white flats which surrounded us. At last, about five o'clock P.M., the wind shifted a point or two, then flew round into the south-east. Not long after, just as I had expected, the ice evidently began to loosen,--a promising opening was reported from the mast-head a mile or so away on the port-bow, and by nine o'clock we were spanking along, at the rate of eight knots an hour, under a double-reefed mainsail and staysail--down a continually widening channel, between two wave-lashed ridges of drift ice. Before midnight, we had regained the open sea, and were standing away "to Norroway, To Norroway, over the faem." In the forenoon I had been too busy to have our usual Sunday church; but as soon as we were pretty clear of the ice I managed to have a short service in the cabin. Of our run to Hammerfest I have nothing particular to say. The distance is eight hundred miles, and we did it in eight days. On the whole, the weather was pretty fair, though cold, and often foggy. One day indeed was perfectly lovely,--the one before we made the coast of Lapland, --without a cloud to be seen for the space of twenty-four hours; giving me an opportunity of watching the sun performing his complete circle overhead, and taking a meridian altitude at midnight. We were then in 70 degrees 25' North latitude; i.e., almost as far north as the North Cape; yet the thermometer had been up to 80 degrees during the afternoon. Shortly afterwards the fog came on again, and next morning it was blowing very hard from the eastward. This was the more disagreeable, as it is always very difficult, under the most favourable circumstances, to find one's way into any harbour along this coast, fenced off, as it is, from the ocean by a complicated outwork of lofty islands, which, in their turn, are hemmed in by nests of sunken rock, sown as thick as peas, for miles to seaward. There are no pilots until you are within the islands, and no longer want them,--no lighthouses or beacons of any sort; and all that you have to go by is the shape of the hill-tops; but as, on the clearest day, the outlines of the mountains have about as much variety as the teeth of a saw, and as on a cloudy day, which happens about seven times a week, you see nothing but the line of their dark roots,--the unfortunate mariner, who goes poking about for the narrow passage which is to lead him between the islands,--at the BACK of one of which a pilot is waiting for him,--will, in all probability, have already placed his vessel in a position to render that functionary's further attendance a work of supererogation. At least, I know it was as much surprise as pleasure that I experienced, when, after having with many misgivings ventured to slip through an opening in the monotonous barricade of mountains, we found it was the right channel to our port. If the king of all the Goths would only stick up a lighthouse here and there along the edge of his Arctic seaboard, he would save many an honest fellow a heart-ache. [Figure: fig-p130.gif] I must now finish this long letter. Hammerfest is scarcely worthy of my wasting paper on it. When I tell you that it is the most northerly town in Europe, I think I have mentioned its only remarkable characteristic. It stands on the edge of an enormous sheet of water, completely landlocked by three islands, and consists of a congregation of wooden houses, plastered up against a steep mountain; some of which being built on piles, give the notion of the place having slipped down off the hill half-way into the sea. Its population is so and so,--its chief exports this and that; for all which, see Mr. Murray's "Handbook," where you will find all such matters much more clearly and correctly set down than I am likely to state them. At all events, it produces milk, cream--NOT butter--salad, and bad potatoes; which is what we are most interested in at present. To think that you should be all revelling this very moment in green-peas and cauliflowers! I hope you don't forget your grace before dinner. I will write to you again before setting sail for Spitzbergen. LETTER IX. EXTRACT FROM THE "MONITEUR" OF THE 31ST JULY. I have received a copy of the "Moniteur" of the 31st July, containing so graphic an account of the voyage of the "Reine Hortense" towards Jan Mayen, and of the catastrophe to her tender the "Saxon,"--in consequence of which the corvette was compelled to abandon her voyage to the Northward,--that I must forward it to you. (Translation.) "Voyage of Discovery along the Banquise, north of Iceland, by 'LA REINE HORTENSE.' "It fell to the lot of an officer of the French navy, M. Jules de Blosseville, to attempt to explore those distant parts, and to shed an interest over them, both by his discoveries and by his tragical and premature end.
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