List Of Contents | Contents of Letters From High Latitudes, by Lord Dufferin
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got free from the floating icebergs, to resume our former
course as soon as the sea was clear.

The further we advanced to the northward, the thicker
became the fog and more intense the cold (two degrees
centig, below zero); and snow whirled round in squalls
of wind, and fell in large flakes on the deck. The ice
began to present a new aspect, and to assume those
fantastic and terrible forms and colours, which painters
have made familiar to us. At one time it assumed the
appearance of mountain-peaks covered with snow, furrowed
with valleys of green and blue; more frequently they
appeared like a wide flat plateau, as high as the ship's
deck, against which the sea rolled with fury, hollowing
its edges into gulfs, or breaking them into perpendicular
cliffs or caverns, into which the sea rushed in clouds
of foam.

We often passed close by a herd of seals, which-stretched
on these floating islands, followed the ship with a stupid
and puzzled look. We were forcibly struck with the contrast
between the fictitious world in which we lived on board
the ship, and the terrible realities of nature that
surrounded us.  Lounging in an elegant saloon, at the
corner of a clear and sparkling fire, amidst a thousand
objects of the arts and luxuries of home, we might have
believed that we had not changed our residence, or our
habits, or our enjoyments.  One of Strauss's waltzes, or
Schubert's melodies--played on the piano by the
band-master--completed the illusion; and yet we had only
to rub off the thin incrustation of frozen vapour that
covered the panes of the windows, to look out upon the
gigantic and terrible forms of the icebergs dashed against
each other by a black and broken sea, and the whole
panorama of Polar nature, its awful risks, and its sinister

Meanwhile, we progressed but very slowly. On the 10th of
July we were still far from the meridian of Jan Mayen,
when we suddenly found ourselves surrounded by a fog,
and at the bottom of one of the bays formed by the field
ice.  We tacked immediately, and put the ship about, but
the wind had accumulated the ice behind us. At a distance
the circle that enclosed us seemed compact and without
egress.  We considered this as the most critical moment
of our expedition. Having tried this icy barrier at
several points, we found a narrow and tortuous channel,
into which we ventured; and it was not till after an hour
of anxieties that we got a view of the open sea, and of
a passage into it.  From this moment we were able to
coast along the Banquise without interruption.

On the 11th of July at 6 A.M. we reached, at last, the
meridian of Jan Mayen, at about eighteen leagues' distance
[Footnote:  I think there must be some mistake here; when
we parted company with the "Reine Hortense," we were
still upwards of 100 miles distant from the southern
extremity of Jan Mayen.] from the southern part of that
island, but we saw the ice-field stretching out before
us as far as the eye could reach; hence it became evident
that Jan Mayen was blocked up by the ice, at least along
its south coast. To ascertain whether it might still be
accessible from the north, it would have been necessary
to have attempted a circuit to the eastward, the possible
extent of which could not be estimated; moreover, we had
consumed half our coals, and had lost all hope of being
rejoined by the 'Saxon.' Thus forced to give up any
further attempts in that direction, Commodore de la
Ronciere, having got the ship clear of the floating ice,
took a W.S.W. course, in the direction of Reykjavik.

The instant the 'Reine Hortense' assumed this new course,
a telegraphic signal--as had been previously arranged--
acquainted Lord Dufferin with our determinations. Almost
immediately, the young Lord sent on board us a tin box,
with two letters, one for his mother, and one for our
commander. In the latter he stated that--finding himself
clear of the ice, and master of his own movements--he
preferred continuing his voyage alone, uncertain whether
he should at once push for Norway, or return to Scotland.
[Footnote: I was purposely vague as to my plans, lest
you might learn we still intended to go on.] The two
ropes that united the vessels were then cast off, a
farewell hurrah was given, and in a moment the English
schooner was lost in the fog.

Our return to Reykjavik afforded no incident worth notice;
the 'Reine Hortense,' keeping her course outside the ice,
encountered no impediment, except from the intense fogs,
which forced her--from the impossibility of ascertaining
her position--to lie to, and anchor off the cape during
part of the day and night of the 13th.

On the morning of the 14th, as we were getting out at
the Dyre Fiord, where we had anchored, we met--to our
great astonishment--the 'Cocyte' proceeding northward.
Her commander, Sonnart, informed us that on the evening
of the 12th, the 'Saxon'--in consequence of the injuries
she had received, had been forced back to Reykjavik. She
had hardly reached the ice on the 9th, when she came into
collision with it; five of her timbers had been stove
in, and an enormous leak had followed. Becoming
water-logged, she was run ashore, the first tine at
Onundarfiord, and again in Reykjavik roads, whither she
had been brought with the greatest difficulty."



July 27th, Alten.

This letter ought to be an Eclogue, so pastoral a life
have we been leading lately among these pleasant Nordland
valleys. Perhaps it is only the unusual sight of meadows,
trees and flowers, after the barren sea, and still more
barren lands we have been accustomed to, that invests
this neighbourhood with such a smiling character. Be that
as it may, the change has been too grateful not to have
made us seriously reflect on our condition; and we have
at last determined that not even the envious ocean shall
for the future cut us off from the pleasures of a shepherd
life.  Henceforth, the boatswain is no longer to be the
only swain on board! We have purchased an ancient goat--a
nanny-goat--so we may be able to go a-milking upon
occasion. Mr.  Webster, late of her Majesty's Foot-guards,
carpenter, etc., takes brevet-rank as dairy-maid; and
our venerable passenger is at this moment being inducted
into a sumptuous barrel [Footnote: The cask in question
was bought in order to be rigged up eventually into a
crow's-nest, as soon as we should again find ourselves
among the ice.] which I have had fitted up for her
reception abaft the binnacle. A spacious meadow of
sweet-scented hay has been laid down in a neighbouring
corner for her further accommodation; and the Doctor is
tuning up his flageolet, in order to complete the bucolic
character of the scene. The only personage amongst us at
all disconcerted by these arrangements is the little
white fox which has come with us from Iceland. Whether
he considers the admission on board of so domestic an
animal to be a reflection on his own wild Viking habits,
I cannot say; but there is no impertinence--even to the
nibbling of her beard when she is asleep--of which he is
not guilty towards the poor old thing, who passes the
greater part of her mornings in gravely butting at her
irreverent tormentor.

[Figure: fig-p142.gif]

But I must relate our last week's proceedings in a more
orderly manner.

As soon as the anchor was let go in Hammerfest harbour,
we went ashore; and having first ascertained that the
existence of a post does not necessarily imply letters,
we turned away, a little disappointed, to examine the
metropolis of Finmark. A nearer inspection did not improve
the impression its first appearance had made upon us;
and the odour of rancid cod-liver oil, which seemed
indiscriminately to proceed from every building in the
town, including the church, has irretrievably confirmed
us in our prejudices.  Nevertheless, henceforth the place
will have one redeeming association connected with it,
which I am bound to mention.  It was in the streets of
Hammerfest that I first set eyes on a Laplander. Turning
round the corner of one of the ill-built houses, we
suddenly ran over a diminutive little personage in a
white woollen tunic, bordered with red and yellow stripes,
green trousers, fastened round the ankles, and reindeer
boots, curving up at the toes like Turkish slippers. On
her head--for notwithstanding the trousers, she turned
out to be a lady--was perched a gay parti-coloured cap,
fitting close round the face, and running up at the back
into an overarching peak of red cloth. Within this peak
was crammed--as I afterwards learnt--a piece of hollow
wood, weighing about a quarter of a pound, into which is
fitted the wearer's back hair; so that perhaps, after
all, there does exist a more in, convenient coiffure than
a Paris bonnet.

Hardly had we taken off our hats, and bowed a thousand
apologies for our unintentional rudeness to the fair
inhabitant of the green trousers, before a couple of Lapp
gentlemen hove in sight. They were dressed pretty much
like their companion, except that an ordinary red night-cap
replaced the queer helmet worn by the lady; and the knife
and sporran fastened to their belts, instead of being
suspended in front as hers were, hung down against their
hips. Their tunics, too, may have been a trifle shorter.
None of the three were beautiful. High cheek-bones, short
noses, oblique Mongol eyes, no eyelashes, and enormous
mouths, composed a cast of features which their burnt-sienna
complexion, and hair like ill-got-in hay did not much
enhance. The expression of their countenances was not
unintelligent; and there was a merry, half-timid,
half-cunning twinkle in their eyes, which reminded me a
little of faces I had met with in the more neglected
districts of Ireland. Some ethnologists, indeed, are
inclined to reckon the Laplanders as a branch of the
Celtic family. Others, again, maintain them to be Ugrians;

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