« PrejšnjaNaprej »
nation of the magnetic needle, and on the intensity of the magnetic force ;-what is meant by measuring the elevation' of the transit instrument, (p. 19.) we do not know, and few of Captain Ross's readers, we suspect, will be able to discover. On the 3d May they again put to sea; and on the 26th May, after passing Cape Farewell at a considerable distance to the southward of it, they fell in with the first iceberg, which was computed to be about 40 feet above the surface of the sea, and 1000 feet long.
'Imagination presented it in many grotesque figures: at one time it looked something like a white lion and horse rampant, which the quick fancy of sailors, in their harmless fondness for omens, naturally enough shaped into the lion and unicorn of the king's arms, and they were delighted accordingly with the good luck it seemed to augur. And truly our first introduction to one of these huge masses, with which we were afterwards likely to grow so familiar, was a sort of epoch in our voyage, that might well excuse a sailor's divination, particularly when the aspect with which it was invested tended to inspire confidence, and keep up the energies of the men; a feeling so requisite for an enterprise like ours, where even their curiosity might be chilled for want of excite
It is hardly possible to imagine any thing more exquisite than the variety of tints which these icebergs display; by night as well as by day they glitter with a vividness of colour beyond the power of art to represent. While the white portions have the brilliancy of silver, their colours are as various and splendid as those of the rainbow, their ever changing disposition producing effects as singular as they were novel and interesting.'—p. 30.
We do not well see how this can be; icebergs display no colour by night, and those exhibited by day are confined to blue and green,
On approaching the Savage Islands, on the western coast of Greenland, a number of those icebergs, of various shapes and sizes, were observed to the westward fast by the ground, the height of one of which was estimated at 325 feet: a torrent of water was pouring down its side. On another of those masses, to which the ships made fast, in lat. 68° 22′, a stratum of gravel was observed; and stones of various kinds, mostly quartz and pieces of granite, were found upon it. Here they were visited by some of the native Esquimaux, from whom they learned that this iceberg had remained aground since the preceding year; and that the ice was close from thence all the way to Disco island. Near this place they procured several species of sea-fowl, and shot a seal of the enormous weight of 850 pounds, which yielded thirty gallons of oil.
We shall not attempt to follow Captain Ross through the detail of the difficulties which impeded the progress of the ships along the coast of Greenland, nor recapitulate the exertions that
were used in forcing them through packs and floes of ice by the various operations of tacking, warping, and towing; difficulties which not a few of the whalers have every year more or less to encounter, and not always unattended with danger; an instance of which occurred in the present season, when one of them was caught between two floes of ice in motion and crushed; the crew narrowly escaping with their lives on the ice. Suffice it to say, that every possible exertion seems to have been made to get to the northward without loss of time, and every precaution adopted to avoid being caught and closed up in the ice, as well as to preserve the ships from injury. In this way they reached Kron Prins island, in lat. 63° 54, on the 14th June: the inhabitants were found to consist of the Danish governor and his family, six other Danes, and about a hundred Esquimaux, all employed in the catching of whales and seals during the summer season. The governor, who was a young man, a native of Norway, came off to the Isabella; and informed them that the late winter had been uncommonly severe, the sea being frozen over so early as the beginning of December, a circumstance which did not usually take place till the middle of February; he further observed, that during the eleven years he had been resident in Greenland, the severity of the winters had evidently increased.
In proceeding to the northward, along the edge of the main ice, through a narrow and crooked channel, a ridge of ice-bergs was observed in the midst of the firm field of ice of every variety and shape that can be imagined;' of these the best idea will be collected from the several prints with which Captain Ross has decorated his book, though it requires no extraordinary sagacity to discover that many of them are strangely exaggerated as to their grouping, figure, and dimensions. In the representation of the silver plated iceberg, (p. 47.) there is a mixture of absurdity and inconsistency: the scene is meant to represent moon-light, though on the 17th of June, when the view is said to be taken, in lat. 71° the sun never sets. The ships, too, were at anchor the whole of that day, yet they are seen sailing under the overhanging top of an iceberg which cannot be less than 800 feet above the surface; and, to add to their perilous situation, a great fissure appears to run through its base. Such a tower of ice, in such a position, could not stand a moment. We notice these things, trifling as they may appear, as they shew an habitual inaccuracy and a looseness of description, which, we are concerned to say, run through the whole narrative.
At Wygat, or Hare island, the observatory and the instruments were again landed in order to make observations until the ice should open and afford a passage to the northward. One result of
these observations was important; it discovered an error of no less than five degrees of longitude, and half a degree of latitude, in the charts issued by the Admiralty, which are, no doubt, constructed on those which were considered to be the best authorities. The fact is, that the positions along this coast are laid down principally from the rude observations of whalers, whose occupations during their short stay are of a nature very different from that of making astronomical observations, were they even furnished with the means. The latitude of Wygat was found to be 70° 26′ 17′′ N. longitude 54° 51′ 49′′ W. and the variation of the compass 72° 9′ 28" W.
On the 23d they had reached Four Island point, about ten miles to the northward of Wygat, where they found several whalers stopped by the ice. A sort of Danish factory was established at this spot, but the huts of the Esquimaux were in ruins and apparently deserted. In the burying place they met with the surgeon of one of the whalers collecting human skulls for the befit of comparative anatomy. Finding that little further progress could be made to the northward at this time, Captain Ross permitted John Saccheous, the Esquimaux interpreter, to go on shore to communicate with the natives, seven of whom he brought off to the ships in their kajacks, or canoes.
We cannot omit the opportunity presented to us by the first mention of this person's name, of entering for a moment into his personal history, and paying a tribute of respect to the character of a very worthy, and (all circumstances considered) a very extraordinary man. Our first acquaintance with him dates from 1816, in the autumn of which year he was found concealed on board a Leith whaler, on her return home. He was treated by the owners, Messrs. Wood & Co. with great kindness and liberality, and in the course of the winter succeeded in learning a little English. On the return of the ship in 1817, the master was directed by these gentlemen to afford him an opportunity of rejoining his friends, and on no account to bring him back unless at his own particular desire. On reaching Greenland he found that his sister, his only remaining relation, had died in his absence, and he therefore determined to abandon his country for ever. He accordingly returned to Leith, where he was met with by Mr. Nasmyth, the artist, who finding that he had not only a taste for drawing, but considerable readiness of execution, very kindly offered to give him instructions. It occurred to Sir James Hall that such a person might be useful to the expedition then fitting out for Baffin's Bay, and in consequence of a letter from Captain Hall to the Secretary of the Admiralty, he was invited to proceed on that expe
dition, to which he agreed, making no other condition, than that he was not to be left in his own country.
On his return, the Lords of the Admiralty were so well satisfied with his conduct and services, and so sensible of the importance of employing him as an interpreter to the next expedition, that they desired he might be well taken care of, and liberally instructed in reading, writing and drawing. He was sent to Edinburgh at his own request, to see his good friends Captain Hall and Mr. Nasmyth, the latter of whom, together with his family, took the warmest interest in his improvement: the more this amiable man was known the more his acquaintance was sought; on his part, he found great delight in society.
In the midst of his happiness, however, he was seized with an inflammatory complaint, from which he in a great measure recovered; but a relapse occurring, he was carried off in a few days. He had the best medical advice, and was attended by his friends during his illness with the most anxious care.
The utmost good humour was strongly expressed in the countenance of this inoffensive man, and he possessed a pleasing simplicity of manners. Sensible of his own ignorance, he was always desirous of learning something, and grateful to those who would take the trouble to teach him. He was exceedingly struck with the docility of the elephant at Exeter 'Change, and being asked what he thought of it, he replied with a look of deep humility— Elephant more sense me.' His disposition was gentle and obliging; he was thankful for the least kindness shewn to him: and, upon several occasions, exhibited a goodness of heart, and a consideration for the wishes and feelings of others, which would have done honour to any country. His fondness for and kindness to children was very striking. In a snowy day, last winter, he met two children at some distance from Leith, and observing them to be suffering from the cold, he took off his jacket, and having carefully wrapped them in it, brought them safely home; he would take no reward, and seemed to be quite unconscious that he had been doing any thing remarkable.' He was perfectly sensible of his approaching end, thanked his friends around him for all their kindness and attention, but said it was of no avail, for his sister had appeared to him and called him away. The writer of the narrative from which this is taken says he was unaffectedly pious; and having been early instructed in the Christian faith, continued to derive support and consolation from this source to the last hour of his life. He held in his hand an Icelandic cate
Supposed to be Captain Basil Hall, of the Navy.-It is a little piece of biography which does honour to his heart and understanding. It is printed in Blackwood's Magazine.
chism till his strength and sight failed him, when the book dropped from his grasp, and he shortly afterwards expired. He was followed to the grave by a numerous company, among whom were not only his old friends and patrons from Leith, but many gentlemen of high respectability in this city.'
Humble as the individual was, his loss will be severely felt by the expedition now about to proceed; indeed he was one of those few whose places cannot be supplied. We return to our nar→ rative.
Captain Ross being desirous of procuring a sledge and dogs in exchange for a rifle musket, Saccheous and the natives whom (as we have said) he had brought on board went back to their village, and speedily returned with the articles in a larger boat, called an umiak, which was rowed by five women in a standing posture, all dressed in deer-skins. Two of them were daughters of a Danish resident by an Esquimaux woman. They were highly pleased with the treatment they received, and, having partaken of some refreshment, danced Scotch reels on the deck with the sailors to the ani mating strains of a Shetland fiddler. Saccheous was all mirth and joy, and performed the part of master of the ceremonies with that good-humoured assiduity and readiness for which on all occasions he was particularly distinguished.
'A daughter of the Danish resident, about eighteen years of age, and by far the best looking of the group, was the object of Jack's particular attentions; which, being observed by one of our officers, he gave him a lady's shawl, ornamented with spangles, as an offering for her acceptHe presented it in a most respectful, and not ungraceful manner, to the damsel, who bashfully took a pewter ring from her finger and presented it to him in return; rewarding him, at the same time, with an eloquent smile, which could leave no possible doubt on our Esquimaux's mind that he had made an impression on her heart.'-p. 56.
The ice at length began to separate and a breeze to spring up, but neither Jack nor his countrymen, whom he had escorted on shore, made their appearance. A boat was therefore dispatched to the shore to bring him off, when the poor fellow was found in one of the huts with his collar-bone broken, having overloaded his gun, under an idea, as he expressed it, of plenty powder, plenty kill,' and the violence of the recoil had caused the accident.
On the 5th July the ships succeeded in passing the third great barrier, consisting of field ice mixed with large icebergs in vast numbers, which were fast a-ground, in depths varying from sixtythree to one hundred fathoms. Here the variation of the compass, taken on an iceberg, was found to be 80° 1′ W.: on board, when the ship's head was W. by N. N. it was 98° W., making a deviation from the correct line of the magnetic direction of 18°,