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red in representing the Arctic Sea as of a sudden become almost open and accessible to the adventurous navigator. By the more speculative relators, it has been supposed that the vast icy barrier which, during many ages, had obstructed those forlorn regions, is at last, from some revolution of our globe, broken up and dispersed. The project of finding a north-west passage to Asia-a project so often attempted, and so long abandoned—has in consequence been again revived; and the more daring scheme of penetrating to the Pole itself, has likewise been seriously proposed. Of the success of either plan, our hopes, we confess, are extremely slender; yet the prospect now held forth seems to be more inviting, on the whole, than at any former period when such bold undertakings were made. The discovery of a north-west passage, were it ever attainable, could hardly indeed be of any real benefit to our commerce, since, in such high latitudes, where only it must be sought for, it would at all times be very precarious, and liable to interruption from the prevalence of ice. The scheme of actually reaching that northern point on the surface of our globe, which terminates its ideal axis of rotation, however interesting in a philosophical view, can only be regarded as an object of pure curiosity, and not likely to lead to any useful or practical results. Yet we think it befitting the character of a great maritime nation, to embrace every chance even of improving geographical knowledge, and of extending the basis of natural science. We can hardly praise the liberality of the appointment of the ships destined to explore the Arctic seas; but it will give us infinite concern, should this expedition have the same fruitless or disastrous issue as other plans of distant discovery, which have lately been pursued under the direction of the Admiralty Board.
The books and memoirs whose titles we have prefixed to this article, contain the latest accounts of the state of the Northern Seas. They have either suggested the enterprise now pursued, or have been brought forward in consequence of its adoption. Literary speculation is never indeed wanting, in this country, to gratify or amuse the curiosity of the public.-Mr Daines Barrington, a man of learning and some ingenuity, embraced with ardour the opinion of the possibility of approaching to the Pole. In successive papers communicated to the Royal Society of London, he not only condensed the information furnished by the older voyagers, but exhibited the results of the numerous queries relating to the same object, which he had circulated among persons engaged in the Greenland Fishery. He thus proved, that, in certain favourable seasons, the Arctic seas are left for several weeks so open, that intrepid navigators might safely penetrate to a very high latitude
In compliance with his sanguine representations, the Admiralty despatched, in 1773, Captain Phipps, afterwards Lord Mulgrave, to explore those regions; but this commander was unsuccessful in the attempt, having reached only the latitude of 80} degrees, when his ship got surrounded with a body of ice near Spitzbergen, and escaped with extreme difficulty, though many of the whalers that summer advanced farther. Mr Barrington did not however despair, and, following out his views, he set Mr Nairne and Dr Higgins to make experiments on the congelation of sea-water.
The various facts are now collected in a small volume, to which Colonel Beaufoy has subjoined an appendix, containing the answers made to his queries by Russian hunters, who are accustomed to spend the whole year in Spitzbergen, relative to the probability of travelling from that island to the Pole during winter, in sledges drawn by rein-deer. The reports of these hardy men are sufficiently discouraging. They represent the winter at Spitzbergen as not only severe but extremely boisterous, the snow falling to the depth of three or five feet, and drifting so much along the shores by the violence of the winds, as often to block up all communication. The danger of then being surprised and overwhelmed by clouds of snow, raised by sudden gusts, is so great, that they never venture to undertake any long journeys over the ice. Nor do they think it at all practicable to have loaded sledges dragged over a surface so rough and hilly, by the force of rein-deer or dogs.
The paper of Mr Scoresby has more than ordinary claims to our attention, as exhibiting the conclusions of a most diligent, accurate, and scientific observer. Trained from infancy to the navigation of the frozen seas, under the direction of his father, a most enterprising and successful lender, he conjoins experience with ingenuity and judgment. For several years, during the intervals of his Greenland voyages, he prosecuted a regular course of study, which has enriched his mind with liberal attainments, and given a new impulse to his native ingenuity and ardour. We regret exceedingly that any jealousies or official punctilios should have prevented Government from entrusting the principal command of the Polar expedition to Mr Scoresby, who not only proposed it originally, but whose talents and science, joined to his activity, perseverance and enthusiasm, afforded assuredly the best promise of its ultimate success.
Hans Egede was a benevolent enthusiast, who formed a plan of reclaiming the natives of Greenland from the errors of Paganism. After various ineffectual attempts, he at last procured, by subscription, the sum of 20001., with which he purchased a vessel, and carried his family, and forty settlers, to Baal's River, in the
64th degree of north latitude, where he landed on the 3d of July 1721. He was afterwards appointed missionary, with a small salary by the Danish government, which occasionally granted some aid to the colony. During his stay, which lasted till 1736, he laboured with great zeal in his vocation. In 1757, the year before his death, he printed his Description of Greenland, in the Danish language, at Copenhagen. Of that work, the volume now before us is a translation, much improved and enlarged, with useful additions by the editor. It contains valuable information, tinctured, as we might expect, with no small portion of credulity.
Mr Laing performed two voyages to Greenland in the successive years 1806 and 1807, as surgeon under the elder Captain Scoresby, whose son acted at that time as chief mate. His narrative is written with neatness, simplicity and taste; and comprises, in a very small compass, what information could be desired on the subject of which it treats.
We cannot bestow the same commendation on the pompous quarto of Squire O'Reilly, though he obligingly acquaints us, that the love of science and the thirst of philosophical research had prompted him to accept the situation of surgeon in a Hull whaler, and to undertake a voyage hazardous in the extreme, cooped up with uninformed, insensible beings.' It is evidently got up for the occasion, with an unusual garniture of engravings. Some of these look pretty enough, but they have been drawn by Koenig, probably from very slight sketches, and only represent objects and appearances which are already generally known. The volume itself is obviously the production of a raw compiler -disjointed and diffuse-filled with scraps of etymology, trite classical allusions, and commonplace declamation—and written in a shapeless, incorrect, and turgid style. With all its pretensions, it absolutely contains scarcely any thing that can be deemed new, unless we except the author's Journal of the Weather, in which he describes, with very copious detail, the various aspects of clouds, according to Howard's fanciful classification. This, perhaps, is the extent of his science; for he blunders sadly when he ventures on other graver topics. But Mr O'Reilly modestly aspires to the honour of geographical discovery; and fancies that claim established, by naming a groupe of prominences, in the field of ice which barred his progress, the Linnæan Isles !
It is remarkable, that two centuries of extreme activity should have added so very little to our knowledge of the Arctic regions. The relations of the earlier navigators to those parts, possess an interest which has not yet been eclipsed. We may cite the voyage of Martens from Hamburg to Spitzbergen, as still the most instructive. But the best and completest work that we have seen on the subject of the Northern fisheries, is a treatise in three volumes octavo, translated from the Dutch language into French by Bernard de Reste, and published at Paris in 1801, under the title Histoire des Pêches, des Découvertes, et des Etablissemens des Hollandois dans les Mers du Nord.
The Arctic Expedition, which has, for several months, attracted the attention of the public, proposes two distinct objects ;—to advance towards the Pole—and to explore a northwest passage to China. These are, no doubt, splendid schemes; but, in order to form a right estimate of the plan, and some anticipation of its probable results, we must proceed with caution, and employ the lights of science to guide our steps. The facts alleged respecting the vast islands or continents of ice recently separated and dispersed from the Arctic regions, have given occasion to much loose reasoning, to wild and random conjectures, and visionary declamation. Glowing anticipations are confidently formed of the future amelioration of climate, which would scarcely be hazarded even in the dreams of romance. Every person possessing a slight tincture of physical science, conceives himself qualified to speculate concerning the phenomena of weather, in which he feels a deep interest; and hence, a very flimsy and spurious kind of philosophy, however trifling or despicable it may appear in the eyes of the few who are accustomed to think more profoundly, has gained currency among certain classes of men, and engendered no small share of conceit. Meteorology is a complex science, depending on so many subordinate principles, that require the union of accurate theory, with a range of nice and various observations, as to have advanced very slowly towards perfection. Though little understood, or generally cultivated, it has yet made a decided progress, and at last attained to such degree of improvement, as will enable the judicious inquirer to draw his conclusions with safety and confidence. Nothing is required but the torch of geometry to illumine the results furnished by the application of delicate instruments.
With regard to the nature and real extent of the change which has now taken place in the condition of the Icy seas, we are persuaded that the reports are greatly exaggerated. * To
• So much has public credulity been abused by such tales, that a paragraph having appeared in a Scotch newspaper, stating that a rast mountain of ice had lately stranded on one of the Shetland Isles, he hoaz was actually swallowed by sundry grave persons, especially a the South.
reduce them to their just amount, it would be necessary to ese timate the annual effects produced in those regions, and likewise to compare the observations of a similar kind made by experienced navigators at former periods. From a critical examination of the various facts left on record, it will perhaps appear, that those Arctic seas have been, more than once, in the course of the last half century, as open as they are represented to be at present.
To discuss, with accuracy, the question of the periodical formation and destruction of the Polar Ice, it becomes necessary to explain the true principles which regulate the distribu. tion of heat over the globe. This we shall attempt to perform, independent of every hypothesis, by the direct appeal to experiment and observation.
If, at any place we dig into the ground, we find, by the insertion of a thermometer, that, as we successively descend, we approach constantly to some limit of temperature, at a certain depth below which, it continues afterwards unchanged. . This depth of equilibrium varies in different soils; but seldom exceeds thirty or fifty feet. If the excavation be made about the commencement of winter, the temperature will appear to increaso in the lower strata; but, on the contrary, if the pit be formed in the beginning of summer, it will be found to grow colder as we descend. Hence, the mass of the earth merely transmits very slowly the impressions of heat or cold received at its surface. The external temperature of any given day, will perhaps take near a month to penetrate only one foot into the ground. By digging downwards in summer, we soon reach, therefore, the impressions of the preceding spring and winter; but the same progress into the ground brings us back to the temperatures of the autumn and of the summer. Still lower, all the various fluctuations of heat are intermingled and confounded in one common mean.
Such observations are more casily and correctly made, by hav, ing thermometers, with long stems, sunk to different depths in the ground. From a register of four of those instruments, planted one, two, four, and eight feet deep, in a spacious garden on the northern shore of the Firth of Forth, we are enabled to quote the series of observations made during the years 1816 and 1817. Their mean indications in the month of January 1816 were respectively 330.0—36o.3.40°.7—and 430.0; and in the same month of the following year, these were 350.6–38°.7—450.5and 45°.1. But, in the month of June of the same years, the thermometers at the depths of one, two, four, and eight feet, marked at medium 510.6–500.0-47o.1—and 45°.8; and again 51'.1-499.4–47.6—and 470.8. It is curious to remark,