Imagens das páginas

the sea.

down upon our heads. Columbus could not have been more pleased, when, after nights of watching, he saw the first fires of a new hemisphere dance upon their water; nor, indeed, scarcely less disappointed at their sudden disappearance than I

was, when the roof of mist closed again, and shut out all trace of the transient vision. There was nothing for it but to wait patiently until the curtain lifted, and no child ever stared more eagerly at a green drop-scene in expectation of the realm of dazzling splendour' promised in the bill, than I did at the motionless grey folds that hung around us. At last the hour of liberation came : a purer light seemed gradually to penetrate the atmosphere, brown turned to grey, and grey to white, and white to transparent blue, until the lost horizon entirely reappeared, except where in one direction an impenetrable veil of haze still hung suspended from the zenith to

Behind that veil I knew must be Jan Mayen. A few minutes more, and slowly, silently, in a manner you could take no count of, its dusky hem first deepened to a violet tinge, then gradually lifting, displayed a long line of coast, in reality but the roots of Beerenberg, dyed of the darkest purple ; while, obedient to a common impulse, the clouds that wrapt its summit gently disengaged themselves and left the mountain standing in all the magnificence of her 6870 feet, girdled by a single zone of pearly vapour from underneath whose floating folds seven enormous glaciers rolled down into the sea ! Nature seemed to have turned sceneshifter, so artfully were the phases of this glorious spectacle successively developed.

Although, by reason of our having hit upon its side instead of its narrow end, the outline of Mount Beerenberg appeared to us more like a sugar loaf than a spire,—broader at the base and rounder at the top than I had imagined,—in size, colour, and effect it far surpassed anything I had anticipated. The glaciers were quite an unexpected element of beauty. Imagine a mighty river of as great a volume as the Thames-startled down the side of a mountain,—bursting over every impediment,-whirled into a thousand eddies,-tumbling and raging on from ledge to ledge in quivering cataracts of foam,—then suddenly struck rigid by a power so instantaneous in its action, that even the froth and fleeting wreaths of spray

have stiffened to the immutability of sculpture. Unless one saw it, it would be almost impossible to realize the strangeness of the contrast between the actual tranquillity of these silent crystal rivers and the violent descending energy impressed upon their exterior. You must remember, too, all this is upon a scale of such prodigious magnitude, that when we succeeded subsequently in approaching the spot where with a leap like that of Niagara one of these glaciers plunges down into the

—the eye, no longer able to take in its fluvial character, was content to rest in simple astonishment at what then appeared a lucent precipice of grey-green ice, rising to the height of several hundred feet above the masts of the vessel.




LIFT—lift, ye mists, from off the silent coast,

Folded in endless winter's chill embraces ;
Unshroud for us awhile our brave ones lost !

Let us behold their faces !

In vain! the North has hid them from our sight;
The snow their winding-sheet,

-their only dirges The

groan of icebergs in the Polar night,

Racked by the savage surges.

No funeral torches, with a smoky glare,

Shone a farewell upon their shrouded faces ;
No monumental pillar, tall and fair,

Towers o'er their resting-places.

But northern streamers flare the long night through

Over the cliffs stupendous, fraught with peril, Of icebergs, tinted with a ghostly hue

Of amethyst and beryl.


No human tears upon their graves are shed

Tears of domestic love or pity holy;
But snowflakes from the gloomy sky o'erhead,

Down shuddering, settle slowly.

Yet history shrines them with her mighty dead,

The hero seamen of this isle of Britain ;
And, when the brighter scroll of Heaven is read,
There will their names be written.



As I was standing in the main rigging peering out over the smooth blue surface of the sea, a white twinkling point of light suddenly caught my eye about a couple of miles off on the port bow, which a telescope soon resolved into a solitary isle of ice, dancing and dipping in the sunlight. As you may suppose, the news brought everybody upon deck; and when almost immediately afterwards a string of other pieces-glittering like a diamond necklace-hove in sight, the excitement was extreme.

Here at all events was honest blue salt water frozen solid, and when as we proceeded — the scattered fragments thickened, and passed like silver argosies on either hand, until at last we found ourselves enveloped in an innumerable fleet of bergs—it seemed as if we could never be weary of admiring a sight so strange and beautiful. It was rather in form and colour than in size that these ice islets were remarkable; anything approaching to a real iceberg we neither saw, nor are we likely to see. In fact, the lofty ice mountains that wander like vagrant islands along the coast of America, seldom or never come to the eastward or northward of Cape Farewell. They consist of land ice, and are all generated among bays and straits within Baffin's Bay, and first enter the Atlantic a good deal to the southward of Iceland ; whereas the Polar ice in the midst of which we have been knocking about, is field ice, and-except when packed one ledge above the other, by great pressure—is comparatively flat.

In quaintness of form, and in brilliancy of colours, these wonderful masses surpassed everything I had imagined ; and we found endless amusement in watching their fantastic shapes.

At one time it was a knight on horseback, clad in sapphire mail, white plume above his casque; or a cathedral window with shafts of chrysoprase, new powdered by a snow-storm. Or a smooth sheer cliff of lapis lazuli ; or a Banyan tree, with roots descending from its branches, and a foliage as delicate as the efflorescence of molten metal; or a fairy dragon, that breasted the water in scales of emerald; or anything else that your fancy chose to conjure up. After a little time, the mist again descended on the scene and dulled each glittering form to a shapeless mass of white; whilst, in spite of all our endeavours to keep upon our northerly course, we were constantly compelled to turn and wind about in every direction -sometimes standing on for several hours at a stretch to the southward and eastward.

After sailing some considerable distance through a field of ice, which kept getting more closely packed as we pushed farther into it, we came upon another barrier equally impenetrable that stretched away from the island toward the southward and eastward. Under these circumstances, the only thing to be done was to get back to where the ice was looser, But even to extricate ourselves from our present position was now no longer of such easy performance. Within the last hour the wind had shifted into the north-west,—that is to say, it was blowing right down the path along which we had picked our way; in order to return, therefore, it would be necessary to work the ship to windward through a sea thickly crammed with ice. Moreover it had become evident from the obvious closing of the open spaces, that some considerable pressure was acting upon the outside of the field ; but whether originating in a current or the change of wind, or another field being driven down upon it, I could not tell. Be that as it might, out we must get,—unless we wanted to be cracked like a walnut-shell between the drifting ice and the solid belt to leeward ; so sending a steady hand to the helm, -for these unusual phenomena had begun to make some of my people lose their heads a little, no one on board having ever seen a bit of ice before,—I stationed myself in the bows, while Mr. Wyse conned the vessel from the square yard.

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