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Spitzbergen we ourselves observed specimens of these ice avalanches; and scarcely an hour passed without the solemn silence of the bay being disturbed by the thunderous boom resulting from similar catastrophes occurring in adjacent valleys.
During the whole period of our stay in Spitzbergen, we enjoyed unclouded sunshine. The nights were even brighter than the days, and afforded Fitz an opportunity of taking some photographic views by the light of a midnight sun. The cold was never very intense, though the thermometer remained below freezing ; but about four o'clock every evening the salt water bay in which the schooner lay was veneered over with a pellicle of ice one-eighth of an inch in thickness, and so elastic that even when the sea beneath was considerably agitated its surface remained unbroken, the smooth round waves taking the appearance of billows of oil. If such is the effect produced by the slightest modification of the sun's power in the month of August, you can imagine what must be the result of his total disappearance beneath the horizon. The winter is, in fact, unendurable. Even in the height of summer the moisture inherent in the atmosphere is often frozen into innumerable particles, so minute as to assume the appearance of an impalpable mist. Occasionally persons have wintered on the island, but unless the greatest precautions have been taken for their preservation, the consequences have been almost invariably fatal. No description can give an adequate idea of the intense rigour of the six months' winter in this part of the world. Stones crack with the noise of thunder; in a crowded hut the breath of its occupants will fall in flakes of snow ; wine and spirits turn to ice; the snow burns like caustic; if iron touches the flesh it brings the skin away with it; the soles of your stockings may be burnt off your feet before you feel the slightest warmth from the fire ; linen taken out of boiling water instantly stiffens to the cy of a wooden board ; and heated stones will not prevent the sheets of the bed from
freezing. If these are the effects of the climate within an air-tight, fire-warmed, crowded hut, what must they be among the dark, storm-lashed mountain peaks outside!
THE AUTHOR'S FAREWELL TO HIS NATIVE
THE gloomy night is gathering fast,
The autumn mourns her ripening corn
'Tis not the surging billow's roar,
Farewell, old Coila's hills and dales,
To an American visiting Europe, the long voyage he has to make is an excellent preparative. The temporary absence of worldly scenes and employments produces a state of mind peculiarly fitted to receive new and vivid impressions. The
vast space of waters that separates the hemispheres is like a blank page in existence. There is no gradual transition by which, as in Europe, the features and population of one country blend almost imperceptibly with those of another. From the moment you lose sight of the land you have left, all is vacancy until you step on the opposite shore, and are launched at once into the bustle and novelties of another world.
In travelling by land there is a continuity of scene, and a connected succession of persons and incidents, that carry on the story of life, and lessen the effect of absence and separation. We drag, it is true, "a lengthening chain' at each remove of our pilgrimage ; but the chain is unbroken : we can trace it back link by link, and we feel that the last of them still grapples us to home. But a wide sea voyage severs us at
It makes us conscious of being cast loose from the secure anchorage of settled life, and sent adrift upon a doubtful world. It interposes a gulf, not merely imaginary, but real, between us and our homes—a gulf subject to tempest, and fear, and uncertainty, that makes distance palpable, and return precarious.
Such, at least, was the case with myself. As I saw the last blue line of my native land fade away like a cloud in the horizon, it seemed as if I had closed one volume of the world and its concerns, and had time for meditation before I opened another. That land, too, now vanishing from my view, which contained all that was most dear to me in life—what vicissitudes might occur in it, what changes might take place in me, before I should visit it again! Who can tell, when he sets forth to wander, whither he may be driven by the uncertain currents of existence ; or when he may return; or whether it may ever be his lot to re-visit the scenes of his childhood ?
I said that at sea all is vacancy : I should correct that expression. To one given to day-dreaming, and fond of losing himself in reveries, a sea voyage is full of subjects for meditation; but then they are wonders of the deep, and of the air, and rather tend to abstract the mind from worldly themes. I delighted to loll over the quarter-railing, or climb to the main-top, on a calm day, and muse for hours together on the tranquil bosom of a summer's sea. To gaze upon the piles of golden clouds just peering above the horizon, fancy them some fairy realms, and people them with a creation of my own. To watch the gently undulating billows, rolling their silver volumes, as if to die away on those happy shores.
There was a delicious sensation of mingled security and awe with which I looked down from my giddy height on the monsters of the deep at their uncouth gambols : shoals of porpoises tumbling about the bow of the ship; the grampus slowly heaving his huge form above the surface; or the ravenous shark darting like a spectre through the blue waters. My imagination would conjure up all that I had heard or read of the watery world beneath me: of the finny herds that roam its fathomless valleys; of the shapeless monsters that lurk among the very foundations of the earth; and of those wild phantasms that swell the tales of fishermen and sailors.
Sometimes a distant sail, gliding along the edge of the ocean, would be another theme of idle speculation. How interesting this fragment of a world, hastening to rejoin the great mass of existence. What a glorious monument of human invention ! that has thus triumphed over wind and wave ; has brought the ends of the earth into communion ; has established an interchange of blessings, pouring into the sterile regions of the North all the luxuries of the South ; has diffused the light of knowledge, and the charities of cultivated life ; and has thus bound together those scattered portions of the human race between which nature seemed to have thrown an insurmountable barrier.
We one day descried some shapeless object drifting at a listance. At sea everything that breaks the monotony of the surrounding expanse attracts attention. It proved to be