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SCORESBY THE WHALER.
traces of the imperfect track were speedily obliterated, and the traveller “could neither see his way to advance nor to return.” In this uncertainty his geometrical knowledge came into play. “He had observed how the wind first assailed him, with reference to the dirction of the line of road, which, fortunately for him, like the roads of ancient construction generally, followed a steeple-chase directness, regardless of hill or dale, for the point aimed at; and, by adjusting his progress on the same angle, in respect to the course of the wind, he hoped to be guided in his now perilous undertaking." The experiment was fully successful, and the journey finally accomplished in safety.
Scoresby's sea-service commenced by a journey to Russia; while discharging a cargo of Memel timber at Portsmouth, a professional grievances made him resolve to enter on board the Royal George. Afterwards when that vessel went down, with all her crew, he regarded his having changed his intention as one of the many providences of which he had been the subject. A seamen's duties were not permitted to divert him from the pursuit of knowledge; what he learned in books he reduced to practice, keeping the ship's reckoning for his own private instruction. He suffered much from the taunts and jeers of the crew for refusing to share in their debasing practices, but made no attempt to retaliate so long as the annoyance was confined to words. He proved, however, on fitting occasion, that he could defend himself from personal violence; and so great was his strength, that his two aggressors were effectually humbled. He was fully impressed with the feeling “ that under the blessing of Providence, to which ho distinctly looked, he must be the fabricator of his own fortune;" and his custom was, “unless he could find a somewhat like-minded aspirant after a better position, to walk alone on the main-deck or forecastle, holding companionship only with his own thoughts."
In moral and physical qualities such as these, we see the elements of success. Scoresby's habit of keeping the reckoning, and the greater exactitude which he brought into the method, once saved the ship from being wrecked in foggy weather between the Riga and Elsinore. His assertion that the vessel was off the island of Bornholm caused a sharper look-out to be kept. Presently breakers were seen ahead; the anchor was dropped, “just in time to save the ship from destruction. When she
When she swung to her anchor, it was in four and a half fathoms water. The breakers were close by the stern, and the stern not above twenty fathoms from the shore.” This manifestation of ability on the part of an apprentice excited so much jealousy and ill-feeling towards him from the officers, that on the arrival of the vessel in the Thames, he left her, and engaged on board the Speedwell cutter, bound for Gibralter with stores.
This proceeding led to a new course of adventure. While on the voyage in October, 1781, the cutter was captured by the Spaniards, and the whole of her crew made prisoners of war, and kept in durance at St. Lucar, in Andalusia. After a time, the rigor of imprisonment being somewhat relaxed, and the captives permitted to fetch water without a guard, Scoresby and one of his companions contrived to escape; and concealed themselves as
SCORESBY THE WHALER.
much as possible during the day, and guiding their course by the stars at night, they made their way direct for the coast, where they eventually arrived in safety, after encountering much risk and difficulty. On all occasions when they had to ask for assistance, they found the women ready to help them and facilitate their escape, sometimes while their husbands had gone to denounce the strangers. By a fortunate coincidence the fugitives arrived on the coast just as an English vessel of war was about to sail with an exchange of prisoners. By the contrivance of the crew, they concealed themselves on board until the ship was fairly at sea, when they made their appearance on deck, greatly to the astonishment and vexation of the captain, who made them sign a promise to pay a heavy sum for their passage, as a punishment for their intrusion. In the Bay of Biscay a formidable gale came
The two intruders refused to work, on the plea of being passengers, unless the captain destroyed the document exacted from them. This was done; immediately the two sprang up the rigging, and before long, Scoresby, by his superior seamanship, had brought the reefing of sails and striking of masts to a successful accomplishment, and by his example cheered the before dispirited crew, who, during the remainder of the voyage, were observed to manifest a “higher character, than before."
After this, Scoresby married the daughter of a small landed proprietor at Cropton, and resided with his father for two or three years, assisting in the management of the farm. But a desire for more stirring employment made him again turn his attention to the sea. In 1785 he entered