Imágenes de páginas

ice and the sea on each other, is particularly striking, whichever may have the ascendancy. If, on the one hand, the ice be arranged with a certain form of aggregation, and in due solidity, it becomes capable of resisting the turbulence of the ocean, and can, with but little comparative diminution or breaking, suppress its most violent surges. Its resist ance is so effectual, that ships sheltered by it rarely find the sea disturbed by swells. On the other hand, the most formidable fields yield to the slightest grown swell, and become disrupted into thousands of pieces; and ice of only a few weeks growth, on being assailed by a turbulent sea, is broken and annihilated with incredible celerity. Ice, which for weeks has been an increasing pest to the whale-fisher, is sometimes removed in the space of a few hours. The destruction is in many cases so rapid, that to an inexperienced observer, the occurrence seems incredible, and rather an illusion of fancy, than a matter of fact. Suppose a ship immoveably fixed in bay ice, and not the smallest opening to be seen: after a lapse of time sufficient only for a moderate repose, imagine a person rising from his bed,-when, behold, the insurmountable obstacle has vanished! Instead of a sheet of ice expanding unbroken to the verge of the horizon on every side, an undulating sea relieves the prospect, wherein floats the wreck of the ice, reduced apparently to a small fraction of its original bulk! This singular occurrence I have more than once been a witness to.

That ice should be forming or · increasing, when exposed to the

swells of the ocean, while the annihilation of bay ice is so sudden and complete, might seem an anomaly or impossibility, were the circumstances passed over in silence. It must be observed, that the operation of a swell is merely to rend the bay ice in pieces, while its destruction is principally effected by the attrition of those pieces against each other, and the washing of the wind-lipper. Herein the essential difference consists: pancake ice is formed in masses so small and so strong, that the swell will not divide them; and the effect of the wind-lipper is repressed by the formation of sludge on its seaward margin. Hence whenever ice does occur in agitated waters, its exterior is always sludge, and its interior pancake ice, the pieces of which gradually increase in size with the distance from the edge.

When a swell occurs in crowded, yet detached ice, accompanied with thick weather and storm, it presents one of the most dangerous and terrific navigations that can be conceived. Each lump of ice, by its laborious motion, and its violent concussions of the water, becomes buried in foam, which, with its rapid drift, and the attendant horrid noise, inspires the passing mariner with the most alarming impressions; whilst the scene before him is, if possible, rendered more awful by his consciousness of the many disasters which have been occasioned by similar dangers.

On the approximations towards the Poles, and on the possibility of reaching the North Pole. Although I am sensible, that already

already I have trespassed too much upon the Society, in the unexpected extent of this paper, I never theless cannot think of dismissing the subject, without completing my original plan, by noticing the comparative approximations towards the Poles, which have been effected on different meridians; and at the same time offering, with diffidence, a few remarks on the possibility of travelling to the North Pole, together with a sketch of the reasoning on which the probability of success depends.

First, It has already been remarked, that the 80th degree of north latitude is almost annually accessible to the Greenland whalefishers, and that this latitude, on particular occasions, has been exceeded. On one of the first attempts which appears to have been made to explore the circumpolar regions, in the year 1607, Henry Hudson penetrated the ice on the north-western coast of Spitzbergen to the latitude of 80° 23′ N. In 1773, Captain Phipps, on voyage towards the North Pole," advanced on a similar track to 80° 37 of north latitude. In the year 1806, the ship Resolution of Whitby, commanded by my Father, (whose extraordinary perseverance and nautical ability are well appreciated by those in the Greenland trade,and proved by his never-failing success), was forced, by astonishing efforts, through a vast body of ice, which commenced in the place of the usual barrier, but exceeded its general extent by at least a hundred miles. We then reached a navigable sea, and advanced without hinderance to the latitude of 81° north, a distance of only 170 leagues from

the Pole; which is, I imagine, one of the most extraordinary approximations yet realised.

In Hudson's Bay, between the longitudes of 50° and 80° west, ships can seldom advance beyond the 74th degree of north latitude; and only one instance is upon record, wherein the extremity of the bay in 78° N. has been explored.

In Behring's Straits, the adventurous Cook, on the meridian of 16140 W. (very near the American coast), advanced to the latitude of 70° 44' N., on the 18th of August 1778; and on the 26th, in longitude 176° W. they were stopped by the ice in 69° 45′ N. After his lamentable death, Captain Clerke directed the proceedings in the following year, and reached the latitude of 70° 33′ on the 18th of July, being about four leagues short of their former ad


The southern hemisphere, towards the Pole, was likewise explored by Captain Cook on a former voyage, on various meridians, and with indefatigable perseverance. On his first attempt in 1772, they met with ice in about 51° south, and longitude 21 east. They saw great fields in 55° south on the 17th of January 1773, and on February the 24th, were stopped by field-ice in 62° south latitude, and 95° east longitude.

Again, on the second attempt in December of the same year, they first met with ice in about 620 south latitude, and 172-173o west longitude; and on the 15th, saw field ice in latitude 66°. the 30th of January 1774, they were stopped by immense ice


fields in latitude 71° 10′ 30′′, and 107° west longitude, which was the most considerable approximation towards the South Pole that had ever been effected.

Thus, it appears, that there subsists a remarkable difference between the two hemispheres, with regard to the approach of the ice towards the equator; the ice of the southern being much less pervious, and extending to much lower latitudes, than that of the northern hemisphere ::

That the 73d or 74th degree of north latitude can be attained at any season of the year; whereas the 71st degree of south latitude, has been but once passed :-And,

That, whilst the antarctic ne plus ultra appears to be the 72d degree of latitude, that of the arctic extends full 600 miles further; the nearest approach to the South Pole being a distance of 1130 miles, but to the North, only 510 miles.

Lastly, With regard to the probability of exploring the regions more immediately in the vicinity of the Pole than has yet been accomplished, or even of reaching the Pole itself,-I anticipate, that without reference to the reasoning on which the opinion is grounded, it might be deemed the frenzied speculation of a disordered fancy. I flatter myself, however, that I shall be able to satisfy the Society, that the performance of a journey, over a surface of ice, from the north of Spitzbergen to the Pole, is a project which might be undertaken with at least a probability of success.

It must be allowed, that many known difficulties would require to be surmounted,-many dangers

to be encountered,—and that some circumstances might possibly occur, which would at once annul the success of the undertaking. Of these classes of objections, the following strike me as being the most formidable, which, after briefly stating, I shall individually consider in their order:

1. The difficulty of performing a journey of 1200 miles, 600 going and 600 returning, over a surface of ice,-of procuring a sufficient conveyance, and of carrying a necessary supply of provisions and apparatus, as well as attendants. The difficulty may be increased


(a.) Soft snow;

(b.) Want of the continuity of the ice;

(c.) Rough ice; and

(d.) Mountainous ice.

2. The difficulty of ascertaining the route, and especially of the return, arising from the perpendicularity of the magnetical needle. 3. Dangers to be apprehended, (a) From excessive cold; (b.) From wild beasts. 4. Impediments which would frustrate the scheme:

(a.) Mountainous land;
(b.) Expanse of sea;

(c.) Constant cloudy atmosphere.

1. It is evident that a journey of 1200 miles, under the existing difficulties, would be too arduous a task to be undertaken and performed by human exertions alone, but would require the assistance of some fleet quadrupeds, accustomed to the harness.

Rein-deer, or dogs, appear to be the most appropriate. If the former could sustain a sea voyage, they might be refreshed on the


northern part of Spitzbergen, which affords their natural food. They could be yoked to sledges framed of the lightest materials, adapted for the accommodation of the adventurers, and the conveyance of the requisites. The provisions for the adventurers, for compactness, might consist of portable soups, potted meats, &c., and compressed lichen for the rein-deer. The instruments and apparatus might be in a great measure confined to indispensables, and those of the most portable kinds; such as tents, defensive weapons, sextants, chronometers, magnetic needles, thermometers, &c.

As the rein-deer is, however, a delicate animal, difficult to guide, and might be troublesome if thin or broken ice were required to be passed, dogs would seem in some respects to be preferable. In In either case, the animals must be procured from the countries wherein they are trained, and drivers would probably be required with them. The journey might be accelerated by expanding a sail to every favourable breeze, at the same time the animals would be relieved from the oppression of their draught. It would appear from the reputed speed of the rein-deer, that, under favourable circumstances, the journey might be accomplished even in a fortnight, allowing time for rest and accidental delays. It would require a month or six weeks with dogs, at a moderate speed; and, in the event of the failure of these animals on the journey, it does not seem impossible that the return should be effected on foot, with

sledges for the provisions and apparatus.

(a.) Soft snow would diminish the speed, and augment the fatigue of the animal; to avoid which, therefore, it would be necessary to set out by the close of the month of April or the beginning of May; or, at least, some time before the severity of the frost should be too greatly relaxed.

(b.) Want of continuity of the ice, would certainly occasion a troublesome interruption; it might nevertheless be overcome, by having the sledges adapted to answer the purpose of boats; and it is to be expected, that although openings amidst the ice should occur, yet a winding course might in general be pursued, so as to prevent any very great stoppage.

(c.) Many of the most prodi-' gious fields are entirely free from abrupt hummocks, from one extremity to the other, and field ice, as it appears in general, would be easily passable.

(d.) The degree of interruption from mountainous ice, would depend on the quality of its surface.

If, as is most probable, it were smooth, and free from abrupt slopes, it would not prevent the success of the expedition.

2. The direct route would be pointed out, for some part of the way at least, by the magnetic needle; and when its pole should be directed towards the zenith, should that position ever obtain, the sun would be the only guide. Or, the position of the true north being being once ascertained, three sledges on a line, at a convenient distance apart, might enable the


leading one to keep a direct course. A chronometer would be an indispensable requisite, as the opportunity for lunar observations could not be expected to occur sufficiently often. Were the Pole gained, the bearing of the sun at the time of noon, by a chronometer adjusted to the meridian of North-west Spitzbergen, would afford a line of direction for the return; and, the position in regard to longitude (were the sun visible) could be corrected, at least twice a-day, as the latitude decreased. The degrees of longitude being so contracted, any required position would be pointed out by the watch, with the greatest precision.

3. (a.) Among the dangers to be apprehended, the coldness of the air stands prominent. As, however, the cold is not sensibly different between the latitudes of 70° and 80° with a strong north wind, it may be presumed that at the Pole itself, it would be very little more oppressive than at the borders of the main ice, in the 81st degree of north latitude, under a hard northerly gale: and since this cold is supportable, that of the Pole may be deemed so likewise. The injurious effects of the severity of the weather, might be avoided by a judicious choice of woollen clothing; the external air being met by an outward garment of varnished silk, and the face defended by a mask, with eyes of glass. The exterior garment would, at the same time, be water-proof, and thus capable of shielding the body from accidental moisture.

(b.) The white bear is the only

ferocious animal known to inhabit those regions, and he rarely makes an attack upon man. At any rate, he might be repulsed by any offensive weapon. And, as the prey of the bears is scarce in the most northern latitudes, they would not probably occur in any abundance. 4. Hitherto no insurmountable objection has been presented: a few serious obstacles, should they occur, remain to be considered.

(a.) Mountainous land, like mountainous ice, would check the progress of the expedition, in proportion to the ruggedness of its surface, and the steepness of its cliffs. Its occurrence would, nevertheless, form an interesting dis

[blocks in formation]

Notwithstanding I have now distinctly considered every obvious objection and difficulty to be surmounted, I am nevertheless sensible, that in the realising of any project for discovery, whether at sea or on land, there will occur many adventitious circumstances

« AnteriorContinuar »